Read The Making of a Princess Online

Authors: Teresa Carpenter

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary

The Making of a Princess (7 page)

“This is true. However, what you are willing to sacrifice would perhaps not be so different.”

“Ah.” Amanda tore off a piece of bread, dipped it in the stew broth. She got what he meant and asked softly, “You wouldn’t give up a promotion for her?”

“It was never a question for me that duty to my career and my Prince came first.”

“That would be telling.”

“I knew when I could not give her my grandmother’s ring.” He poked at his rice, and then pushed his plate away. “I thought about it, I knew it was expected. By heeding my reservations I hurt two women I care deeply for. But I could not put my family’s ring on Elayna’s finger. That is when I knew we were not right for each other.”

“Two women. One being your mother. She wasn’t very happy with you.” When the waitress discretely delivered the bill, Amanda was ready with her card.

“No.” The wry look he gave her made that an understatement. “But she understood. She told me when it came to love I should not compromise.”

“And you haven’t?”

“No.”

“That took incredible honesty.” Impressed with his brave move, she reached out to him placing her hand on his forearm, feeling his heat and strength under her fingertips.

“Yes. However, her understanding only goes so far. She reminds me often that she wants
petits-enfants
.”

“Grandchildren.”

“Yes. My sister has given her four beautiful grandchildren, two boys and two girls. Yet she will not be happy until she is bouncing my child on her knee.”

She smiled. How funny to think of this intense security man, this soldier with the dangerous edge, being hounded by his mother for grandchildren. It made him seem more human, more approachable. She chewed on her inner lip. She found him nearly irresistible when she was a little in awe of his position and sense of duty.

But today, after hearing more about his family, the love story between his mother and father, about how he believed in the power of love in a thriving relationship, she fell a little more for the man himself instead of the façade he showed the world.

How she admired his honesty. It must have been difficult to walk away from a connection everyone but you thought perfect.

She was in so much trouble.

This thing between them was only supposed to be a fun fling with a foreign hottie. But the more she got to know him, the more she liked him.

She wanted to hear more about his mother—she truly longed to meet this wise woman—and the nieces and nephews that brought a sparkle to his brown eyes. All things that added to his appeal beyond the physical attraction sizzling between them.

“Come.” He held his hand out. “I will see you home before I return to my hotel.”

She accepted his hand. The problem was she couldn’t bring herself to care about trouble.

CHAPTER SEVEN

T
HE
SUN
HAD
given up any pretense of a fight and rain poured from the sky in sheets. Xavier waited in the vestibule of the restaurant for five minutes for it to let up a bit, but the deluge continued.

Finally Amanda looked at him with resignation. He lifted one dark brow in question and she nodded.

He grabbed her hand and together they dashed the half block to the taxi queue. Soaked within seconds, they were both drenched by the time they reached the line of cars. He held the door and she dove inside.

Happy to be out of the wet she laughed and swiped at her hands and face.

He took a moment to shake off the wetness, too, and marveled at her resilience. A lot of women would be shrill in the face of such a soaking.

The driver had the heat going full blast and still she shivered. Xavier wrapped his arms around her but he was as wet as her so there was no body heat to share. After a while the cabbie came to a stop. Xavier glanced out to get his bearings before venturing into the rain, but he did not recognize the street.

“The street is blocked,” the cabbie announced.

Amanda turned to look out the back window. “It looks like a bus had an accident. A police car and a tow truck have the entrance to the street blocked.”

“Why do we wait here?” Xavier asked. “Can we not drive around the block and come up the other side?”

She shook her head. “It’s a one way street. I’ll just get out here and run for it. I had a really great time. I’m sorry the rain ruined the end of the day.”

“I will see you safely inside,” he stated.

“But it’s pouring!” The pounding on the roof punctuated the fact. If anything the downpour had gotten worse.

“All the more reason to take care.” He was not deterred.

Her eyes grew bright at his insistence, leaving him to wonder if no one had ever shown such concern for her welfare. Her grandparents did not deserve such a gift. Again he marveled, this time at how she had turned out to be such a kind, intelligent, well-adjusted woman after suffering the indifference of her guardians for so long.

“I appreciate the gesture—” she touched his cheek with trembling, icy fingers “—but there’s no need for you to go back out in this rain. It’s only half a block. And I’m not sugar. I won’t melt.”

He took her hand and warmed her fingers with his breath before leaning close to whisper in her ear, “You are the sweetest thing I have ever known.”

Before she could object further, he handed a couple of bills to the driver, opened his door and pulled her outside and under an awning. “I am not leaving you to slip about in this muck.” Once he was sure of their footing he asked after their destination. “Your building is the third from the end?”

She nodded and pointed across the street. Keeping her door in sight, he tucked her close to his side and prompted, “Run.”

