We’re at an extremely private villa just north of the colorful town of Frederiksted. It’s just me, Aksel and the girls. No Maja, no Nicklas, no Henrik.
Okay, so there were some royal attendants that are obligated to go with him everywhere, but he managed to have them stay at the gatehouse before the compound, giving us absolute privacy from everyone.
It’s just us.
Like we’re actually a family.
After the ball last week, after we were almost caught by Nicklas, Aksel decided he wanted us to get away, somewhere far, somewhere hot and humid. Somewhere where we could sleep in the same bed and be together without worrying that others are watching. Somewhere we didn’t have to hide our feelings for each other, where we could just be together, be free.
And while I still have my own room for the sake of the girls, it’s right next to Aksel’s and joined by a spacious deck, giving us complete and open access to each other. Believe me, we’ve spent the last six days making up for a lot of things.
At the moment, we’re lounging on our private beach that’s right in front of the villa. It’s small but it’s gorgeous and the girls are in front of us by the water, making sand “palaces.” The sand is white and fine, like baby powder and the sea is so blue it almost hurts my eyes.
We’re both on our stomachs on towels, a few beers between us. Aksel’s head is buried in his arms, so I let my eyes roam all over his body. He’s already so tanned, his body lean and long and rippling with muscles. His tight little bum is snug in a black Speedo that I like to snap the waistband of. Only fair, since he sometimes does that to my skirt, usually before shoving it up around my hips and having his way with me.
“I don’t want to go,” I tell him with a sigh. “Can’t we stay here forever? Just like this.”
He turns his head, cheek against the towel and squints at me, the sun in his eyes. “I wish we could. I think Stella would kill me, though.”
When Aksel has to go abroad for an extended period of time, his sister, Stella, has to act as the regent in his place. In Denmark it’s called Rigsforstander and she’s currently at the palace, taking over all his official duties. I know she hates it, because she’s told me as much, but it’s the way it is.
“Yeah,” I say. “She would. I just…I love being with you like this. Just us. Just…”
“I know,” he says, and his eyes grow soft. “I love it too. In fact…,” he looks up at the girls who are giggling as the waves tease the sand palace, “I want to tell them about us.”
I blink at him. “What?”
“The girls,” he says quietly. “I want them to know that I love you and that you love me and that we’re together. That you’re more than just their nanny to me.”
I shake my head, a bout of fear striking my heart. “You can’t do that. They won’t understand. Don’t tell them. Seriously.”
He frowns at me as he leans up on his elbows. “They have to know at some point if they don’t already. Aurora, I don’t want to hide it from them. The way I feel about you, it’s not going away. It’s only growing with time. It’s not right to keep them in the dark. They deserve to know.”
“What if they hate me for it?” I whisper. The thought makes me want to be sick. “What if they hate you?”
“They love you,” he says emphatically. “It doesn’t matter that you aren’t their real mother, they love you for you and as you. They never want to let you go, just as I don’t.”
But I’m no good. I’m not good enough for anything real. I’m only good in secret.
“Why are you so afraid?” he says, twisting onto his side and reaching out to touch my face. “This is a good thing. This is everything.”
I can’t explain it to him. “I’m just…I’m someone to hide in the dark. Don’t you get it?”
“No. I don’t. You keep bringing up the fact that you’re the nanny and that’s why we can’t be together, but it doesn’t matter to me.”
“It matters. Okay, it matters. I can’t measure up to Helena.”
“No one says you have to.”
“The tabloids do.”
“The tabloids can go fuck themselves. They don’t matter.”
But they do. I shake my head. “If you tell the girls…and things don’t work out…”
His gaze sharpens, his jaw growing stiff. “Why wouldn’t it work out? Why would you even say that?”
“Because, you’re a king and…”
His fingers go back into my hair and he holds my head steady as he levels me with his eyes. “I am a king. And I belong to you in ways I never thought possible. More than I belong to my country, more than I belong to the people, I belong to you.”
I don’t deserve this man.
I lick my lips, my mouth dry, my heart flooded. “Aksel,” I whisper.
