Dating the Prince(2)

By: Addison Quinn

He pushed open the door without knocking, his shoulders instantly relaxing. At least fifty monitors filled the space and five uniformed men sat in chairs watching them.

Alex’s personal bodyguard, Finn, glanced over at the sound of the open door, then instantly rose. The other men jumped to their feet as well.

“Your Highness,” Finn said with a short bow. He was a mountain of a man, with a barrel chest, dark skin, and a face that rarely smiled.

“Please sit,” Alex said. “Don’t let me distract you.”

The guards all nodded and returned to their tasks, used to Alex’s frequent visits.

“Is there something I can assist you with?” Finn asked.

“No, thank you. I just needed a few minutes to breathe.” Alex dropped into the chair with a sigh and motioned to the monitors. “Anything interesting today?”

“A few things.” Finn pointed to the throne room. “These parents have their hands full. They’ve got five children who couldn’t obey a command if their lives depended on it.”

Alex chuckled as a small boy of perhaps three tried to slip under the velvet rope that kept tourists from sitting on the thrones. The mother grabbed his arm and yanked him back.

“He’s a curious one,” Alex said.

Finn nodded and pointed to the music room. “The new tour guide has mixed up the facts for each room. Right now he’s giving the script for the Hall of Victory.”

The guide’s navy jacket hung loose on his frame, giving the appearance of a boy wearing his father’s suit, and his hand shook as he pointed out the features of the room. Alex shook his head in sympathy. “Poor guy.”

“I think he’ll be alright in a month or two,” Finn said. “He seems determined to do well.”

Alex slowly let his eyes travel over the dozen monitors that comprised the tourist section of the palace. He never bothered watching the other feeds, which covered the governmental wing and the royal family’s private quarters—that felt like an invasion of privacy. But he’d always loved watching the tourists. The look of wonderment on their faces reminded him how blessed he was to be crown prince of Durham. Although these days it felt more like a curse.

His eyes lingered on the group Stan led. He was definitely the palace’s crankiest tour guide and Alex always felt bad for the visitors in his group. His eyes skimmed over the elderly couples wearing fanny packs, passed by the young backpackers wearing baseball caps, and landed on a woman with a baby strapped to her chest.

He leaned forward, examining the woman. She didn’t fit the typical tourist profile, but didn’t seem like a local, either. Like many of the tourists, she carried a backpack. But this one was small and had the fancy look of a purse. A diaper bag, perhaps? She took a step forward and he noticed she was wearing sandals, not tennis shoes—another indication she might be a local. Her sleeveless dress flowed to the floor while her hair hung down her back in loose curls. Something caught her attention on the wall, and her face turned upward toward the camera, making his heart lurch. Even on the grainy black and white security screen, her beauty was evident. She had a pixie nose, wide eyes, and high cheekbones. The look of wonderment on her face was definitely not one locals usually wore.

The woman disappeared off the screen, and Alex quickly found the monitor for the throne room, the next stop on the tour. But the woman didn’t immediately appear on the screen.

“Where did she go?” he muttered.

“I’m sorry, Your Highness?” Finn asked.

“The woman from the Hall of Victory. She was just there … oh, there she is.” He pointed to the woman.

Finn leaned forward and raised an eyebrow. “She’s pretty.”

That was like saying the palace was merely nice. Alex watched as the woman stayed near the back of the group. She seemed entranced by the thrones. The others wandered around the room, admiring the artwork and statues, but she stayed put, even when the rest of the group moved toward the crown jewel exhibit. There was a relaxed ease in her posture that Alex craved. She seemed so at peace with her surroundings. What would it be like to feel that kind of calm?

Finn squinted at the screen. “What is she doing?”

“I don’t know,” Alex said.

The woman reached into her pocket, then leaned over the velvet rope and placed something between the two thrones.

A light immediately lit up on the wall, indicating a silent alarm had been tripped in the throne room. Finn grabbed his radio. “We’ve got a code yellow in your sector,” he said. “A woman, mid-twenties, with a baby in a carrier. She placed something between the thrones and is headed toward you.”

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