Copyright (c) 2017 by Emma Chase
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
Cover Design: By Hang Le
Interior Book Design: JT formatting
Photography: Thomas Watkins
Cover Model: Vincent Azzopardi
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Also by Emma Chase
THE ROYALLY SERIES
THE LEGAL BRIEFS SERIES
THE TANGLED SERIES
Holy Frigging Matrimony
It's a Wonderful Tangled Christmas Carol
To sweet crushes and slow burns.
Table of Contents
Preview of Love Another Day by Lexi Blake
SOME MEN THINK WITH THEIR cocks.
You know the type. Quick smooth-talkers, shifty eyes always scanning for a nice pair of legs, a set of full tits, or a tight arse they can pant after.
Other blokes think too much with their brains. You know that type too. Annoyingly careful, slow-moving, constantly parsing their words like they already know whatever they're saying is going to come back and take a bite out of them.
I'm not either of those.
I always go with my gut. When it clenches with a warning, I act--no hesitation. When it tugs and nudges, I pause and reevaluate. When it twists and writhes, I know, guaranteed, I've cocked up big-time.
My gut is my best friend, my conscience, my most lethal asset.
And it has never let me down.
It's my gut that drags me to her door. That roots me in place as I knock. That gives me the words--pleading, unfamiliar remorseful words--I'll gladly say to make this right.
To get her back.
Because while my gut is brilliant, sometimes I can be a real fucking idiot.
Yesterday was one of those times.
"Ellie. It's me--open up, we need to talk."
I sense movement on the other side of the solid oak door--not in sounds or shifting shadows beneath it, but more of an awareness. I can feel her in there. Nearby and listening.
"Go away, Logan."
Her voice is tight, higher-pitched than usual. Upset.
"Ellie, please. I was a twat, I know . . ." I'm not keen on begging from the hallway, but if that's what it takes . . . "I'm sorry. Let me in."
Ellie is difficult to anger, quick to forgive; she just doesn't have it in her to hold a grudge. So her next words fall like an axe--cutting my legs right off from under me.
"No, you were right. The princess's sister and the East Amboy bodyguard don't make sense--we'll never last."
Did I actually say that to her? What the fuck is wrong with me? What I feel for her is the one thing in my life that makes sense. That matters.
But I never told her that.
Instead . . . instead, I said all the wrong things.
I brace my palm against the smooth wood, leaning forward, wanting to be as near to her as possible. "Elle . . ."
"I've changed my mind, Logan."
If a corpse could speak, it would sound exactly like my Ellie does now. Flat, lifeless.
"I want the fairy tale. I want what Olivia has . . . castles and carriages . . . and you'll never be able to give me that. I would just be settling for you. You'll never be able to make me happy."
She doesn't mean that. They're my words--the insecurities I put on her--that she's hurling back in my face.
But God, it fucking hurts to hear. Physically hurts--stabbing deep into the pit of my stomach, crushing my chest, grinding my bones. I meant it when I said I would die for her . . . and right now, it feels like I am.
I grab the doorknob to walk inside, to see her face. To see that she doesn't mean it.
"Don't come in!" she screeches like I've never heard her before. "I don't want to see you! Go away, Logan. We're done--just go!"
I breathe hard--that's what you do when pain wrecks you, breathe through it. Then I swallow bile, straighten up, turn around and walk down the hall. Away from her. Just like she wants, like she asked. Like she screamed.
My brain tells me to move faster--get the hell out of there, cut my losses and lick my wounds. And my heart--Christ--that poor bastard's too battered and bloody to express anything at all.
But then, just over halfway down the hall, my steps slow until I stop completely.
Because my gut . . . it strains through the hurt. Rebels. It shouts that this isn't right. This isn't her. Something's off.
And even more than that . . . something is very, very wrong.
I glance up and down the quiet hall--not a guard or a maid in sight. I look back at the door. Closed and silent and still.
Then I turn and march straight back to it. I don't knock, or wait, or ask for permission. In one move, I turn the knob and step inside.
What I see there stops me cold.
Because whatever I was expecting, it sure as fuck wasn't this.
Not at all . . .
Five years earlier
"YOU WANTED TO SEE ME, Prince Nicholas?"
Here's a confession: when the powers that be first offered me a position on the royal security team, I wasn't interested. The idea of following around some self-important aristocrats who were in love with the sound of their own voices--and the smell of their own arses--didn't appeal to me. The way I saw it, guards were only a step above servant-boys--and I'm no one's servant.
I wanted action. A blaze of glory. Purpose. I wanted to be a part of something that was bigger than myself. Something noble and lasting.
"Yes, Logan--have a seat."
