A Prince's Ransom: Kidnapped by the Billionaire (7 page)

“I will have to confer with His Highness about such arrangements. He did explain that this was going to be something of an unplanned, extended stay, but I cannot imagine that he meant for you to be uncomfortable.”

“Oh, no, of course not. Look, the thing is,” she started again, taking a more direct approach. “I don’t really want to be here for any sort of ‘extended stay.’ I’m just on a school trip with my college, and Eric’s intentions are kind of… unacceptable. So I would really—”

“Ah, mademoiselle, you must not worry so much!” Claire waved off her concerns and laughed. “Prince Eric is a very intelligent young man who certainly knows what he is doing. You will enjoy your time much more in our fair country here than you would on tours with a college trip!”

Katherine deflated. Of course everyone in his household was absolutely charmed with him, and would never even consider the idea that she was being held against her will or that they were aiding him. They wouldn’t be any help to her whatsoever.

Damnit.

The housekeeper returned to rambling about the palace until they made it to one of the halls far from the main entrance. They were on the fourth or fifth floor, and Katherine would absolutely get lost if she tried to navigate these halls by herself. She forced herself to pay attention, though, as the other woman fished out a bunch of keys and moved to one of the rooms. It’d better be nicer than the hotel room—which was fantastic—if she was going to be kidnapped by royalty.

“Is there a bathroom attached to the room?” she interrupted again, because at this point she really didn’t care about whatever Claire was talking about. She wanted to take a shower, a long,
long
shower, and pretend like this wasn’t all actually happening. “I’d just really like to get cleaned up before anything else…”

“Of course—it is a guest suite, mademoiselle, not just a bedroom. We normally reserve it for foreign dignitaries visiting the royal family, but as there is no one scheduled for a while, you can use it to your leisure.” Something about the housekeeper’s tone suggested that she was not pleased with Katherine interrupting her all the time, and that she was less than enthused about giving one of the best guest rooms to a commoner.

“Good to know,” she muttered in answer, pointedly falling silent as Claire unlocked the room and stepped aside to allow her entrance.

“Feel free to make yourself at home, as you Americans would say, and get cleaned up. If you need anything, there is a bell on the wall there,” she pointed near the door to the room. “Simply ring, and someone will attend you. Breakfast is normally prepared at nine in the morning. Rest well, mademoiselle.”

“Thanks,” she answered, examining the bell as she entered, then looking at the rest of the room. Her breath caught in her throat, her eyes widening at the sight of the oversized room. It was bigger than her hotel room even though that contained two king-sized beds. She couldn’t say that the bed looked more comfortable, but it certainly looked
prettier
, covered in about a dozen plush pillows of various sizes and shapes, and all the bed clothes done in a mixture of cream and warm gold. The sun had started to go down, so there were candles flickering on the desk and the small dining table in the adjacent room, their light reflected against the silken thread on the coverlet of the bed.

Hanging from the ceiling and tied back near the intricately carved wooden headboard was a tapestry that could be released to wrap around the canopy bed. The three floor-to-ceiling windows on the far side of the room were dressed with delicately pretty sheer drapes. There was a fireplace, unnecessary at this time of year, but made of white wood and gold filigree, its mantle above it filled with dozens of white roses in crystal vases. A hundreds-of-years’ old painting of the city was hung above it.

In another room, a dark rug spread out on the hardwood floor, framed by a glass-top coffee table and a loveseat.

Katherine paused as she looked around the rooms, counting no fewer than twelve vases of roses in various places. One hundred and forty-four roses, all of them the prettiest white roses she had ever seen in her life. There were multiple bookshelves, too, although a glance told her that they were written in French. In one of the corners of the room was a wing-backed chair, and a little side table that was just big enough for a cup of tea. She stepped closer to the desk, big enough to write on and have a single drawer, something for letter writing or maybe writing in a diary, since this was clearly a bedroom born out of a romantic Victorian novel.

Katherine took a deep breath and dropped her purse onto the loveseat, running her fingers through her hair. At the same time, she stepped out of her heels, flexing her toes gratefully, and plopped down hard onto the edge of the bed. Several pillows bounced free of their careful arrangement as she did, but she just sat there staring at them for a long time. Finally, she fell back across the bed with a groan.

