Their virgin princess, p.32
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       Their Virgin Princess, p.32

         Part #4 of Masters of Ménage series by Shayla Black
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Page 32


  The door to the bathroom opened, and Alea emerged looking soft and sweet and vulnerable all wrapped up in her fluffy robe. Dane and Cooper came out after her. Dane wore a towel, but Coop had changed into the sweatpants the concierge had hustled up.

  It was weird not being naked with her.

  Lan watched as Alea moved into the suite. She was bundled up, but there was a hint of a smile on her face. She reached for Dane’s hand as he walked up to her. Lan watched as their fingers tangled together and was surprised that he didn’t feel a hint of jealousy. All of that emotion had burned off on the island as they had found their unique roles in her life and she’d settled into her place as the sun in their sky. She was theirs, and they had to do everything they could to protect her. Including shielding her from the press.

  Law softened around Alea, proving he wasn’t as much of an asshole as he seemed. “Princess, your cousins are really happy you’re alive. The queen has been beside herself. ”

  Alea nodded, pulling the lapels of her robe together tightly. “It was very good to talk to her. Thank you for everything you’ve done in searching for us. ”

  “But you didn’t want to be found, did you?” Law asked the question almost sadly as though he understood.

  Alea paused and sighed, her hand squeezing Dane’s. “I will only say that the island wasn’t so bad. If you’re ever going to have a plane go down, I would highly recommend the accommodations. ”

  “Most women would have gone crazy out there,” Law said. “But you look like you bloomed. ”

  “Hey, look at her less, buddy,” Cooper said, crowding her other side.

  But Lan realized that Lawson Anders wasn’t hitting on their woman. He was longing for what she represented. Warmth. Love. Acceptance. “You do look gorgeous, darlin’. ”

  She flushed beautifully. “I’m glad you think so. Could someone order tea?”

  He’d already done that. “It should be here any minute. I ordered tea and some snacks. It’ll be good to get some carbs, you know? And Law here promises me that Tal is sending us the big bus. It’s going to be first class all the way home. ”

  Alea nodded, but he could see the strain on her face. She could probably still remember how it felt to have the plane plunge and to wonder if they were going to make it. Hell, he didn’t want to get on the plane and he used to jump off the fuckers.

  There was a knock at the door. The tea service. He hoped they had gotten the order right, and there were some Cokes, too. Because he didn’t do dainty teacups and cucumber sandwiches.

  Alea moved for the door.

  “Hey, I’ll get it,” Lan said, blocking her.

  “I can get a door, Lan,” she said with a smile.

  “No. Not this one. ” He moved to the door but she stayed right behind him. As he pulled the door back, there was a flash and the quick sound of a camera shutter going off at high speed.

  “Princess! Princess, is it true you have three lovers? What happened on the island?”

  “Would you like to comment on the accusation that you aided your kidnappers in torturing young girls in Colombia?”

  “Princess, the world would love to know what you were wearing when the plane went down. ”

  There was a mob of them with cameras and video equipment, the light coming from the hall nearly blinding him. They were vultures, every single one of them. Rage popped through his system, adrenaline flooding his veins. They had no right to be here.

  A microphone was shoved into his face. “Are you the guard? What are you getting paid to be the princess’s lover? How many of you are there? How does it work?”

  “Are you bisexual?”

  The questions peppered against him like rapid gunfire. He reached for the first camera he saw, blocking the doorway to keep the fuckers off Alea. He could make damn sure these reporters didn’t get at her again. They would have to get through him, and he was going to let them know that wouldn’t be an easy task. He reared back a fist, anger nearly choking him as they shouted crap about the woman he loved.

  Before he could connect, something jerked him back into the room.

  “Shut that fucking door,” Dane snarled, still grabbing his biceps.

  Law jogged to the door. “I’ll take care of this. You don’t open this to anyone but me. ”

  Cooper moved in and locked the deadbolt. Lan saw red. His heart pounded. His fists clenched. Fuck, he had to get control of himself. He would check on Alea, then he was going to take apart some reporters. He would rip a couple of heads off and mount them at the end of the hallway, and maybe the next set of vultures wouldn’t be so eager to knock on their door.

  “Don’t. ” Dane pulled him back.

  “I’ll do it quietly. ”

  “You can’t. They’re reporters. Do you forget who we are? I don’t just mean our names. Now we’re both the princess’s guards and her lovers. You can’t beat the shit out of people anymore. Everything we do reflects on her. Ultimately, we represent the sheikh and his family. Let Law handle it. ”

  Fuck. He hadn’t thought about that. He forced himself to calm down. Never once during his pursuit of Alea had he thought about the dark side of royalty being his problem if he actually caught her. This was her life, and if he wanted her, it had to be his, too. He would have to put up with all the questions, the reporters, and the constant speculation. Oh fuck… Dane was smart; he could handle it. Cooper was charming enough to slide by. But he’d just about walked out into the hallway and started tearing reporters up. It would have all been caught on camera for the world to see. Shit!

  Lan looked up, and Alea was staring right at him, her dark eyes burning a hole through him as though she knew exactly what he was thinking. “Lea?”

  “That’s the way it’s always going to be now. ” She wouldn’t look him in the eyes. Her face had flushed, her hands trembling slightly. “You won’t be able to have a normal life if you’re with me. ”

  His stomach sank. God, why hadn’t he just slammed the door? “I don’t want a normal life. ”

  “That’s just the start, Lan. They will come at you every day. They’ll drag you down with me,” she said, her voice tight.

  “Lea, come on. Let’s dry your hair. ” Cooper reached for her hand and started to lead her back to the bathroom.

