TWISTED GAMES by ANA HUANG, Book 2, Chapter No: 45,RHYS

SHE WASN’T COMING. I stood on the rooftop of the palace’s northernmost tower, my jaw tight as I watched the minutes tick by on my watch. Six minutes past nine. Seven. Eight. Bridget was always punctual unless she had a meeting that ran over, and she didn’t have any meetings that late at night. Tick. Tick. Tick. Uncertainty coiled in my stomach. It’d been a gamble, reaching out to Booth and sneaking into the palace, but I’d been desperate to see her. I’d known there was a chance Bridget, stubborn as she was, wouldn’t show up. But I also knew her. No matter what she said, she’d wanted to let me go as much as I wanted to leave her, and I was banking on the fact the past two weeks had been hell for her as much as it had been for me. Part of me hoped it hadn’t, because the thought of her hurting in any way made me want to want to burn the palace to the fucking ground. But another, selfish part hoped I’d haunted her as she had me. That every breath was a struggle to draw enough oxygen into her lungs, and every mention of my name caused a sharp needle of pain to pierce her chest. Because hurt meant she still cared. “Come on, princess.” I stared at the red metal door and willed her to walk through it. “Don’t let me down.”
Twelve minutes past nine. Thirteen. The rhythm in my jaw pulsed in time with my heartbeats. Fuck it. If tonight didn’t work, I’d try again until I succeeded. I’d fought and won impossible battles all my life, and the one for Bridget was the most important one of all. If she couldn’t or wouldn’t fight for us—because of her guilt, her duty, her family, or any other reason—I’d fight enough for us both. Fourteen minutes past nine. Fifteen. Dammit princess, where are you? Either Bridget hadn’t received the note, or she’d chosen not to come. Booth had texted saying he’d given her the note, and I trusted him. I wouldn’t have reached out to him otherwise. If what he said was true, then… Pain lanced through me, but I forced myself to push it aside. I’d wait all night if I had to, in case she changed her mind, and if— The door banged open and, suddenly, she was there. Out of breath, cheeks flushed, hair fluttering across her face from the wind. My pulse ratcheted up several notches in the space of a millisecond. I straightened, air filling my lungs as I finally came alive again. Bridget remained in the doorway, one hand on the doorknob, her lips parted and her chest heaving. The moonlight splashed across the roof, turning her golden hair silver and illuminating the slender curves of her body. The wind carried a faint hint of her lush jasmine scent toward me, and her green dress fluttered around her thighs, baring her shoulders and the long, smooth expanse of her legs. I loved that dress. She knew I loved that dress. And something inside me unclenched for the first time in weeks.
“Hi,” she breathed. Her grip tightened on the doorknob like she was trying to steady herself. My mouth curved. “Hi, princess.” The space between us hummed, so taut with anticipation and unspoken words it was a living, breathing thing that pulled us closer together. No more of the distance I’d felt in the hospital. She was in my skin, my soul, the very air I breathed. Everything I’d gone through the past two weeks to get here had been worth it. “Apologies for being late. I ran into Markus and got roped into a conversation about the coronation.” Bridget brushed her hair out of her face, and I detected a small tremble in her hand. “It turns out the archbishop—” “Come here, baby.” I didn’t give a fuck about Markus or the archbishop. I needed her. Only her. She froze at my low command, roughened by weeks of longing. For a second, I thought she’d turn tail and run, which might be smart, considering the pent-up fire raging through me. But then she ran toward me, her hair streaming behind her in the wind. I caught her easily while our mouths crashed against each other. Tongues dueling. Teeth scraping. Hands roaming over every inch of flesh we could access. Two weeks might as well have been two years, based on the way we devoured each other. I cupped her ass and nipped her bottom lip in punishment for forcing us to waste all the time we could’ve spent together. For thinking anything she said could make me give her up when she was the only thing I’d ever wanted. Even if I did stupid shit like walk out in the heat of the moment, I’d always find my way back to her. “I’m sorry,” Bridget whispered, her voice thick with emotion. “For what I said at the hospital. I don’t want to marry Steffan, and I don’t—”
“I know.” I skimmed my palm over her back, over heated flesh flowing into cool silk, and another small shiver rippled through her. “I’m sorry for walking out.” Regret twisted my insides. Our separation had been as much my fault as hers. I should’ve stayed. Fought harder. Then again, she’d needed the space to sort through her thoughts. Her grandfather’s heart attack had been fresh in her mind, and there’d been no changing her mind that day. “I thought you weren’t coming.” My hand lingered on the small of her back. “Remind me to kill Markus the next time I see him.” She released a small laugh. “Done.” Bridget tipped her chin up until her eyes met mine. “I…” She appeared to think better of what she’d been about to say. “How did you get in here? If anyone saw you…” “They didn’t. Navy SEAL, remember?” I drawled. “I can evade a few palace guards.” She rolled her eyes, and my mouth twitched at the familiar sight of her amused exasperation. Fuck, I’d missed her. This. Us. “And Booth?” “Nearly scared the guy to death when I showed up at his house, but I can be pretty persuasive.” It’d taken less convincing than I thought. According to Booth, Bridget had been in a funk since the hospital, and he’d hoped seeing me would help. He wasn’t stupid—he’d guessed Bridget and I really did have something going on. Booth could lose his job if someone found out he was smuggling notes from me to Bridget, but he’d taken the risk anyway. I owed that man a nice, cold beer and a steak dinner in the future. “I hadn’t expected you to reach out after what happened,” Bridget said. “I thought you were upset with me. I thought…” Her throat flexed with a hard swallow. “You might’ve left.”
