🌹🌹The Swedish Prince 🌹🌹
🌸🌸(ROYAL ROMANCE) 🌸🌸
Maggie’s POV continues
He quickly glances at his hand and shrugs.
“There’s no cow on the ice,” he says with a warm smile. “It’s fine. I’m just glad I was here.”
“There’s no cow on the what ?” I repeat, dazzled by both that strange phrase and the way he came to my rescue, the way he’s looking at me now, like it was his honor.
His smile widens, and he lets out a laugh that makes my stomach fill with butterflies.
“Yes. Sorry. It is a saying we have. Det är ingen ko på isen,” he says in Swedish, the language sounding so light and beautiful.
“ Meaning there’s no cow on the ice. It means don’t worry.”
“Because you would worry if there was a cow on the ice right ?”I asked
“Well yes. Wouldn’t you?”
I laugh despite myself. “I guess I would.” I reach out and touch his hand, his warm, strong hand, and hold it, examining his knuckles. “You need to get fixed up.”
“Too bad there isn’t a nurse at the hotel,” he says in a low voice, still watching me intently.
I’m not sure if it’s because of the adrenaline running through our bodies or the way we’re standing so close but I swear his eyes seem to darken, like clouds coming
I swallow. “I have to take April back home. You don’t mind coming along for the ride? Again?”
“Not at all. I have nowhere to be and you’re the only person I now know in this town. I think it would be rather lonely if I went back to my hotel room right now. Not to mention boring. There are no fistfights there.”
“No cows on the ice either,” I point out as I walk around the hood to the driver’s side.
“You’re picking up on Swedish already,” he says. “I’m rather proud.”
Now I’m grinning like an idiot and for a second, I forget all the horrible shit that just happened.
I’m reminded of it the minute I get back in the car.
April is crying in the backseat while simultaneously giving me the finger when I ask if she’s okay. Outside, Tito staggers to his feet and goes back inside his drug den.
Then there’s the Sweden buckling in beside me with his long legs and bleeding knuckles. I can’t believe he just fucking took that beast Tito down like that. I’m having a hard time processing all of this, it all happened so fast.
But rather than an uncomfortable silence all the way back to the house, the Sweden fills the air by talking about his trip in America so far.
How he started out in New York City and spent a few days there before buying a vintage mustang from a collector and
I hate to admit it, but I’m envious. Here’s a man who seems so self-assured, who is traveling by himself through America doing whatever he wants. Money doesn’t seem to be an issue. Time doesn’t seem to be an issue. I’ve never seen someone look so free.
I want that. I want that freedom to drop everything and just run away. Run away like a coward but at least I would feel the wind in my face and hope under my wings.
At least for a little while I could live under the pretence that anything can happen until the guilt and shame and responsibility would drag me back home.
I hate that I feel that way. And then I hate myself for hating myself.
The cycle never breaks.
Before I know it, I’m pulling the van back up to the house and my heart feels waterlogged. April immediately jumps out and runs inside even before I’ve had a chance to cut the engine.
I sigh and look over at him with a weak smile before resting my head on the steering wheel. “Back again.”
“Are you okay?” he asks, one brow delicately raised.
Funny how he asks it, his tone suggesting we’ve been friends for many years. We’re not even friends. We don’t even know each other. I barely remember his real name. And yet there’s no denying this feeling.
It’s only because you’ve seen him naked, I remind myself. Don’t be fooled by your hormones.
But I know that’s not the only reason.
I give a slight nod. “I’ll be okay. I guess I better go inside and see how Pike is handling it. Who knows what version of our story she’s giving him.”
He studies me for a moment through those long lashes of his. Finally, he says, “You’re a lot stronger than you think you are.”
I flinch, taken aback. “What?”
“I just don’t think you give yourself enough credit.”
I can’t help but frown. “No offense, Mr. Sweden, but you don’t actually know me.”
He rubs his lips together and shrugs. “No. I suppose I don’t. And you don’t know me either.” He pauses. “Would you like to have dinner tonight?”
I blink, floored by the question. “Dinner?”
Is he asking me out for dinner?
After all that, why the hell would he ask me out on a date? Shouldn’t I be taking him out for dinner after the way he came to my defense and knocked Tito out?
