Forced Wife, Royal Love-ChildBy: Trish Morey
And it hit Rafe with all the force of a body blow.
Not his hands.
He was on his feet and at the terrace balustrade in an instant, peering harder, squinting against the glare of the sun. It couldn’t be…
But the pilot was definitely a woman, a tight waist and the curve of her hip accentuated by the slim-fitting overalls, and, while sunglasses hid her eyes, her pale skin and the copper-red hair framing her face were both achingly familiar. Then she turned after delivering the bag and a long braid slapped back and forth across her back as though it were a living thing.
He pounced on the nearest phone, barking out his first ever order to the Palace Guard, ‘Don’t let that helicopter go!’
Sienna had to get out of here. Her knees were jelly with relief that Rafe hadn’t been there to meet the helicopter, her stomach churned and if she didn’t get off this island in the next thirty seconds she was going to explode. Although, the way her insides felt after that panicked dash to deliver her passenger’s forgotten bag, she might just explode anyway.
Sienna sucked in a deep, and what she hoped was a calming, breath and with clammy hands pulled the door of the chopper shut, clipping on her headset. Thinking he might be there when she landed—dreading it—had put her in a cold sweat the entire flight.
And she was still sweating. It didn’t help that it was so hot today, especially out here on this rocky headland, where the effect of the hot Mediterranean sun was compounded by the way it bounced off the white painted walls that coiled along the narrow road up to the castle like a ribbon. And the castle up the top—the fairy-tale castle that rose out of the rock, ancient and weather-worn and beautiful, the fairy-tale castle now presided over by Prince Raphael, last of the long and illustrious line of Lombardi.
Prince Raphael. Oh, my God, she’d slept with a prince. Royalty. And she’d had no idea. But nobody had back then. It had only been in the days after he’d practically tossed her out of his room that the news of the discovery of a new-found prince for Montvelatte had broken. Sensational news that had rivalled the earlier news of the downfall of the then incumbent and his brother.
And it had seemed as if every newspaper, every magazine and every television programme had been full of the news, digging into the once buried past, and uncovering the story of the young nanny who’d become the Prince’s lover, only to be exiled with a young son and another baby on the way. The coronation that had followed had kept the story alive for weeks.
And his face had been everywhere she’d looked, so there was no hope of forgetting him during the day, no chance of escaping the face that haunted her in her dreams.
He was a prince!
No wonder he’d changed his mind about seeing her again. He would have known what that news report had meant—that he’d have even less reason to slum it with the likes of her.
Why would he, when he clearly had his pick of society’s brightest and prettiest? There’d been a constant stream of women being brought to the island in the past few days. Nothing had been said at the base—they knew that discretion was the better part of business success—but she knew from personal experience. Prince Raphael was a man of big appetites…
Her stomach churned, the taste of bile bitter in her mouth as she completed the preflight checklist. The sooner she was away from this island and the sooner there was no risk she would run into the man who’d so unceremoniously thrown her out of his life, then the sooner this damned queasiness would settle down. Ever since she’d been told she’d been rostered on for this assignment she’d felt physically ill. Montvelatte was the last place on earth she wanted to be. Knowing she’d just delivered his latest love interest made it doubly so.
Sienna yanked herself back from that thought with a mental slap to the head.
What was she thinking? Genevieve, or whatever her name was, was welcome to him. She was out of here.
There was the roar of another engine, the blast of horns and she turned to see a jeep screeching to a halt alongside the helipad in a spray of gravel and dust, and the churning in her gut took a turn for the worst. It didn’t get any better when four uniformed officers jumped out, gesturing to her to cut the rotors. This was supposed to be a simple drop-and-run. Surely there was no obscure paperwork she’d forgotten to complete?
She was making a move to open the door when it was pulled open for her from the other side. The officer saluted so properly that even over her own thumping heartbeat, Sienna imagined she could hear the snap of his heels clicking together. She’d seen that uniform before—in the footage of the former Prince and his brother being carted away—and she wasn’t at all sure that was a comforting thought.
Breath caught in Sienna’s lungs and gave birth to a new strain of fear. They knew her name?
She shook her head, removing her headset once again. ‘Y-yes,’ she stammered. ‘Is there a problem?’
‘There is no problem, I assure you,’ the officer told her in his richly accented English. ‘Please, if you would just step outside the aircraft,’ he added, offering her his hand to alight the helicopter. His words and actions were accompanied with a smile so seemingly genuine that for a moment she thought everything must be fine after all, that her most recent panic attack was unwarranted and that this was merely some kind of quaint formality nobody had thought to warn her about.