  She walked with him, her head held at that regal angle she used for state appearances.

  Damn it. He started to go after her. He had to explain…what? That he was sorry he’d nearly started a new scandal for the entire royal family and made things much worse for her?

  “Don’t. ” Dane stood in his way. “Let Coop handle her right now. You need to decide. ”

  He hated the fact that Cooper was with her and not him. “I nearly fucked everything up. ”

  “You should have known this was going to happen. You’ve been guarding this family for over a year. You know how the press can be. ”

  He did, but he’d never been in the middle of it. He’d never had all that attention focused on him.

  Dane frowned. “What did you think would happen? What do you think is going to happen when we marry her?”

  “I think I’m going to have to get a grip on my temper. But they said some horrible things about our girl. How can I not defend her?” He needed to get a fucking grip and wrap his head around it all.

  Dane took a long breath and held his hands up, backing away slightly. “We have to find new ways to defend her because lashing out will only make things worse. Sorry, man. I think we’re all on edge. We need to back off and reconvene after we’ve gotten her safely back to Bezakistan. ”

  Lan nodded. He could still hear the reporters clamoring outside the door, and over it all, Law’s shouts. “I wish they’d never found us. ”

  Dane’s shoulders slumped. “Me, too, man. Me, too. ”

  * * * *

  Alea felt numb as she was led into Tal’s office. She’d pretended to sleep all the way home, keeping her eyes closed
and ignoring the conversations around her.

  But all she could hear in her head was those reporters and all she could see was the look of horror on Lan’s face as he’d realized what he’d really gotten mixed up in.

  She’d managed to read some of the press surrounding her disappearance, despite Dane and Cooper’s attempts to prevent it.

  They were calling her all sorts of names. And despite the fact that it had been tradition in Bezakistan for hundreds of years for brothers to share a wife, her men weren’t being considered brothers. Because they shared no blood, the press seemed to think they could deem their relationship kinky rather than traditional and savage it.

  And who had even told them they had a relationship in the first place? Who the hell was this palace source they kept talking to?

  And the worst part was the girl from the brothel recounting all the ways Alea had failed. According to Brittany Hahn, she was worse than a coward. The girl was telling the world that Alea had actually participated in the other women’s torture to spare herself. It was a lie, but she still saw those women in her nightmares, their eyes pleading with her to help. She hadn’t tortured them, but she hadn’t been able to save them either. Had she tried hard enough?

  “Lea!” Piper nearly ran across the space that separated them, throwing her arms around Alea, tears streaming down her face. “Lea, I thought you were dead. ”

  She returned the hug, but Alea felt like she was on autopilot. She’d tried to think of any way to spare her men the pain of the hell they were all about to endure, the constant exposure to the vicious side of the press. But every road led back to one conclusion. They were better off without her.

  Her cousins were standing around Tal’s desk, all of them showing signs of the strain the last month must have placed on them. Rafe and Kade looked like they hadn’t slept, and Tal had a grimness about him she hadn’t seen since he’d married his Piper.

  Piper stepped back, smiling at the men who had filed in behind Alea. “Dane, Landon, Cooper. Thank you so much for taking care of her. I heard how you managed to land the plane and get her to safety. You’re heroes. ”

  They were her heroes. How could she drag them into her world? It had been so simple on the island, but this was reality, and she feared that none of them were really ready for what it would mean to be married to her. Perhaps if she’d never been kidnapped, they would only have to deal with reporters taking pictures and asking intrusive questions about their love life. But now, these “journalists” were out for blood and called her very morality into question. How long could the press ask these questions before Dane, Cooper, and Lan would get tired of comforting or defending her? How long before they wondered if the reports were true? She had no doubt they would stand by her, but they would get hurt. How long before they resented her for their loss of privacy?

  Tal walked around shaking hands with her men. “They are indeed heroes. The royal family cannot repay this debt to you, gentlemen. I will only promise this, no matter what happens in the future, you will always find aid and shelter in this house. I consider you family now. ”

  Alea let her eyes close briefly because she was about to blow everyone out of the water. Damn. Damn. Damn. She didn’t want to do it, but she didn’t see another way to ensure their happiness. She hadn’t been able to help the women she’d been trapped with, but she could help the men she loved.

  She’d known the minute they’d been rescued, seen the speculative looks on the scientists’ faces, that it wouldn’t work. Not here. The island had been different. She’d been able to let go. There was no pushing away the past here.

  The men began talking among themselves, and Piper started ordering food, talking to the staff about a fine welcome home dinner. Alea drifted to the window, staring at the gardens.

  But all she could see was that young woman’s face. She’d managed to pull up one of the many TV interviews Brittany Hahn had given to various media outlets. Apparently she’d been taken to the same brothel Alea had been held in. Brittany had been on a spring break trip to Mexico when she’d been taken for her youthful blonde beauty and sold into prostitution.

  Alea didn’t remember her. She’d been one of a hundred girls Alea had been forced to watch be raped and beaten as part of her “training. ” In the beginning, Alea had fought and screamed, but she’d quickly learned that they took her defiance out on the girls she was watching and not her. Oh, they would slap her, beat her silly, but the real pain happened to those young women.

  Though she didn’t remember Brittany, the girl remembered her. And hated her. She’d blamed Alea for her rape, claimed Alea loved watching others be hurt. She’d called the Princess of Bezakistan nothing but a sadist and hinted that other girls had claimed Alea herself helped hurt them.

  Why was she spreading lies? Why was this happening? Pain ripped through Alea. She needed…god, she didn’t even know what she needed, but she couldn’t stand the waiting anymore. And she knew damn well, she wasn’t going to bring these men into her hell.

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