“Okay, okay… yes, he’s a prince, yes, he’s handsome and charming and
ridiculously
loaded
, and he even made some annoyingly good points earlier,” she mumbled to herself. “But he’s still kidnapping you and basically blackmailing you or coercing you or
whatever
into marrying him, just so he doesn’t have to deal with some other woman. Just keep reminding yourself of that, Kat, and you’ll get out of this. He can’t keep you here forever if you keep refusing to give in.”

Even as she said the words, she wasn’t really sure she believed it. She pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes and silently cursed the fact that the bed
was
more comfortable than the one at the hotel. Finally, she sat back up and grappled with the zipper of her dress.

“Going to take a shower now, and get rid of this freaking lady-boner. Assholes like Eric should not be able to give anyone lady-boners,” she grumbled to herself, letting her dress spill sloppily to the floor.

Her undergarments followed suit, but she stopped absolutely naked in the doorway, staring at the bathroom. It was bigger than her dorm back. The shower, fully made of glass with the largest showerhead she had ever seen in her life, was bigger than her old bed. Everything was made of marble or quartz or something, she wasn’t sure. It didn’t really matter, this was the sort of bathroom seen in movies and stuff.

“Hoooly crap, what the hell have I gotten myself into here,” she muttered, taking a step in and then stopping when she realized the floor wasn’t cold as she’d expected. Heated flooring, of course. Katherine made herself take a deep breath. “And this is just the freakin’ guest suite. Not the rooms I would have if I was actually princess of a country.” She grimaced, imagining that had been Eric’s intention in making sure she got this room.

There was a Jacuzzi tub with jets as well, and she considered using it. She really wanted to relax, but she more wanted to collapse into bed. She was just going to stand under the showerhead for a little while and rinse away everything about the Prince’s marriage proposal, if it could even be called that.

It took a few minutes of fiddling with the shower knows before the water temperature was to her liking, then Katherine gratefully stepped into the warm water as the glass walls started to steam up. Various soaps and shampoos and washing utensils were already in the shower in a little alcove built into the marble, so as she rubbed at her face to wash off her makeup, she glanced over them from the corner of her eye.

“I had been wondering if you were actually blonde.”

Katherine’s already tentative grip on one of the bottles slipped, and she yelped as it clattered on the floor before spinning around to stare up at Eric where he watched her through the foggy glass.

“You would be cute as a brunette, although I suppose I cannot blame you for desiring to go blond. What’s that American saying? ‘Blondes have more fun’?” The Prince’s voice was teasing, but she could only stare at him, absolutely flabbergasted, until she remembered that she was naked.

“What is it with you and breaking into bathrooms?!” she demanded furiously, wrapping her arms around her breasts and stepping away from the door. “Seriously, there’s no way you
didn’t
hear the shower running, but you just waltzed in anyway?” And her clothes were all over the floor in the other room. Of course he knew she was naked.

“I came to make sure you were settling in well,” he answered nonchalantly, with a smile tugging at the side of his mouth.

“I’ve been here for all of ten minutes, I think it’s a little premature for me to have been able to settle in,” she retorted acidly, shifting uncomfortably. “Look, can you please just leave me alone, alright? All of this is a lot to take in, and I just want to take a shower and go to bed, and not think about any of this crap.”

“I imagine I could assist with that, ma chérie,” he mused softly, straightening and moving closer.

“I’ve had enough of your assistance for the day, thank you very much.”

“Have you?” Eric laughed softly, tilting his head at her in a way that was almost endearing, which if anything just made it more aggravating. Katherine took a deep breath. “It occurs to me that you are in a strange place surrounded by strange things. You have already admitted that you were unable to sleep last night because of my particular… effect upon you at the club. Perhaps I am presuming too much—”

“You are, I guarantee it,” she interrupted quickly. No more lady-boners.
No more lady-boners
.