“You do eat dinner, don’t you?” he adds.
He continues to stare at me expectantly. “So? Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?”
“But…why?” I blurt out.
“Because I like you,” he says. He says it so simply, so earnestly, that it could be the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me. “I find you very interesting. And it would be nice to not eat alone for once.”
“There isn’t anywhere nice to eat here,” I tell him, aware that my palms are starting to get sweaty.
“But I’m sure there’s somewhere good, yes?”
There are a few restaurants that I personally love, even if they aren’t anything fancy, but I haven’t gone out to eat in a year. Not since New York. “I’ll have to ask Pike,” I tell him. “He was stuck with the kids last night when I was…well, with you at the bar.”
“All right,” he says with a slow nod. “And if he says no to tonight, how about tomorrow night?”
God, he’s persistent too.
I’m in heaven.
A sweaty-palmed, heart-racing, lightheaded kind of heaven.
My name on his lips sounds sweeter than a love song.
I come back to earth.
Give him a smile. “I would love to.”
I’m living a lie.
I’m living a lie and for the first time in three weeks, I hate it.
Up until my damn dream car broke down outside of however you pronounce this town’s name, I was reveling in the freedom that being Johan Andersson brought me.
It was fucking unbelievable.
From the moment I stepped on that private jet leaving Arlanda airport in Stockholm, to landing in Germany where I took one last glimpse of my bodyguard and started my journey under a fake passport, I’ve been living a life I’d only dreamed of.
I was no longer shadowed by guards. I was no longer recognized. I was no longer of interest to anyone. I was no longer on my best behavior. I was no longer conscious of anything other than remembering my new name and my new job. Johan Andersson, heir to a fictional Swedish pharmaceutical fortune. I was free.
There was no better place to land than New York City, Manhattan, the city where dreams are made. It was everything I thought it would be. I was immediately enveloped by the bright lights and honking cabs and endless streets, swallowed by the pulse of millions of people. I was anonymous. I was free to be whoever I wanted.
The first day I slept in until past noon. No one was there to wake me up. I had a new mobile just for this trip and no one was calling it wanting anything. There was no Freddie making sure I was on task. There were no butlers knocking at my door. I got up when I felt like it and even though I was groggy and jet-lagged, I went out onto the streets to a coffee shop and spent hours at the window just watching the world go by.
I’ve never been able to look at people that way. Unabashedly. Openly. Observing strangers like I’d never been around humanity before. No one noticed. No one minded. I was just another face in the crowd. I wasn’t a prince at all, I was just a human being.
It felt fucking good.
That’s pretty much all I did in New York. I wandered the streets, I watched people. I went to both rooftop bars full of the types of socialites I grew up around and I went to hipster bars where people pretended not to care but really did and I went to the dive bars where people sat in silence and drank until their minds were silent too. I sat on park benches, I watched dogs run around tiny dog parks, I saw tourists run from pigeons and drivers arguing about traffic.
I even tried to see Hamilton but lost patience trying to get tickets. Maybe next time.
After New York, I took the train to Chicago, something I’d always wanted to do after I saw the movie North by Northwest and under a false identity, I really felt like Roger Kaplan.
Then in Chicago I spent a few more days walking, observing, eating and found myself the car of my dreams from a private seller on Craigslist. A Caspian Blue 1965 Mustang hardtop in near mint condition. I handed over the money in cash and hit the open road. Windows down. Wind in my smile.
Smile. I hadn’t smiled since Alex died and yet now I was. I was smiling and every time the guilt crept up on me, reminding me of what I lost, that I had no right to smile.
I buried the feeling and pretended that Johan Andersson has never experienced loss. And I kept smiling.
With each day I spent driving across the States, the more into my new character I became. It was fairly easy. When you’re thrust from one type of life, a very bizarre, very specific life that you’ve only ever known, and into one the total opposite, it becomes easy to pretend to be somebody else.
It was working too, until I was driving between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. I’d always wanted to see Vegas so I got a room at The Venetian for a night. I’d barely given my car to the valet when I walked through the ornate lobby with its painted ceilings and got caught in the middle of a large wedding party that was passing through.
All the bridesmaids were clutching white lilies.
The groomsmen had them as corsages.
