"Yes, your duty to family has been impeccable—I've always thought so. And the new gull is charming. Just charming."


"Oh, Christina? Yes, she's…" The devil with blonde hair? No, that wouldn't do. "… great. Just great."

"Well, darling, if you're finished with me, I have to see about a few things."

It was hilarious, the way the queen pretended like she couldn't hang up anytime she wanted. Alex bit back a giggle that was half hysterical with relief. "Thank you again for your time. Please give my congratulations to William."

"I will, dear. Good day."

Just as she hung up her door opened and Sheldon stuck his head inside. "Tell me you weren't just gossiping with the Queen of England."

"Hardly. Grab Jenny, will you?"

He gave her a mock salute, vanished out of the doorway, then Jenny came into the room, Sheldon on her heels.

Jenny barely sketched the traditional bow before bursting out, "Well?"

"Cake. She'll send an invitation as long as none of us show up."

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Jenny closed her eyes in brief relief. "Edmund and I will see that you're all far too busy."

"Wait a minute," Sheldon said. Alex saw he had no backpack. Why did that surprise, annoy, and thrill her, all at once? "That was the plan? To get an invitation but not do anything about it?"

"A brilliant plan," Jenny said, smiling at her boss.

"Your dad wanted to be invited but didn't want to go?"

"He hates those things. You've met him—he almost fell asleep during the last royal wedding, and that was his own son's."

"But he's not going to do anything with the invite? He's got that much pride?"

They just looked at him.

"Right, right. Dumb question."

Chapter 41

"Didn't you bring any toys?" she murmured, returning his wild kisses as they tumbled to the bed, rolling and tugging and stroking.




"Nothing at all?"

"Not a single thing." He had her breasts bared and was kissing her nipples, and she wriggled out of her skirt and tugged on his pants. After much flailing of limbs, they were finally naked… or naked enough.

"Afraid of a strip-search?"

"No," he mumbled into her mouth. "Just another step in the plan."

"Um… what plan?"

"Tell you later," he said, gripping her wrists in his hands and pinning them over her head. His knee went between her thighs, forcing them wide for him, and he thrust into her. She gasped and surged to meet him, wrapping her legs around his waist and rocking against him. "Oh Christ… that's good… don't stop doing that…"

"I won't if you won't… oh, God…"

He captured her mouth again and again, kissing her so passionately, as if he hadn't seen her in a year rather than a day, and she returned his passion, his thrusts, and then trembled around him as her orgasm burst through her.

"Oh,God , that's nice," he said into her neck.

"You're… telling… me…" she panted. She wriggled a bit, but he had her wrists pinned firmly, and the thought—she couldn't get away, not if he didn't want her to, but nothing bad would happen, he'd never let anything bad happen—made her rock into another orgasm.

He stiffened above her and his breathing stopped for a moment. Then he collapsed against her shoulder with a groan.

After a moment, she whispered, "Are you going to let me go now?"

"Never," he replied.

Chapter 42



Get down!

"Alex." His hands, stroking her in the dark. "It's just a dream. Go back to sleep."

"Okay," she said fuzzily, and did.

"… I just think if you tried a nice Serena, or maybe a Majorero, you might be pleasantly surprised."

He had his hands clamped over his ears and was rolling back and forth on the bed, chanting, "La la la la la la la la!"

"I know you can hear me!" Alex shouted, leaning over him. "I'm not saying start with a blue, something really strong. Pick a mild one. It's no worse than Velveeta, and actually quite a bit better."

Shel cracked one eye open, but didn't remove his hands. "Are you done?"

"Yes, idiot."

"Because I've put up with a lot, Princess, but there are some things I will not do."

"Igave up insomnia for you."

"Totally different thing. And actually, I cured your insomnia. And your, uh, sex problem."

She was amused. "You cured me?"

"All part of my plan. If the handcuffs worked, we'd try that, then move to ties, then me, then nothing."

"Nothing? You mean masturbation?"

"No," he replied, not acknowledging her joke. "Like a real couple who love each other and don't need tricks to prove it."

