a boy starts giving her orgasms.
One orgasm. He gave me one orgasm.
Nothing has changed. I'm still the same old Princess Alexandra I was before Max showed up here.
Absolutely nothing is different. If things were different, that would mean I might have a crush on Max, and that's not possible.
Train wreck princesses do not get crushes on their bodyguards. In fact, they don't get crushes at all.
"Your princess hasn't been in the news lately, Maxwell," my mother notes. Her tone sounds almost like she's scolding me because Princess Alexandra has been behaving and staying out of the public eye.
"She's not my princess," I snap. That's definitely the truth. Ever since what happened in the stable, the princess has made that more than abundantly clear. She's been snubbing me for days, avoiding eye contact and avoiding me as much as possible.
She thinks I don't know that she's been getting up early in the morning to go running. She also thinks I don't know exactly why she's been avoiding me. That much is my fault – clearly, I went too far, tying her up like that in the stable.
"Don't give me attitude, Maxwell Donnelley," my mother chides. "I don't care if you are a grown adult or not. Besides, you know that you've obviously left your mark on the princess."
"What do you mean?" I ask as I cough, nearly choking. Images fill my head, one right after the other:
Cuffing Alexandra's hands behind her back before pulling up her skirt and coming all over her ass in the library.
Coming all over her open mouth and breasts in the lounger by the pool.
Coming into her mouth in the stable.
Yeah, I've obviously left my mark or two on her.
"She paid for our house!" my mother exclaims.
"You don't know that it was her," I lie, my protest lame.
"Of course it was," she insists. "Who else would have done that? It came from Protrovia. The bank was very clear on that."
"It was a bonus, Mom."
"Some bonus," she says, clucking. "When are you going to let me talk to her?"
"You can't just insist on talking to the princess, Mom," I tell her. "That's not how these things work."
Besides that, I'm not sure Alexandra is talking to me right now either. And my mom definitely doesn't need to know why.
"I'm aware that she's a princess, Max, but she's also a princess who paid for our house. You tell her that she's welcome in Kentucky anytime."
I hold back a snort because my mom's invitation isn't the least bit joking. She's absolutely serious. If nothing else, my mother is one of the most welcoming and hospitable people anywhere in the world. She truly means that Princess Alexandra should come to visit South Hollow.
If Princess Alexandra visited South Hollow, my hometown wouldn't know what hit them. And vice versa.
"I will tell her that," I lie.
"Oh, you will not," my mother chides. "Your father and I might just have to come out and visit you and thank her ourselves."
"You do that, Mom," I tell her. I know full and well that neither of them are getting anywhere near a plane. My mother is deathly afraid of airplanes and my father insists that he has everything he needs within thirty miles of South Hollow.
"I might just confront my fear of airplanes if it means meeting the girl who's got my son all discombobulated," my mother threatens.
"Nothing has me discombobulated," I protest. "I'm perfectly calm. And there's no girl."
"So there's nothing going on between you and the princess?"
"Maybe old age is making you senile," I tease.
"Don’t be a rude little shit or I'll tell your father that you lost all your manners when you moved to Europe," my mother replies.
I laugh. "Then I'd have to call Pastor Randall and tell him that his best Sunday school teacher just called her son a rude little shit."
"He'd probably agree with me," she says, chuckling.
"That might be true."
"I haven't seen a single photograph of the princess in the tabloids." My not-very-subtle mother returns right back to the topic at hand, undeterred. I groan. She's like a dog with a bone when she gets started, and her favorite topic is my dating life, or lack thereof. "Which means that she's not out running around the way she used to."
"I can't talk about this with you, Mom," I tell her, cutting her off. "It's part of my job, which makes everything about her confidential."
"Of course, honey," she says. "I haven't forgotten that you signed all that legal paperwork. I'm just pointing out facts."
"You're sounding a little bit crazy now. There's nothing going on."
"Fine. There's nothing going on," she says. "That's your story and you're sticking to it."
