Guarded Hearts, Part 10

Summary: Croquet, cronuts, and smut, oh my! 

Notes: I again used a lot of the original PB dialogue, but I bedazzled it a bit. This is a long post but, as promised, this section has some smutty, smutty smut. Enjoy!

New to the series? Catch up here: Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8 , Part 9


“Have you ever played before?” Liam asked, noting the way Alice was staring at the croquet mallet.

“Can’t say I have,” Alice admitted.

Liam smiled warmly at her. “No worries, just follow my lead. Hit your ball through the same hoop as mine, and you’ll be fine.”

“Just so we’re clear, hoops are the little arches in the ground right?” Alice asked.

“Right,” he said. “See, you’re a natural! And come on, we’re up.”

Liam lined up his mallet with the croquet ball before smoothly knocking it through one of the hoops. He stepped back to allow Alice access to her ball, leaning in briefly to speak softly into her ear.

“Try to relax,” he said encouragingly. “You’ve got this.”

Alice lined up her mallet with the ball and couldn’t help but think of The Shining.

Stop being so morbid, she scolded herself. Focus. She took an even breath and gently hit the ball, successfully knocking it through the hoop.

“Nice swing,” Liam congratulated her with a grin, gently placing a hand on her lower back.

“I have an excellent teacher,” she said, overly aware of Liam’s touch as well as Bastien standing to the side, watching the game.

The game continued through the circuit and as Liam prepared to take his turn, Alice noticed Madeleine and the queen deep in conversation. Alice glanced over towards the Beaumonts and saw Bertrand attempting to mouth instructions to her. She furrowed her brow, confused, and Bertrand sighed, exasperated. Alice glanced over at Maxwell who subtly pointed to the other two women and gestured for her to join them. She nodded and casually approached the elegant women.

“Am I interrupting anything?” Alice asked politely, lapsing briefly into the friendly customer service she usually reserved for waiting tables.

“No,” Madeleine said, her dignified voice tinged with an air of inconvenience at having to include Alice. “We were simply discussing how to best undress when meeting with ministers during the coucher.”

“We do what now?” Alice asked. She knew there had to be a reasonable meaning for what Madeleine had just said, but her mind immediately swan dove into the gutter as the queen chuckled.

“Oh, goodness, Madeleine. You’re too funny,” the queen said.

“Forgive me, Alice,” Madeleine said with a cold smile. “It was only a joke. I hope you won’t begrudge us a small laugh at your expense.”

“Not at all.” Cunt.

“Now, let’s give Alice the opportunity to speak her mind,” the queen said as Liam hit his croquet ball. “Tell me your thoughts on governance, my dear.”

“Governance is an art lost on most,” Alice said smoothly. She felt like a kid trying to bullshit their way through a book report without having read the book.

“A sad truth,” the queen said somberly as she nodded her head.

“Indeed,” Alice agreed.

“Alice, you’re up,” Liam called over to her. She glanced over and saw the prince wave her over to the end of the circuit. Alice joined him, the mallet swinging gently by her side as she walked. Redrum…redrum…redrum…

“No pressure or anything, but if you hit the peg in the center, we’ll win the game,” Liam said, pointing. Alice grinned.

“Piece of cake,” she declared confidently. “I can definitely make that.”

Alice lined up her shot, aiming carefully for the center peg. She wanted to look up at Bastien for encouragement, but she knew there were too many curious eyes around her so instead, she took a steadying breath before she swung. The mallet connected with the ball, which sailed towards the center pin, pinging against it for the win. The watching crowd clapped politely as Liam joined Alice at her side.

“Nice shot, partner,” Liam said with a grin, putting a hand on her back. Alice could hear the shutters of cameras clicking wildly behind her.

“I’m glad you had the guts to finish the game,” the queen said with an approving smile as she and Madeleine joined Alice and Liam. “Too many ladies have thrown the game on purpose to impress me. That’s why I decided to make it a point to lose this match.”

Oh, come on, just let me have the win! Alice thought, keeping her face arranged in a polite expression while mentally rolling her eyes.

