Rip everything off of him.

The look in his eyes changes to one of awe, and a hazy smile curves his lips. “Look at you,” he whispers harshly, gaze roaming all over my face from my eyes to my nose to my temples to my lips.

“Me?” I breathe.

He gives a faint shake of his head. “What a rare and beautiful thing you are.”

I’m dying inside. His words. The way he’s gazing at me, like he’s seen something no one else will ever believe.

I’m so fucking done for.

I open my mouth to talk but only a groan comes back as his mouth envelops mine again, searing, like he’s trying to brand me as his.

Then he pulls away and flips me around so I’m facing the wall, my forearms bracing me. His fingers curl around my blouse, ripping it backward as he brushes my hair away, rough enough to tear out a few strands. The pain is sharp and sweet and makes the ache inside me grow by leaps and bounds.

I hear the fabric of my blouse tear as he pulls the collar back and then his mouth is at my bare shoulder, biting into my skin.

I cry out from the shock, a jumbled mess of feelings, bracing my hands against the wall to steady us. One of his hands slips down in front of me, sliding over my belly until it reaches the hem of my skirt and tugs it up my thighs.

His other hand goes behind me, to my ass. I feel it bump against me, then hear the buckle of his belt being undone, the sound of his pants being unzipped, the harsh, distinctive, thrilling noise filling the room.

Holy fuck.

Is he going to fuck me from behind, here against this wall?

Before I can even prepare myself, a knock on the door shoots between us like a shotgun blast, blowing the moment to smithereens.

Shit.

“Fuck,” he whispers. He stops, breathing hard, and yells, his voice coarse. “Hvem er det?”

“Det er mig.” Maja’s voice.

“Hvad vil du?” He rests his forehead against my back, trying to steady his breath.

“Jeg vil gerne tale med dig,” she says. She wants to speak with him but it doesn’t sound like there’s any trouble.

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Aksel swears. He straightens up, and my back feels cold without him there. I quickly turn around until I’m leaning against the wall. If I weren’t, I’d fall to the ground. My knees are shaking.

My heart is pounding hard, my breath too flighty to catch. I stare at him with raised brows, not in just the “what were we just about to do” but in the “where the fuck should I hide?”

He nods at me, I guess to stay where I am, pressed against the wall, and quickly does up his pants before I can catch a glimpse of anything. He straightens his shirt and jacket though I’m not sure how he’s going to hide the flush on his face.

He takes in a deep breath and walks over to the door, opening it a crack and peering out. “Ja?”

I can’t see Maja, though if she stepped into his office or looked around the door, she’d see me. She tells him that Clara is requesting a bedtime story from him.

He nods, tells her he’ll be right there. Then he leaves the door open and comes over to me.

He stares down at me with an apologetic smile. “Sorry. I have to go do this,” he whispers. He gestures to the door. “Wait a few minutes and then sneak out. I’ll make sure no one sees you.”

Sneaking out. Oh my god, the reality of what we’d just done, what almost happened, hits me like a sledgehammer. I’m speechless, breathless, watching as he strides back toward the door.

“Wait,” I squeak.

With one hand on the door, he glances at me expectantly.

“Am I still fired?” I ask.

Another quick smile. “Fired?” he repeats. “No. You’re not fired.”

And then he’s gone.

I hear him walk down the hall.

I spend the next few minutes counting down and trying to calm my racing heart.

When I’m sure enough time has passed and that my knees aren’t shaking anymore, I check that the coast is clear. Then I head out of his office and to my room, closing the door.

I immediately go to the small bottle of medicinal Underberg Schnaps in my room and down it in one go, then sit on the edge of the bed and try to think.

What have we just done?

What does any of it mean?

And what the bloody hell happens next?

Chapter 15

Aurora

The next morning my alarm goes off and I feel as if I could sleep forever. It doesn’t help that it’s chilly outside the blankets, my nose practically frozen.

“Can’t you afford heat in this damn house?” I grumble to no one in particular before closing my eyes and trying to go back to sleep. For a few moments I’m lulled back into oblivion until I remember.

Aksel.

Last night.

Everything.

My eyes fly open.

Holy shit.

That actually happened.

I mean, it actually happened.

It wasn’t a dream.

Those were actually his lips against mine.