Their scent filled the air, as intoxicating as poison and within seconds it felt like my chest was closing up and I was close to passing out.
White lilies were everywhere at Alex’s funeral.
I never really noticed until I smelled them again.
The smell of death.
It broke apart the mask I was wearing and once again I was Viktor, a grieving prince, lost under foreign lights.
I got back in that mustang and I drove through the desert, escaping those lilies and the memories and the pain.
Or so I thought.
Just before the desert rose up into the rolling hills that surround this town, the mustang sputtered and came to a crawl. I was lucky I didn’t get smoked by a few semi-trucks while I was at it.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to call a towing company and for them to show up and take the mustang to the nearest hotel, where I told them I would tinker with it in their parking lot.
By then it was late, I was stressed, sad and tired, and I’d passed out without much time to think about anything. The next morning, however, I did my best to keep Viktor buried away. As annoying as it was to have my dream car break down like that, the car that had taken such good care of me on my trip across the states, it was good to have something to do, something to keep my mind occupied, something to fix since I sure as hell couldn’t fix myself.
It was when I was a greasy mess and I realized I needed a new carburetor that I went back into my room to shower and eventually look for parts online. I was walking around naked, an audiobook playing in my wireless earbuds since audiobooks in English were the best way for me to perfect the language, that I realized I wasn’t alone in the room.
The funny thing is, I’d gotten used to wandering around in hotel rooms naked. In Sweden nudity is barely an issue, but even so, back at home, I was constantly bombarded by people. In these hotel rooms I felt safe to do what I pleased.
That was until I turned around and discovered a maid staring at me with wide eyes and open mouth.
One extremely pretty and young maid, the kind you have fantasies about. Dark hair loosely pulled back, a disarmingly sweet face with lush lips and eyes like black holes, eyes that tempted you to get close and tumble in, never to get out again.
She took me by complete surprise.
I definitely took her by surprise.
She yelped, mumbled something and looked like she couldn’t get out of my room fast enough. I can’t blame her. She was rather small and with my height and stature I’m sure my cock was looking positively monstrous in front of her.
I didn’t expect to see her again. After she left, our little incident was the only amusing part of the day.
The day that crept into night.
The night that brought loneliness on a dry desert wind.
I could have sworn I smelled lilies in the air.
Maybe it was the overly-perfumed scent of a guest passing by in the hallway.
Maybe it was just in my head, conjuring up ghosts when I was alone and vulnerable.
Either way it struck me as hard as it had in Vegas, a bomb of sorrow that exploded inside me, shrapnel that made me bleed from the inside out.
I fell to my knees, overwhelmed, taken over.
I could have sunk right through the floor.
But I wouldn’t let the tears fall.
I felt if I did, I’d be taking a step backward into Viktor again. Into the person I was running away from, into the role I knew I’d eventually have to succumb to, a role that would now hurt so much more after this taste of freedom.
In desperation I found the pills that Dr. Bonakov had given me. I took two.
They took too long to kick in.
With no fridge in the room and no bar or restaurant in the hotel, I walked the ten minutes into town and went into the first bar I saw. Sat at the bar. Ordered a vodka on the rocks.
And that was it.
Into the black.
But there were dreams. Wild and dark and confusing. I dreamt about Alex and a crown laced with razor blades, bearing his blood, blood that washed me away into the next morning.
Where I woke up.
In a dim room of gray light.
In a strange bed.
With a strange girl and a young boy staring at me.
My first thoughts were that I’d been in an accident of some sort, that maybe I was in a hospital.
Then that thought turned to one of being kidnapped because I noticed the girl was holding a razor blade like she wanted to slice me, like the razor blades in my dreams. Maybe somehow she figured out who I was and was holding me for ransom.
Then I noticed who she was.
Then I learned what she did.
Took care of me when I was unconscious at the bar. Took me home. Made sure I was safe.
Something she didn’t have to do for a complete stranger.
And now I’m here, sitting in her kitchen at the worn wooden table while she’s rifling through a first aid kit she just pulled out from under the sink, about to treat the raw wounds on my knuckles.
That guy had a face made of steel, I swear, and it didn’t help that I’d punched Gustav in the face just a few weeks before.
We’re not alone in the kitchen, of course.
