Prince's Son of Scandal

By: Dani Collins

“Nosy people do not wear our label.”

Catty, ruthless, or both? Either way, he was entertained.

And now he was reminded that the sisters had some kind of design house. Women’s fashion was last on his list of interests, but he took a fresh assessment of her gown, appreciating the peek of thigh exposed by the slit and the gather of strapless satin that left an expanse of upper chest and breast swell to admire.

“This is one of your creations? It’s pure artistry.”

“I can tell when I’m being patronized,” she warned.

“Then you’ll know I’m sincere when I say the dress is lovely, but I see the woman inside it. Which is the point, is it not?”

“Do you?” She tilted a considering look up at him, something dancing in the elfin green of her eyes. He could have sworn they were gray a minute ago. Her gaze dropped to his chest, where the band of silk slashed across his heart. “I see the crown, not the man. Which is what this is meant to convey, isn’t it?”

Astute, but a woman who made her living with clothing would understand such nuances.

The sash in question felt unaccountably restrictive this evening. Duty hovered in his periphery, set there by a brief news item passed along from his PA about Bonnafete, a small principality in the Mediterranean. The reigning prince’s daughter, Patrizia, had called off her marriage to an American real estate mogul.

Patrizia was a longtime acquaintance. Xavier was not as sorry as he had implied when he had sent his condolences. He was in need of a titled wife. His grandmother wanted him married so she could step down. Patrizia was infinitely suitable.

He had asked that his grandmother be made aware of the broken engagement. It was an acknowledgement of his responsibility toward her, their bloodline and the crown. Loath as he was to marry, he preferred to spearhead such actions himself, rather than wait for her to issue orders. She might be the one person on this earth with the power to govern his actions, but he didn’t have to encourage it. He was confident she would approve and God knew she would let him know if she didn’t.

“Is it heavy?” his final sown oat asked of his sash. The levelness in her tone told him she didn’t mean physically, proving she was even more perceptive than he’d imagined.

Compassion was not something he looked for in anyone, though, least of all his temporary companions. There was no room for any weakness in his life. No one saw him flinch. No one was privy to his bitterness at the hand life had dealt him.

It was a wasted emotion to feel.

So he ignored the chance she might understand him in a way no one else ever had and held her chair. “Nothing could weigh me down while I’m in your beguiling company, bella.”

She froze and looked over her shoulder. “Why did you call me that?”

“It’s an endearment. Elazar’s official language is an Italian dialect, though French and German are commonly spoken along with English.” He adjusted her chair as she sank into it then leaned down to speak against her hair where it fell in loose waves against her nape. “Why? Don’t you like it?”

Tiny bumps lifted on her skin in a shiver of reaction. Her nipples tightened into peaks against the silk that draped over them, making him smile. She liked it.

Awash in more sexual anticipation than he’d felt in a while, perhaps ever, he seated himself, pleased he would end his bachelorhood with such a terrific bang.

* * *

Trella was a natural extrovert. The chatter and color around her, the voices and music and attention, was like standing in the sunshine after years in an oubliette.

But to have this man glance at her with that admiring look on his face as he seated himself next to her was a deliciously sweet accompaniment. He was clearly an accomplished seducer, wearing charm and entitlement as comfortably as his sash, but she was excited to be singled out by him all the same. It was the flirtation she had yearned for.

“What brings you to Paris?” he asked.

Although, if she was going to do this, she wasn’t settling for plain vanilla.

“Surely you can do better than asking what a nice girl like me is doing in a place like this?”

“Let me consult my app.” He glanced at an imaginary phone. “How about... What sign are you?” He affected sincere interest.

Her mouth twitched. “Gemini. Twins. Obviously. You?”

“No idea. August sixth.”

“Leo. The lion. King of the jungle.”

“Obviously,” he said, with a self-deprecating tilt of the corner of his mouth.

She bit back a smile, intrigued by his position, but only because she knew what it was to be in the spotlight. He’d glossed over her query about the weight of his crown, but surely he wearied of attention and responsibility.

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