“…he could lose his royal status,” Bridget finished. “A fate worse than death in his eyes.”
The whole situation was so fucked. I hated playing mind games, and we were trapped in the most twisted web of games and one-upmanship possible. I also didn’t love the idea of blackmail, but if that’s what I had to do, I’d do it.
Bridget examined me, those beautiful blue eyes sympathetic. “It must’ve been a shock, learning about Erhall and Andreas. I know you have mixed feelings about your father.”
That was one way to put it. Another way was I despised him even more now that I knew his identity.
“He’s not my father.” Erhall was, at best, a sperm donor. “But I don’t want to talk about him right now. Let’s focus on your plan.”
I had a lot of shit to sort out when it came to Erhall, but I could do that later.
Bridget picked up on my cue and changed the subject.
“Okay. So.” She lifted her chin. “We’re really doing this. Blackmailing the Speaker of Parliament.”
Despite her bravado, a note of nervousness ran beneath her words, and the fierce need to protect her—from the world, from her own doubts and insecurities—consumed me.
I wished she could see herself as I saw her. Fucking perfect.
I framed her face with my hands. “If we do it, we do it together. You and me against the world, princess.”
Her smile sent warmth crashing against my ribcage. “I wouldn’t have anyone else by my side, Mr. Larsen.” She took a deep breath. “We might need the information to push Erhall, but I want to try something before we resort to doing the same with Parliament. All this time, I’ve been treating the tabloids as my enemy, but maybe they can be an ally.”
She explained her plan. It was easier than blackmailing one hundred eighty of Eldorra’s most powerful, but it was also a major gamble.
“You sure?” I asked after she finished. “It’s a big risk.”
Bridget had the most to lose if it didn’t pan out.
“Yes. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it earlier.” She paused. “Actually, I can. I was scared of what people would say and that it would lessen my legitimacy as a ruler. But I’m tired of being afraid. With great risk comes great reward, right?”
A small smile touched my lips. “Absolutely.”
Bridget was, after all, my greatest risk and my greatest reward.
She lifted one hand and tangled her fingers with mine. “I missed you.”
The mood shifted, transitioning from the brisk practicality of our plan to something softer and achingly vulnerable.
“I’m right here. I’m not leaving.” I swept my thumb over her bottom lip. “I take care of what’s mine, and you’ve been mine since the moment I saw you outside your poorly secured house at Thayer. Until I fixed it, of course.”
A smile tugged at her mouth. “You couldn’t stand me back then.”
“Doesn’t matter. You were still mine.” I curled my hand around the back of her neck while keeping my thumb on her lip. “Mine to fight with. Mine to protect. Mine to fuck.” My voice dropped. “Mine to love.”
Bridget sucked in an audible breath.
“In Costa Rica, you asked if I’d ever been in love. I said no.” I lowered my head until our foreheads touched and her lips were scant inches from mine. “Ask me again.”
It was the same request I’d made at the hospital, but this time, Bridget didn’t break our gaze as she asked, “Have you ever been in love, Mr. Larsen?”
“Only once.” I slid my hand up from her neck to the back of her head, cupping it. “And you, princess. Have you ever been in love?”
“Only once,” she whispered.
I exhaled sharply her words sank into my soul, filling cracks I hadn’t known existed.
Until Bridget, I’d never loved or been loved, and I finally understood what the fuss was about. It was better than any bulletproof armor or oblivion I found at the bottom of the bottle during my short-lived affair with alcohol.
Alcohol was for numbing, and I didn’t want to be numb. I wanted to feel every goddamn thing with her.
I pulled Bridget close until our bodies pressed flush against each other. “Damn right,” I said fiercely. “Only once. First and last. Don’t forget that, princess.”
I fisted her hair and tugged her head back, my mouth pressing hot and insistent against hers while I maneuvered us to a chair.
There were nights when I took my time, savoring every inch of her body before I gave us what we both wanted, and there were nights like this, when our desperate need to just be together overrode everything else.
“Rhys…” She gasped as I pushed her skirt up around her hips and ripped her panties off, too impatient to shimmy them down when she was sitting. I tossed the torn silk on the floor and pushed her legs wider with my knee.
“I love when you say my name.” I sank into her, swallowing her small cry with my kiss and pushing deeper until I was buried to the hilt.
We had to muffle our moans so they didn’t carry on the wind, and somehow that only heightened the intensity of the moment, like we were containing all our emotions in this small bubble where we were the only ones who existed.
“Harder, please.” Bridget arched into me, her nails digging grooves into my skin, her warm skin contrasting against the chill of the night air on my back.
I held onto the back of the chair for better leverage and gave her what she asked for, a groan ripping from my throat when she buried her face in my chest to muffle her scream. “You feel so good, princess.”
My blood ran white-hot as I slammed into her again and again, my muscles flexing from the effort. She was slick and tight, her breath hot against my skin as she clenched and shattered around me with a wordless cry.
My orgasm followed soon after, racing through me with such intensity it took me twice as long to recover than usual.
When the aftershocks finally subsided, I pushed myself up on my arms so I didn’t crush Bridget with my weight, but she wrapped her legs around my waist, keeping me close.
“Round two?” I brushed a strand of hair out of her face. She looked sleepy and lazy and content, and it still boggled my mind she was real.
Not only real but here, with me.