On one side of me is a young boy who can’t seem to stop smiling. I can’t tell if he’s just happy or he’s plotting my death.
On the other side of me are a pair of twin girls, one with her hair dyed jet black, black clothes, a hint of eyeliner. The other in no makeup at all, a bright yellow shirt. Both stare at me with identical expressions of dry amusement, like I’m some stray animal their sister Maggie found on the street.
Maggie. Miss America.
Now that I’ve spent the morning with her she’s morphed from being the hot little maid that walked in on me naked to becoming the only person I know in this town, a person who went out of her way for me, a person who seems genuinely interested in me without knowing who I really am. I have to say, I’m enchanted by her.
Which brings me to my dilemma.
That I’ve fed her lies.
That I’ll keep feeding her lies.
And I hate it.
“So what do you do?” the girl with the black hair asks me pointedly. “What is your job?”
Maggie is unscrewing a tube of ointment and quickly glances at me, listening.
“I’m part of a big company in Sweden.”
“Is it IKEA?” the other girl asks.
I smile. If I had a kroner for every IKEA joke I’ve heard these last few weeks.
“No it’s not IKEA.”
“Volvo?” the dark-haired girl asks.
“It’s not Volvo either.”
“ABBA?” the boy says.
I raise my brow at him. “You think I’m part of ABBA?”
He just shrugs gleefully and starts wiggling in his seat. “See that girl,” he starts singing to “Dancing Queen,” the song horribly off-key, “watch that scene, oh no, she smells like pee.”
“Callum,” Maggie admonishes him while I burst out laughing.
“You know,” I tell him, “that song was sung in honor of the queen of Sweden the day before her wedding. You might want to show some respect.”
“Why? Are you the king?”
“Ugh, Callum, please don’t start insulting other people’s countries,” Maggie says again, pulling up a chair beside me and placing her fingers on my wrist. Her touch feels like a warm spark, soothing and electric all at once.
She glances at me with a shy smile as she squeezes ointment onto her finger. “I’m sorry, he has this bad habit of changing song lyrics to anything to do with poo or pee.”
“Is that so?” I say to him, and he just giggles in return. From the way he’s bobbing his head, I can tell he’s finishing the song in his head, probably adding another phrase about my mother.
“So,” Maggie says, dabbing the cream on my knuckles. I hold back a wince. “What is the company?”
Curious bunch. Though I supposed I am in their home and they’re trying to get to know me as more than some Swedish stranger.
“It’s a pharmaceutical company,” I tell her.
“Ah,” she says with a nod. “That sounds…very important.”
“It’s okay,” I tell her, wishing I didn’t have to lie. I try and find my truth in it. “My whole family has worked there for generations. We made it everything it is today. I’m poised to take over the company after my father, uh, quits.”
“Oh well that’s exciting,” she says. I watch as she takes her time dressing my wounds, the way her brows come together in concentration. I have to wonder if she’s this attentive with everyone or if it’s just for me.
But if it’s just for me, it’s not for me. It’s for a persona I created, the future head of a big company. Johan Andersson.
If she knew the truth about me, would it matter? She doesn’t seem that impressed by my fake job though I know a lot of people usually are. Pharmaceutical companies pull in a lot of money.
But if she found out who I really was…?
“Am I hurting you?” she asks, her voice sweetly concerned.
I meet her big, brown eyes and realize I was tensing up. “No. I’m fine. Thank you.” I force myself to relax. It doesn’t help that the more she touches me, leans into me, looks at me, the tenser I get. She smells decadent and sweet, like sugar and cinnamon.
She nods, looking almost embarrassed, as if she realized how attentive she’s been, how close we are. She straightens up, putting some space between us, and starts getting out a roll of bandages.
“Do you cook?” the dark-haired girl asks me as Maggie wraps the bandage around my hand.
“Cook?” I actually can cook, only because I find it soothing and it gives me a sense of control. Growing up, we had a whole arsenal of staff to do everything for us. “I do okay for myself.”
The twins exchange a look, a playful smile.
“What? Why?” I ask, suspicious.
Then the dark-haired one launches into a fairly dead-on impression of The Swedish Chef from the Muppets. “Ooo-dee doo-dee bork bork.”
