Authors: Sloane Taylor
omas refused to turn around as some bovine bellowed and repeatedly hammered on his desk bell, disrupting the entire lobby. Cultured people tapped the pin once. Gently.
, hey, you there in the undertaker suit.”
The high-pitched wheeze made a grown man shiver.
“Are you referring to me, sir?” Tomas looked over the top of his eyeglasses at the crass American who dared to disturb him while he sorted the hotel mail and almost choked when the blonde Teutonic giantess stepped closer to the desk. “What may I do for you,
Ignoring Tomas, the man turned to the woman and slithered his arm around her. She jumped and squealed like a snared boar.
“Hey, don’t worry, baby. You’re gonna love this.” He patted her rather large rear end. “And I can’t wait to watch.”
Her over-made orange mouth formed into a pout. “Hilda is not positive she will want to share you, my robust
Tomas shook his head and was disgusted by the latest clientele drawn to his beloved hotel. His brow furrowed.
. The name had a distinct familiarity, yet he could not force his mind to recall where he had heard it before.
“You just leave everything to ol’ Brad.” The short man puffed out his chest. “I know what’s best for all my girls.”
The heavy potato sausage and fried sauerkraut Tomas had eaten for lunch backed up his throat. He stared at the small man in the bright red jacket with his face buried in the garish female’s abundant cleavage.
This is the boor Lacey planned to share the week with?
A wave of shame washed over him at how he had once thought her nothing better than a prostitute. Now he pitied her for her poor choice in men.
“Gimme Lacey Blake’s room number.” Claymore sucked on a cheap cigar and squinted his beady eyes, then blew thick smoke across the counter. “And make it fast. She’s expecting us.”
Tomas waved away the vile stench as a whirlwind of ideas on how to remove these people from the hotel before she returned exploded in his mind.
“We have no one by that name at this hotel.” Tomas flicked a fallen ash from his no longer pristine black marble. “Perhaps you have mistaken the property.”
“Don’t gimme any of that, buddy. I made the reservation and bought the broad the airline ticket. She can’t be anywhere but here.” He took another puff on the foul-smelling cheroot. “Now walk your pinkies over those keys and look her up.”
“Let us leave,
,” Hilda whined in a heavy German accent. “I do not like this place.”
“Yeah, well, you just hang tight, baby. Our stiff buddy here is gonna make this all be okay.” With one hand, he hooked the cigar at Tomas, while his other slid under the Hun’s short leather skirt. “And if I can’t get this clown to cooperate, then there’s always the manager to roust his lazy ass.”
, I like that.” She giggled and wrapped her arms around Claymore’s neck.
“Ha, you’ll like fingers even better when Lacey uses hers on you. She’s the best, goes along with whatever I want. Trust me.” He shoved the woman away and laid both arms across the counter. Gray smoke curled around his unshaven face. “Now have I made my point, pal, or do we need a honcho to take you in hand?”
Heat blazed up Tomas’ neck.
“I do not know what more we can provide for you. This person is not a paying guest at our hotel.” At least he told the almost truth. Lacey was a guest, just not paying with money.
Claymore’s fat little hand slammed onto the desktop. The silver bell bounced to the floor.
“I wanna speak to the manager.
“I do not think Mr. Petrovič is in the hotel at the moment, but perhaps you would like to wait in the lounge while I check.” Tomas glanced to the front door and groaned.
“Good afternoon, Tomas. Has the mail arrived?” Dragan wrinkled his nose at the foul odor and nodded toward the strange couple.
“Hey, it’s Lurch.” The small man laughed as he tipped his head dangerously back to look up. “Where’s the rest of the Addams family?”
The woman inched away from the oaf and smoothed a hand over her rumpled clothes. In a quick movement, she sidestepped closer to Dragan who edged around to the end of the desk.
“Hey, big guy, you the boss here?”
“I am the owner.”
Kristus, I hope you do not intend to book in.
“Is there something we may help you with?”
