Royal's Arranged Love

By: Sophia Lynn, Ana Adams


She relaxed. “Well that’s nice to hear. Especially since that room was full of far more accomplished people than myself.”

“You were the only one who didn’t look like the rest.”

His words sank to the bottom of her stomach. Was that a good or bad thing? “What, elderly?”

He laughed. “Stuffy and fake, to be precise. Can I take you out for a drink?”

“What?”

“Sorry, may I take you out for a drink.” He clucked. “My English slips here and there.”

“Could have fooled me. I think you speak better than most the native English population.”

“So is that a yes?”

Even in the dim lighting of the back seat, his gaze was intense on her. Drinks could lead to so much more. And if that was a doorway for him putting his hands all over her…what was she waiting for? “Yeah.”

The corner of his mouth lifted. “Excellent.”

The car merged into the busy street traffic. Clara watched as the lights of other cars receded in a blur. “So why did you leave early tonight? There was still a whole lot of hobnobbing to perform. To use your words.”

“I came for the mandatory performance.” He shrugged. “I do my time and leave. That’s how it works.”

“So you do go to a lot of these.”

“Probably more than you, now that your ruse has been revealed.”

She blushed, but he couldn’t see it in the darkness of the car. “Well based on your reaction, I might be the lucky one here.”

“Oh, you definitely are.” Adrien reached out to squeeze her hand. A shiver went through her.

Clearing her throat, she shifted in her seat. “So should I change back into my Cinderella gown for our impromptu date night?”

“I’ll leave that decision up to you.”

She scoffed. “Oh, please. You come and whisk me away in your private car—with a driver, I might add—and tell me to decide for myself? It’s written on the walls. I’m halfway to changing in this car.”

“I won’t stop you.”

His voice had shifted slightly, enough to send shivers zipping beneath her skin.

“Mr. Pike would never allow it, I’m sure.” She looked to the driver for a reaction, but he gave none. “Not much of a talker, huh?”

“Under the right circumstances, he is. Not when I’m trying to be a gentleman, though.”

She lifted a brow. No matter how hard she tried, the conversation would return to them. It had been there since the first words that evening. He inspired something in her that made it impossible not to lead him by the ear to the bedroom. “Who asked you to be a gentleman?”

He laughed softly and looked out the window. In the glow of the passing streetlamps, his jaw flexed. “That’s a good question to ask me over drinks.”

***

“Are we heading to South Beach?” Clara’s eyes grew wider as they drove deeper downtown.

“You know your way around the city.” He watched her as she peered out the window. There was something about her that felt right—a comfort that couldn’t be explained, especially for having known her a total of an hour.

“You seriously live over here?”

“For now, yes. What are your thoughts?”

She shrugged. “Not a lot of my friends live this way. I feel like a tourist.”

“Welcome. I’m happy to show you around. What activities do you normally do as a tourist? I promise we can do them while we’re here.”

She snorted with laughter—endearing and crass.

“In that case, I expect hang gliding and Swedish massages. And a tour of the waterfalls. Even though there are none in Downtown San Francisco.”

“I’ll start construction immediately on a waterfall. The rest I can arrange.”

Clara smiled over at him, but maybe there was a hint of uncertainty there. He’d commissioned more bizarre things in the name of love, that was for certain. But Clara didn’t need to know that—yet. Besides, what was it about her? He never picked up ladies like this—literally picking them up off the side of the road. His lineage demanded constant surveillance and protection, which typically translated into an insular bubble that infrequently mingled with people outside of his work or home life.

Yet Clara had weaseled her way into his sphere and ran face-first into him. He’d spent his whole life watching his next step, looking over his shoulder, and playing it safe. This woman in his back seat was a stark departure from his routine, but the pressures of his personal life had been so intense lately.

The car turned onto his street, lined with the industrial-space-turned-luxury-loft that typical of the area, and past a security guard who waved them through. Behind the gates, the apartment complex greeted them, moodily lit with spotlights shining up at the angular terracotta façade.

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