I roll my eyes, sighing loudly. I grew up wanting to murder that damn puppet.
“Girls,” Maggie says, but she’s trying to bite back a smile, avoiding my eyes.
“It’s okay,” I tell her. “I’ve gotten a lot of that.”
“Hurdy-schmerdy bork bork!” Callum yells. “Dancing queen, smells like pee!”
Maggie shakes her head. “I swear to god,” she mutters under her breath before tucking the end of the bandage into the wrap and getting to her feet. “Okay. You’re done. I’m taking you home now.”
“Honestly, it’s fine,” I tell her, getting out of my chair. “You’ll be glad to know most Swedens have a pretty good sense of humor.” I raise my bandaged hand in her direction. “Thank you, by the way.”
She shakes her head again, her dark hair falling in her face, and waves me away dismissively. “No cow on the ice,” she says.
I grin. Something in my heart shifts, something new, something…soft. The pain I’ve been holding inside starts to melt, just an inch. But an inch is enough to take me by surprise.
“So about dinner,” I say to her. I know I’m being forward, maybe even annoying, but I’m chasing that feeling inside, that part of me that’s melting away.
“Are you staying for dinner?” Callum asks me.
“No,” Maggie says emphatically.
“Dinner?” a voice comes from behind us.
It’s Maggie’s oldest brother, or at least I assume he is. Who knows how many other people there are in this house.
Again, I’m floored at the fact that she’s the legal guardian of them all, that they’re all under her care now. I know I have my own responsibilities I’m running from but at least I had the option to run. She can’t. She’s saddled with them. And so fucking young.
“Sverige…Johan,” Maggie corrects and it’s almost like she doesn’t believe my fake name any more than I do, “asked me out for dinner tonight.”
Her brother stares at me, tattooed arms folded across his chest. He looks like he can take care of himself in a fight and also looks like he’d have no problems trying to kick me out of his house. He definitely wants to.
But I’m not about to fuck up my hand again. I take a step away from him, holding my wrist to show him I’m not going to be a problem.
“Are you paying for her?” he asks me.
I blink at the question. “Pardon?”
“Are you paying for her?” he repeats.
“Of course, I am,” I tell him, not understanding why he would think otherwise. What man wouldn’t pay for a woman when he invites her on a date?
He thinks it over for a moment and then nods at Maggie. “It’s fine. You deserve to be taken out for a night. And, frankly,” he looks up to the ceiling, “I don’t think you should be here tonight with her.”
“What is she saying?” Maggie asks, wrapping her arms around herself like she’s cold. “She hates me, doesn’t she?”
He exhales, squeezing the bridge of his nose. “She hates everyone and everything. You can’t really blame her…” he glances at the other kids who are all staring at him and nodding subtly, “anyway, I know what happened. She’s just pissed that your Alexander Skarsgard over here hurt her white-trash boyfriend.” He looks to me.
“By the way, if I were you, I wouldn’t stick around here for too long. I’m impressed you were able to knock Tito out, but he’s got a lot of friends in that crack house and they don’t play nice.”
I shrug. “That’s fine. I don’t play nice either.”
“So you’re really okay with looking after the kids tonight?” she asks him.
“You know we can take care of Callum if the both of you want to go out,” the dark-haired girl says. “We’re old enough.”
“One step at a time,” her older brother says. “I’m sure this won’t become a habit for Maggie.”
“Hey,” she chides him and then looks at me, clearly ready to get out of here. “Let’s go.”
We get out of the house and into the van before anything escalates and within no time she’s pulling up a block away from the hotel.
“Sorry to drop you off so far away. I just don’t want anyone at my work to see us,” she explains as she shoves the van into park. “Not that we’re doing anything wrong, I mean nothing’s happening, not in the way that they think. That they could think.”
I study her face, the flush creeping on her cheeks, the slightly flustered way she’s talking. “Define what wrong is.”
She stares at me, frowning. “I mean like, uh…”
“Do you mean like me taking you out for dinner? Or do you mean me taking you to my room afterward?”
Her pupils enlarge, making her eyes glow. She’s speechless. It’s utterly charming.
“Maybe both,” she finally says, her voice coming out in this low, breathless hush that makes me bite my lip. This isn’t the right place to get an erection but if she keeps looking so flushed and innocent, it’s going to become a problem.
