His Majesty's Child(5)

By: Sharon Kendrick

But as he studied the top of the Englishwoman’s bent head Casimiro’s intuition was alerted—something that had not been lost as a result of his accident, although he had been robbed of much else. There was something about her behaviour which didn’t add up—something about her attitude which didn’t make sense—though he couldn’t for the life of him put his finger on what it could be.

‘Get up,’ he ordered impatiently.

Feeling the hot prickle of sweat between her breasts, Melissa rose and lifted her eyes to his. ‘Yes, Your Majesty.’

‘Why are you here?’ he demanded softly.

‘You sent for me.’

Had he? In truth, his mind had been so caught up with the enormous step he was about to take. The new journey he was about to embark on had preoccupied so much of his thinking that he had barely given a thought to the running of the palace. He glanced down quickly at the papers on his desk, straightening them into a neat pile before fixing her with a cool stare. ‘Very well—then justify my command. Remind me who you are and what you do.’

It was possibly the most insulting way he could have reinforced her lack of status, but Melissa was determined that he would not see how much it had hurt. What good would that do? Make him see you as a person, rather than a hindrance. Give him the facts. The facts behind your real motive for being here. From somewhere, she found the glimmer of a professional smile.

‘I work for Stephen Woods, the party planner, Your Majesty. I’ve been helping to arrange the ball from back in England. I arrived yesterday to help with the finishing touches and he told me…Stephen, that is…that I was to give you a brief itinerary of tonight’s events.’ She hesitated. He had also said that the King wanted to thank her—but somehow she didn’t think that was going to happen.

‘Did he?’ Casimiro’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully. ‘Well, in that case—you’d better go ahead. Sit down,’ he ordered carelessly.

‘Thank you.’ Praying for her breathing to return to something approaching normality, Melissa slid into the delicate-looking gilt chair he had indicated on the other side of his desk.

‘So,’ he drawled. ‘Talk me through it.’

With the tip of her tongue, Melissa moistened her dry lips, trying not to feel self-conscious—though she was acutely aware of his moody and handsome face as the dark golden gaze arrowed into her. How the hell was he going to react when she told him? And just when was she going to tell him?

She gave herself a moment’s grace. Everyone’s life was measured by moments, she realised—but maybe this was an important one, too. Maybe this was the time to impress him with her efficiency and work-ethic rather than come right out and tell him he was a daddy.

‘The ball will start at eight—with your entrance, Your Majesty. That will be followed by the arrival of your brother—the Prince Xaviero, his wife, Princess Catherine—and their baby son, the Prince Cosimo.’

‘Is it not too late for the infant Prince to be awake?’ he bit out.

‘Well, maybe just a little.’ She cleared her throat. ‘It’s just…well, we thought that this might be a good opportunity to allow for a photo opportunity, Your Majesty. Since this is a belated wedding party and christening celebration all rolled into one, we’ve been inundated with requests for shots of the new Prince with his mother and father.’ She paused. ‘And if you give the press their shots, afterwards they’ll hopefully leave you alone.’

He narrowed his eyes as he listened to her, knowing that she was only expressing the fundamental truth of the situation. Along with his own people, the world was already half in love with his little nephew—for a royal baby captured the collective imagination as little else did. In truth, he couldn’t blame them—not just because the child was cute, but because his lusty new life promised so much.

Didn’t the infant Cosimo symbolise hope for the future—and the continuity of one of the oldest royal blood lines in Europe? And hadn’t his birth increased the pressure on Casimiro to find himself a bride and to produce a child of his own?

His mouth hardened. Well, he would not play ball. Not any more. He had followed orders all his life and he would certainly not procreate to order. If the past months had taught him anything, it was that he could no longer continue with this way of living. He had all the trappings that most men lusted after, but they were called trappings for a reason—they tied you down and constrained you with their golden snare, and he wanted to break free from them once and for all.

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