Just the thought—the belonging, the needing— brought such a wave of excitement that she could actually taste it—it was coppery and hot. She put her hands to good use and divested them of panties and boxers (she was later to find her panties had landed in her other shoe).

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Then she was clasping that really fine ass and drawing him toward her, and he went to her, willingly enough, and sank into her—oh, Christ, she was ready for him, more than ready—and she wrapped her legs around his waist and pumped back at him as he began to stroke, stroke, stroke.

She thought she would die. Worse, she thought he might stop. His hands were fisted in her hair and he was whispering her name over and over again in her ear as he came into her, as he thrust and pushed and drove into her, hard and fast but it didn't matter, it felt wonderful, he felt wonderful; he was all smooth muscles and hard, hot length and she—

—she would—

—she was—

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"Oh my God!" she cried at the ceiling, bucking beneath him—a new record, what was that, did she really come in, like, less than a minute? Cripes! She really was overdue.

"Did you?" he panted in her ear.

She nipped him on the shoulder and gasped an affirmative.

"Oh, thank God. Because I can't—not for an-other—" Then he stiffened above her, all his muscles locked, and then he collapsed over her with a satisfied sigh.

After a few minutes, when she had her breath back, she said, "Day-amn!"

"Likewise."

"Quit that, I mean it. I swear, that's a new record for me. I usually don't—uh—"

"Well, I usually do, but it's been a while for us." He smiled at her and patted her sweaty thigh. "I'll do better next time."

"Better? Then you'll probably kill me!"

He laughed and cuddled her into his side. "Oh, Christina. You're going to change my whole life, aren't you?"

"That's what I'm here for," she said. Then added hopefully, "Uh, when do you think you can do all that again?"

"I'll need a more than thirty seconds," he said dryly, then snorted a laugh when she poked him in the ribs.

Later that night—or, rather, that morning—she was awakened out of a sound sleep by slow, sweet waves of pleasure, wakened to find his head between her thighs, his tongue in her and on her, his fingers dancing—he certainly was dexterous—and when she cried out, when she couldn't stand it a minute longer, he came to her, his chest settled against hers, his knee nudged hers apart, and he entered her with excruciating slowness.

She cried out and shook beneath him and dug her nails into his shoulders and rocked, rocked, rocked against him, with him, until her orgasm bloomed within her like a dark flower, until he shook and shuddered above her, until she was sighing and sinking into sleep again, until he was resting beside her, his hand against the small of her back, pressing her against him.

Chapter 27

"I don't... you know.. .feel any different."

"No? Not at all?"

"Well... I feel well-laid—"

"Ah."

"And finally! In a proper bed without worrying about someone barging in on us. That's the great part. But I don't feel like somebody's wife. And sure as shit not like Her Royal Idiot, Christina—I s'pose it's too late to talk to you about keeping my own name?"

"I'm afraid so."

"Well, at least everybody around here seems to know how to pronounce Baranov. Your dad still gets my maiden name wrong. How many times do I haveta tell him? The 'e' is silent!"

She yawned and rolled over, burrowing under David's arm. He rubbed her back and she burrowed farther. "Ryy frr nnn ykkkk?"

"Ready for New York, did you say? Yes. In fact, we'd best get going soon, or—"

A polite rap-rap on their door. "Your Highnesses! It's just about time to go!"

Christina's head popped up. "Piss off, J—wait a minute. That's not Jenny."

"You gave her the week off, remember?"

"You mean she actually listened? Too cool! Here, sit still, you're not decent."

"Look who's talking," David said, amused, as she flung the sheet over them.

"Come in!"

Princess Alexandria poked her head in. "Well, you're awake, at least. Thank the gods I didn't walk in on some prefornication rituals."

"What are you doing here?"

"Jenny begged me—before she and Edmund were dragged away, protesting every second—to make sure you guys got up and out of the palace on time. Since I was coming to see you off anyway ..." She shrugged. "No big."

"You're still wearing your bridesmaid's dress," the prince observed.

"Yeah, well." Another shrug. "Long night. And your friend Kurt can really put 'em away."

"You stay away from him," David snapped, sitting bolt upright.

"Bite me, your royal buttinsky. But get dressed first. Nice rack," she added to Chris, then swung the door closed.

