Winter Wedding for the Prince(10)

By: Barbara Wallace

Rosa hated when he studied her like that, like he could read her mind. She could almost feel his blue eyes reaching through her outer layers and into her thoughts. “I—”

The elevator doors opened, saving her from trying to tap-dance in close quarters. Quickly, she stepped out into the lobby. “Why would there be something else?” she asked once she was safely a step or two ahead. “Can’t a woman have a problem digesting spices?”

“Of course. She can also be hurt.”

How was she supposed to respond to that? What could she say that didn’t sound jealous and possessive? “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.

“I think you do.” His fingers caught her wrist, stopping her from going farther.

In the center of the lobby stood an indoor fountain, ruled over by a small marble cherub. Maintaining his grasp, Armando tugged her toward the fountain edge, where he took a seat on the marble wall. “I think we should talk,” he said, pulling her down next to him. “I know why you’re upset, and I understand.”

“You do?” Rosa doubted his did. How could he, when she wasn’t 100 percent sure why she was reacting so strongly herself.

What she did notice was how the marble beneath them made her more aware of their close position than usual. She could feel Armando’s body warmth radiating against her leg, even though the only parts of them touching were his wrist on her hand. And, she realized, looking down, that was no longer true.

Looking up again, she came eye to eye with Armando’s gentle expression.

“Christina’s Home,” he said. “You’re worried what will happen if Mona gets involved with the program.”

Perhaps he understood after all. “It’s just that you and I worked so hard to build something together...”

“Which is why I want you to know that I understand, and I promise—” Rosa gasped as he reached up to cradle her face between his hands “—I will never let anything, or anybody, take away your sister’s legacy.”

Christina, of course. What had she been thinking? She gave him a smile anyway, since his reassurance was well intentioned.

When he smiled back, an odd squiggling sensation passed through her.

“Good,” he said. “I’m glad, because you know how much I would hate for you to be upset.”

Smile softening even more, he fanned his thumbs across her cheekbones. “I would be lost without you, you know.”

He held her cheeks a beat longer before getting to his feet. “Now that we’ve settled that, do you feel up to driving?” he asked.

“Absolutely,” she replied.

As soon as Armando started toward the front door, however, she pressed her hand to her stomach to quell the odd quivering sensation that had sprung up.


WHEN ROSA AND ARMANDO first conceived of Christina’s Home, they wanted to build a place that the late princess would have built herself. Therefore, the home was a sprawling stone villa set at the end of a gated access road. State-of-the-art security assured residents the privacy and safety they needed to rebuild their lives, while acres of grass and gardens gave their children the chance to be children.

For this year’s Christmas party, thanks to local businesses and designers eager to earn a royal blessing, the central dining room had been transformed into a winter wonderland. In addition to the traditional Corinthian red and green window boxes, there were “snow”-covered evergreens lining the walls and animated snowmen with motion detectors that brought them to life. There was even an indoor jungle gym modeled after the ice castle from a famous children’s movie. All afternoon long, kids had been laughing as they hurled themselves down the indoor “ice” slide into a pile of fake snow.

Rosa stood at the back of the room, near the partition that blocked the corridor and kept the chaos contained to the single room. Near to her, a giant window looked out on snow-covered mountains, including Mount Cornier, whose winding roads had been Christina’s final destination. During his dedication speech, Armando said that the view guaranteed the princess would be forever looking down on her legacy.

Rosa wondered what Christina would think if she knew her older sister had spent the last several days fighting a disturbing awareness when it came to Armando. All of a sudden, it seemed, someone had flipped a switch and she was noticing things about him she’d never noticed before, such as how elegant his fingers looked when gripping a pen or the how the bow in his upper lip made a perfect V. What’s worse, each detail came with an intense collection of flutters deep inside her, the source of which was a place long dormant. Why, after all this time, she would suddenly and inexplicably be attracted to the man, she didn’t know, but there it was. Nature’s way of ensuring her self-esteem didn’t get too strong, probably. No worries there. Not with Fredo’s voice renting space.

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