Forced Wife, Royal Love-ChildBy: Trish Morey
He didn’t even turn around. ‘Yes.’
She slipped on her shoes, picked up her jacket. ‘I don’t finish until six tonight. How about I call you once I’m home?’
This time he did look at her and she glimpsed something skate across his eyes, something warm and maybe a little sad. Then he blinked and whatever she’d seen was gone. ‘No,’ he clipped, ‘I can’t see you tonight.’
‘Oh.’ She swallowed, trying desperately not to show on her face how disappointed she felt. ‘I’ve got a late shift tomorrow, but how about Wednesday, then?’
But he just gave a toss of his head and opened a closet door, pulling out a travel bag. ‘No. Not then. I’ll be away.’
His eyes, when they turned on her, were cold, unfathomable. ‘Like I said. It’s over.’
And mere disappointment curdled into despair, leaving her feeling wrong and suddenly shaky inside her gut. Hadn’t he been talking about Montvelatte when he’d said that? ‘Where are you going?’
Crazy. She should have accepted his response for the dismissal it was intended to be—no doubt would have if she had been thinking rationally. But right now she felt crazy. He’d pursued her for a week for the sake of just one night? She’d known she would never be more than a short-term distraction for him and could live with that, but, damn it, she wasn’t prepared to let it end just yet, not when such a short time ago he hadn’t so much as asked her, but told her he would see her again.
‘I don’t understand.’
‘I thought you were late for work!’ He tossed the words roughly over his shoulder, not even bothering to look at her as he dragged things from his closet.
Breath snagged in her chest. In another life she would have already left, his dismissal of her more than plain. But not now. Not after the night they’d shared, and when he’d been the one to promise more. ‘Is this something to do with that news report, because until that happened, you seemed quite happy to meet up with me again? Why is it that what happens on a tiny island in the Mediterranean is so important to you anyway?’
He stopped pulling things out of the wardrobe then and swivelled around, dumping underwear and shirts carelessly into his carry on as he fired her question right back at her. ‘Why is it so important to me?’
And for just a moment, when she saw the pain etched in lines upon his face, she wished she’d never asked. ‘You saw those two being carted away by the police.’
‘Prince Carlo and Prince Roberto? Yes, of course. What’s wrong? Do you know them?’
‘You could say that.’ A shadow moved across his features. ‘We shared the same father.’
Then the buzzer rang and he brushed past her shell-shocked form to answer it. ‘I’m sorry, but you really have to go.’
Rafe pulled the door open. ‘Come in, Sebastiano,’ he said, ushering in an officious-looking man in a double-breasted suit. In the same breath she was ushered out without so much as a goodbye. ‘It’s been a long time.’
The door closed behind her with a determined click but not before she’d heard the words the older gentleman had uttered in greeting, ‘Prince Raphael, you must come quickly…’
Six weeks later
THE chopper flew out of the sun, past the blade of rock that was Iseo’s Pyramid and low over the line where the cliff met the azure sea. For seconds it hovered effortlessly over the helipad before touching gently down. Rafe watched the descent and landing, knowing who was on board and resenting the intrusion even before the whump whump of the rotors had settled into a whine of engines.
‘Contessa D’Angelo and her daughter, Genevieve, have arrived, Your Highness,’ his aide-de-camp announced, appearing from nowhere with his usual brisk efficiency.
‘So I gathered,’ Rafe answered drily, without putting down the Treasury papers he’d been reading or making any other move to respond. ‘I think I’ll take that second cup of coffee now, Sebastiano.’ He noticed the telltale tic of disapproval in the older man’s cheek even as he complied by pouring a stream of rich black liquid from the silver coffee jug into his cup. So be it. If Sebastiano was so concerned with finding a suitable princess for Montvelatte, he could perform the meet and greets himself. After something like half a dozen potential brides in ten days, Rafe was over it. Besides, he had more important issues on his mind, like solving the principality’s immediate cash crisis. Montvelatte might need an heir to ensure the principality’s future, but there would be no future for any of them if the dire financial straits his half-brothers had landed them in weren’t sorted out and soon.
Sebastiano hovered impatiently while Rafe took a sip of the fragrant coffee.
‘And your guests, Your Highness? Your driver is waiting.’
Rafe took his time replacing the cup on its saucer before leaning back in his chair. ‘Isn’t it time we gave up this wife-hunting charade, Sebastiano? I don’t think I can bear to meet another pretty young thing and her ambitious stage mother.’