SOME MEN THINK WITH THEIR cocks.
You know the type. Quick smooth-talkers, shifty eyes always scanning for a nice pair of legs, a set of full tits, or a tight arse they can pant after.
Other blokes think too much with their brains. You know that type too. Annoyingly careful, slow-moving, constantly parsing their words like they already know whatever they’re saying is going to come back and take a bite out of them.
I’m not either of those.
I always go with my gut. When it clenches with a warning, I act—no hesitation. When it tugs and nudges, I pause and reevaluate. When it twists and writhes, I know, guaranteed, I’ve cocked up big-time.
My gut is my best friend, my conscience, my most lethal asset.
And it has never let me down.
It’s my gut that drags me to her door. That roots me in place as I knock. That gives me the words—pleading, unfamiliar remorseful words—I’ll gladly say to make this right.
To get her back.
Because while my gut is brilliant, sometimes I can be a real fucking idiot.
Yesterday was one of those times.
“Ellie. It’s me—open up, we need to talk.”
I sense movement on the other side of the solid oak door—not in sounds or shifting shadows beneath it, but more of an awareness. I can feel her in there. Nearby and listening.
“Go away, Logan.”
Her voice is tight, higher-pitched than usual. Upset.
“Ellie, please. I was a twat, I know . . .” I’m not keen on begging from the hallway, but if that’s what it takes . . . “I’m sorry. Let me in.”
Ellie is difficult to anger, quick to forgive; she just doesn’t have it in her to hold a grudge. So her next words fall like an axe—cutting my legs right off from under me.
“No, you were right. The princess’s sister and the East Amboy bodyguard don’t make sense—we’ll never last.”
Did I actually say that to her? What the fuck is wrong with me? What I feel for her is the one thing in my life that makes sense. That matters.
But I never told her that.
Instead . . . instead, I said all the wrong things.
I brace my palm against the smooth wood, leaning forward, wanting to be as near to her as possible. “Elle . . .”
“I’ve changed my mind, Logan.”
If a corpse could speak, it would sound exactly like my Ellie does now. Flat, lifeless.
“I want the fairy tale. I want what Olivia has . . . castles and carriages . . . and you’ll never be able to give me that. I would just be settling for you. You’ll never be able to make me happy.”
She doesn’t mean that. They’re my words—the insecurities I put on her—that she’s hurling back in my face.
But God, it fucking hurts to hear. Physically hurts—stabbing deep into the pit of my stomach, crushing my chest, grinding my bones. I meant it when I said I would die for her . . . and right now, it feels like I am.
I grab the doorknob to walk inside, to see her face. To see that she doesn’t mean it.
“Don’t come in!” she screeches like I’ve never heard her before. “I don’t want to see you! Go away, Logan. We’re done—just go!”
I breathe hard—that’s what you do when pain wrecks you, breathe through it. Then I swallow bile, straighten up, turn around and walk down the hall. Away from her. Just like she wants, like she asked. Like she screamed.
My brain tells me to move faster—get the hell out of there, cut my losses and lick my wounds. And my heart—Christ—that poor bastard’s too battered and bloody to express anything at all.
But then, just over halfway down the hall, my steps slow until I stop completely.
Because my gut . . . it strains through the hurt. Rebels. It shouts that this isn’t right. This isn’t her. Something’s off.
And even more than that . . . something is very, very wrong.
I glance up and down the quiet hall—not a guard or a maid in sight. I look back at the door. Closed and silent and still.
Then I turn and march straight back to it. I don’t knock, or wait, or ask for permission. In one move, I turn the knob and step inside.
What I see there stops me cold.
Because whatever I was expecting, it sure as fuck wasn’t this.
Not at all . . .
Five years earlier
“YOU WANTED TO SEE ME, Prince Nicholas?”
Here’s a confession: when the powers that be first offered me a position on the royal security team, I wasn’t interested. The idea of following around some self-important aristocrats who were in love with the sound of their own voices—and the smell of their own arses—didn’t appeal to me. The way I saw it, guards were only a step above servant-boys—and I’m no one’s servant.
I wanted action. A blaze of glory. Purpose. I wanted to be a part of something that was bigger than myself. Something noble and lasting.
“Yes, Logan—have a seat.”
I’d distinguished myself in the military pretty quickly. And Winston—the head of Palace Security—had taken notice. They were looking for very particular qualities in Prince Nicholas’s personal team, he’d said. Young lads who were quick on their feet, loyal and ferocious when required. The type who’d be just fine bringing a knife to a gunfight—’cause he wouldn’t be needing a fucking knife or gun to win.
After only a few weeks, I had a different take on the position. It came to feel like a calling, a duty. Important men make things happen, get things done—they have the power to make life easier for the not-so-important people.
I protect them, so they can do that.
And the young prince sitting across from me, behind the desk in the library of this luxurious penthouse suite—he’s an important man.
“How old are you, Logan?”
“My file says I’m twenty-five.”
If Saint Peter was a fisher of men, I’m a reader of them. It’s a skill that’s essential to this occupation—possessing a gut feeling for what someone else’s intentions are. The ability to read a man’s eyes, the shifting of his feet—to know what he’s capable of and just what kind of man he is.
Nicholas Pembrook is a good man. To his core.
And that’s a rare thing.
More often than not, important men are prime scumbags.
His mouth twitches. “I know what your file says. That’s not what I asked.” He’s also not a fool—and he’s been lied to enough in his life that he’s got an ear for things that don’t ring true.
“How old are you really?”
I look him in the eye, wondering where he’s going with this.
He nods slowly, massaging his thumb into the palm of his other hand, thinking. “So you signed up for the military at . . . fifteen? Lied about your age? That’s young.”
I shrug. “They weren’t real discerning at the recruitment office. I was tall, solid and good with my fists.”
“You were still a child.”
“I was never a child, Your Highness. Any more than you were.”
Childhood is when you’re supposed to muck up, figure out who you are, what you want to be. You’re given permission to be a jackarse. I didn’t have that privilege; neither did Nicholas. Our paths were set before we were born. Opposite paths, sure—but whether you grow up in a shack or a palace, the expectations and demands of those around you tend to snuff out innocence pretty damn fast.
“Why’d you leave home so young?”
Now it’s my turn to smirk. Because I’m not a fool either. “You know why. That’s in the file too.”
I’m good at identifying scumbags because I come from a long line of them. Criminals—not especially successful ones. Petty, scrounging, desperate enough to be dangerous—the kind who’ll smile to your face, pat you on the back, then stab you as soon as you’re not looking.
My grandfather died in prison—he was in for murder committed during an armed robbery. My dad will die there too, hopefully sooner rather than later—he’s in for manslaughter. I’ve got uncles who’ve done stints for a whole range of criminal activities, cousins who’ve been killed in broad daylight in the middle of the street and aunts who’ve pimped out their daughters without a second thought.