That’s when she opens her mouth . . . and throws up all over me.
Well . . . fuck.
I’M NOT CONCERNED WHEN I wake up alone. I run my hand over the empty spot in the bed—Henry must have left early this morning to find Vanessa and decided to let me sleep in.
I’ve earned it over the last few days.
I roll onto my back, staring at the ceiling, replaying those days in my head again and again. The way his hands skimmed and grasped at my skin—possessive and desperate. The words he gasped and promises he whispered.
He loves me.
Henry Pembrook loves me.
And what I feel for him, I can’t even put into words, it’s so huge. Excitement bubbles under my skin and warmth heats in my belly. Nothing will ever be the same. I was happy with myself before—with my little life. But this is different. It feels like I’m on the edge of a mountain cliff, the wind whipping my hair, the sun blinding—but there is no fear. Only exhilaration, pure and right. I’m not going to fall. I can’t.
Because Henry has shown me how to fly.
Eventually, I stretch my arms above my head—making my poor, overtaxed muscles groan. The soft, tender place between my legs throbs in a delicious, well-used sort of way. I go to take a long, hot shower. As I drag the soapy cloth over my breasts and up my thighs, it’s Henry’s hands and mouth that I see. That I feel. And I smile when I discover tiny bruises and bite marks on my skin. Proof that it wasn’t just a dream. Wasn’t a fantasy inspired by reading someone else’s imaginings in a book.
This is my story.
Penny is waiting for me on the sofa when I step out of the bathroom. She’s a bit pale from the food poisoning, and gray rings shadow beneath her eyes.
“How are you feeling, Pen? Better?”
She takes one look at my face, and says, “I’m going to cut his cock off!”
I guess she’s feeling better.
Then she doubles over onto the couch, groaning dramatically. “Tell me you did not let Henry Pembrook pop your cherry. Say it isn’t so!”
“Well . . .” I start. But that’s all she lets me get out.
“Bloody hell!” After a few more moans and groans, she sits up and takes my hand gently. “I’m sure, as far as first times go, Henry made it good. But he’s not for you, Sarah. He’s not the sticking kind. I mean, look at where we are—this show. He’s been flitting from one girl to the next. What do you think he’s been doing on all his ‘dates’ with the other girls? You actually believe he didn’t get his freak on in the sodding hot springs? With Cordelia?”
“He didn’t. We talked about it.”
She throws her hands up. “Oh, well you talked about it—that settles that, then. Because Lord knows, boys never lie. Especially rich, spoiled, entitled, royal boys. They’re the most truthful of all.”
I smile and shake my head at her. Because she doesn’t understand.
“He loves me, Penny.”
She scoffs. “Of course he does. Did he tell you that when he was balls deep or right after he came?”
I shake my head again. “No, it was before, but—”
“Before? Do you know how many men have told me they loved me before—just to have a chance to stick it to me?” She ticks off her fingers as she lists the names. “Let’s see, there was Barry Windstormer, Alfred Sullivan, Timothy Englewood—though he was hung like a bull, so totally worth it—Ryan Fitz—”
“It’s different with Henry and me.” I squeeze her hand. “He loves me. I know him, Penny, in a way no one else does. What we have is new . . . but it’s deep and real. I’m sure of it.”
My sister closes her mouth, but still looks unconvinced.
“Once upon a time, Mother was sure too.”
“We’re all sure, Sarah, until the bastards prove us wrong.” She runs her hand up my arm. “I just don’t want to see you get hurt. I don’t want you to be another notch on the crown—and I don’t want to see you become fodder for the tabloid rags; we both know that would be especially awful for you. And when the show airs, the publicity—”
“Henry’s quitting the show. It’s not going to air because he’s not going to finish it. He’s speaking to the producer right now.”
Penny’s eyes widen. “He told you that?”
“Yes. See—they’re not all bastards, and actions mean more than words.”
The rumble of cars floats in from outside, from the driveway leading up to the castle. I spot the familiar string of SUVs.
I throw on a black sweater and slacks, and pin my hair up into a damp bun. Then I rush downstairs to show Penny how wrong she is.
Down in the foyer, Vanessa Steele flips through a stack of papers, giving directions about lighting and setup to the crew scurrying around. I look behind her toward the door, but Henry doesn’t walk through it. And I don’t see him anywhere.
“Where’s Henry?” I ask.
She spares me a quick glance. “He’s on his date with Laura.”
I’ve never been punched in the stomach, but the words make me want to fold over like I have been. I feel Penelope standing behind me listening, her emotions building like a volcano ready to erupt.
“Did he speak with you?” I ask Vanessa.
“Briefly, yes, before he went out on the boat.”