“I don’t want to live a lie anymore. I want to tell the girls and then I want to tell the world. But I won’t do any of that unless you’re on board. It’s fucking killing me not to be able to touch you in public, to not be able to sing your praises, to not let everyone know that I’ve found love, love that I’ll wear better than any crown.” He gives me a sad smile. “But I won’t do it until you’re ready.”
He wears my love like a crown.
I just wish I was worthy enough to do the same.
“Just think about it,” he says, getting to his feet and holding out his hand for mine. “Come on. Let’s go for a swim.”
I give him my hand and he doesn’t let go as we run down toward the turquoise waves. If the girls think the handholding is odd at all, they don’t show it. Maybe it’s because we’ve become so close with each other around them, that they think it’s natural. Maybe because what Aksel and I have is natural, as natural as the salt in the sea and the sun in the sky.
He’s right. The girls do deserve to know the truth about us.
I can only hope my heart will be ready for it.
Later that evening, Aksel and I are standing on our deck overlooking the ocean. He leans against the railing, wearing just a pair of board shorts, no shirt. A warm breeze ruffles his hair, a half-empty beer dangles from his fingers. His gaze is focused on the horizon, content, and yet I can tell a million thoughts are running through his head.
I stare at him and hope it’s imprinting in the back of my head like a film negative, so I can pull it up and stare at it whenever I want. This to me is the real Aksel. Gorgeous and commanding and searching for peace.
I feel like he’s finally found his peace.
It’s in me.
“Get a good look?” he asks with a sly smile as he glances at me idly, taking a swig of his beer.
“Always,” I tell him.
“Have you thought anymore about what I said?” he asks after a long pause.
“I liked that ‘wear your love like a crown’ part. It was very poetic, as usual.”
He gives me a faint smile. “That’s not what I meant.”
He reaches out, his hand going around my waist and pulls me toward him. The girls are fast asleep in their room, it’s only the two of us out here. It feels like it’s the two of us against the world.
His hand disappears into my hair and he leans in, kissing me softly on the lips. I run my fingers down his back, feeling his smooth, taut skin. In moments like this, it feels like we’re unstoppable, immortal, like we’re at the center of a swirling universe, a god and a goddess, with the worlds at our feet. Nothing can touch us.
He pulls back just enough to let his lips brush against mine. I hear him swallow and when I open my eyes, he’s staring right into my soul, my heart. “I want a baby,” he murmurs so rough and so soft that I barely hear him.
I frown, my stomach doing back flips upon back flips. “What?”
“I want a baby with you,” he says against my lips. “I want us to make one. To make a new life that’s mine and yours.”
That was not what I expected him to say.
In fact, I’d never heard him mention children all that much, I assumed that Clara and Freja were all he’d wanted.
But now he wants a baby with me.
“I want to be a father again,” he goes on. He straightens up, running his hand down my neck. “I want you to be the mother of my child. My children. Hell, I want lots of babies. A whole palace full of brothers and sisters for Clara and Freja.”
Lots of babies?! A whole palace full!?
I don’t know what to say, what to think.
The truth is, my ovaries are exploding into a million pieces right now and I would be lying if what he said wasn’t the most romantic, amazing, joyous thing I’d ever heard (and this is coming from him, who’s got a terribly romantic heart).
And I would definitely be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it already.
Oh, I’ve thought about it.
My uterus has been a ticking time bomb for most of my twenties and I think the only reason I’ve been able to ignore it is because I’ve been a nanny for other people’s kids. And while being a nanny, not only do I get to have the family and security I never had growing up, I get to take care of babies and children. They aren’t mine, but it lets me get it out of my system.
But since I started working for Aksel, that ticking time bomb has gotten louder and louder, forcing me to pay attention to it. At first I thought it was because I’d fallen so in love with Clara and Freja, and then I realized it was because I’d fallen in love with their father.
I’d have this man’s babies any day.
Then what? The voice in my head says. Do you think this will actually work?
I ignore it. I choose to feel ecstasy instead.
“I love it when you’re speechless,” he says with a smirk as he tucks my hair behind my ear. “Gives me peace and quiet.”