“In order of badassery, the library fight, from John Wick; The Bourne Identity pen fight; the living room fight from Mr. and Mrs. Smith; and as my John Wick closer, the John Wick club fight.”
Wilder Waterford rolled his eyes. “That’s your final answer? You can’t have two John Wicks in there.”
I sighed and rolled my eyes. “Okay, fine then. Replace one with The Matrix.”
He snorted. “We said in the last fifteen years. Neo doesn’t count.”
I scoffed. “Does too. Honorable mention.”
Wilder’s shoulders shook as he laughed. “You have to follow the rules.”
“We said best hand-to-hand-combat scene in a movie. Those are the best ones. And before you tell me I can’t use Mr. and Mrs. Smith, I’m going to say fight me, because not only did it have great hand-to-hand, it was also funny and sexy.”
He threw up his hands. “I didn’t know those were the criteria.”
I shrugged. “Let’s just call it a woman’s prerogative.”
“Sparrow, I swear to God. I’ll give you The Matrix. I’ll give you John Wick. But Mr. and Mrs. Smith?”
There was something about the way he laughed, a flirty undertone. “Hey, there’s a fantastic gym here anytime you want to spar.”
I sized him up. “Well, you are a prince, so I’m pretty sure it’s against the law to kick your ass.”
His chuckle was low and mellow, pleasant sounding. And it did absolutely nothing for me. Wilder was exceptionally handsome. Sadly, he gave me brother vibes. Not that I had time for a personal life. I was too busy with work. And, if I was honest, I wasn’t even in that frame of mind.
And he’s not the brother you want.
I squashed the thought of Breck Waterford the moment it popped into my head. I loathed him. He was the literal worst. If there were something worse than loathing, that might encompass the breadth of my feelings for the prince.
Also, you think he’s fuckable.
Shit. That too.
“Well, I mean, I know you’ve been injured recently, so I wouldn’t want to hurt you,” Wilder teased.
I lifted a brow. “Anytime, Your Highness. Anytime.”
He grinned, knowing it would get my hackles up. “All right, I hear you. By the way, I’ve got a clearance for the rest of your team should they get into trouble—a diplomatic pass. Is there anything else you need?”
“You mean besides you finally admitting that my list of movies is far superior to yours? No, I’m good.” I glanced toward the window and frowned. The clear blue sky had given way to a pale purple hue. “What time is it?”
He inclined his head toward the clock behind me. “Just past seven.”
Damn. I needed to get out of there. Dinner was first on the agenda. I hadn’t eaten a bite since breakfast. “Geez. I was supposed to make a phone call. I’d better get home. Thank you for this meeting, though. I’ll be back to go over the other security protocols.”
“My doors are always open for you.”
“Thanks for making this easy on me, Wild. With Kannon and London on vacation, you’ve really helped me see to it that things go smoothly as we get ready for the company’s official European opening. It’s easier with your help.”
“Anytime. Besides, we’re practically family now,” he said with a shrug.
I wrinkled my nose. “Wait, does this mean I inherit Breck too?”
He laughed at that. “Yes, sadly. The whole family comes with Breck and Roman.”
I wrinkled my nose even more at that. “Fine, we can keep Roman. He’s okay, but can we put Breck up for adoption?”
Wilder snorted. “Roman’s very taken with you.”
“Ah, he’s just a big grizzly bear. I know how to handle guys like that. I mean, he’s a king, so that’s a whole other level, but at the core of it he loves his family, loves his people. He just likes to roar, and you have to show that you’re not going to hide from the roar. Then you can be friends.”
“I wonder how he would take it if he knew you summed him up so easily.”
I shrugged. “He’s not an easy read, mind you. But my whole job is to read people.”
“That’s hardly your whole job.”
“Maybe not my whole job, but there’s a lot of that.” I pushed out of my chair, and my stomach growled and rumbled.
“Oh, damn. I should have fed you. Sorry. We got to work, and I lost track of time. Do you want to stay for dinner?”
I considered his offer. I had a standing call date with my friend Onyx that night. I could call her later, but there were some things that I needed to do in the office first, anyway, and eat. “No, that’s okay. I’ll go home. I’ll have a glass of wine, throw on some yoga pants and really let my hair loose, and then I’m going to go over the schematics for the new building.”
He clutched a hand to his heart. “Oh God, you’re speaking my language with all that schematics talk.”
“I know. Clearly, I have no life. I just want everything perfect by the time Kannon gets back. You know, so he’ll see his faith in me isn’t misplaced.”
Wilder’s light blue gaze met mine. “He’ll know that. I promise. I can see it. You’re more than capable enough. You could be running this company.”
“No. Kannon’s the leader. But while he’s gone, I will hold down the fort.”
“You do that. Thank you for the company as always. You know, terrible movie choices notwithstanding.”
I rolled my eyes. “I know you’re a prince, and you’re used to getting your way. But sooner or later, you will just realize that I’m right. We need a tie-breaker.”
He crossed his arms then. “Who would I approve of as a tie-breaker?”
We met each other’s gazes and laughed and nodded our heads as we both muttered, “Kannon.”
“Let’s regroup at the end of the week. And if you need anything else before then, just text me.”
I gathered my folders and slid them into my shoulder bag. “I will. Thanks, Wild.”
