Their virgin princess, p.31
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       Their Virgin Princess, p.31

         Part #4 of Masters of Ménage series by Shayla Black
Page 31


  He sat up and forced her to look at him, gently tilting her head up. Tears streaked down her face. “You did everything you could. But you aren’t there anymore…”

  Alea turned suddenly, her gaze taking in the ocean. “Cooper, I…What is that?”

  A sound like a buzzing, and then a loud splash, followed by another. Cooper looked out over the water and felt his eyes widen. There in the sun and surf was a mirage. It had to be. It couldn’t be a boat coming their way. No. Not a boat because he wasn’t ready. They weren’t ready. He’d just started making real progress with Alea.

  “It’s a boat. Oh my god. Someone’s found us. ” Alea stood up, wiping the tears from her eyes. “I have to get dressed. We have to find Lan and Dane. I don’t know what to do. ”

  Now it was getting closer, and he could see two men in the body of the boat, their figures still in the distance. He stood with Alea and hugged her because she was close to panic. He could feel it, see it in the way her body stiffened and her eyes became tight.

  She looked up at him. “Make them go away, Coop. Make them go away. ”

  He held her close, but his heart sank. He couldn’t hold her for long, couldn’t make the moment last because every second brought the boat closer and closer to shore. Reality was encroaching, and they couldn’t meet it like this. They had to find their clothes and get ready for what came next.

  Their time in paradise was over.

  Chapter Twelve

  “This is Nix. Talk to me. ” Lan picked up the phone with absolutely no regard to the fact that the person on the other end of the line had probably called to talk to Dane. He wasn’t willing to let Dominic Anthony wait until Dane got out of what seemed like the longest shower of all time.

  Of course, Dane and Cooper were in the shower with Alea, so it could still be a while.

  A deep voice came over the satellite phone. “Nice to know you’re alive, Nix. Have you talked to the sheikh yet, or am I your first call now that you’re back from the dead?”

  Back from the dead? If that had been death, he didn’t want to be alive again. All he could think about was how closed off Alea had become, as though she was shutting down a little more with every mile that stupid boat had put between them and paradise. He’d been surprised she’d allowed Dane and Cooper to usher her into the bathroom of their hotel on Koror, an island in the Palau chain. “Her Highness has already spoken with her cousins. ”

  “I assume the plane crash was an attempt on the princess’s life. ” There was no uncertainty in Dominic Anthony’s voice.

  Why question an undeniable truth? “Oh, yes. There’s no doubt about that. ”

  “I’ve already worked up a profile on the pilot. He was being treated for chronic back pain. It wasn’t life threatening, but several members of his family had heard him talk about not wanting to live with it anymore. Surprisingly enough, his wife said she found twenty thousand in euros in a safe at their house the night he died. ”

  That had been the payoff. Cheap. Twenty thousand for six lives. Of course, the pilot had only actually managed to take out himself and the hostess. “Well, it was smart to pull cash. ”

  “Yeah,” Dominic agreed. “Hard to follow that trail. I have a few ideas. I’ve been pulling all the CCTV feeds from around the palace and in the surrounding city for the days before the crash. The wife claims the money wasn’t in the safe when she looked two days before her husband died, and we got his day planner. He was supposed to have a meeting with someone, no name, of course, the day before the crash. All I have is the time the meeting supposedly took place in the al Mussad marketplace. ”

  Which about twenty thousand people walked through each day, so it would be damn hard to find the culprit, even if they knew who they were looking for. “Damn it. ”

  “Riley’s got some hotshot facial recognition software. Let’s give him some time. ”

  Lan didn’t have a choice on that front. “Let me know if you find anything. In the meantime, we want you to look into everyone who knew she would be on that plane, starting with that British asshole who let her take his place. ”

  “Thurston-Hughes? Absolutely. I started that investigation the minute I heard the plane hadn’t made it to Sydney. The funny thing is, ol’ Oliver claims that his brother received an e-mail the day the plane went down, claiming responsibility for killing him and his wife. Anti-monarchists, supposedly. I thought it was rather convenient, especially since we can’t really trace the e-mail. Best we’ve managed so far is to determine it was sent from somewhere in the Middle East. ”

  Where Oliver was currently spending his time.

  “And why would the pilot go through with the job once he was in the air? I get that he might not have gotten an updated passenger list. He’s not the one who loads the fuel and takes care of meals and drinks, but the hostess would have informed him. ” It didn’t make a lick of sense to Lan. He’d been involved in a lot of operations, and rule number one was to take out your intended target.

  A long sigh came over the line. “Yeah. I thought about that, too. This pilot routinely flew to London, so he could have connections there, but it doesn’t make sense to continue that job if the targets aren’t on board. People who hire assassins tend to want their money’s worth, and they wouldn’t have a problem coming after a pilot’s wife to get their dough back. ”

  “Do you have anything incriminating on Oliver? If he’s lying about this so-called threat, he’s probably doing it to cover his own ass. ”

  Lan was thinking about offing the guy any way he sliced it, but having an actual case might help at his eventual trial if he got caught. He hadn’t liked the way the Brit had been sniffing around Alea. If the asshole had really wanted her, maybe he’d been the one to have her kidnapped and kept for him. Perhaps he’d decided, since the first plan had failed, that if he couldn’t have her no one could. He’d made it perfectly plain that he didn’t appreciate her guards. Maybe he’d known she had a thing for him, Coop, and Dane, so he’d decided to kill her.