“I did. Had to leave the country to get a new visa,” I clarified when her eyebrows shot up. “Six months as a tourist.” I flashed a crooked smile. “Guess I have to get an ‘I Love Eldorra’ T-shirt now.” The tiniest of smiles crossed her lips. “So, you’re staying for six months?” She sounded both relieved and sad. Six months was a long time and nowhere long enough. “No, princess. I’m staying for as long as you’re here.” Bridget’s eyes flared with delight before her muscles tensed again. “How…why…” “Let me figure out the how. As for the why…” I pressed her tighter to me. “I’m not leaving you. If you’re in Eldorra, I’m in Eldorra. If you’re in Antarctica, the Sahara, or the middle of the fucking ocean, I’m there. I’m as much yours as you are mine, princess, and a law isn’t keeping me away. I don’t care what a piece of paper says. I’ll burn down the entire fucking Parliament if I have to.” A thousand emotions passed over her face. “Rhys…” “I’m serious.” “I know you are. And something must be wrong with me because I’ve never been more touched by the prospect of arson.” Her quick smile faded. “But there’s something I need to tell you. Several things, in fact.” Wariness filled me at her tone. “Okay.” “It’s funny you mentioned burning down Parliament. I have an idea…not physically burning it down,” she added hastily when my eyebrows rose. “But a way to repeal the law before Steffan proposes.” The beast in my chest snarled at his name. Andreas’s plan didn’t solve the short-term problem of Bridget and Steffan’s engagement—and it would be a short-term problem—but I’d deal with it myself. No way in hell would Bridget wear another man’s ring on her finger. “I don’t know if I can go through with it, though.” A touch of vulnerability entered her eyes. “It’s not exactly
aboveboard.” “What is it?” Pink tinged Bridget’s cheeks before she straightened and said, “Blackmail the ministers into opening the motion and voting for a repeal.” Wait one fucking second. “Repeat that.” She did. “Like I said, it’s not the most aboveboard strategy, but—” A strangled noise emerged from my throat, cutting her off. Her brow knit into a frown. “What?” “Have you been talking to Andreas?” If she hadn’t, it was too ironic for words. Her frown deepened. “No. Why would I talk to Andreas about this? He wants to steal the crown.” Not exactly. Andreas and I had spent a fair amount of time together hashing out the plan, and while I still trusted him only as far as I could throw him, I knew he didn’t want the crown. He enjoyed his carefree lifestyle as a prince without responsibilities too much. “Because he has a similar idea, though his only applies to Erhall, not all of Parliament.” My mouth tipped up. “You always were an overachiever.” “Why are you talking to…” Bridget’s eyes widened. “You know.” My surprise mirrored hers. How did she…then it hit me. Her blackmail on Erhall. It must’ve included information about me and Andreas. But before I said anything, I wanted to make sure we were on the same page. I’d been working up to the reveal about my parentage; I didn’t want to just drop the bombshell on her in case I assumed wrong. “I know about Andreas.” I watched her carefully. “That he’s…” A tense silence vibrated between us.
“Your brother.” “My brother.” We spoke at the same time, and there it was. My secret, out in the open. After thirty-four years of no family except my mother, who’d barely counted as family, it was strange to think I had a brother. “So, it’s true.” Bridget released a long breath, the vestiges of shock lingering on her face. “How did you find out?” “Christian did some digging and told me. I confronted Andreas.” I filled her in on what happened at his townhouse, as well as Andreas’s plan to blackmail Erhall with the information about me being his son. Erhall couldn’t afford a scandal ahead of elections, and a long-lost love child fell squarely under “scandal.” “I’m a little terrified I came up with the same idea as my cousin.” I could see the gears spinning in Bridget’s mind as she digested the information. “How do you know we can trust him?” “I don’t, but we have leverage. He doesn’t want anyone to find out Erhall is his father, or…” “…he could lose his royal status,” Bridget finished. “A fate worse than death in his eyes.” “Yeah.” The whole situation was so fucked. I hated playing mind games, and we were trapped in the most twisted web of games and one-upmanship possible. I also didn’t love the idea of blackmail, but if that’s what I had to do, I’d do it. Bridget examined me, those beautiful blue eyes sympathetic. “It must’ve been a shock, learning about Erhall and Andreas. I know you have mixed feelings about your father.” That was one way to put it. Another way was I despised him even more now that I knew his identity.
