He makes a thoroughly disgusted sound and pulls me up from the chair. “That is some top-notch rubbish right there.” With his arms around me, he leans back, looking down at me.
“You are every bit as beautiful as the day I first saw you in that pub.” He chuckles. “When you stuck your book in my face and told me to smell it.”
I laugh, pressing my forehead to his chest. “You make it sound dirty.”
I feel his lips on the top of my head. “I like to think it was dirty. The best kind of foreplay. It certainly reeled me in.”
Henry runs his hands through my hair, leaning back again, looking at me adoringly. “But you know what—I was wrong. You’re not as beautiful as that day. You’re even more exquisite now.”
He kisses the tip of my nose.
“More beautiful than when I was twenty-five?” I ask doubtfully.
“Oh, definitely.” Henry sighs, and brushes my hair back. “You’re a woman now.” His knuckle strokes my jaw. “An incredible mother, an activist…”
I glance away, blushing, but Henry chases me with his gaze.
“…a beloved Queen.”
My eyes drift back up to his and his loving fingers caress my face.
His voice is low, rough with gentle sincerity. “Watching you become who you are has been the greatest privilege of my whole life, Sarah.”
The sweetest tenderness swells in my throat.
“You’re a king.” I tease. “I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to be the greatest privilege.”
“No.” Henry shakes his head, kissing the inside of my wrist, where his name is etched beneath my skin. “No. Even more than that.”
And the emotion, the deep all-encompassing love that I feel for this man—my wonderful, precious husband—my darling, amazing King, expands in my soul and brings tears to my eyes.
I melt against him with a sigh. “Oh, Henry.”
He bends his head and takes my mouth in a kiss hot with passion and need. I feel his arms encircle my hips, lifting me up and closer. My hands skim over his shoulders and my hair falls around us, encasing us in a magical world that’s just he and I, and nothing else can reach us. And we taste each other deeply, kiss with the joy of the very first time and desperate urgency of the last.
Long moments later, I slide my lips across his perfectly stubbled jaw, nuzzling his ear.
And I whisper, “This is how Gilbert got here. I told you it was your fault.”
Henry laughs into my neck, devilish and unrepentant as ever. And then he carries me to bed.
The End…for now
If you haven’t checked out my other books, from the Royally Series, the Legal Briefs Series & the Tangled Series, you can find them all here: http://authoremmachase.com/books/
And for your reading pleasure, here’s a sneak peek at both TANGLED and SUSTAINED…
Do you see that unshowered, unshaven heap on the couch? The guy in the dirty gray T-shirt and ripped sweatpants?
That’s me, Drew Evans.
I’m not usually like this. I mean, that really isn’t me.
In real life, I’m well-groomed, my chin is clean-shaven, and my black hair is slicked back at the sides in a way I’ve been told makes me look dangerous but professional. My suits are handmade. I wear shoes that cost more than your rent.
My apartment? Yeah, the one I’m in right now. The shades are drawn, and the furniture glows with a bluish hue from the television. The tables and floor are littered with beer bottles, pizza boxes, and empty ice cream tubs. That’s not my real apartment. The one I usually live in is spotless; I have a girl come by twice a week. And it has every modern convenience, every big-boy toy you can think of: surround sound, satellite speakers, and a big-screen plasma that would make any man fall on his knees and beg for more. The decor is modern— lots of black and stainless steel— and anyone who enters knows a man lives there.
So, like I said— what you’re seeing right now isn’t the real me.
I have the flu. Influenza.
Have you ever noticed some of the worst sicknesses in history have a lyrical sound to them? Words like malaria, diarrhea, cholera. Do you think they do that on purpose? To make it a nice way to say you feel like something that dropped out of your dog’s ass?
Has a nice ring to it, if you say it enough.
At least I’m pretty sure that’s what I have. That’s why I’ve been holed up in my apartment the last seven days. That’s why I turned my phone off, why I’ve gotten off the couch only to use the bathroom or to bring in the food I order from the delivery guy.
How long does the flu last anyway? Ten days? A month?
Mine started a week ago. My alarm went off at five a.m., like always. But instead of rising from the bed to go to the office where I’m a star, I threw the clock across the room, smashing it to kingdom come.
It was annoying anyway. Stupid clock. Stupid beep-beep-beeping.
I rolled over and went back to sleep. When I did eventually drag my ass out of bed, I felt weak and nauseous. My chest ached; my head hurt.
See— the flu, right?
I couldn’t sleep anymore, so I planted myself here, on my trusty couch. It was so comfortable I decided to stay right here. All week. Watching Will Ferrell’s greatest hits on the plasma. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy’s on right now.
I’ve watched it three times today, but I haven’t laughed yet. Not once. Maybe the fourth time’s the charm, huh?
Now there’s a pounding at my door.
Frigging doorman. What the hell is he here for? He’s going to be sorry when he gets my Christmas tip this year, you can bet your ass.
I ignore the pounding, though it comes again.
“Drew! Drew, I know you’re in there! Open the goddamn door!”
Oh no. It’s The Bitch. Otherwise known as my sister, Alexandra.
When I say the word bitch I mean it in the most affectionate way possible, I swear. But it’s what she is. Demanding, opinionated, relentless. I’m going to kill my doorman.
“If you don’t open this door, Drew, I’m calling the police to break it down, I swear to God!”
See what I mean?
I grasp the pillow that’s been resting on my lap since the flu started. I push my face into it and inhale deeply. It smells like vanilla and lavender. Crisp and clean and addictive.
“Drew! Do you hear me?”
I pull the pillow over my head. Not because it smells like . . . her . . . but to block out the pounding that continues at my door.
“I’m taking out my phone! I’m dialing!”
Alexandra’s voice is whiny with warning, and I know she’s not screwing around. I sigh deeply and force myself to get up from the couch. The walk to the door takes time; each step of my stiff, aching legs is an effort.
I open the door and brace myself for the wrath of The Bitch. She’s holding the latest iPhone up to her ear with one perfectly manicured hand. Her blond hair is pulled back in a simple but elegant knot, and a dark green purse the same shade as her skirt hangs from her shoulder— Lexi’s all about the matching. Behind her, looking appropriately contrite in a wrinkled navy suit, is my best friend and coworker, Matthew Fisher.
I forgive you, Doorman. It’s Matthew who must die.
“Jesus Christ!” Alexandra yells in horror. “What the hell happened to you?”
I told you this isn’t the real me.
I don’t answer her. I don’t have the energy.
I just leave the door open and fall face-first onto my couch. It’s soft and warm, but firm. I love you, couch— have I ever told you that? Well, I’m telling you now.
Though my eyes are buried in the pillow, I sense Alexandra and Matthew walking slowly into the apartment. I imagine the shock on their faces at its condition. I peek out from my cocoon and see that my mind’s eye was spot-on.
I hear her ask, but this time there’s concern woven throughout the one short syllable. Then she’s pissed again. “For God’s sake, Matthew, why didn’t you call me sooner? How could you let this happen?”
“I haven’t seen him, Lex!” Matthew says quickly.