“That’s what the idea of becoming king feels like. A ‘holy fuck’ moment.”
Olivia takes a step forward but loses her balance, tripping on the pointy heel of her shoe, and I catch her. She collides with my chest, my arms around her, meeting at her lower back…and she stays just there.
With her gloriously soft breasts against my hard chest, we freeze—staring, breaths mingling.
“Frigging boots,” she whispers, so near to my mouth.
A smile tugs at me. “I like the frigging boots. Seeing you in them—and nothing else—would really make my day.”
And then my head is lowering and Olivia is reaching up, each of us drawing toward the other. Her silky hair slides over my fingers as I cup her cheek. My smile fades away, replaced with something more raw, more desperate.
Heat and hunger.
Because I’m going to kiss her now—and when the thump of her heartbeat quickens against my chest, I know she knows it.
Wants it, just as much as I do.
My nose brushes hers and those dark blue eyes close slowly…
And then Logan clears his throat loudly.
I swallow back a curse and look up. “What?”
He lifts his chin. “Roof of the high-rise. Nine o’clock.”
I turn my back on the city, keeping Olivia tucked against my chest. “We should head inside.”
Olivia looks adorably dazed. She peeks over my shoulder at the dark sky, then lets me guide her inside. “Does that happen a lot?”
“Unfortunately. Long-range camera lenses—as accurate as rifles.”
Back inside, Olivia’s lips stretch into a long, wide yawn, and I try to stop the chain of indecent thoughts that follow. Damn, but her mouth is beautiful.
If I don’t get in there soon, it may actually kill me.
“Excuse me.” She covers her mouth. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize.” I glance at my watch—it’s after midnight. She was on her feet all day and has to be up again in four hours. “I should’ve picked you up earlier.”
She shakes her head. “This has been wonderful. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun. Not in forever, I think.”
I want to ask her to stay. It would be so easy for her to slip out of that dress and into the magnificent bed just down the hall. But…she’d say no—I can feel it. Too soon.
And she wouldn’t get a wink of fucking sleep anyway—I’d keep her up all night.
I gesture toward the door, like the gentleman I’m not. “Let’s get you home, then.”
Olivia’s head rests against my arm the whole ride back to her place. Our legs are aligned and pressing, our hands entwined on top of my thigh. I turn my head just slightly and inhale the addictive jasmine scent of her hair.
There’s a cable show, My Strange Addiction—one of the most insane things I ever saw, one episode was about a wanker who was obsessed with sniffing women’s hair.
I’m sorry I judged you, wanker. I get it now.
“You smell fantastic.”
She angles her head up, her eyes light and mischievous. Then she presses her face against my pectoral—and inhales so deeply she practically snorts my shirt.
“I like the way you smell too, Nicholas.”
The car pulls up to the curb and rolls to a stop.
And I’m about to ask if I can sniff her again tomorrow, but Logan’s voice comes through the speaker.
“Stay in the car, Your Grace. There’s a vagrant outside Miss Hammond’s door—Tommy and I’ll take care of it.”
Olivia jerks up away from me, going tense in an instant. She looks out the window, white-knuckling the armrest.
And her words barely register before she shoves the door open and dashes out.
To little girls, fathers are heroes—at least the good ones are. Tall and handsome, strong but patient, with a deep voice that speaks the wisest truths.
My father was a good one.
A chaser-away of monsters under the bed, a sneaker of cookies before dinner, an encourager, a protector, a teacher of what a real man is supposed to be. His hands were big and callused—working man’s hands—powerful, but gentle with us. He used to hold my mother’s hand like she was a precious work of art. Oh, how he loved my mother. It was in every move he made, every word he said. His love for her was the light in his eyes and the breath in his lungs.
I look like him—his black hair, the shape of his eyes, his long limbs. It used to make me proud to resemble him because, like all little girls, I thought my father was unconquerable. Invincible. The wall that could never crumble.
But I was wrong.
One terrible day…one horrible moment on a subway platform…and all that strength just dissolved. The way a pillar candle melts down into a heap of wax. Into something unrecognizable.
“Daddy?” I kneel down.
Behind me, Nicholas’s approaching footsteps stutter to a stop.
And the mortification nips at my heels as I imagine how this must look to him.
But I don’t have time for that now.
“Daddy, what happened?”
His eyes struggle to find mine, to stay open, and whiskey fumes burn my nostrils.
“Livvy…hey, sweetie. Couldn’t…somethin’s wrong with the lock…couldn’t get my key in.”