“He’s not my father.” Erhall was, at best, a sperm donor. “But I don’t want to talk about him right now. Let’s focus on your plan.” I had a lot of shit to sort out when it came to Erhall, but I could do that later. Bridget picked up on my cue and changed the subject. “Okay. So.” She lifted her chin. “We’re really doing this. Blackmailing the Speaker of Parliament.” Despite her bravado, a note of nervousness ran beneath her words, and the fierce need to protect her—from the world, from her own doubts and insecurities—consumed me. I wished she could see herself as I saw her. Fucking perfect. I framed her face with my hands. “If we do it, we do it together. You and me against the world, princess.” Her smile sent warmth crashing against my ribcage. “I wouldn’t have anyone else by my side, Mr. Larsen.” She took a deep breath. “We might need the information to push Erhall, but I want to try something before we resort to doing the same with Parliament. All this time, I’ve been treating the tabloids as my enemy, but maybe they can be an ally.” She explained her plan. It was easier than blackmailing one hundred eighty of Eldorra’s most powerful, but it was also a major gamble. “You sure?” I asked after she finished. “It’s a big risk.” Bridget had the most to lose if it didn’t pan out. “Yes. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it earlier.” She paused. “Actually, I can. I was scared of what people would say and that it would lessen my legitimacy as a ruler. But I’m tired of being afraid. With great risk comes great reward, right?” A small smile touched my lips. “Absolutely.” Bridget was, after all, my greatest risk and my greatest reward.
She lifted one hand and tangled her fingers with mine. “I missed you.” The mood shifted, transitioning from the brisk practicality of our plan to something softer and achingly vulnerable. “I’m right here. I’m not leaving.” I swept my thumb over her bottom lip. “I take care of what’s mine, and you’ve been mine since the moment I saw you outside your poorly secured house at Thayer. Until I fixed it, of course.” A smile tugged at her mouth. “You couldn’t stand me back then.” “Doesn’t matter. You were still mine.” I curled my hand around the back of her neck while keeping my thumb on her lip. “Mine to fight with. Mine to protect. Mine to fuck.” My voice dropped. “Mine to love.” Bridget sucked in an audible breath. “In Costa Rica, you asked if I’d ever been in love. I said no.” I lowered my head until our foreheads touched and her lips were scant inches from mine. “Ask me again.” It was the same request I’d made at the hospital, but this time, Bridget didn’t break our gaze as she asked, “Have you ever been in love, Mr. Larsen?” “Only once.” I slid my hand up from her neck to the back of her head, cupping it. “And you, princess. Have you ever been in love?” “Only once,” she whispered. I exhaled sharply her words sank into my soul, filling cracks I hadn’t known existed. Until Bridget, I’d never loved or been loved, and I finally understood what the fuss was about. It was better than any bulletproof armor or oblivion I found at the bottom of the bottle during my short-lived affair with alcohol. Alcohol was for numbing, and I didn’t want to be numb. I wanted to feel every goddamn thing with her.
I pulled Bridget close until our bodies pressed flush against each other. “Damn right,” I said fiercely. “Only once. First and last. Don’t forget that, princess.” I fisted her hair and tugged her head back, my mouth pressing hot and insistent against hers while I maneuvered us to a chair. There were nights when I took my time, savoring every inch of her body before I gave us what we both wanted, and there were nights like this, when our desperate need to just be together overrode everything else. “Rhys…” She gasped as I pushed her skirt up around her hips and ripped her panties off, too impatient to shimmy them down when she was sitting. I tossed the torn silk on the floor and pushed her legs wider with my knee. “I love when you say my name.” I sank into her, swallowing her small cry with my kiss and pushing deeper until I was buried to the hilt. We had to muffle our moans so they didn’t carry on the wind, and somehow that only heightened the intensity of the moment, like we were containing all our emotions in this small bubble where we were the only ones who existed. “Harder, please.” Bridget arched into me, her nails digging grooves into my skin, her warm skin contrasting against the chill of the night air on my back. I held onto the back of the chair for better leverage and gave her what she asked for, a groan ripping from my throat when she buried her face in my chest to muffle her scream. “You feel so good, princess.” My blood ran white-hot as I slammed into her again and again, my muscles flexing from the effort. She was slick and tight, her breath hot against my skin as she clenched and shattered around me with a wordless cry. My orgasm followed soon after, racing through me with such intensity it took me twice as long to recover than usual. When the aftershocks finally subsided, I pushed myself up on my arms so I didn’t crush Bridget with my weight, but she
wrapped her legs around my waist, keeping me close. “Round two?” I brushed a strand of hair out of her face. She looked sleepy and lazy and content, and it still boggled my mind she was real. Not only real but here, with me. She let out a soft laugh. “You’re insatiable,” she said, turning the word I’d used for her against me. “When it comes to you?” I kissed her jaw. “Always.” Bridget’s eyes turned liquid beneath the moonlight, and her hold on me tightened. “I love you.” Another breath rushed out of me. “I love you too,” I said, my voice gruff with long-buried emotion. I kissed her again. Her mouth against mine, her limbs wrapped around my body, our breaths and heartbeats mingling until they were one…I’d lived in hell my whole life, and it wasn’t until now I glimpsed what heaven felt like. But as our kiss deepened and I sank into her once again, I realized I was wrong. Bridget felt better than heaven. She felt like home.

Leave a Reply