  “We’ve had this case on hold for a few weeks while Law and Riley aided in the search for the princess. Riley can do some amazing things with other people’s satellites. The wreckage wasn’t deep and the water is fairly clear in that part of the world. He narrowed the search to a hundred possible sites, and we’ve been checking every single one of them, combing all those little islands. Law was going to take the plane up and go over that particular chain, but the government of Palau told us it’s some sort of eco-sanctuary, and today was the day their scientists came out to check on birds and shit. They were not happy to see you. Apparently, you four are a plight on the delicate ecosystem. How many fucking pigs did you have to kill?”

  He’d been hungry. He would fucking do it again. “I want you back on the case. ”

  “Already on it. And I’m on my way out to the palace right now. Lawson is on Koror attempting to keep the press in line, but you should know they are all over this story, and some of it isn’t good, man. ”

  He moved away from the shower. “What do you mean? People are really that upset that I killed some pigs to survive?”

  “No. ” Dominic hesitated. Lan hated those nasty little pauses because he knew that whatever came next would be shitastic. “It’s about Her Highness. ”

  He felt himself go cold. “What about Alea?”

  “Ah, there it is. I thought you were going to keep up the professional pretense forever, but I was pretty sure something was going on there. So you three finally got the princess to come around. Good. She’s going to need you. ” Dominic sounded satisfied, as though he’d thrown out a bit of bait that had gotten a nice-sized bite.

  “Tell me. ” Lan didn’t have the patience to play games.

  “The press started out good. I mean, good as in everyone was worried about the princess, but somewhere along the way some asshole reporter picked up the story of her kidnapping and found three of the other girls that the Lennox brothers saved
from the same brothel. Two of them wouldn’t talk, but one has been all over the fucking media spilling about how the princess would watch them be tortured and do nothing to help. ”

  “She couldn’t help. ” Lan found the words hard to grind out of his mouth. His vision was starting to go red. “She was a victim. ”

  “Yeah, well, the press loves a juicy story, whether it’s the truth or not, and they seem to want to make the princess the villain of this piece. Sells more copies of their rags. You know how it goes. No one loves the one percenters these days. And you three won’t be kept out of it, you know. ”

  “What do you mean?” What did the press want with them?

  “They know your names. They’ve been all over your family members. You don’t have a family, but they’ve been to the town where you grew up. Nix, you should know that they’re asking all kinds of intrusive questions, making nasty assumptions. ”

  He couldn’t care less what they said about him. Alea was a different story. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. ” There was a knock on the door. Law Anders. “Your boy is here. I’ll catch you at the palace. We’ll do a debrief there. ”

  “Good. And you should know I’m investigating the girl who’s singing to the press. I hate to put a bunch of heat on a victim, but I don’t buy her story and I don’t like how much she seems to be enjoying her fifteen minutes. Riley’s running some reports on her as we speak. ”

  Lan opened the door to let Law Anders in, and it looked like the man had gotten what they needed. He was carrying a case that had to contain a nice shiny new set of guns. They’d tried to save their own, but after getting wet and being exposed to the elements, Lan had preferred new ones. Not that they’d needed them on the island. There it had felt better to have a spear in his hand. Now that they were back to reality, Lan couldn’t wait to armor up because someone was still coming after his girl.

  Law stalked in, setting the case on the bed as Lan finished up with Dominic. He hung up the phone and went straight for the SIG.

  Law Anders took a step back. His suit jacket came open, and Lan noticed he was already armed to the teeth with two semis in shoulder holsters. “Hopefully they’re adequate. It wasn’t easy getting handguns on this godforsaken island. I had to have them imported. Can we get back to concrete and shit soon? All this tropical crap bugs me. ”

  Yeah, he was a peach, but he had good taste in guns. Lan felt the weight in his hand, a welcome friend. “When’s the plane getting here? And who’s the pilot? You can’t expect me to put her on another plane with some random asshat. ”

  He didn’t want to put her on a plane at all, but the revelation about the press made it impossible to stay here. They needed to get her back to the palace where they could shelter her and start the damage control. No doubt, Tal would get his PR people on it soon, but the longer they hid from the press without floating a story of their own, the longer those reporters would repeat whatever the hell that stupid snitch told them.

  Law gave him a sarcastic salute. “I’ll be flying that baby. The sheikh is having his private plane sent. It should be here in a couple of hours, and it’s been under guard twenty-four seven. I’ll check it out myself and take the controls. I’m licensed to fly just about anything. We’ll be back at the palace tomorrow morning, then Riley and Dominic will want a full report on everything that happened. Well, all the non-naked stuff. So, you going to give this whole sharing thing an actual go?”

  Lan heard the shower cut off and the sounds of Cooper and Dane talking softly to Alea. He thought about telling Law to mind his own fucking business, but there was something about the way he asked the question. And he remembered how close the guy had seemed with his brother. Even despite their dumbass fighting, he would bet those two boys had shared their toys a time or two.

  “Yeah. We haven’t made anything formal yet, but we’re going to marry her. ”

  Law stepped up to the window and looked outside. “Weird little country, Bezakistan. Back where I come from, me and Riley are kind of freaks. Throw Dominic in and we’re just a parade of crazy. Women like it for a night, but they will jump right off the train when you try to make it permanent. ”

  “You looking?” He was a little surprised at that. Law Anders looked to be a tough guy, the kind who wouldn’t want to settle down.

  Massive shoulders shrugged up and down. “I want what everyone else has. I just can’t have it on my own. I got wired wrong, I guess. Anyway, the plane should be here in a couple of hours. I’m trying to find some extra security, but this place is full of like divers and shit. If I wanted to go swim with a fucking dolphin we would be set, but finding someone who knows how to keep the crowds back is a different prospect. The way I heard it, the press is on their way as we speak. Some of them were already set up here because it got leaked that the princess is staying here. ”

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