Home > Royal Creed(3)

Royal Creed(3)
Author: T.K. Leigh

Unable to tolerate another word of this discussion, I jump to my feet. “I’m not one of your goddamn horses that you parade around and put out to stud. I’m a bloody human being. And I’d appreciate it if I’m treated as such.”
I storm out of her study, needing to get as far away from her and her ridiculous plan as possible. My blood boils, anger blinding me to my surroundings. I’ve been in this place for less than an hour and I wish I’d never come back.
Wish I’d escaped when I still had the chance.
Wrapping my arms around my stomach, I keep my head lowered, not looking where I’m going until I run into something incredibly hard and firm, the force of the impact causing me to lose my balance.
I teeter on my feet, but before I fall, firm hands clutch my hips, keeping me upright. I dart my head up, inhaling a sharp breath when I meet a pair of familiar, dark eyes.
Chapter Two
Deep pools of green meet my stare, the surprise of running into Esme turning me into a statue. But it’s not simply her presence that’s left me frozen in place. This is Lamberside Palace after all. Before she and her brother moved to the apartments at Gladwell, she lived here. Her father and grandmother still live here.
Instead, my inability to conjure a single thought has more to do with the fact that the Esme I remember is nowhere to be found in the person standing before me. The girl I once knew is all woman, the way she carries herself full of sophistication and grace. There’s no longer a hint of awkwardness or uncertainty about her.
Then again, there wasn’t much awkwardness or uncertainty about her the last time I saw her, either.
Eight years ago.
The morning I left for basic training.
Despite the passing of time, I recall that day with striking clarity. How she wrapped her arms around me and ordered me not to do anything stupid. To make sure I came home in one piece before pressing her lips to mine.
It was probably just a friendly gesture. We practically grew up together, our mums having been close before multiple sclerosis took hers from her.
But not a single day in the past eight years has gone by that I haven’t thought about that kiss, even when another woman’s mouth covered mine.
And now that I’m mere inches from Esme, her lips parting as she stares into my gaze, I’m reminded of that kiss once more.
Something I shouldn’t be thinking of, considering she’s my best mate’s little sister, not to mention the Princess Royal. And in a few months, I’ll be sworn into the royal guard, one of the elite few tasked with protecting the lives of the royal family.
An honor to many.
A legacy for me.
After all, a member of the Lawson family has been a part of the royal guard from the inception of this monarchy over five hundred years ago.
My family’s legacy to protect is as steeped in tradition as her family’s legacy to rule. To govern.
Once I swear that oath to protect her family above all else, any romantic notions I’ve foolishly held onto will go up in flames. It will no longer merely be a bad idea because of my close relationship with her older brother.
It will be forbidden.
Remembering my place, I quickly drop my hold on her, increasing the space between us and bowing.
“Your Highness.”
She rolls her eyes, crossing her arms over her chest. “Stop with that rubbish, Creed. We used to have spitting contests when we were kids.”
A small smile forms on my lips as I recall our younger years. Before everything became much more complicated. Back when my best friend and his sister were so far down the line of succession that most people didn’t even recognize them, especially outside of our small country.
In the blink of an eye, that all changed.
“That may be true, but we’re past those days. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“You’re just saying that because you lost miserably last time.”
“Maybe.” I smirk, gaze roaming her tall, slender body.
Long, golden strands of hair fall delicately around her shoulders, the billowy top she wears allowing a peek of her tanned skin. Her jeans hug her curves, making her long legs seem even longer.
Making me imagine what it would feel like to have those legs wrapped around me.
I do my best to suppress the twitching in my pants at the thought, clearing my throat and bringing my eyes back to hers.
“When did you get in?” I ask, even though I know the answer. After all, my older brother, Adam, is her chief protection officer. But I need to distract myself from my growing inappropriate thoughts.
Thoughts that can never come to fruition.
“About thirty minutes ago.”
“Glad to be home?”
Heaving out a long sigh, her expression falls, frustration mixed with irritation covering her face.
She looks around the high-ceilinged hallway, framed portraits hanging every few feet on the textured walls, ghosts of her ancestors watching her every move.
“Not sure I’d really call this place home.”
I nod in understanding. After eight years in the military, the last four working special ops and traveling all over the world, I have trouble thinking of Belmont as my home, too.
“And you? What brings you to the palace?” she asks.
“Adam called and said he was back, so I thought I’d stop by. It’s been a while.” I shove my hands into my pockets. “With him splitting his time between Paris and here as part of your security detail, and my deployment with special teams, our schedules never seemed to line up.”
“Are you on leave? Or do you have another deployment coming up?”
“No more deployments. My latest one was my last.”
She tilts her head. “You’re leaving the military?”
“Not leaving. Transferring. I’ll be inducted into the royal guard at the end of the summer. I was originally supposed to be sworn in next week, but considering I haven’t had any time off since I enlisted, I figured I’d take the summer. Plus, with Adam’s girlfriend having a baby in a few months, I thought I’d hang around here to lend them a hand before I’m sworn in.”
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