Queen Lenora steps closer. “I was your age once. Though I’m sure my grandsons can’t fathom it, it’s true. You are young, and full of hope and beauty, and foolish faith. You believe love can fix everything. Cure any ill.” She shakes her head, looking in my eyes. “It can’t. And though I had different aspirations for you, you have made your choice. I wish you well, truly—I hope you and your guard find every happiness.”
The Queen walks stiffly back behind her desk.
“But, Ellie, if you think things will be easy now, that the two of you will simply ride off into the sunset unaffected by the realities of your situation . . . you should prepare to be mistaken.”
I SIT IN THE ANTIQUE chair outside the Queen’s office, waiting for Ellie. Across from me at his desk is Christopher, Her Majesty’s personal secretary. He’s solid—a big fucker—long reach. It gets me thinking.
“Hey Christopher, you ever do any fighting? Boxing? That sort of thing.”
He adjusts his glasses. “I fence.”
Fencing. I could work with that.
The phone on his desk rings.
“Yes? Yes, right away.” He looks to me. “Winston would like a word.”
I hook my thumb at the door. “Tell Ellie I’ll see her back in her rooms when she’s done here.” Then, as I pass his desk, I add, “We should chat—about training. You’re the Queen’s secretary; you’re with her all the time, her last line of defense. It’d be good for you to know how to handle yourself. I could show you a few things.”
He thinks it over . . . and then he nods.
Down in Winston’s office, I find him and a few of the lads going over the security detail for the wedding. Since I’m no longer privy to that information, they stop the discussion when I walk through the door.
“You wanted a word?”
Winston’s flat eyes and blank expression turn my way. “I wanted to inform you, I’ve assigned a detail to your house as well as a car and a driver for you and Miss Hammond to make use of.”
For a second, I think I’ve heard him wrong.
“In the short term, the guards will keep the press at bay. In the long term, they’ll protect you and Miss Hammond. The car and the driver as well.”
“I don’t want a bloody detail around my house.”
“I’m not concerned with what you want, St. James. It’s protocol—you know that.”
I almost laugh. Because protocol is for aristocrats—not for fucking me.
“I’ll handle the press. And I can protect Ellie just fine.”
The thing that’s so eerie about Winston—he has almost no inflection in his voice. No emotion. He doesn’t get upset or frustrated; he doesn’t argue. He’s like the Terminator—no matter what you do or say, he just keeps going, moving forward, doing things his way.
“No, you can’t. That’s the point.”
One of the newer guys—a bulky, big-mouthed sod—speaks up from the couch across the room. “Leave the guarding to us, St. James. You just focus on keeping your pretty little golden ticket happy.”
I narrow my eyes and take two steps towards him—and I spot Winston on my flank, positioning himself, just in case.
Dumb-fuck shrugs. “You telling me you’re not gonna put on a tuxedo and sip Champagne at Prince Henry and Lady Sarah’s ball, coming up? I mean, good for you, mate—we got to take the chance to move up when we can. And you hit the jackpot. I say enjoy it, for however long it lasts.”
My first instinct is to punch him in the mouth—knock him out cold. But I see his face, and it’s stupidly sincere. Congratulatory. He’s not trying to be a dickhead . . . and somehow that makes it worse.
Ellie’s door is open. I close it and lock it behind me. She’s standing before the open balcony, watching the rain pour down. The sky is an angry gray, and the cool wind blows the curtains and lifts the honey-toned tendrils of Ellie’s hair.
She seems unusually calm. Contemplative. And I wonder what she’s thinking.
I come up behind her, slide my arms around her waist and pull her back against my chest. I kiss her temple and smell the rain on her skin—fresh and clean.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“Watching the storm. Isn’t it beautiful, Logan?”
I tilt my head, to gaze at her face. “Breathtaking.”
She smiles prettily.
“Are you all right? After your chat with the Queen?”
Ellie turns her eyes back to the sky. “I’m fine. But I guess Nicholas doesn’t call her a battle-axe for nothing, huh?”
“No.” I chuckle. “It’s a well-earned nickname.”
I kiss her neck, her ear. There are things I should say, things we should talk about, but right now I crave her. I want to hold her, feel her, beneath me and all around.
“I’m mad for you, Ellie. Gone for you. I want you so much.”
She turns in my arms, lifting hers around my neck. And her sweet blue eyes are liquid with the same desire that flows through me.
“You have me, Logan. I’m right here,” she says softly. “I’m yours.”
I kiss her slow and deep. And I don’t stop, my lips never leaving her skin as I bring her to the bed, lay her down and peel the sweater and leggings from her body.
Ellie watches me lift my shirt over my head. Her gaze follows my hands, caressing me, as I unbutton my trousers and push them to the floor. Holding her eyes, I come to her on the bed, bare in every way.
And with the wind and rain raging outside, Ellie and I make our own refuge, our own paradise. She moans my name when I slide in deep, and she clings to me. I hold her so close as I stroke slowly inside her, whispering tender words and sacred promises.
It’s genuine and raw—more than our bodies joining, it feels like our souls have too.
When she told me she loved me this morning, it was the first time anyone had ever said those words to me. The only time. And it’s so precious to me, she is so precious to me, I tremble with the depth of it.
We find our pleasure together, coming at the same time. It feels exquisite, it feels like love. What I have with Ellie, what we’ve made in this moment, is what I’ve been wanting my whole life—something noble and lasting. Pure and good and true.
THE NEXT FEW DAYS ARE crazy, difficult. I used to think I was accustomed to the press, to the bullshit stories they pull out of thin air. But this is another level of messed up. They camp outside Logan’s house—on the sidewalk, waiting for one of us to show up. What used to be his private sanctuary has turned into a circus, a freak show.
They follow us everywhere. Logan almost gets into a fight at the flea market, when a paparazzo makes a nasty comment about my boobs. It’s only the security detail trailing us that stopped him from shattering the asshole’s jaw.
Logan throws himself into finishing the house, and it’s turning out so beautifully. One time, I tell him he should pick construction or remodeling for his next career, only half teasing. But he didn’t answer. I think he’s struggling with leaving his position, that it’s turned out to be harder than he thought. Whenever we’re out in public, he’s tense and quiet—not that he was Mr. Chatterbox before. But at night, at the palace where we’ve been sleeping, when we make love—then I feel him. He looks at me with the eyes I know, smiles and whispers and kisses me like the man I love.
In those moments, when it’s just him and me, and the rest of the world doesn’t exist, we’re perfect. And happy. And I catch a glimpse of what our future will be, if we can just make it through this gauntlet.
A week later, the day of Henry and Sarah’s celebration ball arrives. Amazingly, there hasn’t been a single peep about their secret garden nuptials, and I’m glad. It still belongs just to them. They don’t have to share it with the world.
The ball will be my and Logan’s first official public appearance together. I can’t wait to be on his arm. I can’t wait to see his face when he sees my dress—a long slinky gown the color of sea-glass in the sun, that plumps my cleavage and shows off my ass. Move over @Elliesweettits—once Twitter sees photos of me in this number, @Elliesexyarse will be trending world-wide. Not that I actually care, the only place I want to be trending is in Logan St. James’s naughty fantasies.