"Grew up with him?"


"Oh, yes. In fact, I saw much more of him than my mother."

"Yeah, but if he gets really out of line you could just… you know. Fire him."

"No I can't."

"Sure you can. I mean, end of the day, he's just another employee, right?"

She had the impression he was baiting her. Testing her. Which she had no interest in, or time for. "No," she said coldly, "and don't talk about him like that."

"Sorry," he said, not sounding sorry at all. "You wouldn't do that, huh?"

"Shel, having people work for you isn't quite the song-and-dance you think it is. And when you're us—the people who work for you, they do it for generations. They're like family. I know it's a cliche, but it's true. I'd never fire Edmund, I'd never fire Jenny. Her mom worked formy mom, you know? I played with her when we were kids."

"So you've never fired anybody at your castle?"

"Well, of course, we—Sheldon. Are we going to fight, or fuck?"

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"Can't we do both?"

"Well, I'd rather do the latter, but if you want to pick a fight—"

"Okay, okay. You're pissy, I'm pissy… we're stressed out because your dad's here."

"To put it mildly," she admitted.

"God, that scene! And then dinner last night!" He slapped his forehead. "I don't know which was worse. And can you imagine if he'd showed up half an hour earlier? Jesus! My dick wants to fall off just thinking about it."

"If you ever want to have sex with me again, we'llstop talking about it."

"Done and done."

She watched as he got up and went to his backpack. "Are you hungry?"

"Only for depraved lovemaking. Whoops, sorry. I meant sex."

She giggled. "Depraved? Is that what it is?"

He pulled out a wad of cloth, brought it to the bed, and separated it. She realized the wad was neckties. Four of them.

"Genius," she said approvingly. "I'm so glad your bag didn't clink while my dad was here."

"Not fucking likely, no pun intended. Besides, I half thought he was going to have me strip-searched. The last thing I wanted him to find was our toys. Ties, I could try to explain."

She laughed again. "Depraved… is that the word of the day? Like I said, I haven't thought of it like that. I've just been enjoying it. You know?"

"You have to admit," he said, smoothing out the ties, "most people start with vanilla and work their way up to kink."

"Yes, I have to admit that. Bring those over here." After a minute, she said, "Ugh."

"Hey, not everybody can afford silk, Princess."

"Don't start."

Chapter 34

Jenny triple-checked the next day's itinerary. With the king in town, everything had gotten exponentially more complicated, and that was just the security detail. Fortunately, Edmund was in charge of finding amusing puzzles for the king; she just had to worry about scheduling.

But things looked good. Even better, she was in her favorite suit, a cranberry Anne Klein, with sheer black hose and sensible dark pumps. Jeans were just… weird.

Her cell phone buzzed, and she picked it up, expecting to hear an all's well night check from one of the guards. "Yes?"

"Jenn? It's Teal."

"Oh… hello." She nearly blushed when she remembered her actions earlier. It was apparently catching… wearing denim, seducing travel guides, the princess seeing someone, the king showing up unannounced… insanity! "What can I do for you, Teal?"

She had a horrible thought: he'd changed his mind! He wanted her to spend the night! And it would only be her fault, for giving him the wrong idea in the first place. Throwing herself at him like that. She shivered just thinking about it.

"Jenn? Hello? You still there?"

"Yes, I—I'm sorry. Go ahead. How can I help you?"

"Well, my brother's here, and if you're not too busy, I thought I'd bring him over to the hotel to meet you." He lowered his voice. "He's dying to meet you."

Relief flooded her like sweet wine. His brother! A social call! That she could handle. The week she'd been having, it was probably the only thing she could handle.

She checked her watch. Nine-thirty. Alex had bid her goodnight some time ago. Dr. Rivers would spend the night, or not, but either way, that door wouldn't open for at least three hours. And shewas caught up on her paperwork. And she'd been technically off duty for almost an hour… "Are you sure? It's a little late for you, isn't it?"

"Don't sweat it, Mom."

"Hush up. What I meant is, don't you have an early group tomorrow?"

"No, I blew those dumbasses off. My bro's here, so we're gonna do the town."

"Oh. Well, come on over, then. I'll make sure security lets you up. I'm looking forward to meeting your brother."

