“Don’t bother, I’ll announce myself.” A statuesque blonde swept in like she owned the place. The vein in my temple pulsed harder. “Princess Bridget of Eldorra, here to see Asshole—I mean, Alex Volkov.” Her smile came off both polite and menacing.
I was impressed, if not annoyed.
How hard was it to find competent staff who could keep intruders out of my office these days?
“Princess.” Ralph waved two fingers in the air.
“Ralphie.” She nodded.
Ralphie? I wasn’t going to ask.
Bridget’s bruiser of a bodyguard stood behind her with his ever-present glower. He might be the one person in the world who had a better poker face and a shittier disposition than I did.
“I’m sorry.” Carolina looked like she was on the verge of panic. “The princess—”
“Leave. I’ll take care of it.” My call with the VP was in forty minutes, and I’d already wasted enough time.
“That’s my cue.” Ralph rose. “I’ll take you up on the meal, but it looks like you have some stuff to hash out first.” He tilted his head toward Bridget but kept his eyes on me. “Think about what I said.”
“Sure.” I would rather eat rusted nails than visit Vermont. I didn’t do country life.
When the door closed behind Ralph and Carolina, I leaned back in my chair and laced my fingers over my chest. “To what do I owe the pleasure, Your Highness?” I kept my expression impassive and tried not to think of the last time I’d seen Bridget—in her car, taking Ava from me.
Even if I was the one who’d pushed Ava away, I hated Bridget a little for that. For being able to comfort Ava when I couldn’t.
The blonde looked down her nose at me. “I know what you did.”
“You’ll have to be more specific. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, as you well know.”
“Cut the bullshit.” Bridget walked up to my desk and leaned forward, pressing her hands on the table. Her eyes glinted with steely knowledge. “You’re having Ava followed.”
My shoulders stiffened before I forced them to relax. “Princesses shouldn’t say the word ‘bullshit.’ It’s terribly undiplomatic.”
“Don’t deflect. Rhys…” She angled her head toward the bodyguard, whose gunmetal glare darkened the longer he looked at me. “…caught him. It turns out it’s a small world after all because they served in the military together. In fact, Rhys saved his life, so it didn’t take much before he spilled. Now, I want you to explain why, exactly, you’re having Ava followed. Haven’t you done enough?”
That fucker.No wonder the guy I’d hired had been avoiding my calls.
Navy SEAL of honor, my ass. Incompetency and disloyalty were a worldwide scourge.
“Perhaps you should check your facts because I did no such thing,” I said coolly. “Delusional much?”
“Don’t lie, Alex. You’re not as good at it as you think you are.” Bridget pierced me with her stare. “He told us you ordered him to keep an eye on her. Not to harm her…but to protect her.”
A familiar pressure built at the base of my neck and spread until it enveloped my skull in a crushing grip. “And you believed him?” I straightened my shirt sleeve. “Doesn’t say much for your bodyguard that he would believe lies so easily. No wonder you got kidnapped.”
A low growl emitted from said bodyguard’s throat. He stepped forward, his eyes promising vengeance, but Bridget stayed him with a warning look.
“You’re deflecting again.” She relaxed, her hard expression melting into a thoughtful one that sent the hairs on the back of my neck rising. She slipped into Ralph’s vacated chair and crossed one leg over the other.
“I didn’t say you could sit.” I didn’t give a flying fuck that she was a princess. This was my office. My kingdom.
Bridget ignored me.
I’d already picked up my phone to call security when she said, “You secretly hired someone to look after Ava because you still care about her.”
Why the fuck did everyone want to talk about her? Was it Torture Alex with Ava’s Name day?
I slammed the phone down and stood. I was done with people today. The Vice-President could wait another day or week for our phone call. “I don’t have time for this. I—”
“Still care about her,” Bridget repeated.
“Take a pill for the delusion, princess. I used her. I got what I wanted. Now I’m done. I’ve been done for months.” I shrugged on my jacket. “Now fuck off.”
“For someone who’s usually so composed, you’re awfully agitated,” she said. “I wonder why.”
“How about you mind your business, I mind mine.” I flicked my eyes toward Rhys, who glared back at me with dangerous gray eyes.
Bridget tensed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You know what it means.”
“Fine. Stay in denial.” Bridget stood, her complexion a shade paler than before. “I guess you don’t want to know about Ava.”
“What about Ava?” The question slipped out before I could stop it.