By: Mia Sheridan

Yes, Lydia was a princess, but when she smiled at me, my heart did somersaults in my chest. When she laughed, it sounded like the sweetest music, soft and pitched in a way that was nothing except pleasing to my ears, not in the garish way some people had of laughing—laughter that made me grimace and want to stick my fingers in my ears. She was everything soft and beautiful and feminine, and she made me want in a way I both loved and hated. And despite her princess status, she never looked at me in the way her friends did—a mixture of disdain and lust—when they came over to swim or attend parties at her house, as if they were interested but ashamed they were. No, Lydia was a practiced flirt, but there was something more about her that drew me in—not just her stunning beauty, but a depth the other girls her age didn't have.

I loved it when she'd seek me out and chat with me while I worked. I lived for those moments. I loved the way she teased me, but never in a way that felt mean or condescending. And no one else made me laugh the way Lydia did—often surprising me with her wit.

I spotted Lydia standing under a sycamore tree next to the stables before she'd turned around, but by the way her shoulders straightened, I knew she had sensed me. She took her time turning, flipping her hair over her shoulder and inclining her head and smiling her dazzling smile.

"Mo Chroí," I said, approaching her slowly.

"I told you not to call me that, Brogan. I'm not a princess," she said, cocking her head and letting her eyes run down my body. I fisted my hands to remain still, to keep my blood cool enough that I didn't harden under her slow perusal, giving her immediate proof of her power over me. "Thanks for meeting me." She licked her lips once, her eyes holding nervousness I hadn't seen before. What was she up to?

I narrowed my eyes slightly, putting my hands in my pockets and leaning one shoulder against the trunk of the tree. The sun had begun to set, the sky behind Lydia painted in bright shades of pink and orange.

"I—" She licked her lips again, crossing her arms over her chest, plumping her breasts. "Well, here's the thing, Brogan. I've never . . . well, I've never been kissed before."

Shock momentarily rendered me mute, and my mouth went dry. I wasn't sure where this was going, but the subject matter was shooting off warning sirens. I willed my expression to go blank and took my time answering. "I find that hard to believe. You've got every fella within ten miles interested in ya." She was only a grade behind me, and although we didn't attend the same school, I'd heard plenty of guys talking about her, even though they only knew her by sight. Greenwich, Connecticut was a small enough town.

"Ya could put out a casting call," I joked cautiously. "I'm sure there'd be a line of lads around the block." And I'd line up, too, because I wouldn't be able to bloody help myself. "I imagine Myles Landry would be the first one to arrive." Myles was a neighbor and he was always over sniffing around Lydia. I'd watched her flirt and dazzle him more than I'd cared to. But that's what Lydia did. She flirted and dazzled and played her little games. And all the while my stupid heart yearned for her, wishing I was enough.

"Ha ha," she said. "The thing is, Brogan, I want you to be the one to kiss me." She took a step closer, and I took a step back.

"Why?" I demanded. Why was she doing this to me? Making me hope for things I could never have? Didn't she know she was driving me crazy?

"Why?" she repeated, tilting her head, her expression perplexed, her blue-green eyes blinking. As if she should have to give me a reason.

"Yes, why would ya want me to kiss ya? I'm the gardener's son, not exactly in your social circle. It's not like anythin' could come of it." I didn't have the money to date someone like Lydia right now. She'd want to be taken to the movies, out to eat, expect flowers and gifts, and who knew what else. We could barely afford to put food on the table at home, and I had a voracious appetite that never, ever seemed to be satisfied. I was wearing shoes too small because my feet had grown four sizes in the last year and our budget couldn't keep up.

She laughed softly and shook her head. "You always say something like that, Brogan. I don't care about any of that."

I let my eyes roam her face, trying to detect deception in her expression. I didn't think I saw any. But of course, she hardly knew what she was talking about. She had no idea the extent of our financial straits. Oh you would, Lydia. If you really knew my situation, you would. "Anyway, ya didn't answer me question."

Lydia looked up at me through her lashes, causing my heart to race. "I want you to kiss me because you're one of the most handsome boys in Greenwich, and you don't even know it. Because I like the way you look at me, the way you watch me. But even more, I like to watch you, too." She stepped closer, and I held my breath. "I like how your accent gets a little thicker when you talk to me. I like how serious you are, so different from the other boys. I like the look you get on your face when you dig your hands into the soil, as if . . . as if you're feeling it with your whole body. I want to know if you get that same look on your face when you touch me. I want to know what you're always thinking so hard about. And I want you to kiss me because I want to know what your lips feel like on mine." The last word came out breathlessly, and my heart started pounding harshly in my chest. She'd thought all those things about me? I hadn't even known she thought anything about me at all when I wasn't right in front of her.

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