Home > oyally Endowed (Royally #3)(6)

oyally Endowed (Royally #3)(6)
Author: Emma Chase

I drag myself up too. “I thought you don’t sweep fucking floors?”

Logan winks. And, right there in that dim little coffee shop, he steals a piece of my heart forever.

“In your case, I’ll make a fucking exception.”

He starts sweeping up, but when I get to the kitchen door, I pause. “Thanks, Logan. For everything.”

He looks at me a moment, then gives an easy nod. “No need to thank me—just doing my job.”

OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS, we settle into a routine. I take the early-morning shift with Ellie at the coffee shop, and then I give Marty a hand in the kitchen fulfilling orders, washing dishes—once Tommy goes with her to school. It’s not noble work, but it’s busy, fast-paced, and the time goes quickly. I stay till dinnertime, when one of the other boys—Cory or Liam—shows up for the night watch.

I like routines—they’re steady, predictable, easy to manage. It’s the same, day in and out.

Except for the songs. The ones Ellie blasts in the kitchen at four a.m., while she’s baking. Those are always different, like she’s got an infinite playlist. A few she seems to like more than others, putting them on repeat. Today it’s “What a Feeling” from that eighties stripper movie. Yesterday it was “The Warrior” and the one before that was “I Love Rock and Roll.”

And she’s always dancing. Skipping around like sunlight sparking off a mirror.

Once, I asked, “Is the music necessary?”

And she just smiled that sweet smile and replied, “Music makes the pies taste better, silly.”

This morning, though, Ellie’s looking especially weary, with dark circles—almost bruises—beneath her baby-blue eyes. And there are books and notes spread out on one side of the counter that she glances at, mumbling to herself while she prepares the pie shells.

“You study a lot,” I say.

She chuckles. “I have to—I’m in the home stretch. It’s down to me and Brenda Raven for valedictorian. I’ve already been accepted to NYU in the fall, but graduating first in my class would be a yummy cherry on my academic sundae.”

At first glance, Ellie Hammond comes off as kind of . . . ditzy. Like she’s got a little too much air between her ears. But nothing could be farther from the truth. She’s not an airhead; she’s just . . . innocent. Trusting. Joyful. Probably the most chipper young woman I’ve ever known.

“Did you go to college?” she asks.


A counselor told me I was dyslexic when I was nine. It was a relief to know I wasn’t just a dumb fuck. She taught me how to get by, but even now reading doesn’t come easy.

“I was never real talented in school.”

I move closer to the counter, putting my hand on the handle of the rolling pin she’s using.

And Ellie freezes, like a delicate blond deer.

“I’ll do it,” I say. “So you can study. I’ve watched you make enough of them to manage.”

And she looks up at me like I just offered her the world on a platter. “Yeah?”

“Sure.” I shrug, ignoring the hero worship in her eyes. “I’m just standing here.”

I don’t like to be useless.

“Ah . . . okay. Thanks.” She opens a drawer and hands me a white apron. “You should put this on, though.”

She might as well be holding a roach.

“Do I look like the kind of guy who’d wear an apron?”

Ellie shrugs. “Have it your way, Mr. I’m-Too-Sexy-for-My-Apron. But that black dress shirt isn’t going to look so sharp when it’s covered in flour.”

I snort. But leave the bloody apron on the counter. Not a chance.

There’s an odd satisfaction to baking that I’d never admit to aloud. It occurs to me as I slide the last of two dozen pies onto the cooling rack on the center counter. They look good—with golden, flaky brown crusts—and they smell even better. Ellie closes her big textbook and shuffles her papers away with a bright white smile taking up half of her face.

“God, I needed that. Now I can make this exam my bitch.”

She’s relieved. And I feel satisfaction in that too.

We head out to the front dining room and take the chairs down from where they sit, upside down on the tables. Her gaze follows my every move—she tries being sneaky about it—skittering her eyes away when I glance back, but I’ve been checked out by enough women to know what’s going on. Ellie’s interest is weighted with curiosity and fascination, skimming over me like the touch of unpracticed, seeking hands.

She opens the window shade, revealing the crowd of customers that’s already gathered on the pavement. It’s smaller than it was a few weeks ago—now that the public knows the Crown Prince of Wessco has left the building, and the country.

Ellie goes back to the kitchen . . . and screams bloody murder.


Adrenaline spikes through me and I dart to the kitchen, ready to fight. Until I see the cause of her screaming.

“Bosco, noooooo!”

It’s the rodent-dog. He got into the kitchen, somehow managed to hoist himself up onto the counter, and is in the process of demolishing his fourth pie.

Fucking Christ, it’s impressive how fast he ate them. That a mutt his size could even eat that many. His stomach bulges with his ill-gotten gains—like a snake that ingested a monkey. A big one.

“Thieving little bastard!” I yell.

Ellie scoops him off the counter and I point my finger in his face. “Bad dog.”

The little twat just snarls back.

Ellie tosses the mongrel on the steps that lead up to the apartment and slams the door. Then we both turn and assess the damage. Two apple and a cherry are completely devoured, he nibbled at the edge of a peach and apple crumb and left tiny paw-prints in two lemon meringues.

“We’re going to have re-bake all seven,” Ellie says.

I fold my arms across my chest. “Looks that way.”

“It’ll take hours,” she says.


“But we have to. There isn’t any other choice.”

Silence follows. Heavy, meaningful silence.

I glance sideways at Ellie, and she’s already peeking over at me.

“Or . . . is there?” she asks slyly.

I look at what remains of the damaged pastries, considering all the options. “If we slice off the chewed bits . . .”

“And smooth out the meringue . . .”

“Put the licked ones in the oven to dry out . . .”

“Are you two out of your motherfucking minds?”

I swing around to find Marty standing in the alley doorway behind us. Eavesdropping and horrified. Ellie tries to cover for us. But she’s bad at it.

“Marty! When did you get here? We weren’t gonna do anything wrong.”

Covert ops are not in her future.

“Not anything wrong?” he mimics, stomping into the room. “Like getting us shut down by the goddamn health department? Like feeding people dog-drool pies—have you no couth?”

“It was just a thought,” Ellie swears—starting to laugh.

“A momentary lapse in judgment,” I say, backing her up.

“We’re just really tired and—”

“And you’ve been in this kitchen too long.” He points to the door. “Out you go.”

When we don’t move, he goes for the broom.

“Go on—get!”

Ellie grabs her knapsack and I guide her out the back door as Marty sweeps at us like we’re vermin.

Out on the pavement, it starts to rain—a light, annoying mist. From the corner of my eye, I see Ellie pull her hood up, but my gaze stays trained ahead of us. If your eyes are on the person you’re supposed to be protecting, you’re doing it wrong.

I take note of who else is on the street, reading their body language—pedestrians on their way to work, a homeless guy on the corner, a businessman smoking a cigarette and yelling into his phone. I stick close to Ellie, keeping her within reach, scanning left to right for potential threats or anyone who might make the poor decision to try and get too close. It’s second nature.

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