In a second, all the anger rushes through me, and a million rehearsed arguments I had for him in my head all start competing with each other to be the first ones out. I grab my robe, tie it up tight as if it will somehow be a force field against him, and then march on over to the door.

Aksel is on the other side, his hand raised, ready to knock again.

Stupid bastard is so handsome I nearly forget why I’m angry.

“How are you?” he asks simply. As if last night didn’t happen at all.

My eyes flare and I pinch my lips together, gesturing stiffly to the room, for him to come in.

His forehead creases in surprise, probably not getting why I’m acting like this, but he walks on in anyway, looking around him furtively as if he’s stepped into a trap.

I shut the door and turn to face him, my fists clenching and unclenching.

He sees this and then glances at my face warily. “What’s going on? Sorry I wasn’t around all day.”

“You’re an asshole,” I say. Wow. I didn’t expect that to be the first thing out of my mouth, but there you go. I never had a filter, why start now?

“Excuse me?”

I think half the fun of insulting Aksel, other than he deserves it most of the time, is that it really bugs him since no one else talks to him this way.

“You fired me last night.”

“I didn’t,” he says glibly. “Remember? I told you that you weren’t.”

“At the end!” I cry out, my arms flailing. “After we made out, after you nearly fucked me from behind!”

He frowns and places his finger to his lips. “That’s not something we should talk about too loudly.”

“Right, because god forbid you’re caught nearly screwing the nanny.”

His eyes widen. “Well, yes. That’s completely it.”

“Aksel, you called me into your office.”

He rubs his lips together, taking a moment. “Yes.”

“To fire me.”

“I didn’t exactly fire you,” he says, his hand pulling at the back of his neck and avoiding my eyes.

“Yes you did!”

“You came to that conclusion on your own.”

Oh my god. Semantics?

“You let me come to that conclusion! You didn’t correct me! You only added to it!”

“I had to.”

“Why?!” I storm on over to him and poke my finger into his chest. The damn Dane is wearing another one of his sexy suits. “Why did you do that to me? You made me bare my soul to you.”

“I had to know the truth,” he says, wrapping his fingers around mine and trying to pull them away from his chest. I won’t let him.

“The truth. So it was just a lie? Were you provoking me to get the response you wanted?”

He doesn’t say anything, his gaze going to the corner of the room as if someone there will save him.

“No one can save you from this conversation, Aksel. You’re the fucking King.”

“Sounds less like a conversation and more like hysterical yelling,” he mutters.

Oh. No he didn’t.

And I think he instantly regrets saying that because he takes a step back, throwing his hands up in surrender. “Look.”

“Hey. Don’t you look me. Don’t you get what a horrible thing that was to do? To me! You made me think that I lost my job, that I lost the girls, that I lost you!”

Bloody hell. Now the damn tears from last night are coming back. I tilt my head back and stare up at the ceiling, trying to tilt them back into my eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he says softly, reaching out for me.

I swat his hand away. “No. You can’t just play with my feelings like that. If you wanted to know what they were, you should have been a fucking man and come right up to me and asked.”

“Be a fucking man?” he repeats, his nostrils flaring. “I know what happened to you at your last job. I talked to your agency. I wasn’t about to put you in that position again. I couldn’t know for sure how you felt about me and I wasn’t going to risk losing you to find out.”

“But you did risk losing me! You fired me. Or fake fired me. I don’t know what the fuck you did but it was manipulative bullshit.”

“I had to.”

“Fuck you,” I snarl.

“Hey,” he snaps. “I said I had to. I didn’t want to but it was the only way I could be sure, and no I couldn’t just go up to you and ask if you’d ever thought about fucking me.”

“I gave you hints!”

“You’re hard to read.”

“Oh, I am not.”

“Yes you are. You’re always fucking with me. Teasing me. How am I supposed to know?”

I shake my head, still angry. “You ask. That’s what. Or hell, pick up the hint and just kiss me. You’ve had a million chances before now.”

“So have you!”

I let out a loud, caustic laugh. “Oh my god. Yeah right! Like I would just throw myself at my boss.”