"I don't know why," Teal grumped. "He's a dick."

She laughed. Then she added, because it had happened to her many times before, "But you might tell him that the princess isn't receiving visitors until nine o'clock tomorrow."

"It's not like that, Jenn. He wants tomeet you . Don't ask me why. Well, if you did ask, I might 'fess up to how I rhapsodized about how your butt looks in brand-new Levi's."

She rolled her eyes. "How can you use 'dumbasses' and 'rhapsodizes' in the same conversation?"

"It's a gift, bay-bee. See in you twenty."

A nice man, she thought, filing paperwork into overnight satchels.Coarse, but nice… he didn't take advantage of my moment of weakness, so who cares how often he says 'dumbass' ?

It's just too bad we don't have more in common. Anything in common. She paused wistfully, staring off into space.There must be someone out there who wouldn't resent my long hours, my devotion to the family… someone who —

She cut off the nonsense—in fact, there wasn't, and there was no use crying about it—and notified Security that there would be visitors.

Chapter 35

She strained against the neckties, to no avail, of course—Dr. Rivers must have been a boy scout, or a sailor, because he could tie a helluva knot.

Right now the boy scout was licking the underside of her breast with careful attention, such careful attention that she thought she was going to go crazy. They'd been at it for hours, it seemed, she was more than ready for him, and still all he did was kiss and nibble and suck and lick and stroke, no matter how much she begged him, pleaded, ordered, demanded. She'd finally quit when he pleasantly informed her he was sure he could find something in the room that could be used as a gag.

Now he was kissing her mouth and she opened for him like his mouth was made of honey, and at the same time she felt his fingers slide into her, stroking her slick wetness, just barely coming into her, then withdrawing. Teasing, stroking, dipping. She strained against him, against her bonds, trying to force more of him into her, and he laughed into her mouth.

"What do you think the king would say if I planted a big hickey on your throat?" he asked.

"I don't care," she groaned. "Please fuck me now, before I have a heart attack."

"I think you're safe," he replied. "If anyone in this room is in danger of an M.I., it's me. My God, you're so lush… you're like a banquet." He pulled back and looked at her nude, spread-eagle body with unconcealed admiration. "Right now I'm the luckiest guy on the whole planet."

He leaned down and cupped her other breast with one hand, sucking the swollen nipple into his mouth. She arched to meet him, knowing it wouldn't do any good, knowing she couldn't help it.

He worked his way down her writhing body, raining kisses on her and then flicking through her damp folds with his tongue.

He licked and kissed between her thighs for an excruciatingly lovely time, and she felt her middle clench, felt the familiar sensation of falling, and then she was crying out to the ceiling.

"I love that sound," he said, coming up to her, taking his cock in one hand and beginning to ease into her. "God, I love that sound."

"And I love…"You. No. It's the moment . Right? "… that. Oh, I love that. Wait. Stop."

He did, at once. "What's the matter?"

"Come up here. Bring that up here."

His eyes widened and then he grinned, a smile full of unrestrained lust, and climbed up, carefully settling his knees on either side of her head.

Her mouth opened and he eased past her teeth, already shuddering, and she sucked him all the way in, inhaling his scent, his dick, his everything.

"Oh jeeeeeeeeeeeeeezus," he slurred, gently rocking back and forth. "Oh, God, you should be against the law. Oh God, your mouth… your mouth…"

She licked his salty tip, her tongue frantically padding against him, enjoying the feel of him in her mouth—this was something new, this was delightful, knowing he could be rough with her and wasn't, knowing he could push himself all the way into her throat and she couldn't stop him. It made his care almost mind-bogglingly erotic. It made her suck as hard as she could. It made her—

Abruptly he jerked out, leaving her gasping. "Was I hurting you?" she groaned.

"Not hardly. About two more seconds of that," he panted, easing down her body, "and we'd be done."

"Perish the…" was as far as she got because he was filling her up, slowly and tenderly, as though she might break, as though he might

love you

care for her, and she whimpered as he pressed forward.

"Oh, God," she managed, and then couldn't talk, didn't want to talk as his tongue swept into her mouth, as he filled her up, stroked, thrust, sped up, as she came again and again, as he shivered over her, as he buried his face in her throat, as he whispered something she did not understand, on purpose.

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