"It's not a story, Mom! There's literally nothing going on, and that's the truth." Sort of. I mean, there's definitely nothing going on between the princess and I right now, not since the stable incident.
"Well, all I know is that a girl like that doesn't just disappear from the cover of magazines all over the place."
"I don't know why you're stuck on this," I tell her. "You've never even met her. You'd probably hate her."
"Would I?" My mother's interest is obviously piqued. "Is she terrible in person?"
I laugh, shaking my head. My mother's penchant for gossip is unparalleled. "I should see if the Royal Intelligence Service is hiring interrogators."
"Well, I don't have any idea what you're talking about," my mother bristles. "And I don't know what the world is coming to when a mother can't even ask her own son about his job."
Now I chortle. "We both know you're not asking about my job," I tell her. "And speaking of my job, I have to go do mine now."
"Don't forget to tell the princess she can come to Kentucky anytime. South Hollow would have a parade, even. I think Mayor Herbert would be thrilled."
"Don't hold your breath."
"Next, you're going to tell me not to hold my breath when it comes to whether or not I'm going to see my only son happily married and –"
"Oh, do you hear that?" I ask, moving the phone away from my face and making a static sound.
"Hear what? I don't hear anything!"
"You're breaking up on me," I tell her. "I think you must be going through a tunnel or something –"
"I'm not driving, son!"
"Can't hear anything. Talk to you later!"
I hang up the phone.
"I know it's you, James. Just come in already." Max is the only one who ever knocks on my door instead of going straight to the buzzer.
My heart does that little beat-skipping thing that it does when I see him, which totally means nothing except that I should probably be evaluated by the royal physician for a possible arrhythmia.
I make a concerted effort to look like I'm extra-casually lounging on my bed, even though I don't know why I care if he thinks I'm sitting in here thinking about him.
I'm totally not, by the way.
What I have been thinking about is how Charlotte is right. I probably do need to get out of the summer house. Max and I hooked up, and that's all. It doesn't mean anything, and it certainly doesn't mean I should be sheltered away all summer as if I've joined a nunnery.
"Hello, princess." Max's tone is professional and businesslike, his voice clipped, yet I can't seem to think about him professionally right now at all. Heat floods my body at the sight of him, despite how much I want to be my old casual and detached self.
Then Charlotte bursts through the door. "Surprise!"
Okay, that's not what I expected.
"Can you fucking believe I came to rescue you from the country?!" Charlotte exclaims as she poses with her hand on her hip, accentuating the short white dress that shows off her tanned, lean legs. She looks sun-kissed, like she's spent the past several weeks at the seashore, but I know the tan is an illusion, a fake tan painted on by someone who does that kind of thing. When she pauses, giving me a half-turn and practically preening like a peacock, a wave of irritation washes through me. I immediately hate myself for it.
I'm not jealous. No way. I don't get jealous.
"I can't believe it at all," I say, clenching my teeth.
I think I catch a glimmer of amusement in Max's eyes, and it annoys me that he might be able to read jealousy on my face.
Max clears his throat. "Should I give you two some time?"
What he's really asking is whether I'd like him to kick Charlotte out of my bedroom suite.
"Of course, yes," I reply. "What are you doing here, Charlotte?"
"Obviously, I came to spring you from your prison!" she says brightly. She reaches into her oversized tote and pulls out an expensive bottle of champagne, which she immediately shoves at Max. "Open that for us, will you, darling? And find us a couple of glasses?"
I take it back out of his hand. "He's my bodyguard, Charlotte, not a butler."
"So? I don't understand. Your bodyguard can't open that or get the butler?"
Max tosses a murderous look in Charlotte's direction before grabbing the bottle back from my hand. "I'll find the butler," he says.
Charlotte makes her way over to my chaise lounge and collapses dramatically on it. "That would be fabulous," she calls to Max. "So, where should we go tonight?"
"What do you mean where should we go?"
"Tell me you're surprised I drove all the way out here. It was supposed to be a surprise."
"It's definitely a surprise," I tell her.