“It was a test,” the queen continued, “and you passed. I’m sure we’ll have times in the future where we’ll find ourselves on opposing sides. Next time, thought, I expect we won’t be simply playing croquet…and I won’t be holding back.”

Alice nodded, smiling slightly to bely the fact she’d certainly noticed the threat. This wasn’t the first time that day the queen had said something cryptic, and Alice couldn’t help but wonder what actually lay beneath that composed facade–and what the queen’s true goal really was.

The queen bid Alice and the other suitors farewell before leaving with Madeleine in tow. Without meaning to, Alice exhaled the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. She heard Liam chuckle beside her.

“The tough part is over,” he said with a grin. “Want to go sit down for a while?”

“Sure, I’ll be there in a moment,” Alice said. Liam nodded and headed over to one of the tables under the crisp white tent where Drake and Hana were already sitting. Alice tried to glance surreptitiously at Bastien, but when she turned around, she saw someone else entirely.

“Lady Alice Ayers,” Tariq said, standing slightly too close to her. “Fancy seeing you here.”

“I’m a suitor, where else would I be,” Alice said tersely, ending her question with the finality of a statement. “Let me guess, next you’re going to say something original like ‘what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?’”

Tariq laughed as he adjusted one of his cufflinks. “Oh, I don’t think so. You strike me as much more of a bad girl than a nice girl.”

Alice smiled politely for the sake of propriety, but her eyes were steely as she lowered her voice. “Tariq, if you don’t stay away from me, I’m going to shove my foot so far up your ass I’ll be able to kick you in the teeth.”

“Ooh, don’t threaten me with a good time,” Tariq said. “You know, I–”

“Excuse me, sir,” Bastien said as he joined them. “I believe your father is looking for you.”

“Ah,” Tariq said. “Excuse me, Lady Alice. I have to go, but I’d love to continue this later.”

“I’d rather gouge out my own eyes with a rusty spoon,” Alice said sweetly. Tariq smirked and left, leaving Bastien and Alice alone. “Thank you for the rescue,” she said.

“Are you okay?” Bastien asked. Alice didn’t miss the way his eyes flicked down to her wrist, the fading bruises covered once again by a bracelet.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she said. “He’s just an asshole.”

Bastien smirked. “You’re not wrong.” He casually surveyed the party, maintaining a professional expression on his face. “You should get back to the others,” he said.

She nodded. “Thanks again.”

“Of course, Lady Alice.”

They separated and Alice fought the frown that threatened to crease her forehead and give her away. She knew they needed to maintain distance in public, but the formality of their interaction felt a little disappointing. She’d nearly reached the table when she felt her phone buzz in her clutch. Alice pulled out her phone and read the text she’d just received, a quote from Anna Karenina:

“He stepped down, trying not to look at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.”

“What are you smiling at?” Hana asked.

“What?” Alice asked, remembering herself. “Oh, my friend just sent me a funny text. It’s nothing. Anyway, how are you enjoying the party?”

“It’s lovely,” Hana said with a warm smile. “You both played well in the game,” she added, gesturing for Alice to sit beside her.

“Can you believe that was Alice’s first time playing croquet?” Liam asked as Alice took a sip of water. “I think she might be conning us all.”

Alice nearly choked on her water and quickly turned her coughs into laughter. “That’s right, I’m a regular hustler,” she joked. Christ, Alice, get it together, she scolded herself.

“I bet you’re a pool shark, too,” Drake said as he took a sip of his whiskey, the ice cubes clinking within the glass.

“Well, I am a bartender,” Alice conceded as staff members delivered hot tea, cream, and tiny tea sandwiches to the table.

“Hey! We finally get to eat!” Maxwell exclaimed as he claimed the last open seat at the table.

“If you can call this eating,” Drake said as he popped one of the small sandwiches into his mouth.

“Drake, I think I agree with you,” Alice said as she nibbled on a tea sandwich. “These are good, but they don’t seem very substantial.”

“Thank you, somebody who understands,” Drake said. Alice couldn’t be sure, but his sarcasm seemed to momentarily give way to relief at having an ally.

“I’m just used to something a little more…hearty, I suppose,” Alice said. “I mean, you know what Americans are like, we’re notorious for huge portion sizes.”