“Yeah. First, I want this idiot raked over the coals for being useless, then I want you to tell Lacey Blake that Brad Claymore’s here and to hustle her sweet ass. We got stuff to do.” He dropped his half-chewed cigar onto the marble floor and crushed it under his scuffed brogan.
Dragan discreetly signaled to the bellman to sweep up the mess before he turned to his desk manager.
How in the name of Satan could Lacey ever spend time with this despicable human?
He forced himself to not judge. Obviously, she had her reasons. Her worthless father came to mind, and he silently cursed the man for destroying her self-esteem.
“Tomas, have we a Lacey Blake registered?” Tomas had the sharpness not to reveal the truth.
“No, sir. I looked before, but I will search the computer again.” Tomas took his time as he tapped the keyboard. “I see no listing for a guest by that name, sir.”
“Like I already told this boy, I booked us a room here a month ago and got a confirmation.” Claymore turned to the woman. “Hilda, you take a hike while I talk with these boys.”
She let out a piercing shriek when he slapped her on the ass, then she tottered away on her clunky high heels. Dragan glanced at Tomas, who rolled his eyes.
“Now look, boss man, this is between you, me, and the desk jockey here.” Claymore stretched taller and still did not reach Dragan’s chin. “I got a good thing about to happen here with Hilda and Lacey.” He winked slowly, as if that should mean something to the other two men. “Fellas, I’m not letting you and this overpriced hotel with your crappy computer system mess up a perfect threesome. I know the broad’s here ’cause there’s no way she had the smarts to do anything else but park her ass where I told her to.”
Ménage à trois!
Dragan choked back the anger roiling up from his gut. Obviously Lacey had an active sex life. She was not an innocent. But to fuck this moron and whatever whore he dragged along for fun was more than Dragan could tolerate. How dare this lesser creature subject her to his whims! How dare she
herself to be used in such a manner?
“Don’t look so shocked, pal. Every broad is just one drink away from a threesome.” Brad puffed up his chest, and a smirk spread across his pudgy face.
Dragan fisted his hands and forced professionalism back to the foreground.
“Mr. Claymore, I will tell you that we did have a lady arrive several days ago who was to meet a male friend.” To even look at the grating bastard, let alone speak with him, sickened Dragan. “The lady received a message and decided not to check into our hotel.” He nodded at Tomas for confirmation and was surprised his employee’s skin had turned deathly pale.
Dragan turned to see what had shocked Tomas, convinced Hilda had created the reaction by performing a striptease in the lobby. But luck was not on Dragan’s side this day. Lacey walked through the front door juggling a package. He coughed to divert Claymore’s attention and prayed she headed straight to the elevator.
“Hi, guys.” Lacey waved to Dragan and that cute little Tomas, who’d turned out to be an okay guy after all. They both abruptly turned away. Miffed they ignored her, but understanding they were with a guest, she breezed past and made her way toward the elevator.
“Hey, baby, aren’t you going to give your big bad Brad a blow job or at least a fanny tickle to welcome me?”
She skidded to a halt. That jarring voice from her horrid past could not be real. She spun around and almost dropped the precious figurine to get smacked square on the jaw with reality.
Another pound of salt thrown on my open wound of an existence
Dragan stared at her, his expression torn between disgust and disbelief, while Tomas’s showed pity. Both men stood frozen in time like the human mannequins she’d delighted in watching perform on the Charles Bridge. Only this time she had no enjoyment.
Jesus Christ, this sonovabitch is going to destroy me.
“What are you doing here?” Her voice came out in an agony filled whisper.
Brad took a few steps closer. She backed up.
“Hey, doll, I told you I’d be here. Now come and give me what I want.” He held out his arms and waggled his fat fingers. “I got a great surprise for you.”
“No.” She held up her hand, palm out. “Stay where you are. I don’t need any more of your weird crap to screw up my life.”
“But this is the best. You’re gonna love it.” He twisted and waved to a mammoth woman who was examining her fingernails as if they were the eighth wonder of the modern world. “C’mere, Hilda. It’s time to get it on.”
