Winter Wedding for the Prince(5)

By: Barbara Wallace

“And how is it no one was told of his visit?” she asked as they rode the elevator down to the first floor. “He’s a visiting head of state. There are protocols to be followed.”

“Since when do you follow protocol?”

“I always follow protocol when other royalty is involved. Exactly how long has he been in Corinthia?”

“Since Wednesday. You might as well get used to it,” he added when she opened her mouth to speak. “Omar has decided to personally oversee the resort development.” Such was the major difference between the two small countries. The Yelgierian royal family insisted on maintaining control of everything, while Armando and his father preferred giving their subjects more freedom. “Between that and the upcoming...arrangement...” He couldn’t bring himself to say the word wedding. Not yet. “I suspect Omar will be going back and forth quite a bit.”

An odd looking shadow crossed her face. “With his daughter?”

“I—I don’t know.” Armando hadn’t given his bride-to-be much thought. “I imagine she will, considering all the preparations that need to take place.”

“Unless the wedding is in Yelgiers,” Rosa replied. She was studying her shoes as she spoke, so he almost didn’t hear her.

“True.” He hadn’t given much thought to logistics. Those kinds of details were usually up to the bride. “But it doesn’t matter to me where the wedding takes place.” Only that it did, and Corinthia’s future was secure.

The elevator opened, and they stepped out into the guarded enclave near the driveway. Rosa’s sedan had been brought around and sat running by the curb.

“I still don’t understand why you need me for this meeting,” she said as a guard stepped out to open the passenger door. “Surely, you can finalize your—” she glanced at the guard “—agreement without me.”

“I told you, this meeting isn’t about my ‘agreement,’” Armando replied. “I’m meeting with him to discuss the development project.” And perhaps finalize a few details regarding yesterday’s telephone conversation. Sometimes she was a little too astute for his liking. “You know I like to have you with me when I discuss business.”

He waited until the guard shut her door and they once again had privacy. “Not to mention you are my favorite driver.” The way Rosa handled a car made him feel comfortable. For a long time, just the thought of being on the road filled him with dread. He would hear the sound of an engine, and images of twisted steel filled his brain. But, just like she coaxed him back to the land of the living, Rosa had eased him onto the road.

Sometimes he wondered what his life would be like without her.

“So now I’m your driver,” she replied. “If that’s the case, maybe I should get a cap to wear.”

“And have me listen to you complain about the hat ruining your hair? No, thank you. What you’re wearing will suffice.”

For a meeting she didn’t want to attend, she was dressed rather nicely. As usual, her brown hair was pulled up in one of those twisty, formal styles she seemed to prefer, but unlike her usual skirt and blouse, she had on a brocade dress with matching jacket. A long one that seemed designed to hide a woman’s shape. She wore those a lot—long, bulky jackets, that was. He wasn’t a fan. It was as though she was trying to discourage attention.

“When’s the last time you had a date?” he asked her.

For the first time he could remember, she stripped the car gears. Turning her head, she squinted at him. “Excuse me?”

The question did sound like it came out of nowhere. It was just that looking at her, and thinking about how she continually hid her assets, had him curious. “I was wondering when was the last time you had been on a date.”

“Why do you want to know?”

“No particular reason. Only that it dawned on me that I can’t remember the last time you mentioned one.”

This time she downshifted smoothly. “My being silent doesn’t have to mean I’m not dating. How do you know I’m not simply being discreet?”

“Are you? Being discreet, that is.” The thought that she might be seeing someone and had not said anything irritated him. At the same time, he found it hard to believe a woman as attractive as Rosa didn’t have offers.

“Isn’t that a bit personal?” she asked him. “It’s called a private life for a reason.”

“Yes, but you can tell me—we’re friends.”

His comment earned him a sharp laugh. “You mean like you told me about your plans to get married?”

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