Book 3 in my Winged Guardians Series. Get your copy here!
It wasn’t the first time he’d lamented being tall, or at least, too tall to make a quick and discrete exit when it was necessary. ‘Extra tall, blond white guy’ was a description that stuck out in most people’s minds, and thus obviated him from undercover work. As a member of the King’s Guard assigned to escort the future Queen, though, thankfully, that wasn’t required. Except dammit, right then, he wished it was.
Audrey—Anna? That’s right, Amelie, had been his bedmate last weekend. At almost six feet tall, the honey-blonde aspiring model, or so she’d said at the time, had been a fun diversion for a hot second. Unfortunately, that was all she was, much to her dismay at the time. He’d gone to a bar with Dev to catch the Bruins game over some wings and managed to go home with her. She was entertaining enough, a divertissement really, uncomplicated. And she wasn’t who he really wanted anyway. Not that the woman he really wanted gave him the time of day.
Now, as he stood there politely next to Lady Cora, Duchess of Corbeau, while she and her wedding planner spoke to the florist, Xander finally knew what hell was. Hell was last weekend’s hit-and-run candidate discussing bouquet arrangements and boutonnieres with the most beautifully unattainable woman in the world, one Miss Shayla De La Cruz. Even seeing them next to each other it was like storm clouds and sunshine on a field of wildflowers.
They couldn’t have been more different. The blonde was casual in a white wraparound shirt that tied in a bow at her waist over high-waist jeans that cupped her ass nicely, but Shayla… Gods forgive him, in her effervescently red dress with the sleeves that ruffled out at her elbows and beautifully clung to every single inch of her before it stopped at her knees, there was no contest. It wasn’t the same league, the same sport, not even the same planet. Just seeing her made his heart sing in rapture and his blood ignite in his veins.
Shayla barely came up to his shoulder in her sexy-ass heels, and he had to admit, the urge to cuddle her close had struck him more than once. Where Amelie was long and lean and permanently casual, Shayla was exquisitely dressed, lusciously generous curves in a way that made his palms itch. Thick black hair twisted up in a way so perfect his imagination had a backlog of scenarios for what it would take to mess it all up. She even smelled edible, a spicy peachy raspberry scent that he would know absolutely anywhere. And she never even looked at him.
The Duchess didn’t really need too much of an escort, being a retired spy and all, and he knew he was there more for show than anything else. He did not, however, sign up for the torment of watching Shayla’s full lips wrap delicately around a chocolate-covered strawberry as she took a bite that didn’t even mess up her lipstick. She was fucking magical and had him well under her spell. It was damn easy to forget that anyone else was in the room when she was there, at least until Amelie strutted over to stand next to him while Shayla and Cora conferred over whatever it was they had going.
“I didn’t know you were a Guard,” she whispered with a teasing grin, wrapping her arms around his forearm as she leaned into him. “I like a man in uniform.”
There was no point in correcting her. Faking a smile as he deftly removed her hand from his arm, Xander ducked his head to murmur in her ear, “Good to see you, too, Amelie. Unfortunately, I’m at work and need to stay focused.” As if to underscore that point, he looked around like he hadn’t been keenly aware of every single puff of wind and dead leaf on the sidewalk around the building from his guys stationed in varying places both inside with him and outside for at least a couple blocks.
“Oh, of course.” She nodded with big doe eyes. “I’ll leave you to that, but before I go…” She dug into the back pocket of her jeans, producing a business card. After pressing it to her lips, she slipped it into his jacket pocket with a wink. “Call me.”
“‘Call me,’” Cora mocked softly with a snarky wink as she slipped past him to head to the exit. “You’re like catnip to them, aren’t you?”
Rolling his eyes, he fell in beside her, checking up and down the street as he held the door for her and Shayla. “Apparently, Your Grace. It’s not on purpose, I promise.”
“Uh huh,” she snickered. “It’s that smile you get, like you’re up to something. Makes women wanna fling their panties at you.” Teasing him was a pastime for her that never got old, so far as he could tell. Of course, he’d gone out of his way to earn it when they’d first met, so he couldn’t bitch too much, really. The raven could definitely hold a grudge, though, even if it was mostly playful. Mostly.
“Could be.” Holding the SUV door, he took her hand to help her step inside, doing his best to ignore the heat in his cheeks as he blushed. On autopilot, he reached out and took Shayla’s hand as he helped her into the SUV after the Duchess. Her dark eyes met his with her whispered thanks and he wanted to whine. The barest touch of her hand and his skin felt branded with it like he was living in a damn Victorian novel. Shutting the door, he signaled to the troops that they were getting ready to roll out.
“Are the sheets even cold by the time you’re out the door?”
The penguin wedding planner’s question caught him just as he was fastening his seatbelt. He never would have expected her to pick up where the raven’s teasing had left off. Fingers paused for a moment, he dropped his head in resignation. Of all the conversations to have with her, this was the absolute last he’d ever wanted. Sighing deeply, he turned in the seat to face her, bravado firmly in place. “Why? You want a turn?” If the smirk on his lips felt a little hollow, that wasn’t something he planned to discuss.
The woman of his dreams snorted derisively with her lips pursed sourly. “On public transit? I don’t think so.”
“Alright then.” And maybe, just maybe, a tiny part of him died inside at that, but he’d never let it show. He was a professional, dammit, or at least a close enough approximation to pretend.