Authors: Mia Carson
(A Bad Boy
COPYRIGHT © 2016
All Rights Reserved
*** Publisher’s Note: This edition of “A BODYGUARD FOR THE PRINCESS” contains two bonus romance books ***
Sun shattered the darkness in his bedroom, and Matthias groaned as he rolled over, diving back under the covers for another few hours’ sleep. A squeal greeted him, and he shot up in bed, glancing around, his hand slipping beneath his pillow until the other head popped up.
“Matthias! I will not walk straight for a week after last night.” The black-haired beauty grinned beside him, the sheet pooled around her waist.
His hand relaxed, and he left the handgun tucked under his pillow. He forced a grin, even though smiling was the last thing he felt like doing. “That is the idea,” he pointed out. “But alas, my dear sweet one, I have to get ready. New job starts today.”
“Oh? And where is this new job? You aren’t working at the nightclubs anymore?”
“Sadly, no, but this one will pay the bills better,” he said, knowing the new salary would take care of him for quite some time if he could keep the job. The nightclubs were easy, being a bouncer on the outside and security on the inside. The deafening music drove other, darker thoughts from his mind, and he could disappear into the massive crowds and forget a past he failed to hide from every damn day.
The woman whose name he didn’t remember scooped up her mini dress, threw it on, and, after blowing him a kiss, darted out of his small bedroom. A moment later, the front door opened and closed. Last night was his final in this tiny hole-in-the-wall with so many memories of hazy nights and women crying out his name as he drove them all to ecstasy to make himself feel alive again.
Too bad it never worked.
Matthias stood and stretched, messing up his jet-black hair, his six-foot-three frame making a shadow on the far wall. As he strode from his room to the bathroom, every muscle in his body rippled, highlighting the tattoos covering his back, stretched around his sides and down his shoulders. A skull was situated between his shoulder blades, and from it sprouted trails of raging flames, consuming all in its path. The flames reached around his shoulders, licking at his pecs. Where they reached his sides, they changed in color, the flames dying down to ashes. Each ash mark was a count—only Matthias knew what the count stood for. He glared at them in the mirror, his fingers running over each one as he remembered their faces. So many faces.
When he wiped a hand down his face, he frowned at the bags under his eyes and the scruff on his cheeks. Every night, he fell asleep praying the nightmares wouldn’t come, and every night, they greeted him in vivid detail. His fingers fidgeted against the sink until he gripped it tightly, his knuckles turning white. The meds his doctor had given him were supposed to help, but after two months with no changes, he’d stopped taking them. Now, he was trying to deal with it on his own and avoid a mental breakdown every time he dreamt of those darker days. Or swore he saw one of those dead faces watching him in the crowd beneath the strobe lights.
His new job would be in a quieter atmosphere, more controlled, and he wouldn’t be alone. When he was first approached about the job two weeks ago, he had hesitated in taking it. Though he was a highly decorated soldier, he wasn’t necessarily the right personality for body-guarding a shut-in princess. He wasn’t the most social person nor the best to be around a member of the royal family, no matter what was said about her.
But the head of security for the royal family, Ambrose, had assured Matthias that his position wasn’t for social purposes. They needed a man who understood that danger lurked anywhere and would be able to protect the princess regardless of the cost. He was that man, and Ambrose put all his faith in Matthias and his impressive military background, certain he would do the job as required.
“Besides,” the man had told him, “you’ll live inside the palace, have your own quarters. It’ll be quiet and you don’t have to speak unless absolutely necessary. I doubt you’ll even have to pull your gun.”
Matthias closed his eyes tightly. Never having to touch his gun again would be the ideal situation—breaking up a fist fight or two at the nightclub had suited him well. However, the time for a change was now, and he was going to take it.
When his slate-colored eyes opened again, he grimaced at the darkness in them as memories threatened to consume him. But not today. He couldn’t deal with that today.
“Keep it together,” he muttered. “New job, new surroundings. Take the paycheck and get on with your life.” After a few years on the job, and he’d be living well enough to quit and leave the damn island. Maybe forever.
It should’ve been easy, but Matthias had learned long ago that nothing was ever easy.
So many people… There were always so many people at these gatherings, and each one had to talk to the princess, make sure she knew they were there before tottering off into the crowd at the foot of the raised dais. Princess Daphne, the only remaining child in the Eridian royal family, tapped her fingers impatiently on her thigh while attempting to keep a light and cheery grin on her face. Today was to celebrate her twenty-first birthday, and when you were royal, the celebrations started early. She stifled a yawn behind a delicate hand, turning her head to the side in between greeting more people who wanted to see her in all her beautiful glory.
“Daphne,” her mother whispered, leaning over the side of her simple, white, beechwood throne, “do you tire already?”
“No, Mother, sorry,” she replied. “I didn’t sleep well.”
