Copyright © 2008 Kate Davies
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Lessons in Love
Alex was sure that he had never been quite so exquisitely tense in his life.
Brynn Dexter was asleep in his arms.
He shifted slightly, wishing his body wasn’t reacting in quite so predictable a manner. But he was, after all, a man. And Brynn was—a desirable woman.
She stirred a little in her sleep. Although the royal plane was luxurious, it was still a challenge to sleep sitting up, even on a deeply padded leather couch.
Her eyelids had started drooping the moment they boarded the plane, and Alex had suggested she use the bed in the sleeping quarters at the rear of the plane to rest. Indignantly, she informed him that she wasn’t the slightest bit tired.
Then she had taken a seat next to him on the couch for takeoff. By the time they were in the air, Brynn was slumped against his shoulder, breathing deeply.
Amused, he considered taking her back to the bed and tucking her in, but swiftly vetoed that idea. Brynn and bed was a dangerous combination in his mind. He was just about to move aside and give her space to stretch out on the couch when she wrapped an arm about his waist and snuggled into the crook of his neck.
She smelled like a citrus grove.
So now he was well and truly trapped, both by the slim woman wrapped around him and by the emotions barreling down on him. He should be at the conference table at the front of the plane, working on his paperwork. He should be anywhere but here.
The problem was, he didn’t want to be anywhere else.
Besides, he hadn’t bothered to bring any work with him on this trip—which was yet another sign that he wasn’t acting like himself lately. And even if he had brought a stack of papers to read and sign, he had a sinking suspicion that he would have chosen to act as Brynn’s pillow anyway.
He sighed, glancing down at the woman sleeping against his shoulder. The two of them were alone in the opulent interior of the plane, having been given a little privacy by Niles and the two flight attendants. All had worked with the royal family long enough to know how much he appreciated a break from the hovering that seemed to go with the territory of being royalty.
After all, what could happen to him on a private plane several thousand feet in the air?
He let his arm drop just a fraction so his fingertips touched Brynn’s bare arm. Tempted beyond belief, he traced delicate patterns, wishing he could explore the soft skin that lay hidden behind her casual outfit. Brynn shifted again, the curve of her breast brushing against his side. Alex dropped his head back against the couch, wishing he didn’t have such an active imagination. He knew what he wanted to happen; he also knew it was an impossibility.
Trying in vain to turn his thoughts in a less dangerous direction, he glanced around the interior of the plane. Those packages which contained clothing that did not need to be altered and delivered were stowed at the front of the cabin, a neatly stacked tower of boxes and bags. A blue-and-gray striped gift bag was tucked in back, barely visible behind the rest.
After agreeing to leave Brynn to her own devices at the dress designer’s, Alex had spent an hour or so just wandering through the shopping district of Milan, trailed by Niles. He’d picked up a little statue of a horse, knowing that Carissa’s current obsession with ponies would make it a popular gift. And then the display in a tiny shop, tucked away on the edge of a piazza, had caught his eye.
Involuntarily, he glanced at his sleeping companion. It had been an impulse purchase, but he couldn’t bring himself to regret it. It was perfect for Brynn. Now he just had to find the right time to give it to her.
If he gave it to her at all. Really, it was too personal, too intimate for someone who was, after all, just his daughter’s nanny.
Except he couldn’t seem to make himself believe that anymore. Something had shifted for him, some invisible connection that seemed to grow stronger each time they were together.
It was more than a physical attraction, he mused, glancing at the woman sleeping on his shoulder. Although he could not deny the ache of desire that curled through him, it went far beyond that now.
Her passion, her joy, her enthusiasm—all aspects of her personality that made her even more attractive than just her outward beauty. And it was becoming much more difficult to remember the reasons he had to stay away from her.
Brynn shifted in her sleep, her curls brushing his face. He breathed in the scent of her shampoo, that citrusy blend that captured her sunshine spirit perfectly.
When he turned to look at her again, Brynn was just opening her eyes. The dreamy, captivating glow in her doe-soft eyes was quickly replaced by embarrassment.
“Oh my God.” She sat up, shoving the curls out of her face. “I am so sorry. I can’t believe I fell asleep on you.”
“It’s all right.”
“Please tell me I didn’t snore. Or—or drool on your shoulder or something.” She lifted a hand to her mouth, surreptitiously checking it for moisture.
Alex knew without a doubt no woman had ever mentioned drooling to him before. Enchanted by her artlessness, he reached over and captured her hand in his. “You were perfectly appropriate.” He ignored the fact that with the direction of his thoughts while she slept, she was alone in that regard. “I am glad you felt comfortable enough to rest.”
“Exhausted is more like it.” She rolled her shoulders. “Who knew shopping could take so much out of you?”
His mother. His former wife. Most of the women in his social circle. To them, shopping was a blood sport, and to the victor went the spoils. Shopping with them was wearing.
With Brynn, however, it was a delight. Like a prism, she took experiences that were common to him and fractured them, adding a wash of brilliant color to everything. Unexpected, but enjoyable all the same.
She sat up, moving away from him. He missed the subtle pressure of her head on his shoulder, the soft brush of curls against his cheek. He missed her rhythmic breathing as she slept.
What would it be like to spend the night with her wrapped in his arms?
Lessons in Trust
Lucia’s first thought included a word that would have curled her mother’s hair.
How dare this—this man force his way into her life, taking over her orderly existence with his demands and his arrogance and his supercilious attitude?