Maxwell waved away her protests and shoved a small plate with extra sandwiches in front of her. “Anyway, onto the big question,” he said. “Do you think you impressed the queen?”

Alice shrugged. “I think so, but it’s hard to say. She’s very…stoic,” she said slowly, glancing at Liam out of the corner of her eye. The last thing she wanted to do was offend Liam by talking shit about his stepmother, but he smiled at her.

“Indeed she is,” Liam agreed.

“This is fantastic!” Maxwell said happily as he dumped nearly half the pot of cream into his teacup. “It’s like watching a bird learn to fly on its own.”

“Or headfirst into an airplane engine,” Alice added, causing Drake to choke with laughter on his whiskey.

“I, for one, think you performed quite gracefully in front of her,” Liam said. Then he frowned. “I must admit though, I’m a little surprised to see Madeleine here. Not that I’m upset or anything,” he said quickly. “But it’s strange to see her as a suitor again after she was engaged to Leo.”

“That’s your brother?” Alice asked. Liam nodded and was about to open his mouth to say more when Drake cut in.

“We have a more pressing problem,” Drake interrupted. “All the little sandwiches are gone, and I’m still starving.”

“Not to worry, there’s more food waiting for us back at the palace,” Maxwell said as he took a sip of his cream with a splash of tea.

“But I’m sure we can find you a drive thru to get a Happy Meal if you’re going to be too fussy to wait,” Alice added, causing a ripple of laughter around the table. Drake made a face at her, but she could see him hiding a smile as he took another sip of whiskey. “Although I have to admit, I could definitely go for a cronut right now.”

“A what?” Liam asked, confused.

“I think you mean donut, Alice,” Hana added kindly.

“You’ve never had a cronut?” Alice asked. Everyone shook their heads. “It’s basically the inside of a croissant mixed with the glazed outside of a donut,” she explained. “It sounds ridiculous, but my friend, Frankie, convinced me to try one and I have to admit, it’s amazing.”

“It sounds…very American,” Maxwell said.

“New York specifically,” Alice said. “My beloved city is always trying to find new ways to reinvent the pastry wheel and every once in a while, they actually come up with something good. We should go get some! Especially if none of you have tried one before.”

“While that sounds like quite an adventure, I don’t think the schedule will allow for it,” Liam said, his face falling slightly.

“Okay, well…how about we go for a little jailbreak tonight?” Alice suggested. “If you think we could sneak out of the palace, I noticed a nearby bakery on the way here that was advertising them.”

“That does sound fun…” Hana agreed. Everyone looked at Liam, whose face broke into a wide grin.

“I’m in,” he said. “If Leo could sneak out all those times, how hard could it be?”


That night, Alice waited outside the palace with Hana, Drake, and Maxwell. The air was cooler than she’d anticipated and she zipped up her leather jacket. Drake smirked.

“If you’re cold now, you’re in for a shock tomorrow,” he said.

“Why, what’s tomorrow?” Alice asked, turning to Maxwell.

“We’re heading north to Lythikos!” Maxwell said, although Alice couldn’t help notice that his enthusiasm sounded forced. “It’s really beautiful and snowy there and it should be a lot of fun…”

“But…” Alice prompted.

“But…Lythikos is where the Nevrakises live,” Maxwell said. “Olivia is hosting us.”

Alice waved her hand dismissively. “I can handle Olivia.”

“If you say so, Ayers,” Drake said doubtfully.

“It’s true!” Hana piped up. “Alice is tougher than you give her credit for, Drake.”

“Liam is taking a while,” Maxwell interrupted, clearly changing the subject.

“Well, he is the prince,” Drake said. “We’ll be lucky if he can sneak out at all.”

“There he is!” Hana said brightly, pointing to an approaching figure.

“Sorry that took a while,” Liam said as he joined them. “It’s been a while since I’ve had to sneak out my own bedroom window. I nearly fell into the rose bushes,” he added with a laugh.

“Well, now that you’ve survived the landscaping, it’s time for the real adventure,” Alice said, looping her arm through his.

“You’re not going to start skipping like in The Wizard of Oz, are you?” Drake asked.

