Three months later
“Rhys!” Luciana’s face creased into a huge smile. “Como estas?” She looked Bridget over with a twinkle in her eye, and when she spoke next, her words held a teasing note. “Es tu novia?”
I laughed and tangled my fingers with Bridget’s. “Si, es mi novia.”
“I knew it!” Luciana said with delight. “Finally. Come, come. I have food for you.”
She ushered us to the same table we’d sat at during our last trip to Costa Rica. I couldn't believe that had only been a year ago. So much had changed since then.
Hell, so much had changed in the past three months alone. Bridget and I could finally enjoy being together, even as preparations for her coronation ramped up and I slowly acclimated to the spotlight. I didn’t enjoy the attention, but I was more comfortable with it, and that was the best I could hope for.
“This was a good idea.” Bridget sighed with happiness when Luciana brought out a feast of meat and rice. “I needed a vacation.”
I smirked. “I always have good ideas.”
Bridget hadn’t wanted to go on a trip until after her coronation, but I could tell she was buckling under the stress. She needed a getaway to reset. Plus, my mouth could be pretty damn persuasive, especially when I used it for purposes other than talking.
It was our first vacation as an official couple, and I’d chosen Costa Rica not only for sentimental purposes but because no one in town knew or cared Bridget was a princess. Even after all the recent press coverage, they treated her as they would anyone else—warm and friendly, sometimes inquisitive, but never prying.
“Five days in paradise,” I drawled. “Swimming, sunbathing, fucking—”
“What, you don’t like the itinerary?”
“Lower your voice,” she hissed, her face the color of the tomatoes on her plate. “People will hear.”
“No one’s listening.”
We were the only ones on the trip. No Booth, no entourage. It took a helluva lot of convincing, but the palace finally agreed to my plan. I was still qualified to guard Bridget, even if I was no longer officially employed in that capacity.
Since I quit working for Christian, I’d taken on a few freelance security consulting gigs. I didn’t need the money—Harper Security had paid very well, and I wasn’t a big spender—but I’d go out of my mind with boredom if I didn’t have something to occupy my days.
“You don’t know that.” Bridget tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. She wore a tank top and shorts, and her skin already glowed from the sun. No makeup or fancy clothes, and she was still the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen. “People could definitely be listening.”
“Trust me. I know.” The closest people to us sat three tables over, their eyes glued to the soccer game on TV. “Even if they are, ain’t nothing wrong with fuck—”
I chuckled but stopped trying to get a rise out of her lest her face explode from embarrassment. It never failed to amaze me how prim Bridget was in public compared to how wild she was in bed. It made our sex even hotter, knowing I got to see a side of her no one else did.
After lunch, we walked around town for a bit before I convinced her to return to the villa.
I couldn’t wait much longer.
“I have a surprise for you,” I said as we drove up the hill. I couldn’t resist dropping a hint, and talking kept my focus off the knot of nerves in my stomach.
I wasn’t used to being nervous.
Bridget perked up. “I love surprises. What is it?”
I kept one hand on the steering wheel and twined the fingers of my other hand with hers. “It wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you.”
“I like surprises I’m prepared for,” she said. “Just a hint?”
I shook my head with a grin. I’d been doing a lot more of that lately—grinning.
Something had changed over the past few months. The dark, heavy cloud that’d hung over me all my life had dissipated. It still came back now and then, but sunny days were the default now, not thunderstorms.
It was…strange. The darkness had been a protective shield, and without it, I felt stripped bare. Defenseless, which was not something I ever wanted to feel. But in moments like this, when it was just me and Bridget, I didn’t need defenses. She’d broken through all of them, anyway.
“Here we are.” I parked in front of the villa. “Surprise.”
Bridget looked around slowly. “Okay…” She shot a confused glance in my direction. “I hate to tell you this, but we’ve been here before, remember? Luggage drop-off this morning? Bucket list number four?”
“Trust me, that’s not something I’ll ever forget.” My mouth quirked up at the warm rose creeping over her cheeks. “But that’s not the surprise. This is.” I held up a set of keys. “I bought the house.”
Her mouth fell open. “What?”
“My buddy was thinking of selling anyway. He and his family are moving further down south. So, I bought it.” I shrugged.
We could stay in the nicest hotels in the world, but I wanted a place that belonged to us.
“Rhys, you can’t…” Bridget’s eyes darted to the villa. “Really?”
“Yep.” My grin widened when she squealed in a decidedly unprincess-like manner and jumped out of the car.
“We’re coming here every year!” she yelled over her shoulder. “And we need more hammocks!”