She was speechless, and swallowed the lump that had suddenly appeared in her throat. "A—a couple in love? But we—I mean, I'm not going to be here forever…"

He said nothing; just looked at her.

"And—and I didn't think—I mean, I thought we were—"

"You let just any guy tie you up, then?" he asked coolly.

"No! You know I don't. You know you're the only man I ever—"

There was a discreet rap at the door. "Come in," Alex almost snarled, as Shel snatched a blanket to cover his nudity.

Jenny diffidently stepped into the bedroom. "I beg your pardon, Highness. Dr. Rivers. But Prince David is on the phone, and his schedule is very tight today. Will you take the call?"

"Yes. Put him through."

"Again, my apologies for disturbing you."

"We're kind of in the middle of something," Shel warned her. She ignored him, and picked up the phone when it rang.

"Hello?" She could see that Shel, disgusted, had gotten up and was hunting for his clothes. Oh, great. So much for their romantic day together.

"Alex? Hi! How's it going?"

"Everything's fine, David," she replied, ignoring Shel's glare. "How's Dara? How's Chris?"

"They're fine. Chris keeps showing her your TV appearances and that spread in US' magazine about you. I think she recognizes you!"

"That's great. What's up?"

"Well, I just wanted to know why nobody's scheduled my trip. Edmund's not here, and my guy doesn't know a thing about it, and Jenny—"

"What are you talking about?"

"The Geneva thing got cancelled," her brother explained patiently. "Remember? I know Dad told you. So I can come out there and finish up. I mean, hell, the only reason you got stuck with it is because I was tied up with something else."

"Tied up?"

"Can you hear me okay? Is it a bad connection?"

"It's fine. Geneva was cancelled? He… Dad did mention something about it…" And she assumed he was kidding. He was not. In fact, it appeared he had dropped the entire issue. But why? To see what she would do? Or not do?

"Right. So, when do you want to come back?"

Don't do it.

"I can come back anytime."

"Yeah? I've got your schedule right here; looks like you've got a free day, you lucky jerk. You want to come back this afternoon? You could be eating at your own table for suppertime."

You'll be sorry.


"Okay, then. Have Jenn coordinate with the NDISL people and tell them I'll be out first thing in the morning."

You're ruining everything. Everything.

"I'll do that, gladly. It'll be good to be back home."

"I'll bet. Fish out of water there, huh? Not exactly your field. It was great of you to go and take one for the team."

"I was glad to, but it'll… it'll be good to be back. It's… it's been kind of a disaster."

You idiot.

Chapter 43

"Youcoward ."

Stung, and embarrassed, she cried, "You know I'm not! You know what I did!"

"Oh, sure," he sneered, "swing a chair and fracture the skull of a bad guy to save your family, great. Even a rabbit will fight if you pin them to the wall. But when it comes to actual hard emotional truth and bravery, you're on the first fucking plane out!"

"My job is done! I have to go back. The crown prince and the king said so."

"Oh, fuck the crown prince and the king! Like you couldn't stay if you really wanted to."

"Shel, I wasn't even supposed to be the one to come out here."

"Well, I'm sure as shit not going to fuck your brother whenhe shows up!" Shel roared.

"Good, because he's taken!"

"Don't you get it, you goddamned idiot?So are you ."

"Watch your mouth."

"So sorry, Princess Idiot."

"You know," she said through gritted teeth, "every once in a while, it would be alittle nice if you were just a tiny bit respectful of my title."

"Yeah, and a cure for cancer would be nice, too, but it's not in the cards for a while."

"Shel, it's not just me."


"You've never even said—not in so many words… You've been having a good time, too, just like me. Right?" she added tentatively.

"Yeah? You want the words? No problem. I love you. I love you like no one in my life, and I'll never love anyone like I love you again, ever.I love you . There." He crossed his arms over his chest and added with pure contempt, "Now let's watch you break a speed record getting to the door."

She ground her teeth. Had she ever been so thrilled, terrified, furious, and happy at the same time? She was so dizzy she was afraid she'd vomit. And she'd rather split a tooth than cry in front of him. "You don't even know me."

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