I was lonely. The entire week I was gone, I wasn’t resting, I was just lonely. I missed the girls like they were my own. I missed Maja’s stoic disposition. I missed getting rides from Henrik and coffee from Karla. I even missed walking through snow and sliding on my ass as I navigated the streets of Copenhagen.

Most of all, I missed Aksel. I missed him with some force and energy I’ve never felt before. It was a scooped out hollow feeling right in the middle of me. I ached for him, every second of the day, like I was nursing a wound that just wouldn’t heal.

It’s honestly made me so angry at myself. For getting carried away, for letting my feelings build and build, without anything solid to stand on. Now they’re off and running and I have no choice but to go along for the ride.

I’m crazy. It’s crazy. I’m the nanny, he’s the King, and even though I tell myself this over and over again like a broken record, it does nothing to stop it. I throw words and logic at my heart and it deflects them every time.

I love him and it’s killing me that I can’t have him.

It’s killing me that he sent me away, even if it was out of the goodness of his heart.

It’s killing me that I swear he wants me too, but neither of us are brave enough to act upon it.

Because that’s what it would take. Love requires bravery and I don’t have any sort of back-up plan, no way to protect myself from the blows. If anything were to happen between us, I would be his immediately and there would be no coming back from it. If it ended badly, I’d be out of a job and then I’d really know what it’s like to have a family and lose them.

There’s just no happily ever after in this situation. I’m the help. I’m nothing. He’s a handsome king who was married to a gorgeous queen whom everyone in the world loved. They had two amazing daughters together, daughters I help take care of … as the nanny.

There’s no way in the world any of this could ever work, even if he felt the same way, even if the stars aligned.

It’s fucking doomed.

“Aurora,” Amelie says. “Are you alright?”

I exhale noisily through my nose, wishing the sharp, acute pain in my chest would dissipate but it hasn’t since I got back. “I’m … fine.”

“You aren’t though. See, that’s why I call. Because then I know. Alors, tell me what’s wrong. He is back to being King Asshole, oui?”

“No, not at all,” I admit. Because Aksel has been anything but. He’s become my friend but he’s also become more than a friend. I know he sees me as something more, but I don’t know if it will ever evolve, if he’ll ever let it.

Hell, maybe all I’m picking up on is the fact that he wants to fuck me. I know that much at this point. I see him staring at me, I feel his eyes on my lips, my breasts, my legs. I know there’s something hot and raw burning in his gaze, no matter how hard he tries to slip that mask back on. I know I see it growing each day, the way he touches me, more and more, like he just can’t help it.

“Then the girls, they are good? And the woman, Maja?” Amelie goes on and I hear her puffing on her cigarette.

“Everything is fine. Really. I’m just … lonely. That trip was a slap in the face.”

“Aw. I understand now. You need a boyfriend.”

“I need to get laid at the very least.”

“So go outside and find someone.”

I let out a dry laugh. “I can’t just go outside. And it’s not like there’s a bunch of hot Danish men stacked out there like firewood, to use when needed.”

“Listen,” she says through a huff of smoke. “I’m coming to see you. End of March. Tell your handsome boss. We’re going to get you laid.”

“I don’t think I should tell my handsome boss that.”

“Tell him I’m coming to visit, d’accord?”

“We’ll see. I better go to bed,” I tell her. I’m half-asleep as it is. Traveling all day yesterday took it out of me.

“Fine. But you better call me soon.” She hangs up.

I throw my phone across the bed and curl up on my side. Funny how heartache and yearning makes your body go into the fetal position, like you’re in pain and trying to get through it.

And yet that’s what this is.

I want him.

I can’t have him.

I am in pain.

And I don’t know how I’ll ever get through it.

At least the girls are happy I’m back from my trip. They’ve been clinging to me all day long, afraid to let me out of their sight. Even Maja is glad, though probably more relieved than anything. She looks a bit worn out and I don’t blame her.

Aksel has gone back into his default mode, which is to be distant. He was warm and welcoming when he first saw me yesterday, but there was still this wariness to him, like he had to watch how he acted and what he said. Then he disappeared and I still haven’t seen him.

Perhaps the week away did more harm than good.

