Home > Royal Cocktail(7)

Royal Cocktail(7)
Author: J. Kenner

He felt panic rise, and the Crown Prince of Avelle-am-see did not panic. Except, apparently, he did.

Then he saw her, and the world leveled again. He took a long sip of his drink, finishing off the bottle, and leaned back before signaling for another. This was not good. He barely knew this woman. So why was he letting her get under his skin this way?

The answer became clear when she came back to the table, smiling and laughing.

He was letting her in because he wanted to. Wanted her. Not forever—he knew well enough that couldn’t happen. But for right now, he wanted to be with her. Not sex—at least not necessarily. But her. He didn’t understand why, but she brought a wild joy into his life. The kind that he felt when he was working an equation and making progress, only more intense. And that kind of feeling was to be cherished.

“I love these,” she said as she picked up the Loaded Corona and slid into the seat across from him. From what he could tell, she wasn’t the least bit self-conscious about her speech around him anymore. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” He lifted his empty bottle. “I love them too.”

“I’m sorry I disappeared. Griffin’s overly … protective of me.”

“He’s a good friend.”

“It’s more than that. He was in … a fire, and his face is pretty scarred. So he—”

“I understand,” he said gently. “He knows what it’s like to be self-conscious.”

She nodded. “And to be looked at like there’s … something wrong with … you. Like you’re less.”

“Anyone who thinks that about you is an idiot.”

She met his eyes. Held them. “That’s what he says.”

“Then I’ll like your friend just fine.”

She took a long sip of her drink then put it on the table. Then she reached over and took his hand, and it was as if the heavens opened.

He drew in a shaky breath, and met her eyes again, then felt as if he was drowning in those deep, brown pools. And, oh God, that shock of electricity that had cut through him with more intensity than anything he’d ever felt in his life.

She gasped, and he knew she felt it, too, as she held his gaze and said, very simply, “Hey.”

“Hey, yourself.”

For a moment, they just stared. Then, as if on cue, they grinned at each other.

Their stupid lack of words didn’t matter. The touch of their hands said everything.



Chapter Six



Present Day



Leopold felt the sting across his cheek, his heart shattering with the impact.

He hadn’t expected to see her at the bar. Skye Porter. The woman who’d stolen his heart—and whose heart he’d so recklessly broken.

For that matter, he hadn’t intended to go to The Fix at all—too many bittersweet memories. But he was staying in the LBJ Presidential Suite at Austin’s famous Driskill Hotel, and his corner balcony had a view of Sixth Street. He’d been in town for less than an hour, but once he’d caught a glimpse of the street and the bar … well, how could he not at least step inside and see if the place had changed?

Jürgen had pulled open the door, Leopold had stepped through, and joy had flooded him, the emotion so intense it almost knocked him backward.

It hadn’t, of course. Instead, her slap had done that.

Immediately, Karl and Fritz, two of Jürgen’s best bodyguards, stomped forward. Jürgen held up a hand, easing them to heel. With every eye in the place glued on him, Leopold moved closer to Skye, who’d backed away, eyes wide with shock, before the sting on his cheek had even dimmed.

He wore jeans and a black tee, as did the men who accompanied him, and Leo hoped that none of the patrons were such avid royal-watchers that they recognized him. He would hate to see Skye plastered across social media.

As he approached, she crossed her arms protectively across her chest. Her brown eyes shot daggers, though, telegraphing that she didn’t regret the slap at all.

Why would she?

He dipped his head in apology, then met her eyes. “Skye.”

“Don’t … don’t say …” She closed her eyes and he watched as she worked to control her breathing, his heart aching for her as she struggled with the words. When she opened her eyes again, the pain he saw there cut straight through his soul. “Don’t you dare say you’re sorry.”

“But I am.”

Her shoulders shook. “You’re an ass and a liar and you … you used me.”

“No, I—” But he cut himself off. Maybe she was right. Maybe he had.

“You made me into one of those women you…” She trailed off as if she couldn’t even voice the words, then she shook her head violently. “It doesn’t … matter.”

He glanced around the room. There were eyes on them, but that seemed to be more about the lovers’ quarrel than because they recognized him. He stepped toward her, his hand going to her upper arm before she shook it away. “Please, Skye. If we could just talk.”

She lifted her chin, looking sophisticated and in control. He knew she was a lawyer now, and she looked the part. Her gaze steady. Her chin firm. Her hair was longer and hung in waves to just past her shoulders. She projected sophistication and confidence, and he couldn’t be prouder.

But he couldn’t tell her that. Not unless he wanted her to slap the shit out of him again.

He started to speak, intending to once again ask her to give him just a few moments of time. But she got there first.

“I don’t know what you’re doing back in Austin, but do me a favor and stay far away from me. In case you’re confused, I’m not one of the party girls you hang with at all those villas across Europe.”

Her words came out slow and he knew she was working hard to speak as clearly as possible.

He almost smiled. At least she thought he was worth the effort. For whatever cold comfort that might provide…

“Skye, please. If we could just—”

“I’m leaving now.” She pushed past him and out the door, leaving the familiar scent of lavender in her wake.

God help him, he wanted to cry. Right then, he wanted to sink to the floor and bawl like a baby simply from the horrible pain of knowing how deeply he’d hurt her.

Most of all, he wanted to go after her. To explain. Hell, to grovel.

He almost did, but Jürgen stopped him. “There’s no point. Why hurt her more?”

“Dammit, Jürgen, I need to—”

“You pathetic son-of-a-bitch.”

He turned to see a familiar blonde standing where Skye had been. “Hannah. I—”

“Fuck you, Your Highness.” To her credit, she kept her voice low enough that it was meant only for him. “Although I suppose I should thank you on her behalf,” Hannah continued. “I mean, she learned a valuable lesson. Guess a girl like Skye wasn’t video-and-sound ready enough for a guy like you to have around.”

“No, I—”


She paused as if waiting for him to defend himself. But how could he? He hadn’t left because of her speech. He hadn’t left because he didn’t want her. But he had left without saying goodbye, and in doing so, he’d hurt her. And that really did make him a prick.

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