Lacey’s jaw dropped as the tacky babe strolled over. Her wide ass swayed and her unharnessed boobs bounced with each plop of her cheap wedgies.
“You want me to
this Gretel girl?” She’d rather have a pitchfork up her crotch. Her head ached and the room began to spin. Brad had never suggested anything like this in their brief history. Dress up was what he needed, his fetish. When had she become a bottom feeder? “Are you
Dragan laid a hand on Brad’s rounded shoulder. “Mr. Claymore, you and the ladies need to discuss your sexual preferences in a less public area. Perhaps the library would be a better location.”
“Huh? Yeah, sure.” Brad slung one arm around Hilda and reached for Lacey with the other, but stopped mid-action. He narrowed his eyes and glared at Dragan. “I thought you said this broad wasn’t a guest in your joint.”
“You have altered my words. I said the lady received a message and decided not to check in. I did not tell you Ms. Blake left.” Dragan cocked an eyebrow and took one step forward as if ready to throw the bastard out on his flabby ass if necessary.
Brad swung his head from Dragan to Lacey, then back to Dragan. A saliva string slid down the corner of his mouth as his blubbery lips twisted into a leer. “I get it, big boy. You want my hot little toy here all for yourself. That could be arranged. For a price.”
Dragan worked his jaw and moved his clenched fist. Lacey grabbed his arm.
“No, let me.” She turned back to Brad. A swell of independence rushed through her veins.
Brad teetered backward into Hilda.
Lacey smiled at Dragan. “An uppercut to the jaw is always best.”
wish to speak with you.”
A growl sounded in her ear. Apparently, His Royal Stiffness thought the other two people on the elevator were invisible, even when the woman glared at him. The door swooshed open. He latched onto her elbow and all but yanked her down the long hallway toward their suite.
“You don’t have to abuse me.” She jerked away and was pissed he had the audacity to play caveman. Maybe Serbian women liked that kind of treatment, but she’d dip herself in dog shit if another person thought he could muscle her again. “What the hell are
so jacked about? I’m the one who was insulted.”
He opened their door and paraded through. After she entered, he slammed the heavy panel and the walls shook.
This guy is really over the top
She deposited her now unwanted figurine and purse on the hall table, then tossed her jacket onto a stool and faced him.
“Now look, you, don’t go getting all royal and hoity.” She took a backward step and bumped into a wooden chair arm. “I’m the aggrieved party here.”
His barked command set her teeth on edge.
“I am not going to play nice any longer, buster.” She fisted her hands on her hips and wished the damned chair would quit making love to her ass. “Be decent or just get the hell out of here.”
“These, my sexually overt young lover, are my apartments and I do not ‘get out.’” He crossed his arms over his puffed out chest. “Explain yourself and that
Lord, how she wanted to scream, “Kiss my ass, you big prick,” but the controlled fury on his face held her tongue.
“I no longer react to intimidation.”
Honza and her dumb predictions flitted through her mind.
Lady, you are so wrong
He took a step forward. If she didn’t have great bladder control, she would have peed her panties.
“I bring you into my home. Protect you. Treat you with kindness and warmth.” His nostrils flared wider the louder he yelled. “Not once did I suspect you were a woman without a speck of morals.”
“Just a damned minute here.” Two can play in his pissing contest. She backed off the chair arm and inched forward. “Who said my morals are garbage? C’mon, don’t just stand there gawking. Spit it out.”
Dragan wanted to strangle her. Slow and long until all the frustration this situation had caused no longer festered in his soul. He required peace. A perfect state he had not achieved in almost a week.
How could she stand there with those pouty lips and pretend she had no idea what his words meant? Why had she debased herself and sabotaged an excellent future? The woman had every prerequisite for an ideal life. He mentally tallied her qualities: intelligent, educated, warmhearted, spirited, and sexy.
No. Do not think of sex
Or the way her body curled around his while they slept.
Or that she made every new day fresh and alive.