As if he had every right to order her around.
She was a princess, dammit!
Lucia was never inclined to pull rank based on an accident of birth. Yes, there were benefits to being a member of one of Europe’s last ruling families. She’d never been one of those oh-poor-me-doomed-to-living-a-life-of-luxury types. But it was a rare occasion for her to demand her own way simply because of her title.
This was one of those times.
“I’m afraid you’re mistaken.” She crossed her arms. “There is no possible way for you to stay here.”
Her new babysitter, of course, ignored her. Striding past her down the hallway, he opened the door to the guest room that connected to her bedroom via the shared bathroom.
How in the world did he know the layout of her apartment so well already?
Unsettled, she followed him down the hall. She hated being at a disadvantage. “You can’t stay here,” she said again, just in case he hadn’t been paying attention the first time.
He glanced at her briefly before turning around and heading back to the front door. “You don’t have a choice,” he said over his shoulder.
Lucia gritted her teeth. How dare he speak to her like that!
“I’m going to get my duffel out of the trunk,” he added. “Lock the door behind me.”
And with that, he was gone.
Lock the door. Sure, she’d lock the door for him. Twisting the deadbolt with far more force than necessary, she resisted the urge to stick out her tongue at the closed door. She was an adult. She’d act like one.
Turning on her heel, Lucia stalked back to the kitchen. She opened the fridge and surveyed the contents.
It was a good thing she’d eaten at the reception, because the contents of her refrigerator were sadly lacking. A carton of eggs, a container of milk, some cheese so old she was afraid to unwrap it. She reached for the bottle of wine, then thought better of it and grabbed a bottle of water instead. She’d had a glass of champagne earlier tonight, and she had a feeling she would need her wits about her.
Mr. Delmonico certainly wasn’t going to hold anything back.
And she was not even going to think about the sensual implications of that statement.
A knock at the door pulled her from her thoughts. “I’m back, Your Highness,” a deep voice sounded from the hallway.
As if it could have been anyone else.
“I’m afraid your trip has been wasted.” Lucia raised her voice slightly as she walked over to the door. “I have no intention of letting you back in here tonight.”
A long silence followed her statement. She could almost feel him glowering at the door.
Then: “Excuse me, Your Highness?”
“Just what I said,” she replied, though her heartbeat had accelerated at the hostile tone in his voice. “You will not be staying in my home.”
“I don’t think you understand,” he growled. “It’s not your decision.”
“And I don’t think you understand,” she shot back. “I will not have a strange man in my home overnight. I will be perfectly safe here tonight. You have my word.”
He laughed, a short humorless bark that did little to reassure her. “Fine. Have it your way.”
She stood at the door, listening to his retreating footsteps. A little surprised that he’d given up so easily, Lucia walked back to the kitchen and grabbed the bottle of water she’d abandoned when he’d knocked. She drank half of it in one swallow, suddenly parched.
Maybe it was the champagne. Maybe it was spending so much time at the reception.
Maybe it was the man.
She shook her head, dispelling the notion. Mr. Delmonico was nothing. Nobody. An aberration in her orderly, self-determined life. Her brother meant well, but she was more than capable of choosing her own bodyguards.
She could even give a little. If she had to tolerate Mr. Delmonico’s presence during the day until Alex returned from his honeymoon, so be it. But she’d be damned if she would allow him to invade her private life after hours.
She stalked out of the kitchen, switching off the light as she went. A wave of exhaustion swept over her, and she covered a yawn as she walked down the hall to her room.
She took off a shoe and tossed it in the general direction of the closet, then balanced against the wall to tug off the other. That one she left on the floor as she headed for the en suite bathroom.
She reached behind herself to pull down the zip on her dress, more than ready for a long soak in a hot tub. Damn, it was just out of reach…
“Need some help?”
Lucia bit back a scream as she whirled around. Mr. Delmonico was leaning against the wall next to the window, arms crossed over his wide chest.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
“Nice language, Princess.” He quirked a brief smile. “I was waiting for you.”
“How…” She shook her head. “How did you get in here?” It made no sense. She distinctly remembered locking the door. And her apartment was on the top floor.
“That, Your Highness, is the million dollar question.” He pushed away from the wall and stalked toward her, reminding her of nothing more than a panther approaching his prey. “Let’s just say, I got in. And it was pathetically easy too.”
“Is that supposed to impress me?”
“No.” He leaned in, his breath hot against her cheek. “It’s supposed to scare the hell out of you. Because if I can get in, so can the bad guys.” He paused, letting it sink in. “Under the circumstances, I suggest you change your position on where I’ll be staying tonight.”
“I—” She swallowed. “I don’t want you here.”
“I don’t really care.” He stepped back and grabbed a black duffel bag off the floor next to the window. “Just do me a favor and try to be reasonable for once.”
“How dare you—”
He cut off her feeble protest with a glance. “I dare, Your Highness, because it’s my job. I dare because I’m the best at what I do and I won’t be second-guessed by some pampered princess who wouldn’t know how to take care of herself if her life depended on it. Which, by the way, it does. Most of all, though, I dare because I promised your brother I would keep you safe. And I’ll be damned if I let you or anybody else get in the way of me keeping my word.” He hefted the bag over his shoulder. “I’ll see you in the morning. Knock on the guest room door if you need anything.”
And with that, he was gone, leaving her staring at the empty doorway, wondering just when her life had spiraled so out of control.