That was his cock pressed against my hip.

Those were his rough words, calling me a rare and beautiful thing.

I’m breathless all over again, my heart doing flips at the memories I still feel on my skin, forever imprinted.

I can’t go back to sleep now. Even the cold doesn’t bother me.

I get out of bed and grab my robe and shuffle into the bathroom, staring at myself in the mirror, to see if I look any different. I feel different in every way, like something inside me has been unlocked, a lock I’d been unsuccessfully trying to pick for a very long time.

My skin is pale, though there are more freckles because of my week in the Canary Islands, but my eyes seem brighter and darker at the same time, my hair has knots in it from when he fisted it, and my lips are this roughed, bruised pink, the kind of pink that comes from too much kissing.

I run my fingertips over them, staring at my reflection in awe, a smile slowly stretching across my face.

My heart bursts.

It happened.

I let the feeling wash over me, electric, because I know that soon reality will rear her ugly head. It will remind me that though Aksel kissed me, nothing else has really changed.

And yet everything has changed.

Still, I aim to keep that lightness in my heart. I refuse to let my thoughts get too serious, refuse to have anything diminished.

How often do people get to feel like this?

I want to hold the feeling close to my chest and never let it go.

I practically skip around the room as I get ready for the day, unable to keep from giggling and smiling and blushing at what happened.

The taste of his lips.

The feel of his back beneath my hands.

The way he went from sweet and poetic to rough and passionate.

That probably surprised me most of all, seeing that wild side of Aksel, a man I couldn’t imagine letting loose before.

But now I know better and yet I still think he was holding himself back with me.

The thought of what he could have done makes the heat flare up between my legs, makes me ache inside for him. Now that I know what it’s like to almost have him that way … I want nothing less. The bruise on my shoulder is a constant reminder that my boss actually bit me, just before he was about to fuck my brains out.

Yet, I’m still the nanny with a job to do, so I do my very best to keep the dirty thoughts at bay and just get on with the day. I take Clara to school with Freja coming along for the ride, then I play with Freja and Snarf Snarf as we teach the pig how to shake a hoof, then I read some stories to her.

I don’t see Aksel at all because he’s out on business somewhere and I don’t want to admit that every time I thought I heard him come home, my pulse skipped a few beats, only to be disappointed when I saw it wasn’t him.

But as the day wore on, I stopped being disappointed.

As the day wore on and the darkness of the never-ending winter felt too encroaching and I grew tired, my mind started to latch onto other things.

Negative things.

It’s my nature to try and push that shit out of my head.

But something was starting to bother me.

It slowly grew, bit by bit.

The fact that last night, Aksel called me into his office under the pretense of firing me.

Or perhaps it wasn’t a pretense at all. Maybe that was his plan.

Maybe I somehow won my job back and proved to him I was worth keeping.

They’re dumb thoughts to think and not in line with the Aksel that I know, but the fact is, he did try and fire me, and somehow, after we kissed, after we almost fucked, I got my job back.

I mean … what the fuck was that all about?

“Are you okay?” Freja asks me. I realize I’ve been tossing her toys into the toy box with a little too much anger.

I give her a fake, sweet smile. “I’m okay. Do you know where your father went today?”

Freja just stares at me blankly because why on earth would she know if I don’t?

“Maybe he’s buying me a present?” she asks hopefully in that small voice of hers.

Oh brother.

Later, around dinnertime when Aksel still isn’t back, I’ve let the angry thoughts morph into something made of flames and fire, just stewing over it all.

How dare you do that to me? I want to yell at him. Why did you do it? To get a reaction?

Is he that shitty and immature? He’s fourteen years older than me. Is that really a game that men like him play?

Though lord knows men don’t ever stop playing games, no matter their age.

When dinner is over I tell Maja I’m taking my break.

I also tell her I’ll be in my room and I wish to speak to Aksel in private, whenever he comes home.

Maja is no dummy, and while I don’t think she suspects anything happened with us last night, she can tell that I’ve been in a foul mood for the latter half of the day, so she agrees without asking any questions.

It’s nearly nine, past the girls’ bedtime, when I hear voices from somewhere in the palace.

I’m already lying back on the bed in my boxers and t-shirt, half-asleep, half-waiting, when there’s a knock at my door.

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