Prince's Son of Scandal

By: Dani Collins

“You take horoscopes seriously?” he asked, nodding at a server who offered them champagne.

“Not as a belief system, but I used it as inspiration for a collection a few years ago. We used it,” she amended quickly, clearing her throat over the white lie and sliding her gaze to ensure the people searching for their seats hadn’t overheard her. It was well known in fashion circles that Trella had designed that particular line.

“How?” He seemed genuinely curious. “The patterns in the fabric?”

“Not that literal. More how the nature of each sign is perceived. They fall into different qualities, like fixed or mutable, and elements, like air and fire. There’s a lot to play with. I work better with deadlines so I approached one sign a month. It was an interesting exercise.” She leaned closer, wrinkling her nose. “Also a terrific marketing hook.”

The corners of his mouth deepened. “Beauty and brains. Always an irresistible combination.”

This prince, causing her heart to thud-thud under a simple compliment, should have sent her running. She had learned healthy caution from her childhood, but even though most men put her on edge, this one filled her with a giddy lack of fear. It was like breaking out of a shell. Like discovering she had the ability to fly.

She definitely wanted more time with him before this evening ended.

On impulse, she motioned for her guard, who was actually one of Gili’s, and quietly gave him an instruction about the silent auction. He melted away.

Was she being too forward? Reckless?

Their table filled up, forcing her to wait to find out. Dinner passed in a blur of neutral conversation. Someone asked the Prince about his country’s foray into green energy. She vaguely recalled his mountain kingdom between Italy and Austria had been accused of providing a tax haven during the world wars. Elazar sounded very modern and self-sufficient now. He spoke about exporting hydropower, since rivers and streams were one of their few natural resources. There was also a decade of investing in education, attracting engineering and technology start-ups, solar and wind power.

Her inner businesswoman should have been taking mental notes, but she was mesmerized by his casual command over his audience and subtly seduced with how close his sleeve came to touching her arm. Beneath the table, she imagined she could feel the heat from his thigh mere inches from her own. All she could think about was dancing with him.

Dancing. Tears pressed the backs of her eyes. She ached for that simple pleasure.

This adolescent reaction was ridiculous, but she let it happen. Embraced it. This is what she should have been doing at twenty, not hand-sewing sequins on mini-dresses for other young women to wear to exclusive clubs, killing hours with concentrated work so she could get through one day, one more hour, without a breakdown or the drugs that were supposed to prevent them.

Then Prince Xavier turned his terrifically handsome face toward her, bathing her in the light of his regard. “You must travel a great deal for your work? What drew you to fashion?”

He had given each of the others a moment in his attentive sunlight. Now it was her turn. He must engage in small talk with a thousand people a day, at ribbon cuttings and children’s hospitals, but she would have sworn on her life the tension around his eyes eased as he met her gaze. He’d been doing his duty, impatiently waiting to get back to her. She felt delirious even as she prevaricated her way through her reply.

“Both of us are quite creative.” Gili more so. She was the artist who designed out of love and ran the business out of necessity. Trella was the ambitious one, determined to turn a healthy profit. Practicality, not passion, had driven her into making her own clothes, because she couldn’t bear being judged by trolls for merely buying something, let alone how it looked on her.

“We had some start-up help from our brothers but surprised them and ourselves with our success.” Another fib. She wouldn’t have rested until they were making buckets of money. She was competitive and driven by an I’ll-show-you desire for revenge against those who had thrown shade.

“It can’t be an easy field. I’m sure your success is due to hard work as much as anything else.”

He was trying to get her into bed. She knew that with the brains he’d said he admired, but his flattery worked. She was ridiculously affected by his compliment. She wanted to say “It was a ton of work. Thank you for noticing.” Gili was the face of Maison des Jumeaux, which meant she received the bulk of the credit—not that she didn’t deserve a lot, but Trella worked just as hard and was not a naturally humble person. Hearing his praise went into her like a transfusion, tipping her further under his spell.

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