“I know you just fucked me in the hallway earlier today,” I say to him, glancing up at his eyes. “But I just want to…”

“Aurora,” he says as he holds me closer to him, kissing the top of my head. “You never have to explain anything. I’m just glad you’re here. I thought about going to your room, but I didn’t want to be pushy.”

“I usually like it when you’re pushy.”

“Mmmm. I suppose I still owe you another spanking.”

I grin against his chest. “Yes, you do. Something tells me that there is plenty of time to make up for it.”

“There is. We have a lot to make up for.”

We do. Months of dancing around each other, circling like wolves, too afraid to make the first move. Which is why I don’t mind waiting tonight and just being with him this way, absorbing his words and his touch and his smell and his steady heartbeat. I know we’re going to fuck like rabbits for the next foreseeable future.

I trace my fingers in figure eights along his chest, lost in thought about so many things. The one thing I want to talk about the most is the one thing we shouldn’t. What’s next. The knowledge that we could never really become anything beyond this moment. That was one of the reasons why it took me so long to even admit how I felt about him. It was futile.

“You know, the other night,” I say in such a way that he knows which night I’m talking about. “You’d said to me it had been a long time. How long had it been?”

He stiffens, and I look up to see him frowning at me. “Why do you want to know that?”

I shrug with one shoulder. “I’m just curious.”

“Always curious.” He sighs. “Well, it’s not really a secret. I haven’t been with anyone since Helena.”

Oh. Wow. And of course, it doesn’t surprise me that much, considering I have cyber-stalked the fuck out of this man and I could never dig up any dirt or info on who he might have dated since his wife. It’s because he wasn’t with anyone at all.

Fuck. That puts a bit of pressure on me. I’m his first lay since he lost her? Am I the sign that his mourning period is over? Or is that presumptuous of me, too?

“You’re speechless?” he asks. “I guess I should take that as a compliment.”

“I just…I’m just so sorry.”

“Don’t be. It’s just my dick.”

“I mean that as in, I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sorry it’s taken you this long to get over her.”

He looks at me sharply. There I go, saying the wrong thing again.

“Sorry,” I say quickly. “That sounded callous. What I meant was…I’m just sorry you had to go through that. And even if you’re not over her, well, I mean, I don’t blame you.”

Though, god, I hope he’s over her. I hope I’m not just a bandage, salve on a wound.

Oh shit. What if I am?

“Aurora…” he says slowly, licking his lips. He sighs and lets his head flop back into the pillow, staring at the ceiling. “We didn’t love each other.”

I stare at him, stunned.

What?

“What?”

He runs his hand over his face and blinks. “It’s true. We didn’t love each other. At least, she never loved me. She pretended to, to win me over, to get the crown. And I was a dumb fool, eager for anything she could give me. Eager for someone to love me, as pathetic as that sounds. So, I fell in love with her and we got married and we had two beautiful children and then the truth became my reality.”

Holy moly. This is the absolute last thing I ever expected him to say. They were the star couple of the royal families, so handsome and beautiful and good. She with her charities, he with his rally driving and sailing. They were so damn perfect.

And it had been a lie.

“She never loved me,” he goes on. “And eventually, because you can only give as much as you get, I stopped loving her. We became two people who lived in the same house and that was it. We weren’t friends. We weren’t business partners. We weren’t even parents. We both just sort of managed the girls without consulting each other about it. I feared I screwed them up for life.”

“You didn’t,” I tell him, reaching up and running my fingers over his strong face. He kisses the palm of my hand and I melt. “You didn’t screw them up at all. Those girls are smart and lovely and kind.”

“Because you are smart and lovely and kind. You’ve done a better job raising them than she ever did.”

I shrink a little, not feeling comfortable with the way the conversation is going. “I don’t want to diminish the fact that she’s their mother and I’m not.”

“I’m being honest. As I always am. I don’t mince words and you know it all yourself at this point. You’ve seen the signs.”

He’s right but as a nanny I’ve tried to train myself to not ever undermine the mother, dead or alive. The truth is though, sometimes when Clara is talking about their mother, Freja looks completely confused. Freja was only three when her mother died. She doesn’t remember her the way that Clara seems to.