I'd distinguished myself in the military pretty quickly. And Winston--the head of Palace Security--had taken notice. They were looking for very particular qualities in Prince Nicholas's personal team, he'd said. Young lads who were quick on their feet, loyal and ferocious when required. The type who'd be just fine bringing a knife to a gunfight--'cause he wouldn't be needing a fucking knife or gun to win.
After only a few weeks, I had a different take on the position. It came to feel like a calling, a duty. Important men make things happen, get things done--they have the power to make life easier for the not-so-important people.
I protect them, so they can do that.
And the young prince sitting across from me, behind the desk in the library of this luxurious penthouse suite--he's an important man.
"How old are you, Logan?"
"My file says I'
If Saint Peter was a fisher of men, I'm a reader of them. It's a skill that's essential to this occupation--possessing a gut feeling for what someone else's intentions are. The ability to read a man's eyes, the shifting of his feet--to know what he's capable of and just what kind of man he is.
Nicholas Pembrook is a good man. To his core.
And that's a rare thing.
More often than not, important men are prime scumbags.
His mouth twitches. "I know what your file says. That's not what I asked." He's also not a fool--and he's been lied to enough in his life that he's got an ear for things that don't ring true.
"How old are you really?"
I look him in the eye, wondering where he's going with this.
He nods slowly, massaging his thumb into the palm of his other hand, thinking. "So you signed up for the military at . . . fifteen? Lied about your age? That's young."
I shrug. "They weren't real discerning at the recruitment office. I was tall, solid and good with my fists."
"You were still a child."
"I was never a child, Your Highness. Any more than you were."
Childhood is when you're supposed to muck up, figure out who you are, what you want to be. You're given permission to be a jackarse. I didn't have that privilege; neither did Nicholas. Our paths were set before we were born. Opposite paths, sure--but whether you grow up in a shack or a palace, the expectations and demands of those around you tend to snuff out innocence pretty damn fast.
"Why'd you leave home so young?"
Now it's my turn to smirk. Because I'm not a fool either. "You know why. That's in the file too."
I'm good at identifying scumbags because I come from a long line of them. Criminals--not especially successful ones. Petty, scrounging, desperate enough to be dangerous--the kind who'll smile to your face, pat you on the back, then stab you as soon as you're not looking.
My grandfather died in prison--he was in for murder committed during an armed robbery. My dad will die there too, hopefully sooner rather than later--he's in for manslaughter. I've got uncles who've done stints for a whole range of criminal activities, cousins who've been killed in broad daylight in the middle of the street and aunts who've pimped out their daughters without a second thought.
By the time I was fifteen I knew if I stayed in that shit-hole, I'd start to stink. And then I'd have only two options: prison or the cemetery.
Neither one of those worked for me.
"What's this really about? All the questions?"
It's always better to cut to the chase, deep and quick.
His gray-green eyes focus on me, his face probing, his shoulders slightly hunched, like an elephant's sitting on them.
"Now that I have Henry in hand, the Queen wants us back in Wessco, in two days. You know this."
"I want to bring Olivia home with me, for the summer."
For a time, I was on the fence about the pretty New York baker. She put ideas in Nicholas's head, made him reckless. But she's a good lass--hardworking, honest--and she cares about him. Not about his title or his bank account. She couldn't give a shit about those and probably would prefer him without them. She makes him happy.
And in the two-odd years I've worked with the Crown Prince, truly happy is something I don't think I've ever seen him be.
"Is that wise?" I ask.
Olivia Hammond is a sweet girl. And the Palace . . . has a knack for turning sweet to sour.
"No. But I want to do it anyway."
And the look on his face--it's raw and exposed. It's yearning. From the outside looking in, you'd think there's nothing a royal could want that he can't have. Nicholas has private planes, servants, castles and more money than he can spend in a lifetime--but I can't think of a single instance when he did what he wanted, just for the hell of it. Or when he let himself do something he knew he shouldn't.
I admire him, but I don't envy him.
"Olivia wants to come, but she's worried about leaving her sister alone for the summer. Ellie's young, still in school and . . . naive."
She's got a wild streak in her too. As bright as the pink in her blond hair, which has been joined by blue, then green, during the two months we've been in New York.
"I could see her attracting trouble," I comment.
"Exactly. Also, Ellie will have to run the coffee shop on her own, with just Marty for help. Olivia's father is--"
"He's a drunk."
I'm good at spotting them too--can smell them from a mile away.
"Yes." Nicholas sighs. "Look, Logan, you've been around long enough to know that I don't trust easily, or often. But I trust you." He pushes a hand through his black hair and meets my eyes. "Which is why I'm asking you. Will you stay in New York? Will you help Ellie, watch over her . . . make sure she's safe?"
She seems like a decent girl, but I already said I wasn't a servant--and I'm also not a nanny. Protecting the royal family is a duty I've chosen; keeping tabs on an American teenage girl is a fucking headache waiting to happen.