“Sorry, Tin Man, you’re on your own,” Alice said. “Shall we?”

A little while later, the group found themselves walking along a beachside street. The sound of the rolling tide accompanied them like music as they made their way towards a small pastry shop, shoes scrunching over errant dustings of sand that had blown onto the sidewalk.

“Is it just me, or is it more fun to be out at night when you’re also breaking the rules?” Maxwell asked.

“I think it’s more fun when you know you’re headed to something delicious,” Hana said.

“Yes, that,” Alice said, tapping her nose and pointing to Hana.

“It does feel pretty great to be out without a crowd,” Liam agreed. “After a day spent answering to the press and Regina, this feels like sweet freedom.”

“Did somebody say sweet?” Alice asked, dramatically gesturing to the bakery. Drake rolled his eyes.

“That was pretty cheesy,” he said as he reached for the door, holding it open for the group.

“Thanks, Tin Man,” Alice said as she entered last.

“When did we agree that that was my nickname?” Drake asked.

“I’m sorry, would you prefer the Cowardly Lion?” Alice asked innocently. “Or Scarecrow?”

“Can I choose D, none of the above?” Drake asked. Before Alice could answer, Maxwell made an announcement to the bakery.

“We need all of your finest cronuts, please!” Maxwell called loudly to the employees.

“I think you’re supposed to go to the counter, not just shout from the doorway,” Hana said gently.

“Like normal people,” Drake added. Alice rolled her eyes at Drake and headed for the counter. Soon, she returned with a tray of warm cronuts and set them in the center of the table before taking her seat between Hana and Drake.

“How do you carry that tray with just one hand?” Hana asked, impressed.

“Years of practice,” Alice said. “A bunch of pastries is no big deal. You should see me with eight full martini glasses–now that takes skill.”

“You’re a woman of many talents,” Liam said. “And these look delicious,” he added, turning his attention to the cronuts.”

“What’s more important is how they taste,” Drake said, picking a pastry off the tray. Everyone else followed suit and picked up a cronut.

“Should we cheers?” Hana asked. Alice smiled at her.

“Absolutely.” Drake opened his mouth to complain but instead winced when Alice kicked him in the shin under the table. “One…two…thr–”

“Oh my god, this is delicious!” Maxwell declared through a mouthful of food.

“Maxwell!” Drake groaned, glaring at him.

“I regret nothing,” Maxwell said as he took another bite. “This is incredible.”

“I really must take some of these back home,” Hana said after she swallowed her first bite. “I’ve never tasted anything so light and fluffy and sweet!”

“This rivals the finest pastries from the palace chefs,” Liam said, raising his voice slightly so the employees could hear his praise. “Look, even Drake is smiling.”

Everyone turned and stared at Drake who froze, mid-chew.

“What?” he asked, a blush rising in his cheeks. “I like a good dessert.”

“The last time I had something this good, Bertrand hired a pastry chef from a Michelin-starred restaurant to make his birthday cake,” Maxwell said.

“Wait a second,” Alice said, pointing at Maxwell with half of a cronut. “Are you saying that Bertrand used to actually have fun?”

“Yeah,” he said with a smile as he swallowed a bite. “He wasn’t always like he is now.”

“There was a time when Bertrand would’ve been here with us tonight,” Liam agreed, nodding.

“Really?” Alice asked.

“Yes,” Liam said. “We were all close once. But he’s grown distant in the past few years..” He trailed off, losing himself in thought.

“Bertrand’s gonna be fine, he’s just sorting some things out,” Maxwell said quickly. Too quickly, Alice noted, but she said nothing. “You know what? I think I’ll bring him back a cronut.”

“That’s sweet of you,” Hana said.

“It’s a noble thought, but we’ll see if that cronut actually makes it back to the palace,” Drake said.

“I hope you’re not implying I’d eat my brother’s cronut,” Maxwell said with exaggerated innocence.

“Oh, I’m not implying, I’m outright accusing,” Drake said.

Maxwell grinned. “Well, it’s the thought that counts anyway, right?”