Queen Alexandria’s brow furrowed as she laid the back of her hand against Daphne’s cheek. Her eyes—the same light blue as the Mediterranean they were surrounded by—reflected the exact same color in her daughter’s. And just like her daughter, when she grew worried, they darkened. “Perhaps you are coming down with something.”
“I’m fine, Mother, I promise,” Daphne placated and patted her mother’s hand.
She tucked a stray raven curl fallen from her up-do back behind her ear and waited for her mother to settle back into her seat. Though she knew the queen watched her, Daphne did her best to ignore it and preserve that smile on her face. That was all anyone wanted from their princess. A smile. A wave to know she was happy and content with her life behind these walls. Now that she was officially of age, she knew what would come next. The years of being groomed for the throne told her life would be different.
Daphne and her mother greeted several more families from the tiny island kingdom of Apostolos, an old kingdom situated between Greece and Turkey, left over from a very different time. The small but very fiercely trained army fought alongside the Greeks and other nearby countries when called upon to do so. The military was one of the only things their island was really good for. The countries around them grew and expanded with the times, but their island remained small, and Daphne was cloistered along with it.
“You’re doing it again,” Alexandria whispered.
Daphne frowned and let her hand fall back to her lap. “Sorry.”
“Tugging at one’s ear is not princess behavior.”
Daphne might look like her mother with her flawless olive complexion and full cheeks, perfectly shaped lips, and even the small mole on her lower right cheek, but when it came to ruling and being proper all the time, Daphne fell short. Always. She loved her mother and her father, King Calix, but there were times Daphne simply didn’t want to be there. Especially on a day like today when all she wanted was to be in the water at the beach, soaking up the sun and relaxing in peace.
“I think that is enough greeting for now,” Alexandria announced politely with a kind smile and stood.
Daphne rose to her feet as well, biting back the sigh of relief. Everyone in the stone throne room bowed as they walked down the main aisle, out the arched doors, and into the heart of the palace. Two men in suits followed closely, and Daphne knew their eyes constantly wandered around the halls for any threat against the royal family.
“You may have the afternoon to yourself, before the ball,” Alexandria told her daughter as they walked.
Servants bowed and greeted them as they passed, both queen and princess nodding and smiling in return. “Why do I feel a
coming on?” Daphne asked.
“Your new security guard will be here today. I would like you to meet him before the festivities.”
Daphne tried hard not to groan like a child, but having someone watch her constantly grew tiresome, and dealing with a new person meant reminding said person again and again that personal space was a must. “Why can’t you just let me have Theodore? Or Jeremiah? They’ve been here long enough,” she muttered. “I know Ralph retired, but why do you need to bring in another one?”
“Because my daughter needs a personal bodyguard at all times. You know this. I have one and so does your father. It’s the way it is, Daphne. I don’t know why you don’t see that.”
Daphne wanted to say that a bodyguard hadn’t protected her older sister from the terrible boating accident that took her life when Daphne was six. Instead, she nodded in apology. “It’s fine, Mother, of course. I understand.” Though she didn’t, not really. No one had tried to hurt a member of the royal family for at least a century. Daphne hated having someone follow her around, watching everyone so intently. She didn’t even get to leave the damn palace unless she was with her parents and they had the entire guard with them.
They’d stopped letting her go out when Marietta, her sister, had died. Daphne was trapped within a new, over-protective world of guards and servants.
“When is this new guard arriving?” she asked as they stopped at the bottom of the grand staircase.
“Any moment now. Wait here. I’m going to fetch your father so he can be introduced as well. I swear, between the two of you, I’m not certain who is worse with forgetting when you’re needed,” her mother complained and strode off down the hall, Theodore behind her.
Daphne paced back and forth, Jeremiah’s eyes observing their surroundings as she did. She tugged nervously at her dark blue suit jacket and matching skirt, hoping to avoid being scolded by her mother when she returned should she appear less than presentable. A princess never wore wrinkled clothes, nor scuffed shoes, and she would certainly never tug on her earlobe.
Yet Daphne’s hand reached up to do just that, fiddling with the sapphire-encrusted stud there. “Do you know who it is?”
Jeremiah shook his head. “I have heard of him, though, princess,” he replied without elaboration.
“That’s all you’re going to tell me?”
His lips twitched in a smile. “I’m afraid so, princess. Your mother would not like me to gossip.”
“It’s not gossiping if it’s the truth,” she insisted with a bright smile. “I know you want to tell me.”
Steps echoed, coming their way, and Jeremiah straightened, clasping his hands behind his back and looking straight ahead. Daphne narrowed her eyes at him, but he didn’t speak. She turned, ready to scold whomever interrupted them, to find Ambrose. His grey hair had been recently buzzed, and as always, he walked with an air of a man who should run an army, she thought, not palace security. She suspected that long ago, he had been in charge of the army, but he never shared any details on the matter except to say that no palace in the world was safe.