She ran, ducking her head and staying close, allowing him to lead the way. He managed to get them safely inside and up the two stories to her apartment.

Once inside they stood in the small entry staring at each other and dripping. She looked like a drenched kitten, all big eyes and water flattened hair. The corner of her mouth twitched, turning up. And then they were both laughing. She wrapped her arms around his waist and held on, giggling madly.

He held her, shaking with a mirth he hadn’t experienced in years. He realized he’d been so focused on his career these last few years, he’d become a bit staid. She engaged his emotions, brought him to life.

And as soon as the DNA test confirmed her parentage, she’d be forever out of his reach.

The sobering thought cut short his merriment. He bumped his forehead against hers. “You need to get out of those wet clothes.”

“Yes!” She backed up, white fingers going to the buttons of her coat. But she was shaking too hard for her fingers to work.

He gently pushed her hands aside and unbuttoned her coat himself. “Where is the shower?”

She pointed down the hall and he turned her and steered her in the direction she’d indicated. Inside the pink and white tiled room, he reached into the tub and turned on the hot water. Next he grasped the bottom of her sweater and pulled the sodden garment over her head. Finally he released the button, unzipped her jeans and helped her step free.

The fact she made no protest told him how far gone she was. Left in a soft pink camisole and tiny white panties, she shook uncontrollably. Under the camisole and a near transparent bra her nipples jutted against the material, her lush breasts jiggling with the force of her shivers.

He wanted nothing more than to shuck his clothes and help warm her by joining her under the steaming flow of water.

“Your l-lips are b-blue,” she chattered.

He had to unclench his teeth to answer. “I am fine. My own shower awaits at my hotel.” He tested the temperature of the water. “Step in. As you warm up, you can turn up the hot water.”

She shook her head and opened a cupboard. Pulling out a handful of towels, she dropped one on the floor, and thrust the rest into his arms.

“Strip. D-dry off. You can have the sh-shower after me.” Without waiting for a response, she stepped into the shower, bra, panties and all, and drew the curtain closed.

A moment later the undergarments were dropped onto the towel she’d placed on the floor. Leaving her naked behind the curtain. He swallowed hard, his temperature spiking with the image painted on his mind.

He should reject her decree and head back to the hotel, but a glance in the fogging mirror confirmed he was blue around the fins. No, gills? Yes, gills. It was a saying his maternal grandfather, a sea merchant, would appreciate.

Regardless, staying was a really bad idea. The two of them alone, out of their clothes, the chemistry between them stronger than ever—it was a recipe for passion.

Yeah, he’d blathered on about being a man versus a soldier, juggling duty against desire, and he’d stolen a few kisses. But their relations had not gone beyond what was safe. If he stayed that would change.

And still he reached for the hem of his shirt and drew it over his head.

Giving in, because the bottom line was that he wanted to stay. Because every second with her could be his last. He would not lose this opportunity to know her before the soldier he was took over from the man.

The heat against his bare skin felt good, but Amanda in his arms would feel even better. He looked longingly at the shower.

* * *

Water sluiced over Amanda. She strained to hear if Xavier had stayed, if even now he was naked on the other side of the curtain. She hoped so. She’d been too cold to be thinking of her seduction plans when she told him to strip.

But now—after scrubbing every inch of her body, chaffing her skin until feeling returned, gritting her teeth through the adjustment of her temperature to that of the water—now she finally felt warm again, the thought of him nude and waiting made her steamy in a whole new way.

She reached for the shower curtain but stopped, slicking her fingers through her hair instead. All too soon he would be gone, and already she cared too much.

Making love would elevate their relationship to a whole new level. Was she ready for the change?

This had to be her decision, one she made thinking responsibly and not as a knee-jerk reaction against her grandmother, or for a sense of camaraderie with her mother.

Searching her heart, she recognized a fear of being hurt. And a certainty that she wanted him beyond all doubt. It came down to what she would regret more—something she did, or something she didn’t do?

With the adrenalin coursing through her blood, and her hormones running hot, there was no real choice to be made.

Passion making her bold, she swept back the curtain. And looked straight into Xavier’s molten eyes. Eyes filled with a longing hot enough to make her toes curl.

Her only cover the steam drifting through the room, she flushed under his fiery regard. He’d followed her orders, standing proudly before her in nothing but a towel.

Moisture glistened on the wide, tanned breadth of his shoulders and the defined muscles of his chest. Her gaze followed a thin line of dark hair past his six-pack, to the pink towel clinging to lean hips, and down to his long, bare feet.

He should look silly wrapped in the pretty pastel, but it did nothing to diminish his masculinity. In fact, the tented material declared his arousal without apology.

Her body reacted to his, chasing away any lingering doubts. She held her hand out, beckoning to him.

“Let me warm you up,” she urged him.

His gaze holding hers, he loosened the towel, let it drop.