After they’d finished their pastries and Maxwell had ordered an additional cronut for Bertrand, the group left the warm, sugary air of the bakery and headed out into the coastal night. They’d barely gone half a block before they saw a figure emerge from the shadows.

“Bastien!” Liam said in surprise. “What are you doing here?”

Alice focused all of her effort on behaving normally, but she was curious about that as well.

“I couldn’t let you go out without security, Prince Liam,” Bastien said.

This is normal for me to look at him right now, Alice assured herself, feeling like a complete idiot. It is normal to look at someone when they are speaking. This is not something that will tip anyone off that something is going on. She was fairly certain she was on the verge of her master plan imploding.

“But how did you even know we left?” Liam asked, disappointed.

“Please, Your Highness,” Bastien said with a smile. “I was assigned to your brother before this. I’ve seen every trick in the book.”

“I’m sorry to have troubled you,” Liam said sincerely. Alice felt a little bad that Bastien had had to follow them, but she couldn’t regret it too much since it meant seeing him again.

“Like I said, I was assigned to your brother,” Bastien said. “Compared to him, you’re hardly any trouble at all. But…”

“But we should be getting back,” Liam said.

Bastien nodded. “You go on ahead. I’ll trail behind and keep an eye on things.”

“Thank you, Bastien,” Liam said as he turned to continue down the street. As they group walked, Alice let herself fall a few steps behind so she was at the back of the group. Once she was behind everyone else, she glanced over her shoulder at Bastien. She smiled at him and he winked at her before composing his face and returning his attention to the group.

“Ayers.”

Alice looked over to see Drake who had slowed to walk beside her.

“I have to admit, this was a good idea,” he said.

Alice gasped. “Are you…complimenting me?” she asked with overly dramatized shock.

“I can admit when someone else is right,” he said, a little indignantly. “It’s one of my charms.”

“I didn’t know you had any. Charms, I mean.”

Drake chuckled. “You’re kind of funny, you know that?”

“Did you just almost compliment me for the second time in under two minutes?” Alice asked. “Slow down, I might almost think you can tolerate me.”

“I like you when you’re not trying to play princess,” Drake said. Alice considered this for a moment, trying to decide if she was offended or not. She’d nearly made up her mind when Maxwell called back to them from the head of the group.

“Hey! You two are falling behind. Catch up or we’ll leave you!”

Alice wished she could get left behind and ride back with Bastien, but she knew Liam wouldn’t leave without her. And neither, it was starting to seem, would Drake.

Bastien, from behind the group, noticed this as well.


Later that night, Bastien lay back on his bed in his quarters. He was clad only in a pair of gray sweats as he held a book, trying to read instead of letting his thoughts stray somewhere he didn’t want them to go. He couldn’t stop thinking about Liam resting his hand on Alice’s back, and it seemed that the rest of the country couldn’t either. He’d read the news headline on his phone shortly after the garden party and the words kept scrolling through his mind.

AMERICAN BEAUTY CAPTURES CORDONIA’S ATTENTION

The photo beneath it had been taken immediately after Alice and Liam had won the croquet game. They were smiling at one another, frozen on film as they congratulated each other on their victory. Bastien had known it wouldn’t be a good idea to read the article, but he had. Several times, if he was honest. The press had not only been taken with Alice at the races, but they’d noticed Liam’s interest as well and the article demarcated her as the clear frontrunner.

It is still very early in the social season, but our beloved crown prince does not seem to even be aware that other ladies are vying for his affection.”

Bastien set his book aside with a sigh as he stared up at the ceiling. He knew he had to hold it together; it was only going to get harder, not easier. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt like this about a woman. Bastien wasn’t sure he ever had.

A soft knock echoed against his door and he stood up immediately, walking quickly to cross the room. He opened the door and there stood Alice, a hoodie thrown on over her yoga pants.

“Did anyone see you?” Bastien asked quietly, glancing up and down the hallway. She shook her head and he smiled, opening the door to allow her entry. He closed it quickly and immediately wrapped his arms around her waist, capturing her lips in a kiss. For a moment, his mind finally went quiet and he lost himself in the feel of her.

“Show me your place!” Alice said when she finally broke their kiss. Bastien smiled.

