Shocked, Philip felt his mouth fall open. “What happens?”
“They go to work in a fast-food restaurant, mopping floors, and live in a tenement building much like this one.”
Teeny broke in again. “At one point, the manservant pretends to be the prince and woos the heroine’s sister with talk of his—the real prince’s—wealth.”
Shelby glared up at the bodyguard. “That’s beside the point.”
“Don’t you dare,” Philip warned his cousin.
“I wouldn’t dream of it!”
Sure he wouldn’t.
“Does the prince win the maiden?” Philip asked.
“He does, Your Highness, although he fears all is lost when she finds out he has been lying to her. In fact, he goes back to his kingdom in sadness and disappointment, and it isn’t until he is at the altar about to wed another that he realizes she has come after him.”
Claire wouldn’t be able to come after him if Philip left without her. As of right now, she didn’t even know his world existed. Few on Earth did, though most Elatyrians knew about their neighboring world, some even moving back and forth between them on a weekly basis. But she certainly would have no way of finding it.
“Are you saying I need to tell her the truth?” he asked.
Teeny nodded and Shelby did too the very same instant. These two never agreed on anything.
Philip answered his own question. “I will,” he stated firmly. “I need just a few more days, then I’ll be completely honest with her and ask her to come back with me to Elatyria.”
“She’ll say yes,” Shelby insisted loyally.
Teeny didn’t look so sure.
“What is it?” Philip asked the frowning man.
“Well, that brother of hers...”
“Have you seen him?”
“I saw him,” Teeny admitted. “He and another man were up the block this afternoon. Mr. Freddy was pointing toward the shop, appearing nervous and guilty.”
Philip’s blood raced through his veins. He could think of no reason for Claire’s brother to be skulking around, showing people where she lived and worked, unless he was in more trouble and was counting on his sister to get him out of it.
It was time to teach that pup a lesson. Past time.
But until Philip got hold of him, it was back to full-time guard duty for him and his friends.
“I know, I know,” Shelby said, as if reading his mind. “I’ll take the first watch tonight. Teeny will relieve me in four hours. I assume you intend to guard her tomorrow?”
“I certainly do,” Philip said. He’d planned to give her some time, to perhaps wait until late afternoon to stop in and see how she was feeling about things, after all that had happened tonight. Now, knowing she might be in danger, he couldn’t afford to wait. “Thank you, my friends.”
Murmuring good night, Philip went into his sorry little apartment, which, he had to admit, looked much better than it had ten days ago, when he’d first seen it. Though he hadn’t spent a great deal of money, in case Claire or anyone else should come up and wonder how he could afford it, he and his friends had invested some physical labor. It had felt good to scour, fix walls, seal windows and clean. Philip was used to a lot of physical activity at home—mainly riding, jousting, and occasionally leading a battle against the brigands who sometimes invaded the kingdom from the desert. Other than walking around the city, he’d had no outlet for his pent-up energy here, so working on these rooms had been cathartic.
He wondered what Claire would think when she saw them. He also wondered how she’d feel about leaving this behind.
Part of him suspected she would not want to go, since she appeared devoted to her small shop. But there were candy shops in his world, too, and while she might be the first royal princess to have a job, that’s what she would have if that’s what she wanted.
First, though, he had to convince her to come with him. Which wouldn’t be a problem if she truly fell in love with him.
The question was, would she? And did he have enough time for her to?
His month of freedom was more than halfway over. He had to leave a few days at the end for the return, and had already decided he would have to depart New York City on Christmas Eve to make it home in time. Which meant he had less than two weeks to capture the love of the woman who’d win his.
He’d possessed her body tonight—and the memory of what they’d shared would haunt his dreams and his fantasies for the rest of his life. Now he needed to lay siege to her heart.
THOUGH SHE WOULD NEVER regret the incredibly sensual interlude she’d shared with Philip, Claire couldn’t help wishing it hadn’t been a workday. Because the next morning, she was weary and dragging. She felt drugged. Maybe she’d OD’d on chocolate.
“But oh, God, what a way to go,” she whispered as she put the finishing touches on some beautifully decorated sugared plums. She’d already been at work for two hours, finishing up the special orders she’d neglected the night before, and realized it was time to open the shop.
After starting the industrial-size coffeepots, she lifted the chairs off the small tables and set them in place. Then she pulled open the blinds and went to unlock the door, flipping the sign from Closed to Open.
Through the glass, she was surprised to see a small line of people waiting outside.
“Please come in!”
She stepped back and gestured for them to step in out of the blustery morning air. Claire had been in business for almost a month now, but this was the first time people had actually been waiting for her to open. She couldn’t contain a rush of pleasure and satisfaction at having come this far, this quickly.
With a smile on her face, she served coffee and pastries—something she’d recently added to the menu to appeal to the breakfast crowd. Plus there were plenty of order pickups, orders placed, and on-the-spot treats purchased.
It wasn’t until nearly eleven that she had a chance to sit down, feeling both exhausted and energized, somehow. And of course, that was the moment when her lover—well, her oral lover, anyway, since they hadn’t taken that oh-so-intimate final step—walked through the door.
As always, Philip filled up the room. He had such presence, an almost regal air. His amazing body was always perfectly straight, his jaw tilted slightly as his beautiful bedroom eyes surveyed the room. The guy could part a crowd—she’d seen that last night—and could dominate a large space. Suddenly, the walls seemed much closer, the room more intimate, and the setting far more private than a shop that had been filled with people ten minutes ago.
“Good morning, Claire,” he said, that throaty voice almost purring. “Did you sleep well?”
Thinking of the night’s sleep she had—of the erotic dreams he’d inspired and the way she’d been shaken awake from one of them by a powerful orgasm—she felt color flood into her cheeks.
“Oh. I see you did,” he said, a small smile playing on that sensuous mouth she had grown to adore.
“Yes. And you?”
“Not really,” he admitted.
Her stomach lurched. Had she been the only one affected by the incredible intimacies they’d shared? “No?”
“I could think only about the coming of morning, when the sundry store around the corner would open for business.”
Not understanding, she tipped her head in confusion.
Philip lifted his hand to show her the small plastic bag he was carrying. She peered at it, able to just make out the lettering on the small box within.
“That’s... Oh,” she whispered, her legs suddenly wobbly as she realized he’d gone out first thing this morning to buy a box of condoms.
She nodded vehemently. “I most definitely approve.”
He appeared relieved. Good grief, had he really been wondering if she’d had second thoughts? If, after having that amazing mouth and those remarkable hands bring her to the height of pleasure, she would possibly not want more? Only an insane woman—or one without a hint of estrogen—could have been pressed up against that hot, sexy male body, could have seen that massive, proud erection, could have tasted the heat of him, and not wanted more.
Philip cast another glance around the shop, as if to make sure no one else was there, and strode toward her. Wrapping his arms around her, he hauled her against him for a deep, hungry good-morning kiss. His body was so big, broad and warm, his kiss so devouring and demanding, she couldn’t help but melt against him, kissing him back with every ounce of passion he’d aroused in her the night before. Both during their amazing kitchen interlude and in her dreams.
“I thought about you all night long,” he admitted.
He raised a curious brow.
“I mean, me, too,” she explained, liking the way he sometimes didn’t understand her way of speaking. He was old-fashioned in some respects, almost otherworldly at times. She liked that about him. Hell, she liked everything about him. Every damn thing, from the way he looked to the way he talked to the sound of his husky laugh, to the light in his eyes, to his brainy conversation, to the way he used his mouth...everywhere.