“And what happens then when we do go out for dinner?” I ask her. “When I do invite you back to my room?”
Those dark eyes of her widen even more. She swallows.
I grin at her. “I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” I tell her, letting her off the hook as I unbuckle my belt and open the door, getting out.
“No cow on the ice,” she whispers, almost to herself.
“Not yet anyway,” I tell her. Then I clear my throat. “I’ll be by your place at seven to pick you up.”
“What? I’m picking you up. You don’t have a car that works.”
“This is a date, Miss America,” I remind her. “You’re not driving. Neither am I. I’ll call a cab for us. Simple as that.”
She nods, smiles so softly that something inside my heart shifts again. “Okay.”
“I’ll see you,” I tell her with a wink.
Then I’m closing the door and I’m walking back to my hotel room.
Maggie’s POV ❤️
“Sorry, what was his name again?” Sam asks, her nose scrunching up on the screen of my phone as I talk to her through FaceTime.
I sigh and adjust myself on the bed, trying not to get too comfortable. When I’m on the phone with Sam I always shut my bedroom door to get privacy and if I’m on the bed with even a few minutes of peace, I usually pass out. There’s been many a phone call or FaceTime session where I’ve passed out mid-sentence. Luckily, Sam understands.
But I don’t think I can pass out today, not with this adrenaline running through my veins and butterflies swarming in my stomach, feelings I haven’t been able to shake ever since I dropped the Swede off at the hotel.
“His name is Johan Andersson,” I repeat.
“I don’t think I like that name.”
“Yeah, well it’s his name. I call him Mr. Sverige though.”
“Mr. Sverige? What are you doing, acting out some weird student-teacher fantasy or something.” She pauses, tilting her head in consideration. “Not that it’s weird to have that fantasy. Lord knows we had that about Mr. Strong. Remember Rodney Strong?”
We had a professor called Mr. Strong. I can’t remember his first name because we always called him Rodney since Rodney Strong was the wine we drank the most in the evenings when we’d sit crammed in my dorm room, complaining about men.
My heart pangs at remembering the good ol’ days.
“When I first saw his driver’s license, I thought his name was Swedish Driver’s License,” I explain. “Sverige means Sweden or Swedish. Anyway, you had to be there.”
“It sounds like it,” she says. “If I wasn’t so good at reading you, I would have thought the whole thing was made up.”
“First you walk in on what sounds like an impossibly tall, hunky Scandinavian god naked, then you see him at the bar, when, by the way, you never go out, then you proceed to take him home, so he can sober up. The next day he wakes up and gets in a fist fight with that loser your sister is dating, knocks him out, you fix him up and then he asks you out on a date.” She pauses to brush her hair out of her eyes.
“All the while he’s exceedingly rich.”
“I never said he was exceedingly rich,” I tell her, although when I told Pike about the kind of car he had, he’d told me it was worth a hell of a lot of money. Plus, there’s that whole heir to a pharmaceutical company thing.
“I’m going to assume he is,” she says. “If you don’t have sex with him Maggie, I’m going to be so mad at you.”
“Whoa,” I say, laughing, my cheeks flaming. “Who said anything about having sex with him?”
“Oh give me a break. You want to pretend that this isn’t where it’s going?”
I shake my head, but my mouth keeps wanting to creep up into a smile. Sam is usually the first one to call me on my bullshit. Not only have I been thinking about it since I first saw him–I mean, who can blame me–but all those thoughts and feelings and urges have been put through the ringer ever since he insinuated it.
Because he did insinuate it, didn’t he?
He looked right at me with heat in his eyes and talked about taking me back to his hotel room. If that wasn’t a hint that he was planning to seduce me after dinner, I don’t know what is.
Don’t get ahead of yourself.
And yet it’s so damn hard not to.
“Wow,” Sam says. “You are a smitten kitten.”
I roll my eyes, making sure my face isn’t betraying me with any longing looks. “Oh I am not.”
“Fuck, dude. You can be a smitten kitten all you want. When was the last time you went on a date? Here, right? And when was the last time you were going gaga over someone? Never. Never, Maggie, I’ve never seen you get this look in your eyes before.”
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