She clasps her hands together. "Great!" she exclaims. "So, we'll have a driver bring us into the city. There's a new club that's supposed to be really hot, and I already texted Finn and everyone to have them meet us there."
"What's that?" she asks, gesturing at my face. "What are you doing? You're making a face when I say Finn."
Max chooses that exact moment to walk back into the room. My face flushes warm, and I can feel myself already turning bright red.
He probably didn't hear her say that. I'm sure he didn't hear her say that.
He gives me a dark look.
Okay, he definitely heard her.
"What?" I ask, suddenly hard-of-hearing. Too late, I realize immediately after I ask the question that was probably a mistake, because it makes her say it again.
"I asked about Finn," Charlotte repeats, oblivious to my obvious discomfort. "Oh, are you not interested in him anymore?"
This is one of those questions that doesn't have a good answer. I want to scream at her that I was hardly interested in Finn in the first place, but Max already knows that, right? And even if he didn't, it wouldn't matter because I was only mildly interested in Finn before Max was even around, and Max doesn't have any claim over me anyway.
Except that he did claim me back in the stable.
All of this is going to be mine. Your pussy, your ass, your mouth is all mine.
I think I hear Max growl as he shoves the champagne bottle and glasses at Charlotte. She doesn't seem to notice. "No tray?" she asks. I can't see Max's expression, but Charlotte obviously does, and her face pales. "You know what, no tray is okay. Obviously, I'll just set the champagne down right here on the table beside me."
"Anything else, princess?" Max asks, his voice terse.
Charlotte's eyes flicker over Max. "Has anyone ever told you that you could be a model? You have kind of a rugged, gruff look –"
"Charlotte," I warn, stopping her.
"I mean, he does. Am I not allowed to say that to the bodyguards?"
"I think you've harassed him enough already."
She makes a little "hmph" sound, not bothering to disguise the way her eyes linger on his ass as he turns around and leaves, the door closing hard behind him. I definitely notice the look she gives him, and I'm annoyed that I notice. I'm even more annoyed that I care about the way she checks him out.
She also doesn't drop the Finn thing, which annoys me even more. "You got a weird look when I mentioned Finn. Dish the dirt."
"There's no dirt," I say with a shrug. "I'm just not interested. Change of subject. Let's talk about anything else."
"Did you have a falling out?"
My eyebrows rise. "Seriously, Charlotte, leave it alone."
She sighs. "Okay, moody. You're not interested in hanging out or clubbing or boys or anything lately. You're holed up in the country with your family. So, one of two things are going on here. Either something is wrong with you and you're ill or depressed or moping around because something happened with Finn –"
"Nothing happened with Finn. He was my dealer and that's it."
"Or," she says, holding up a finger, "you have a crush on the hot bodyguard."
"What?!" I ask, my voice going up an octave. "I don't have a crush on anyone. Honestly, I don't know where you'd come up with something like that."
"Huh," she muses, pouring a glass of champagne. "Neither do I."
I change the subject. "Give me a glass of champagne and catch me up on the gossip. Are you seeing any hot boys?"
I hope the mention of hot non-bodyguard boys distracts her, and it does. Thirty seconds later, Charlotte is dishing all of the gossip that involves anyone remotely close to our circle of friends, and before long, she's forgotten all about Finn and my hot bodyguard. Meanwhile, she's downing champagne like she's singlehandedly under obligation to polish off the world's supply.
I do kind of miss this – and the rest of my friends. So when she demands we go out clubbing so that "everyone doesn't think you've died or something", I agree.
I pick a body-hugging red dress I haven't worn before and pull my hair back into a ponytail. While Charlotte is in the bathroom doing her makeup, I go out in the hall to tell Max where we've decided we're going.
I'm just informing him because he's my bodyguard. I'm definitely not asking his permission or anything.
He's standing beside the door, his arms crossed and looking grouchy as hell. When I step out of the room, he gives me a dark look that says he heard Charlotte mention Finn and he certainly hasn't let it go.