He needed to regain control and learn what form of woman he had wanted to marry. He raked his hands through his hair. How the hell could he have fallen in love with her? Was all this a cruel joke?
Arnost and his ridiculous intuition.
If only she had been honest with him. Told him about her past, these men, confessed she needed more in bed than he would ever be able to provide. In a matter of minutes, his world had crashed. All his plans for their future were destroyed. His heart ached for what should have been.
Unsure of how to begin, but knowing he had to before his ethics compelled him to let her go, he fell into a chair and gathered his thoughts. She paced back and forth and demanded answers.
He glanced up; sorrow twisted his insides.
Kristus, she is even more beautiful when angry
He forced his mind to behave, along with his traitorous cock.
“How could you participate in a
ménage à trois
with that vile person?” His heart was breaking, but he had to ask to make a clean break from the hold she had on him. “Or with
She punched him in the shoulder, startling him.
“How dare you sit there on your
and judge me.”
“Lacey, please do not make this more difficult for either of us.” He studied his shoes as he was unable to face her.
She leaned over him and grabbed his face between her warm palms.
“Look at me when I’m talking to you. You want to know, bucko? I’ll tell you everything, then you can go pound sand up your tight ass.”
Tears welled in her eyes. He clenched his fists. Anything to keep his hands at his side and not wrap her in his arms and cuddle her like a lost child.
“That limp dick sonovabitch could never get it up. Christ, we never once had real sex. Don’t look so surprised. You heard me right, you miserable pissant.”
She sank into a chair. Tears spilled onto her clenched hands.
“All he wanted from me was to tease his little pecker back to life. But no touching his little thing. He wanted a good girl for that. That’s why all the costumes and toys you saw. They were all his idea. The idiot thought they would give him the hard-on Mother Nature wouldn’t. I felt sorry for him. Underneath all that bullshit and bravado is a troubled man who refuses to help himself. He focuses on his dick, and that’s probably why his tiny peeper won’t work. The man is impotent and can’t stand the reality. No drugs to help him because the freak created his problem with his mind, and you thought… God, you
She ran from the room while he tried to absorb all she had said. He believed her! His heart soared like the doves off the King Wenceslas statue at feeding time.
Lacey slammed the bedroom door, then flung herself onto the bed. She hated her typical female response to misery. But the tears poured until no more would come to relieve her pain. After the great gulps of air that produced uncontrollable hiccups subsided, a void the size of Texas took up residence in her heart. How could she be in love with a complete
? She burrowed deeper into the pillow, breathing in his scent and remembering all their time together on this bed. And the tears started again.
Damn you, Honza, for giving me hope.
The door scraped across the high carpet pile as it opened. She cringed, not wanting to hear his words when he banished her from his room, hotel, and worse, his life.
The mattress sank as he settled on the edge. His slow breaths and clean scent were memories she wanted to lock away to savor later. In a day or two, when the need to have some shred of him ripped through her gut.
“Lacey, I…” Two words soft-spoken, almost shy, were all he managed to get out before he cleared his throat.
now the real humiliation begins
She needed him to hold her, make all the bad disappear, and return the happiness they had shared. But that wouldn’t happen. If only she could slip back into that oblivious zone she had mastered as a child, maybe his rejection wouldn’t hurt so bad.
He laid a warm hand on her shoulder. His fingers curled a strand of her hair.
“I wish to apologize. My words were cruel, spoken in anger, without considering what harm they would create for you.”
His hand massaged the knots along her neck and relaxed the tension spots.
As apologies went, he had a good start. She rolled over and bit back a gasp at his pale drawn face.
“I should have controlled my anger and discussed this calmly with you.” He rested his hand on hers and attempted a weak smile. “Apparently, I am not good with these things.”
And then, complete silence.
That’s the best you’ve got?
She wanted to whack him.
“Dragan, we both said things we shouldn’t have.” She wrapped her other hand over his. Always easier to be the one who leaves than the one left behind. “I’ll just stash my stuff and leave.”
