She shrugs. “Maybe.”
The tall, dark-skinned waiter approaches from the back. “We haven’t been officially introduced. I’m Martin.”
Then he curtsies too.
When he stands, I hold out my hand and he shakes it. “Good to meet you, Martin.”
He pumps my arm enthusiastically. “I just want to thank you for all the hours of pleasure you’ve given me—you’ve been center stage in my fantasies for years.”
And his gaze drags over me—not offensively, but like he’s committing every particle to memory. For…later.
He gestures to a nearby chair. “I’m just going to sit over here. And look at you.” With a wink, Marty sinks into a chair, staring like he’s trying very hard not to blink.
I wonder how long he can keep that up.
Ellie’s hands fold together in front of her. “We should talk. Get to know each other—Prid Cocoa, Clarice.”
I chuckle—cuteness runs in the Hammond family.
“Do you mean quid pro quo? It’s Latin, meaning ‘something for something.’”
She shakes her head with disappointment. “That was a pretentiousness test. You failed.”
“Who speaks Latin anymore, anyway?”
“I do. As well as French, Spanish and Italian.”
Her fair eyebrows rise. “Impressive.”
“My language tutor would be happy you think so. He was a crusty sod who admired the beauty of language but detested actually speaking with people. And I made him miserable—I was an uncooperative pupil.”
Ellie takes a seat at a table. “A bad boy, huh?”
I shrug, sitting down across from her. “It was a phase.”
And suddenly the situation feels very familiar—like an interview.
“Would you get punished if you misbehaved or did they use a whipping boy?”
She’s done research. Whipping boys were used back in the old days when corporal punishment was all the rage but princes were thought to be too sacred to be struck. So, an unlucky lad—usually poor—would be chosen as the prince’s companion, and that child would take the beating in his place. The idea being that the prince would feel guilty watching an innocent boy receive his punishment.
Obviously the forefathers knew fuck-all about children.
“Whipping boy?” Martin pipes up, raising his hand. “I volunteer as tribute.”
I laugh. “Whipping boys haven’t been used for a few hundred years—how old do you think I am?”
“You’ll be twenty-eight on October twentieth,” Ellie replies.
Yes—she’s definitely been a busy-researching-bee.
“So,” she starts, leaning back. “What are your intentions with my sister, Prince Nicholas?”
If she only knew.
“I want to spend time with Olivia. Get to know her.”
“My intentions are all good ones, I promise.”
Very good. Orgasmic. The XXX-rated kind.
Ellie’s innocent-looking eyes narrow, reading me, like she’s a visual lie detector.
“You probably know a lot of people—rich people, famous people. Liv is good people. The best. She’s given up her whole life to keep this place going—for me and my dad. She deserves to have fun—a good time—a hot fling with a former bad-boy prince who can talk dirty to her in five languages. I’m hoping you can give her that.”
I know where she’s coming from. I understand that protectiveness—the wish for happiness and joy for someone you care about so much your chest aches. It’s what I feel for Henry every day.
At least, on the days he doesn’t make me want to strangle him.
“That makes two of us, then,” I tell her plainly.
“Good.” With a rap to the table and a nod, little Ellie stands. She retrieves a pie server from a neighboring table and taps each of my shoulders with it.
Like she’s knighting me.
“I approve you, Prince Nicholas. Carry on.”
I try very hard not to laugh at her. And fail.
“Thank you, Miss Hammond.”
And then she leans over me. “But just in case you get any ideas…if you hurt my sister—” she tips her head toward Logan by the door “—delicious-looking security guards or not, I’ll find a way to shave your eyebrows off.”
And I actually believe she’d pull it off.
Ellie straightens up, grinning evilly.
“You feel me, Nicholas?”
I nod. “Loud and clear, Ellie.”
That’s when Olivia walks into the room. And just when I was sure my balls couldn’t get any achier, she proves me wrong.
Her navy-blue tank top, beneath a light gray flannel, highlights her creamy skin, and tight dark jeans tucked into knee-high brown boots accentuate those long, slender legs. Her black hair is down, almost to the curve of her gorgeous arse, and simple silver and pearl earrings peek out between the glorious glossy waves.
“Hey.” She smiles, making the room a little bit brighter and my cock a lot harder. “I didn’t know you were here already. Were you waiting long?”
“It’s all good, Livvy,” Ellie says. “Marty and I kept him company.”
Marty stands, wiggling his mobile. “Before you go, can I get a selfie? You know—for the spank bank?”
“Oh God.” Olivia groans, covering her eyes.