A Royal Temptation(7)

By: Charlene Sands

 He rubbed his chin, thinking for a second. “It’s strange that I don’t feel any different. I keep expecting a big transformation, but I’m just me.”

 She smiled at his earnest answer. “I thought it would be an adjustment for you. Every move you make now will be documented somehow.” She glanced out the window, expecting to see photographers following the limo, snapping pictures. She’d had experience with her ex-boyfriend’s fame and it had gotten old very fast. No one should be followed and photographed at every turn for entertainment’s sake. “How did you escape the palace?”

 He chuckled. “You make it seem like prison.”

 “No, no. I’m sorry. That’s not what I meant.”

 “I know what you meant, Portia.” Her name slid effortlessly from his lips. “There are some advantages to being king.”

 “Such as?” she probed.

 “Such as, I didn’t make my intentions known. No one expected me to take a drive this morning. No one questioned me. I had the car ready to pick you up, and then I merely slipped into the backseat before anyone at the palace got wind of it.”

 “You snuck out.”

 He laughed again and she joined in. “Okay, yes. I snuck out.”

 Speaking to him put her at ease and she settled back in her seat. “Do you have bodyguards?”

 “Yes, they are following behind somewhere.”

 “You’re not worried?”

 He shook his head. “No. I’m not worried. And neither should you be.”

 “Okay, I’ll trust you.” She’d never traveled with bodyguards, but her situation was quite different. As an exiled princess, she’d grown up in America and never had what Juan Carlos now had: a citizenry eager to reinstate their monarchy. “But you must have dozens of dignitaries and family members waiting to speak with you at the palace.”

 “Which I will do later. But for now,” he said, reaching for her hand, “I find being with you more important.”

 * * *

 Juan Carlos held her hand during the tour of the city. He showed her sites of great historical significance and some trendy new hot spots that were cropping up. The rise of democracy was good for enterprise, he explained.

 As he spoke, the tone of his deep and sincere voice brought a smile to her lips more times than she could count. It was intimate in a way, hearing the love he had for a country that was almost as new to him as it was to her. He kept her hand locked in his as if it was precious. As if he needed the connection. To hear him say that being with her was important did wonders for her ego.

 Yet she only indulged him because nothing could possibly come of it. And because it had been a long time since she’d enjoyed a man’s company so much.

 Tomorrow, she would leave Del Sol.

 The limo stopped at a tiny café off the main street of town. “I hear Matteo’s is fantastic.”

 “You’ve never eaten here before?” she asked.

 “No, I haven’t. We’ll experience it together. Do you mind?”

 “I love adventure.”

 He nodded, a satisfied glimmer in his eyes. “I thought you might.”

 They exited the limo, which looked out of place on the backstreets of the royal city. Once inside, they were escorted to their table by the owner. He was sweating, nervous and fidgety. Juan Carlos clapped him on the back gently to reassure him. “Bring us your specials, Matteo. I hear they are the best in all of Del Sol.”

 “Si, si. I will be glad to serve you myself, Your Majesty.”

 Juan Carlos nodded. “Thank you.”

 Though the café walls showed signs of age, it was a clean, modest place. “Are you sure the food is good here?” she asked.

 His brows gathered. “It comes highly recommended. Why?”

 “We’re the only ones seated.”

 Juan Carlos looked around the empty café. “My bodyguards. They called ahead to announce my arrival. I’ll make it up to Matteo. I can’t have him losing business on my account.”

 “I’m sure he’ll be boasting that King Montoro of Alma dined in his café. His business will double by next week.”

 Juan Carlos sharpened his gaze on her. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

 “You’re new to this royal thing.”

 “Yes, I guess I am.”

 Just wait, she wanted to say. He was an intelligent man, from all she’d read about him. He managed the sizable personal accounts of the Montoros and had helped build a fortune for the family. He had wits and smarts, but nothing would prepare him for the limelight he’d just entered. He’d have to experience it himself, the good, the bad, the ugly. His life would be under a microscope now.

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