His words fell away and broke the last shard left of her heart.
She bit her bottom lip, holding back all the things she wanted to tell him. How could she have been so stupid as to let herself believe this man would ever want her for more than a week? Her body was encased in lead and ready to sink to the bottom of the Vltava River. She forced herself off the far side of the bed and stumbled into a wall of solid man.
He enfolded her in his strong arms, almost squeezing the life from her. God, he felt so good, so right.
“Please, Vic.” The last thing she needed was his sympathy. “Don’t make this harder.”
“I do not want you to go today, or any other day.”
She pushed against his chest, but he held her tighter.
“Lacey, stay with me.”
Damn, that sounded so good, but the fuckfest she’d started out with had turned a one-eighty. Sex for the sake of it, with him and definitely not another man, no longer had an appeal. That unknown thing called love had shimmied into her heart.
“What did you say to me in Czech the night of the banquet?”
His palms grew damp and his stomach twisted in knots. He hated his weakness, fear, or whatever other cowardly word that raced through his mind at not expressing his love to her. He either acted like the man he should be and took the chance or risked losing her forever.
Her solemn hazel eyes stared up into his. Did he see hope? Desire? Sadness? His future?
. He had to stop this ridiculous guessing game and tell her, even if she laughed at him or ran screaming from the hotel.
He cupped her cheeks as if that would stop her from fleeing once she heard his words. After a gulp and quick prayer sent up to any saint who had the time to listen, Dragan finally gathered the courage to speak from his heart.
“I have fallen in love with you, Lacey Blake. I do not know how this has happened or why, but I cannot seem to stop it. Nor do I want to. I also do not want you to return to America. I want you to stay here. In Prague. With me.”
Her eyes filled with tears as her body turned to stone, a horrid sign to any man who had just opened himself to hope. Her instant reaction proved she did not share the same emotion or have the ability to pretend. He whispered into her hair all his plans and hopes, knowing he would never be able to say them aloud again.
Midway through his confession a finger pecked on his shoulder. Ready for the blow that would change his life forever, he inched away.
“I love you, Dragan.”
His heart leapt at her throaty whisper. He clasped her tighter to him, afraid to believe, afraid he had only heard what he wanted to.
“Don’t you want to kiss me?” She wove an arm around his waist as her light laughter sang in his ears. “I want to kiss you.”
, yes.” He not only wanted to smother her with warm kisses, he wanted to scale the spire at St. Nicholas’s and shout to the world that this wonderful woman loved him. But she never gave him the opportunity to do either.
She flung her other arm around his neck and tugged his head closer to hers, then kissed him like he had never been kissed before. Her pliable lips molded to his, while her hips melted against him. He enfolded her in his arms and silently vowed to keep her safe and for all their lives.
Lacey broke the kiss long enough to gulp in air before she zeroed in on his wonderful mouth again. He was the best thing ever to happen in her life, and she didn’t want to let this moment go. Tomorrow she’d worry about the future. Right now, she planned to enjoy her man. Damn, but she loved that phrase.
Dragan stroked his hand along her arm, then clasped her hand and raised it to his lips. She felt like a queen when he kissed her lightly on her fingertips.
And then reality hit her like a body blow from Mohammed Ali in the first round. Little common Southside Chicago girl Lacey Blake had the balls to be in love with Crown Prince Dragan Petrovič.
was something she’d have to deal with on the long flight home.
“Come back to me, Lacey.”
For a moment, she thought he had read her mind, until he caught her chin and tilted it to his face. She pushed up on her tiptoes and touched her lips to his. He deepened their kiss with such tenderness her body quivered. She never wanted this to end.
He broke away and unbuttoned her blouse before he slid it off her shoulders and down her arms. A flick of his fingers undid her plain white bra and he smiled as if he approved of its utilitarian appearance. She slipped off her loafers as he glided her slacks over her hips. And there she stood in her white cotton panties and was shy with these shared new feelings that swarmed through her.