“It’s not much. Certainly not as fancy as your room,” Bastien said as he took her hand, lacing his fingers in between hers. He turned and gestured to the space. “This is…pretty much it.”

Alice looked around at what was essentially a large studio apartment, with a small kitchen area, bed, sitting area, and a door on the other side of the room that presumably led to a bathroom. It wasn’t gilded the way other rooms in the palace were, but Alice immediately felt more at ease in here than she had anywhere else since arriving in Cordonia. Bastien’s personality was evident everywhere, from the dark wood furniture to the bookcase crammed with paperbacks.

“I love it,” she declared. “It’s very you.”

Bastien smiled and kissed the back of her hand before he let go and walked over to the couch, sitting down heavily.

“Hey, did I say the wrong thing? What happened?” Alice asked gently, sitting down beside him. “I meant that as a compliment.”

“No, it’s not that,” Bastien said. He hesitated. “The press seems to like you quite a bit,” Bastien continued, forcing a smile on his face.

“Bertrand will be thrilled,” she said, brushing his hair back with her fingertips.

“They also seem to like you with Liam quite a bit.”

“Bastien.”

“I’m sorry, I’m not usually like this,” he said, blushing slightly. “I’m not a jealous man. I don’t know why I’m acting like this now.”

“I think we’re both in unfamiliar territory,” Alice said. “But I’m here for you.” He didn’t meet her gaze so she climbed on top of him, straddling his lap as she took his face in her hands. “Hey.”

“Hey.” He smiled at her. “I’m fine, I promise. I just…Liam’s a nice kid.” Drake, too. “And you have a chance to be royalty. Are you sure you want this,” Bastien asked as he gestured around the room, “when you could have so much more?”

“I want you,” she said simply. “That’s what I want.” She hesitated for a moment, choosing her words carefully. “I want you to be able to talk to me whenever you feel like this. But I also need you to believe me when I tell you that you’re the one I want. You have to trust me if there’s a chance of this working out.”

He smiled. “I do. I promise.”

She kissed him, pressing herself against him. Alice felt his hands slide up her thighs before circling around to her lower back, his fingers slipping under the hem of her shirt and hoodie to graze her bare skin.

“Is there anything else I can do to make you feel better, Dorian?” she murmured, her lips grazing along his cheekbone to his ear. He smiled, burying his face against her neck as his hands slid further up her back.

“I already feel so good here with you,” he said, his lips sliding along the curve of her throat. “What else could I need?”

Alice smirked and pulled away, evading his grasp as she stood up in front of him. She slowly removed her hoodie and shirt at the same time, revealing nothing but bare skin beneath her cozy layers. She heard Bastien suck a sharp breath as she dropped her clothes to the floor before she took her time, pulling her long blonde hair over one shoulder before she hooked her thumbs in the waistband of her yoga pants. Alice flicked her eyes to Bastien, a bolt of warmth shooting through her as she watched him rub a hand over his tented sweats as he stared at her, eyes rapt with attention. She slowly slid her pants down over her hips, slipping them over her curves before letting them fall to the floor. Alice kicked them aside and slowly sank to her knees, clad only in a scrap of black fabric masquerading as a thong. Starting at his knees, Alice put her hands flat on the tops of Bastien’s thighs, sliding them up to his bare torso. She leaned forward, kissing the hardened muscles of his abs softly, feeling the shift in his breathing when her lips touched his skin.

“I want to make sure you remember that I’m yours,” she said softly, her warm breath tickling his flesh as she hooked her fingers in the waistband of his sweats. Alice pulled down the fabric in painstakingly small increments, her tongue blessing each new bit of exposed skin. Her pace was so slow that Bastien felt like his nerves were on fire, crackling with anticipation until she finally pulled his sweats off, tossing them to the side to join her own clothes. Alice then began to kiss her way up along his inner thighs, up one leg and then the other. By the time she finally took his hard length in her hands, Bastien could barely stay seated. She cupped his balls with one hand while she slowly massaged his cock with the other, taking her time as Bastien groaned at her touch.