Nicholas glances out the window. "I know it's a lot to ask. It's not your job; you can say no. But there's no one else I would choose . . . no one else I can depend on. So, I'd consider it a personal favor if you say yes."
Ah . . . hell.
I have a brother. To say I wish I didn't would be an understatement. And not in the same way Nicholas wishes his royal snot of a brother would grow the hell up, or how Miss Olivia seems put out by her younger sister at times. The world would be a better place if my brother weren't in it--and that's a stance shared by others.
But if I had a choice, if I could assemble a brother from the ground up, I would build the man sitting across from me right now.
Which is why, even though I'm going to bloody regret it, it takes only a moment before I give him my answer.
"James has a boy back home--about a year old, so he'll want to go home with you. Tommy'll be happy to stay--the Bronx is like his own personal harem. Between the two of us, and two more men, Cory and Liam maybe, we'll keep the girl out of trouble and the business afloat for the summer."
Nicholas's face splits into the biggest smile and relief lights up his eyes. He stands, holding out his hand to shake mine, pounding my shoulder with gratitude.
"Thank you, Logan. Truly. I won't forget this."
If nothing else, this summer will be . . . different.
I'M AN OLD SOUL WHEN it comes to music. I blame my mother. One of my earliest memories is of her singing me to sleep with a Led Zeppelin lullaby--"All of My Love." When she baked in the kitchen of my family's coffee shop that's named after her, Amelia's, her boom-box would be bumping. Sometimes she'd mix it up, but more often than not, it was the throaty, soul-stirring, high-octane tunes of female artists that spilled from the speakers into my and my big sister's ears. It left an impression.
I mean, once you hear Janis Joplin go full-out Bobby McGee, you don't go back.
This morning, just after four a.m., I've chosen "Gloria" by Laura Branigan. It pounds against my eardrums--upbeat and peppy. And today, I could use some pep.
Olivia left for Wessco yesterday and I'm so happy for her--really, genuinely, screechingly happy. She deserves this--to be waited on hand and foot, to be pampered and adored by a gorgeous, filthy-souled, golden-hearted prince. Liv deserves the whole world, even if it's only for three months.
But, I'm going to miss the hell out of her.
There's also the small detail that . . . I haven't slept in twenty-four hours. Not a blink. And if past is prologue, there are going to be a lot of sleepless nights in my future. I'm a high school senior--I have exams to study for, projects to complete, extracurricular activities to activitize, lifelong memories to make--and now I have a business to run.
Who the fuck has time for sleep?
I jack up the volume on my phone and scoop a tablespoon of instant coffee grounds into my mouth--washing the bitter, spiky granules
down with a gulp of black, cold coffee. We don't serve instant for the coffee shop. Instant coffee is disgusting.
But it serves a purpose. It's effective--efficient. I love caffeine. Love it. The high, the rush, the feeling that I'm Wonder Woman's long-lost cousin and there ain't shit I can't do.
I would mainline it, if that were actually a thing.
I would probably become a meth-head if it weren't for the rotting-teeth, ruined-life, most-likely-dying-by-overdose elements of it all. I'm a high school senior, not an asshole.
After swallowing my nasty liquid-of-life, I get back into the song--shaking my hips and shoulders, flipping my mermaid multicolor-streaked blond hair back and forth. I spin on my toes, I twerk and shimmy, I may even leap like a ballerina--though I'll deny it--all while filling the pie dishes on the counter with ooey-gooey, yummy, freshly sliced fruit and rolling out the balls of floured dough for the top layer of the two dozen pies I need to make before we open.
My mother's pies--her recipes--they're what Amelia's is known for and the only reason we didn't go under years ago. We used to need only a dozen, but when news of my sister's romance with the Crown Prince of Wessco hit, the fangirls, royal-watchers, mildly interested passersby and psycho-stalkers came out of the woodwork . . . and right to our door.
Business is booming, which is a double-edged sword. Money's a little less tight, but the workload has doubled, and with my sister gone, the workforce just got cut in half. More than half, actually--more like a third, because Olivia really ran the show. Up until recently, I was a total slacker. That's why I was adamant she go to Wessco--why I swore I could rise to the occasion and handle things while she was gone.
I owed her and I knew it.
And if I'm going to actually keep up my end of the deal, I really need to move my ass with these pies.
I sprinkle some flour on the dough and roll it out with the heavy, wooden rolling pin. Once it's the perfect size and thickness, I flip the rolling pin around and sing into the handle--American Idol style.
"Calling Gloriaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa . . ."
And then I turn around.
Without thinking, I bend my arm and throw the rolling pin like a tomahawk . . . straight at the head of the guy who's standing just inside the kitchen door.
The guy I didn't hear come in.
The guy who catches the hurling rolling pin without flinching--one-handed and cool as a gorgeous cucumber--just an inch from his perfect face.