She bit her lip. He was so beautiful. So male. She’d never been so hot for anyone in her life.

She held out her hand, thrilled when he took it and joined her in the tub. She melted into him, sighing as she lifted her mouth to his. His lips parted over hers and he claimed her as his.

Time stopped as her body ignited. His kiss held a note of urgency she echoed with every atom of her being. He tugged the curtain over, closing them in a steamy world of flowing water, slick skin, and heated kisses.

Tongues tangled as water rained over them. She traced his muscles, digging her fingers into his back. He held her secure even as his hands roamed with erotic intent. Her breath caught on a gasp as his fingers drove her onto her toes with sizzling sensation.

How exciting to be craved to the point of desperation. He made her feel beautiful and sexy. She looped her arms around his neck letting him take them to the next level of passion.

He gave her everything she asked for, gave her more than she knew to want. As water poured over them, adding a sensual level to nerves already sensitive to touch, he claimed her with raw passion. And she gloried in his abandonment.

* * *

She melted against him in the aftermath of ecstasy. Only her heart worked, thundering in her chest, matching the wild beat of his own heart under where her head lay on his chest.

He moved and the water ceased.

She groaned and made a serious effort to lift her head, to stand. Both attempts failed.

“Sorry,” she said without opening her eyes. “Can’t move.”

“I’ve got you.” He kissed her head.

She sighed. He had her.

He lifted her up and out of the tub, managed to absorb her weight while drying them both. Wrapping her in a towel he carried her to the couch where he propped her in the corner to brush out her hair.

And she discovered she’d been wrong. So wrong.

Yes, making love with him increased the level of their relationship, but she had underestimated the full sense of intimacy the experience gave her. How totally connected to him she felt.

An attachment that only grew with his tender care as he dried her hair and carried her down the hall to her bedroom. He set her gently on her feet, loosened the towel until it fell free, and then tucked her under the covers. She cuddled into the comforter with a sigh.

So much for making a responsible decision. She may not have been swayed by her grandmother or mother, but she hadn’t been clear-headed either.

Somewhere along the line he’d pulled his pants on, but his bare shoulders were silhouetted against the pale yellow curtains. He sat down beside her, reached for her hand.

“Hey, where have you gone?”

Caught up in the heat of the moment, she’d allowed passion to dictate her actions. Unaccustomed to such want, her body had overcome common sense.

“Amanda?”

“I’m sorry.” She focused on their linked hands. “I really enjoyed today.”

“But you’re worn out and want me to leave?”

“Yes. No.” She plucked at the sheet with her free hand. “I don’t know.”

He lifted her chin and made her meet his gaze. “Regrets, Amanda?”

“No.” And she meant it. Her second thoughts were not about regret. “Concerns. Ahh hum.” A big yawn interrupted her and she grinned sheepishly. “Sorry.”

He pressed a finger to her lips, shushing her. “No need. The cold, dashing through the rain spikes the adrenaline. Now your body needs to decompress. You need to rest.”

“What about you?” she asked as he ran his thumb over the palm of her hand. She wanted him to stay, but she also recognized the need to think clearly, which was tough to do with him around.

“I am trained to withstand the effects of adrenaline.” He squeezed her hand. He wore his unreadable soldier’s face, making it impossible for her to know what he was thinking, feeling.

“You fear being hurt?”

She nodded, wondering if he held the same concerns. Did he have regrets? The idea that he might hurt immeasurably.

“It’s okay. I understand if you’re tired and want to leave.” She bit her lip, suddenly uncertain, and aware of her fluctuating reasoning. But what if the most exciting experience of her life hadn’t been as good for him?

“Thanks for taking such good care of me.” She wasn’t as good at hiding her emotions, but she made an effort, forcing a brave smile.

One dark brow lifted. “Ah,
ma petite
. It is my pleasure.”

Abruptly he bent and gave her a savage kiss. She hummed her approval, thriving under his intensity. Totally primal, he kissed her as if he had to or die. It was passion with an edge, a claiming that marked her clear to her toes, which dug into the sheets and pushed her further into his arms.

No longer sleepy, as sensation ignited her blood and sent tingles along her nerves, she arched into his embrace. He had one knee on the bed as he leaned over her. She searched his gaze as she looked into her own heart.

“Do you want me to stop?” he asked.

In answer she looped her arms around those broad, bare shoulders and rolled, bringing him down on top of her in the bed.

“No regrets,” she declared and kissed his chest and then his chin. “You’re mine for now.”

“Yes.” A low growl emitted from deep in his chest. “May the Lord help us both.”

* * *

Xavier woke to a dark room lit by a single lamp with a creamy yellow shade. He tossed back the white comforter with orange and yellow flowers and planted bare feet on a muted orange rug. Along with the white furnishings, it was fresh and clean and welcoming.

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