When she finally took him in her mouth, Bastien grunted with pleasure as his hips bucked slightly, knotting his fingers in her hair. He let his head fall back against the couch as she caressed him with her tongue, hollowing her cheeks.

“Fuck, Alice…” Bastien whispered, his voice hoarse.

She responded by humming softly as she worked on him, the vibrations causing him to squirm with pleasure. He gathered her hair in his hands, pulling it back from her face so he could watch her as she sucked his cock. Before long, his breath was coming faster and he knew his body wasn’t far behind.

“I’m close,” he gasped, preparing to pull back from her, but instead Alice steadied his hips, holding him in place as she continued, her head bobbing faster than before. She looked up at him, her gaze locking onto his, and that was all he needed. He came hard and she swallowed him down, slowing down to ensure she licked every last drop of cum from his cock before finally releasing him. Sweat glistened on his skin as Bastien pulled Alice back up onto the couch beside him, capturing her lips in a searing kiss. He was still breathing hard when he finally broke away, resting his forehead against hers.

“Do you believe me yet?” she teased, kissing the salt from his skin. He chuckled.

“Yes,” he said. “But I think it’s time I showed you I’m yours.”

“Oh yeah?” she asked. “What’d you have in mind?”

“Get on the bed.”


Later, as they lay tangled in each other’s arms beneath the blankets of Bastien’s bed, Alice rolled over to check the time on the clock.

“I should get going,” Alice said. “Maxwell is likely going to be kicking down my bedroom door in a few hours to get ready for the trip to Lythikos.”

Bastien sighed, pulling her down into a kiss. “I wish you could stay here.”

“I know, I do, too,” Alice said. “But…”

“I know,” he said with a smile, gently kissing the tip of her nose. “But if you could, I’d make you breakfast in the morning.”

“Well, much like a puppy, I am very food-motivated,” she said with a grin, making him laugh. “What do you normally have for breakfast?”

“Black coffee,” he said with a shrug. “But I promise I’m a very good cook and I could make you whatever you wanted.”

Alice smiled, biting her lip as she looked at him. “So let me get this straight: you’re incredibly sexy, you’re well read, and you can cook?” She narrowed her eyes with playful suspicion. “Have you been reading my diary?”

“So you think I’m sexy?” he asked with a grin, slowly sliding a hand up over her hip. She rolled her eyes.

“Of course that’s the part you focused–” her words melted into a small gasp as his fingers stroked between her legs, still sensitive from her last orgasm.

“Someday,” Bastien said in a low voice as he slipped a finger inside of her, then another. “You’ll be able to stay for as long as you like.” He began to slowly pump his fingers in her as he kissed her neck. “We can sleep late…I’ll cook for you…” Alice moaned softly, pushing her hips against his hand, begging for more. Bastien curled his fingers slightly as he moved them, watching the pleasure flicker across her face. “Most importantly, I’ll make sure you won’t ever want to get out of this bed.”

“Mission already accomplished,” she murmured against his mouth before kissing him deeply.

“However…” Bastien said with a wicked grin, pulling his hand away from her despite her whine of protest. “Like you said, you should head back to your room.”

Alice stared at him in disbelief before flopping back on the pillow, thoroughly exasperated despite the arousal she felt as she watched him suck the taste of her from his fingers.

“You are such a tease!” she exclaimed, making him laugh.

“If I were a tease, I would’ve left you completely unsatisfied,” Bastien countered as he climbed out of bed. Alice watched as he stretched before walking over to the couch to retrieve his sweats. Part of her still couldn’t believe that one man could be that overwhelmingly attractive. “But if I’m not mistaken, that isn’t the case. How many was it, three?”

“Four.”

“Ah, yes, that’s right,” he said smugly, pulling up his sweats. Bastien walked back over to the bed. He looked at her for a moment, golden hair spread out across his pillow, and marveled again at the woman who was choosing him in spite of everything. Without warning, he suddenly reached out and yanked the blankets off the bed, causing Alice to yelp in surprise as the cool air rushed over her skin. Bastien grinned and crawled onto the bed, settling on his stomach between her legs.

It took Alice nearly an hour before she finally slipped back through the sleeping palace to her own room.


Part 11


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