"Oh, very nice!" David exploded, leaping out of bed and pacing in a splendid nude rage. "Now that blast—that rat—that person is zooming in on my sister since it's patently obvious he can't have you!"

"Calm down," Chris said, amazed at the furor. Even his penis was trembling in rage. "Kurt's harmless—a girl-crazy, but basically harmless—and your sister can snap his spine if he gets fresh."

"Well." David stopped and thought for a minute. Christina stopped and admired his form for a minute. "That's a valid point, Christina. Yes. She can—she's been studying for years—all right."

"Besides, Kurt knows your dad. You think he wants Al mad at him again?"

"Oh, to dream."

"FYI, you look pretty sexy in the morning, y'know, all scruffy and unshaved and stuff."

"Likewise."

"I am not scruffy. Slightly mussed, I'll grant you. And just for that, I get the window seat on the plane."

She started to flounce off the bed and he caught her with a lusty smack on her bare buttocks. "Ow! You'll keep your hands to yourself, you fucking pervert."

"Not a chance," he said smugly, and tried to smack her again, but she ran, shrieking, to the bathroom, and beat him by two feet.

"Which reminds me," she said, tucking her T-shirt (a wedding gift from the king: I'M THE CROWN PRINCESS, WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?) into her jeans. "Enough with people waking us up. Haven't you ever heard of alarm clocks?"

"Alarm clocks?" David said, as if saying, Rattlesnakes?

"Yeah. It's a fabulous new invention, champ. You set them for a certain time, they buzz or play music, bingo! You're up. Works great."

"Yes, but..."

"Where the hell are my tennis shoes?"

"Did you check the closet?"

"Why would they be there?" She checked. "Well, I'll be damned."

"Chris, about alarm clocks—"

"Anything's better than having a grown person shake another grown person awake, I mean, how old are we? I feel stupid, being woken up by somebody else."

"Yes, but," the prince said, trying not to whine, "alarm clocks don't bring you breakfast and chat about the weather and press your suit and keep you up-to-date on current events."

"Or tuck you in or give you a kissy-kiss on your nosey-nose. Ech! David, really. Time to grow up."

"How about if you get an alarm clock and wake me up?"

"Fine. Loser."

"I get up rather early," he warned her, "to check on the residents of Allen Hall."

"Oh, the penguins can wait another hour or six for their fish heads. Come on, let's go, let's go, let's go! New York, here we come!"

"New York, watch out," David muttered, then dodged his wife's small fist, and pushed her out the door.

"Hi, everybody," the new princess said, blinking as about a zillion flashbulbs went off into her face.

"How's married life, Your Highness?"

"Is New York ready for Alaskan royals, Your Highness?"

"What are your plans, Your Highness?"

"Well, John," Christina said, recognizing the liaison for MSNBC, "my plan is to give all you losers the slip, get on this plane, and go far, far away. And cripes, how many pictures do you need?"

"Prince David, could you step back—there! Thanks." Another flashbulb popped. David looked resigned as the press corps descended on his wife. "So how was the wedding?"

"Don, you were there," she said patiently. "I saw you hiding behind the rosebushes. I told Jenny to bring you a slice of cake."

"Where is the press officer?"

"I gave her the week off. She works harder than all of us put together—she deserves a vacation."

"What's the itinerary in New York?"

"Oh, I've got it all printed up for you guys and David will be handing each of you a copy—not!" Over a wave of laughter, she continued. "Forget it, you pests. Our itinerary is our business."

"Just like your sex life, eh, Your Highness?"

"I heard that, Darrell. See if you get a Christmas card."

Kurt, responding to a signal from the prince, stepped up to the microphones, shouldering Christina aside so she nearly went sprawling into the wall. "Fun's over, kids. You can catch these guys on the way back."

"Good-bye," Chris said, before Kurt caught her elbow and dragged her toward the private room off the tarmac. "Real subtle," she said, once they were out of earshot.

"Hey, don't look at me, sunshine. Your hubby gave me the old hairy eyeball, so I grabbed you."

"Oh. David, I'm sorry about all the fuss—you're not mad, are you? Once I'm old news they'll forget about me and start bugging you again, I'm sure of it."

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