The Prince's Chambermaid(4)

By: Sharon Kendrick

‘I’m very sorry,’ she repeated softly. ‘But there’s nothing I can do. Our policy is very strict.’

‘Is it now?’ he murmured as he stared down into a pair of wide aquamarine eyes. ‘And you don’t make any…exceptions?’

How could he make such a simple query sound as if…as if…? Her mouth drying like sand, Cathy shook her head, trying to quell the haywire nature of her thoughts, thinking that most people would be happy to make an exception for him. ‘I’m afraid we don’t. Not…not even for guests.’

As she shrugged her shoulders apologetically the movement drew his attention to the sway of her magnificent breasts and, unexpectedly, Xaviero felt the sharp stirring of lust at his groin. For there was no sweeter temptation than a woman who responded to him as a man, rather than as a prince.

Placing one lazy denimed elbow on the counter which separated them, he leaned forward and gave a conspiratorial smile. ‘And what would you do,’ he queried softly, ‘if I told you that I was not here as a guest?’

Cathy’s heart gave a lurch. Up close, he seemed to exude an air of raw masculinity which had short-circuited her brain and was making her breath come in short, shallow bursts. What was the matter with her? Struggling out of the befuddled haze of her thoughts, she realised that his answer hadn’t really surprised her. After all, he didn’t really look like a guest, did he? ‘You’re…you’re not?’

‘No.’ He paused while he thought about who he would like to be. Whose skin he would like to step inside for a brief moment of complete freedom. It was a game he had always liked to play when he was younger—when he had gone away to mainland Europe to college—and it had always driven his security people mad.

For Xaviero—or, rather, Prince Xaviero Vincente Caius di Cesere of Zaffirinthos, to give him his full title—liked to remain incognito wherever and whenever possible. Anonymity was his rarest and most precious possession. He liked to play at a life that could never be his for more than a few minutes at a time. A world in which he was judged as other men were—by appearance and demeanour, and by what he said. Where chemistry counted more than privilege.

Didn’t matter that outside in a bullet-proofed car sat two bodyguards with guns bulging at their breast pockets—or that a further two were lurking somewhere in the grounds. For as long as this woman remained ignorant of his true identity, he could pretend he was just like any other man. ‘No, I’m not a guest,’ he added truthfully.

Suddenly it all made sense and Cathy wondered how she could have been so dense. ‘Of course! You’re the painter and decorator,’ she said slowly, her lips parting in a wide smile. ‘And you’ve come to measure up the washrooms.’

Xaviero’s eyes narrowed at her outrageous assumption—but he could hardly berate her for insubordination when she had no idea who he was! He had been about to deny her laughable assertion, but now she was rising to her feet and instead he found himself utterly captivated by her lush little body—and by the sheer sunny quality of her smile. When had anyone last smiled at him that sweetly? Or treated him as just a man, instead of a privileged member of one of Europe’s richest royal houses?

En route from the polo club to the airfield which housed his private plane, he had called in here on a whim. The sweat from a hot, hard ride still drying on his skin, he had been curious as to how the place looked before it was made ready for his official visit. But now he wondered whether the hand of fate might have stepped in. Had he been guided here by some unseen and benevolent hand, to have sexual hunger awoken in him once more by a lowly woman who was completely unaware of his true identity?

‘That’s right,’ he said slowly, doing his best to hide another sudden stir of lust. ‘I’ve come to measure up the washrooms.’

‘Right. Well, in that case—Rupert has instructed me to show you around.’

Xaviero smiled. So he wouldn’t even have to deal with the crashing snob of an Englishman who set his nerves on edge. This was getting better by the minute. ‘Perfect.’

Cathy could feel the skitter of her heart as his eyes drifted over her. She remembered the discarded letter which lay in her handbag and yet hot on that memory came the realisation that no man had ever made her feel like this before. Not even Peter—the man she had thought she’d loved enough to want to marry!

Was this what love really felt like? The thought flew into her mind unbidden, before she firmly sent it packing. Oh, for heaven’s sake, Cathy—have you finally lost sight of your senses? You’ve only just met him. You don’t know him. He’s a stranger who’s clearly aware of just how devastatingly attractive he is. And if he’s going to be working on-site there’s no way you can keep dissolving in a puddle at his feet every time he flicks you that curiously arrogant glance of his.

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