“—but considering how our conversation ended a little while ago, I believe I might have left you in much the same position as I did previously. Not my intention, I assure you. And I would hate to be so rude two nights in a row. Allow me to ensure I haven’t been.”

“What is exactly
less rude
about barging in on me while I’m trying to take a shower?” Katherine demanded. Her heartbeat quickened when she saw that he was unbuttoning his shirt. “And let’s be a little bit real, here—you are not about to come in here because you’re worried about my uh,
desires
. This is more about
yours,
if we’re being honest. After all, one of us hasn’t actually gotten any satisfaction in the last two days, as far as I’m aware.”

Her throat tightened as he shrugged out of his shirt. His icy blue eyes never left hers, but she looked away to his bare expanse of chest, defined by a lithe strength that fit his form only too well. The shirt fell to the floor, and she bit her lip when he started to reach for his pants.

“You are right, I suppose,” he rumbled softly. “I did not deign to complete the temptation you provided on my own once I realized you would not be returning. But you must realize that you
were
a temptation, ma chérie. There is something about you which is infectious and brazen and far more tempting than I believe you realize. You are certainly more tempting than merely thinking you would be easy to bed…”

“Eric…” she tried again softly, but her voice faltered when he dropped his pants, and apparently his boxers with them. Part of her ached when the steam was high enough to block the view of his anatomy that she
really
wanted to see. Katherine took a deep breath and quickly turned around, smoothing her wet hair back from her face. Dear God, how was this even happening right now? Of course, the worst part was that no matter how much she wanted to refuse, the more she utterly wanted this to happen.

She jumped slightly when he opened the door to the shower, sending in a rush of cool air that brushed over her skin and made goosebumps lift all over her body. Her heart was pounding, and if she didn’t know better—and probably if he didn’t know better—it would have been really easy to believe she was still a virgin. By this point, that thought was absolutely ridiculous, even though she’d never admit that out loud, but she had never been this nervous. Dealing with guys had always been on her terms and this most definitely wasn’t, when it came right down to it. That didn’t stop Eric from coming in.

He brushed his fingertips across the curve of her shoulder, sending a whole new wave of goosebumps rushing down her spine. He noticed the way she shuddered and chuckled, his other hand catching one of her hips while he rubbed his thumb down the groove of her back.

“You’re so easy to fluster, ma chérie,” he whispered, leaning down to whisper into her ear, his breath warm against the side of her face, “and so much shorter without those heels.”

“Hey!” she snorted, wrinkling her nose in annoyance. “Don’t you go calling me short, certainly not in
this
situation.”

“My apologies,” Eric answered, suppressing laughter as he tugged her back against his bare chest. She drew in a sharp breath, able to feel his own growing arousal rubbing at her. “No, I must admit, you seem perhaps the perfect size…” He pressed a kiss to her temple, and then shifted to nuzzle her hair, while his arm went around her. The Prince’s fingers had skated half-way down her back by then, and he paused there, just where the curve was deepest, and allowed his nails to drag against her delicately. Katherine gasped and shut her eyes, one of her hands lifting behind them and threading through his black hair. It was wet now, and thicker than she would’ve expected as she ran her fingers through it. He pressed his mouth against the nape of her neck. With the warm water running over them both, she could feel the tips of her breasts hardening without being touched, and her thighs pressed against one another.

Eric nibbled on her skin lightly, his hand moving downward again, nails still scraping against her lightly until he was at the curve of her ass. He cupped it, squeezing it, and then spanked it lightly; Katherine squeaked softly in surprise, then pressed herself back against his manhood to feel it digging into her back, squirming her hips back and forth. He grunted and chuckled, and his lips sealed against her skin, suckling her roughly as the first moan spilled from her lips. She bit down to keep from letting another one escape so easily.

His other hand, where it had been wrapped around her waist, moved upward without letting go of her, brushing over her breasts; he grasped one for a moment, lifting it and squeezing it, pinching her nipple before letting go again. Those questing fingers, clearly knowing their destination, moved up higher, rubbing at her collarbone, her throat, her jaw, every part of her feeling like it was being vaguely electrocuted when he touched her. Two of his fingers circled her lips, and Katherine squirmed against him.

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