“It’s not a sin to realize the impact you’ve had on them, to know that you’ve turned them around for the better. There’s no shame in that. Helena tried her best, but her focus was elsewhere, on other things, on other…people, even. She wanted children for the wrong reasons, mainly because it was expected, mainly because it solidified her place in my family. In this day and age, you might say she wanted to become a mother for the likes.”

I wrinkle my nose.

“But that doesn’t make her a bad person. She was good in other ways. And I don’t fault her at all for wanting Clara and Freja, no matter her reasons, because without those reasons I wouldn’t have them. And they’re my world.” He places his fingers under my chin and tips up my jaw to meet his gaze. “Just as you’re my world now.”

I shift slightly so I can kiss him, softly on his lips, and there’s a moment where I know if I pull back and put my head on his chest again, that I will fall asleep and that will be that.

But I’ve never had anyone look at me the way he is right now, never had someone hold me with such confidence and security. I’ve never had anyone tell me that I’m their world.

I fucking love this man.

My king.

So I kiss him harder, my nails digging into his chest. His mouth opens against mine, slow at first, tentative, then grows more and more ravenous.

“Aurora,” he whispers against my mouth. “How can I keep you forever?”

And I’m melting.

“Just be with me,” I tell him, whispering, before I add, “And make me come. A lot.”

He half laughs, half growls, and his smile is entirely wolfish right before he grabs me and flips me over so he’s on top.

At first I think I’m going to be crushed, then instantly devoured, but he pulls back and moves slowly, deliberately. He positions himself so he’s lying on top of me, his warm chest pressed against mine, his elbows planted on either side of my head. He peers down at me in such a way it unnerves me, hitting me to the marrow of my bones. His eyes are both hazy with lust and startlingly clear, filled with a deep longing I can feel pull at me.

But there’s something new to them I’ve never seen before. A flash of fear.

“What is it?” I whisper while he runs his finger down the side of my face, over my cheekbone, down to my lips.

Then a faint smile crosses his lips, and though the fear in his eyes doesn’t waver, it softens. “Goddess.” His voice is rough, low, coarse. It brings out a flurry of goose bumps all over my skin.

He doesn’t say anything else.

And because his gaze is so disarming, I can’t think of anything to say either. We just stare at each other, connected on all levels. It’s a feeling bigger than the both of us.

And then I understand it.

The fear.

He just opened up his heart to me.

He opened up his secrets.

He let that mask drop for a moment until I saw his soul.

He let me in.

Aksel keeps his eyes on mine, burning with lust and I’m so turned on already, that I’m drenched between my thighs.

The man just has to look at me and I’m a mess.

“Aurora” he groans as his fingers find my clit, teasing it, his eyes never breaking from mine. “You’re so wet for me.”

I give him a broad smile. “And only you, sir.”

“I love it when you talk nanny to me,” he says gruffly as he grabs my hips and pulls me closer. “Waiting and ready to do my bidding.” I bring my leg up, hooking it around his waist, keeping him against my hips, while I pull my night shirt over my head and toss it aside. I’m starting to get impatient, the ache inside me increasing with each slick stroke of his finger.

“I’ll only do your bidding in the bedroom,” I remind him as I let a groan slip from my mouth.

“I can live with that,” he whispers to me as he reaches for his cock and runs the crown of it up and down my clit, pausing to dip it briefly inside before bringing it back up. The sound is so loud in his cavernous room, it’s obscene.

And, it’s more than apparent, that he wants to take it torturously slow tonight.

I don’t mind.

My eyes close, surrendering myself to this intense teasing. He’s not pushing in, it’s just a lazy slide, back and forth, but I feel myself opening for him anyway, my body starving for more.

Hungry.

Always.

“You like that?” he murmurs, his voice so thick with need that I can’t even answer him. I nod, relaxing back into his pillow. I’m beyond ready for him, surrendering and spurring him on as he rubs against me, over and over again.

This is so fucking rich.

Royal.

I swallow hard, and a begging noise escapes my lips.

He likes that. I can tell by the way his muscles tense. My heart is starting to pound in my head, my skin is hot and tight, my nipples are hardened pebbles in the cool air as his skin brushes against them.

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