A Royal Without Rules(9)

By: Caitlin Crews

The sudden silence made her flinch. Pato’s mouth curved in one corner, wicked and knowing.

“It’s time to go, Your Royal Highness,” Adriana said stiffly into the quiet. She was aware, on some level, that the other woman was speaking, scowling at her. But Adriana couldn’t seem to hear a word she said. Couldn’t seem to see anything but Pato.

“You could come sit down, Adriana.” His dark brows rose in challenge as he patted the sofa cushion beside him, and she was certain he knew the very moment her nipples pulled taut in a reaction she didn’t understand. He smiled. “Watch. Enjoy. Who knows what might happen?”

“Not a single thing you’re imagining right now, I assure you,” Adriana said, struggling to control her voice.

She forced her shoulders back, stood straighter. She would not let this man best her. She couldn’t let herself feel these things, whatever they were. She had too much to prove—and too much too lose. Adriana jerked her gaze away from him, ignoring his low chuckle, and frowned at the woman, who still stood there wearing nothing but a black thong and an attitude.

“Aren’t you the ambassador’s daughter?” she asked sharply. “Should we call downstairs and ask your father what he thinks about your innovative approach to foreign policy?”

The woman made an extremely rude and anatomically challenging suggestion.

“No, thank you,” Adriana replied coolly, unable, on some level, to process the fact that she was having this conversation while gazing at this woman’s bared breasts. Not the first set of naked breasts she’d seen in Pato’s company. She could only pray it was the last. “But I’m sure that if you walked into the ballroom dressed like this you’d have a few takers. No doubt that would delight your father even further.”

Pato laughed then, rising from the couch with that sinuous masculine grace he didn’t deserve, and straightened his suit jacket with a practiced tug. He did not look at all ashamed, or even caught out. He looked the way he always did: deeply amused. Lazy and disreputable. Unfairly sexy. His darker-than-blond hair was long enough to hint at a curl, and he wore it so carelessly, as if fingers had just or were about to run through it. That wicked mouth of his made him look like a satyr, not a prince. And those golden eyes gleamed as he held her gaze, connecting with a punch to all that confused heat inside her. Making it bloom into an open flame.

“There is no need for threats, Adriana,” he said, sardonic and low, and she felt it everywhere. “Nothing would please me more than to do your bidding.”

The ambassador’s daughter moved then, plastering herself to his long, lean body, rubbing her naked breasts against his chest as she flung her arms around his neck, hooked one leg over his hip and pressed her mouth to his. He didn’t kiss her the way Adriana had once seen him kiss one of his paramours in an almost-hidden alcove in the palace—carnal and demanding and an obvious, smoking-hot prelude to what came next. This was not that, thank goodness. But he didn’t exactly fight her off, either.

“Then by all means, let’s have you do my bidding, Your Royal Highness,” Adriana said icily, everything inside her seeming to fold in on itself, like a fist. “Whenever you can tear yourself away, of course.”

Pato set the other woman aside with a practiced ease that reminded Adriana of the same dexterity he’d showed in his bed that other morning. It made that fist curl tighter. Harder. He murmured something Adriana couldn’t hear, that made the ambassador’s thonged daughter smile at him as if he’d licked her. And then he smoothed down his tie, buttoned his jacket and sauntered toward the doorway as if there wasn’t a nearly naked woman panting behind him and a formal reception he was supposed to be attending below.

Adriana stepped back to let him move into the hallway, and took more pleasure than she should have in snapping the door shut behind him. Perhaps with slightly more force than necessary.

“Temper, temper,” Pato murmured, eyeing her with laughter in that golden gaze. “And here I thought you’d be so proud of me.”

“I doubt you thought anything of the kind.” She’d never wanted to hit another human being so much in all her life. “I doubt you think. And why on earth would I be proud of this embarrassing display?”

He propped one shoulder against the closed door and waved a languid hand down the length of him, inviting her to take a long look. She declined. Mostly.

“Am I not clothed?” he asked, taunting her. Again. “‘Keep your clothes on, Your Royal Highness,’ you said in that prissy way of yours in the car on the way over tonight. I am delighted, as ever, to obey.”