His Majesty's Child(10)

By: Sharon Kendrick

‘You are very impertinent,’ Casimiro mused as she grew close enough to hear the whispered disapproval in his voice. ‘To stare at me as the hyena regards the glistening flesh.’

Had she come over as predatory? ‘I don’t mean to be, Your Majesty.’

Again, he detected the faint drift of lilac as she leaned towards him. The sense of something tantalisingly close—like a wave which washed against the shore line before retreating again. He frowned, his interest unexpectedly awakened. ‘Do you always behave this way at functions?’

She wanted to say no—but hadn’t she been pretty unprofessional the last time she’d met him? Yet he had been the one who had driven it, she reminded herself. Who had started this whole thing between them. And was she really so invisible—so inconsequential—that he couldn’t remember a single thing about her or any thing they’d done together?

‘This is not the way I normally behave, no. Perhaps…perhaps it’s the effect you have on me, Your Majesty.’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘You don’t remember, do you?’ she whispered.

Sabre-sharp, her words sliced through him as she found his Achilles heel and Casimiro stilled. ‘Remember what?’ he bit out.

Was she going to have to spell it out for him? Was she really so unforgettable that he still didn’t remember their affair? Staring at the august presence in front of her, Melissa allowed herself the bittersweet luxury of recall, remembering the night she’d first laid eyes on him.

It had been when London’s biggest museum had exhibited the fabulous statues excavated during an archaeological dig on the island of Zaffirinthos. The after-show party had been held at the house of a minor British royal—a magnificent mansion which had over looked Green Park itself.

What had made the evening stand out had been the presence of the King of Zaffirinthos, who had flown in especially to witness the first stage of the international tour of the statues. And he had turned out to be an attraction who had proved even more newsworthy than the precious arte facts. An outrageously gorgeous man in his early thirties, he was quickly dubbed by the press: “The Most Eligible Man In Europe.”

Melissa’s first glimpse of the royal had certainly borne out all the hype. As he’d been shown around the museum for a private view of the show she could see why his face had been raved about in all the gossip columns and why every hostess in the capital was clamouring to get him onto her guest list.

It was an amazing face—all carved aristocratic features and skin which gleamed like gold. His eyes were golden too, a deeper, darker shade which was closer to amber—and the jet-dark waves of his hair looked as if they had been swirled onto his head with the bold brush-strokes of some master artist’s charcoal pencil. Why, with his powerful presence she had found herself thinking that he looked almost like a statue himself.

But the stillness of his muscular body did nothing to deflect the fact that he had about him some nebulous quality which transcended his royal status. Melissa felt there was something rather wild and untamed about him.

And, of course, she hadn’t spoken to him. She had been too busy supervising the mass of summer flowers which had garlanded the entrance to the grand house in an attempt to detract from the unseasonably heavy rain outside—and reporting back to her hostess, who was a particularly exacting woman.

The evening had been memorable for another reason, too—the one which could always activate the dark aching hole inside her: the anniversary of her mother’s death in that terrible car crash. Melissa knew it was slightly pathetic for a young adult like herself to describe herself as an orphan, but on this one night of the year—when she relived the terror of the midnight phone-call and the subsequent horror which had unfolded in the intensive care ward—that was exactly what she felt like.

She had put her emotions on hold until the end of the evening when she had been unable to stem the tide of tears any longer and in a cloak room in a deserted part of the basement she had lost the battle, and given into quiet sobs of sorrow.

Eventually, emerging red-eyed into the corridor which led back up to the main part of the house, she had almost cannoned into a tall man—quickly turning her face to one side, too embarrassed to be seen by anyone in such a fragile state as she had tried to avoid him.

‘Hey,’ came a silken voice whose marked accent should have alerted her but she was so busy dabbing at her eyes with a crumpled-up tissue that she failed to make the connection. ‘What’s the rush?’

‘Go away.’ Melissa gulped and the moment she’d said it she realised just who he was and stared up at him in horror.

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