Or maybe he realized that we’d become too close for comfort and that he needs to drive a wedge between us.

If that’s true, it’s probably better this way. But it doesn’t make it hurt any less.

“Here you are,” Karla says to me as she shuffles into the room, handing me a glass of wine.

I’m sitting in a chair in front of the roaring fire. It’s just after dinner and Aksel had gone out somewhere for dinner this evening, so I decided to take a few moments to rest and gather my thoughts, even if my thoughts are of the brooding and depressing kind.

“What’s this for?” I ask her.

She gives me a kind smile. “You seem a little blue,” she says. “This will help.”

“Thank you,” I tell her, grateful that she noticed, if not just a little embarrassed. “Do you know when Aksel will be back from his dinner?”

“He came back about twenty minutes ago,” she tells me before going back to the kitchen.

For some reason I thought if he came back he’d come right here, to have his brandy by the fire. I am in his usual chair after all.

Maybe he saw you and decided to avoid you, I think.

I’m probably fucking right.

I sigh heavily and take a big gulp of wine, hoping that it will cure my blues a little, though at this point I think only one thing is going to cure me.

I’m almost done with the glass when Maja’s head pops in the doorway. “I’m taking the girls to see the pig. They want to say goodnight,” she says. She never calls Snarf Snarf by name, it’s always “the pig.” “Oh and Aksel would like a word with you. He’s in his office.”

“Okay,” I say, my voice faltering as she walks off down the hall with the girls. I finish the rest of the wine in one swallow and take in a deep breath. Why do I have a feeling this isn’t going to be good? That’s the problem with distance, with going away. What if everything our relationship has evolved into has been razed to the ground?

I get up and slowly make my way up the stairs to the second floor. It’s quiet and empty and cold.

I’ve been in Aksel’s office a few times for one reason or another so there’s nothing out of the ordinary about this. It’s just everything else that’s putting me on edge.

I knock on his door, my hand shaking slightly.

It’s fine. It’s just Aksel. Nothing to worry about. Probably wants to go over tomorrow or something.

“Come in,” he says. Even though the door is muffling him, he sounds rather gruff.

Mr. Fucking Moody. Can’t he just be consistent for once?

I open the door and step inside.

He’s at his desk, staring down at some papers and still in the fancy black suit I saw him leave for dinner in, the top buttons of his crisp white shirt undone. Even though I’m the one who came back from a week in the sun and I’m still pale, his skin somehow stays this eternally bronze color.

“Shut the door, please,” he says, not looking up.

Gulp.

I shut the door quietly and stand in front of his desk, gnawing on my lip. There’s a strange energy in the air. It reminds me of the days in the desert when the storms would come after months of no rain. The air was electric and charged and promising change.

But what kind of change?

I swallow thickly, waiting for him to say something. I spot the Christmas gift I gave him hanging up on the wall and decide to comment on it. “I’m glad it found a home.”

“Hmm?” he asks, finally glancing up at me. That same electricity in the air is swirling in his eyes.

I gesture feebly to the photo. “Your gift.”

He glances at it over his shoulder but he doesn’t smile. It’s like he’s not the same person who opened it on Christmas Eve and laughed heartily, that beautiful rare grin of his cracking his face with joy.

I wish we could go back to that night.

He called me a goddess.

Maybe it was the alcohol talking, but he said it all the same and my ego will never let me forget it.

“Listen,” he says, his eyes moving back to mine. “I need to talk to you.”

Oh god. Okay, Aurora, calm down. He can’t break up with you. You’re not going out!

“Okay. What about?” I try to keep my voice light, a smile plastered on my face.

His eyes rake over my features, as if he’s searching for something. Some truth. Something inside me I haven’t found yet.

“How would you say you’ve enjoyed working for me?”

Oh my god.

“Working for you?”

“Yes,” he says, an edge to his voice. “Have you enjoyed your job as the nanny of this household?”

What’s going on? Why is he speaking to me so formally?

“Of course I have,” I say in disbelief. “Why on earth do you ask?”

He runs his tongue over his teeth in thought. “Where do you expect to be when your year is up?”

Oh no. Are we really talking about this already? My heart is starting to pick up the pace and the light in the room seems too harsh, dizzying.

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