“Well, you could have. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. It’s over.”

“No, it isn’t over, because you did it in such an asshole-ish way.”

He reaches out for my hand and tugs me toward him. “I did it the way I had to. Look, I know about our positions here. I know I’m your boss. A king. I’m in a position of power over you and you’re my employee. As defiant as you are, I also know you love my daughters and would do anything for them, and that might mean you would do anything to keep working here. I had no idea what you’d do if I came on to you. There was a very big chance that if I did, you would have gone with it, just for the sake of keeping your job. Do you understand me?”

I squint at him because I don’t like the fact that he’s making some sense.

He squeezes my hand. “I have always been very aware of our power dynamic and I also know that some men exploit those dynamics. The last thing I ever wanted was to have you give in to me out of duty, to kiss me back because you thought it was the only way to keep your job. I couldn’t do that to you.”

“So you fired me instead,” I say quietly.

“Yes. Not for real, never for real. But just for you to think that the power I had over you was gone and you had nothing left to lose. It was the only way I could be sure. I am really, really sorry that it was so manipulative.”

Though my heart is slowing slightly and the anger is starting to fade away, I’m still upset. “There should have been another way.”

“And maybe there was. But that was the way I chose, and believe me, if I could have done it differently I would have.” He pauses and takes a step toward me, sliding his hand over the front of my robe until it hooks around the sash. “But I don’t regret it. Because it finally brought us to this moment here.”

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so nervous so fast. It’s like I’ve gone from zero to sixty, anger to anticipation, and my brain doesn’t know how to catch up, even if my body does.

He stares at me, his eyes burning brightly. “Tell me you didn’t regret it either. Tell me it all meant something to you.”

I take a deep breath, steadying myself for the admission. “It meant everything to me, Aksel.”

He smiles beautifully. “Good.” With one quick motion, he undoes the sash on my robe until it falls open. “Because I’m not done with you.”

I’m wearing my nightgown underneath, and I let the robe slip to the ground, wishing I was already naked.

I really hadn’t planned ahead.

Then again, I had no idea I would get a second chance with him and so soon.

“Are you on the pill?” he asks quietly, showing so much restraint on his face. “I don’t have any condoms. It hasn’t been … needed. It’s been a long time.”

So I guess he had no idea about the second chance either.

“I’m on the pill,” I tell him. I have been for years. “And I’ve been tested,” I add.

“Sorry to get this unsexy talk out of the way,” he says with a hint of a smile. “But as a king, you can’t be too careful.”

I open my mouth to say something else, perhaps because I’m suddenly nervous, that this is really happening, when he lunges for me.

His lips are on mine, crushing and soft. Sweet lust that turns wild and frantic.

His hand is at the back of my neck, his other fingers pressing at my jaw and cheek as his tongue assaults me with such rolling passion I can feel it all the way to my toes, making them curl. Just like the last time he kissed me, he’s in complete control, and I surrender.

I surrender completely.

I want to give him everything.

I want him to take me, take me over, devour me.

Rule me.

I want every single part of him, deep inside. I want to see how much of him I can take, how he feels from the inside, what it’s like to be thoroughly fucked by the King of Denmark.

Then what? The thought slices into my head.

But it’s fleeting. For once, the guilt doesn’t stay. I don’t want to listen anymore to what’s right and what’s wrong. I don’t want to worry about the future, about my job, about what this means. I don’t want to put us into those neat and tidy roles again, each wearing a mask. Everything has been buried until now and now I just want him.

Right here, right now.

I want us to escape from these gilded walls we’ve put around ourselves.

I want us to be what we need to be for each other, what we’ve fought against.

And Aksel does just that. He’s both a royal and a wild animal, feral to the core as his mouth sinks into the valley between my neck and my shoulder, biting with hunger and lust.

I groan loudly, and one of his hands slips low along my hips, hiking up the hem of my nightgown. Every nerve ending on my body dances with anticipation.

I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t believe we’re doing this.

It can’t be stopped. I can’t be stopped. His hand skirts over my belly, sliding inside my underwear and down, down to where I’m absolutely soaked.

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