“Later, Sparrow. And just in case you were wondering, I’m glad you’re here. At least there’s someone else I can finally chat with. Breck hardly has any interest in security, and Roman only cares about the end result. So you’re a breath of fresh air.”
“I aim to please.”
“Do you need a map out of here?”
I narrowed my gaze at him. “Too soon,” I muttered while laughing. My first time in the palace, I’d gotten turned around. I was always getting lost, never seeming to find the right way back to where I was trying to go. Which was how I’d run into his brother Breck, shagging two women, in what I thought was my bedroom.
I’d turned around and found a different path toward my room. It turned out they were in a spare guest room and not the one that had been assigned to me. The passcodes were always the same in that sector of the palace for the guest quarters. I’d been less than thrilled and, I had to admit, a little awed by his flexibility, when I found Breck screwing two women on what I thought was my bed. Except, it hadn’t been my bed. So that had been awkward to say the least.
The whole thing was made more awkward because I hadn’t been able to stop staring at him. He was no soft playboy. Instead he was ripped with muscles for days. He sure as shit didn’t get that kind of physique from fencing alone. And from where I’d been standing, he appeared to be very talented with his mouth and hands.
I cleared my throat to help shake the image of Breck and his magic tongue. “Very funny. And nope, there’s no need. I’ve got it now. I burned the map into my head.”
He chuckled softly. “Okay, if you say so. Have Thomas or whoever is working security at the gate walk you to your car.”
“Sure. Will do.”
But I wouldn’t. I appreciated the safety concerns, but it was just about a hundred meters to the car. I’d be fine. As much as I appreciated the whole ‘you’re family now’ song and dance, I didn’t love the overbearing-big-brother thing.
I took a left out of Wilder’s office toward the North Tower. But before I could make it to the safety of the cobblestones and the gate, I saw the one person in the entire palace whom I’d hoped not to see, and he froze when he saw me. Breck Waterford.
Our gazes locked, and my belly did a flip flop. Stop it. You don’t even like him. Besides, he’s no doubt drunk again.
I faltered for a moment, making that mental calculation of whether or not I could avoid talking to him. But no. He was already walking toward me.
I rolled my eyes and set my jaw. There was no avoiding him now that he’d seen me. “Your Highness.” The words were ones of respect, but I couldn’t keep the irritation out of my voice.
His grin was quick. “Ahh, there is that warm welcome I’ve come to expect from you. One of these days, you’ll need to tell me why you don’t like me. I mean, everybody likes me. Haven’t you heard? I’m a prince.”
“Oh, I’ve heard. I’ve seen, um, all your assets, such as they are. I’m just not particularly impressed.”
Liar. I was such a liar. That eyeful I’d gotten when I walked in on him with the two supermodels proved his assets were just fine. Enormous actually. To the point of jaw dropping. It was no wonder he trotted out his… assets every chance he got. But I’d walk across hot coals before I ever said anything like that to him. His playboy exploits were legendary. I’d only just moved to Alden and, so far, every eligible female I’d run into had some Breck story.
And from the stories I’d heard, he had every right to be arrogant.
My skin flushed just thinking about him. Or maybe the heat was a result of his closeness. Even if I found him arrogant, irritating, and brash, he had sex appeal in spades. Unlike Wilder, there was not a single brother vibe in sight.
Nope. Breck Waterford had my number. But like hell was I telling him that.
“You keep on denying you feel that pull between us. Look, I get it. I’m sexy. You can’t help yourself.”
I scowled at him. “Seriously? You’re disgusting.”
He laughed. “Who are you kidding, Feisty? I can see it in your eyes. Pupils dilated. Lips parted. That honey skin all flushed.”
“So, you’re telling me that your whole life women have told you were appealing? I’m so sorry to disappoint you, Your Highness. But I won’t be one of those women.”
“Sure you will. You just haven’t gotten there yet. Pretend you don’t like me all you want. But I know the truth.”
“Okay, Breck. If this whole act you put on works for you, keep it up. It just doesn’t work for me. I loathe arrogant guys. You forget, I’ve seen your skills. Completely unimpressive. Hell, I’ve even seen bigger.”
Again with the lies. I should be ashamed of myself, but my training had taught me, when in dire straits, use all the tools at your disposal. And so, until I made it to safety, I needed to treat his presence as hostile. I needed to use any tactic I could, period, to escape before I did something dumb like lean in and sniff him.
Why did he smell so damn good?
He clutched a hand over his heart. “Oh, Feisty. You wound me. Or at least you would if I didn’t already know who you were working with. But you tell yourself whatever you need. I promise you that you’re sniffing around the wrong brother.”
I frowned as he brushed past me, the minor contact making my nipples peak. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
Breck rolled his eyes. “You don’t think I see you and my little brother? Sure, he’s the upstanding one. But he has his… tastes.” He smirked at that. “Who knows? Maybe you’re into it, which makes me incredibly sad it isn’t me that you want.”
”I beg your pardon, but you’re the worst, Your Highness.”
“Try harder to pretend, Feisty.” His voice was a low hum as he muttered over his shoulder.
God, what was it about him that made my whole body vibrate? What I wanted to do was follow him and keep fighting. Yet, not five minutes ago, I’d been starving and needing to crash.
But one Breck sighting and I was ready for a fight. An all-out grudge match. He could do that to me, make me relinquish my carefully constructed control. Maybe that was why I didn’t like him. I knew what was good for me. And staying the hell away from Breck Waterford was at the top of that list.