Royals & Rogues

By: Heather Long

“Fair enough.” Hugh pulled open the driver’s side rear passenger door. “Princess.”

“Frankie.” She snapped, then tethered her temper. “I would prefer if you use the name Frankie. I don’t want to be treated as anything special.”

“Sorry, princess. No can do. You came with your own bodyguards and pedigree.” He didn’t sound remotely sorry. “We’ll have to make do for now.”

Gritting her teeth, she took a step closer and locked gazes with him. A pulse of heat vibrated through her system. “Very well, Mister Dillon. However, we will also reassess this issue once we’re on property.”

The corner of his mouth kicked a fraction higher. “Word to the wise, princess. You don’t give the orders here, and you better be able to take a joke if you want to go any further in the military or otherwise.”

Floundering for a moment, she glanced at Anders, but he looked away—not fast enough to hide his smile. Swallowing a biting response, she slid into the vehicle and gripped her hands together. None of this was going as she’d planned.

“Buckle up, princess. We’ve got a long drive in front of us.”

Not at all.

* * *

The two-hour drive from Atlanta to Camp Grunt proved an excruciating test of his nerves. Major Grace’s daughter focused her attention out the window. Even the spare glimpses of her he caught in the rearview mirror didn’t betray her thoughts. Poised and expressionless, even if he detected a moderate amount of heat in her green eyes when she met his gaze. He didn’t know her from Adam, yet he detected distinct waves of unhappiness rolling off of her.

Like the princess, the bodyguards remained silent for the majority of the drive. Neither man seemed especially comfortable with him driving, but they had their orders. What the hell had he gotten himself into by agreeing to host the princess? Frankie. She preferred Frankie. Another stolen glance in the rearview mirror, and he shook his head. The tall, athletically-built woman, with her crisp, summer green eyes and dark auburn hair, didn’t look like a Frankie to him. Francesca? Yeah, she had that European elegance working for her, and a proud aristocratic bearing. When she’d grinned earlier, he’d taken a punch to the heart.

“Mr. Dillon?” The lyrical nature of her accent wrapped around him like a caress.

“You can call me Hugh,” he told her. If he had to call her Frankie, then he didn’t want to stand on ceremony. “At least until we get started. Once we’re in the field, Sergeant will do.”

Not every group he shepherded through his programs observed military protocol, but Major Grace asked him to provide specific training to his daughter. “So if I am to address you by rank in the field, what will you call me?” She leaned forward, challenge transforming her unease in her manner.

Though amused, he kept his smile contained. He might not have rubbed elbows with an aristocrat before, much less a royal, but he realized he couldn’t focus on her title or her bloodline. She was the daughter of a Royal Marine, one he respected tremendously and whom had asked him for a favor. End of story. “Depends, princess.” The corners of her eyes tightened at the tease. “Are you here for a vacation or to get your pretty little butt in shape?”

Anders, the bodyguard seated next to him, stiffened. Did they protect her from insults, too? If so, they were going to be really busy over the next three weeks.

“That’s my gorgeous ass,” Frankie retorted, undeterred. “And it’s already in shape. I’m here to prove I can cut it in boot camp, so hit me with your worst. I can take it.”

The bodyguard next to her—Ford—smiled a fraction. It said something that the men on her detail were both protective and respectful. What it meant to him, Hugh hadn’t decided as yet.

“Good to know,” he told her. “You’re going to have a cabin to yourself. Your guards have the one next to it. We start new groups every week, however, due to your position, we’ve had to make some adjustments. The men coming in to train are all military, either just retired or retired in the last three years. They’re here for reconditioning, so they will be pushing themselves and you.” They were also applying for positions at Camp Grunt, so they had been cleared through background checks.

“No women?” Curiosity inhabited her tone.

“We’ve had several women over the last couple of years. We’re not a gender specific camp. This enrollment cycle didn’t happen to have women outside of yourself, so we’ll both have to adjust.”

“Like I said, Hugh…” She sounded much happier as she folded her arms and crossed one leg over the other. “Hit me with your worst. I don’t want any special treatment.”

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