Read The Making of a Princess Online

Authors: Teresa Carpenter

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary

The Making of a Princess (4 page)

“Did your date enjoy the private show?” the duty officer asked congenially.

“Yes,” Xavier answered evenly. “She works for one of the local museums so she appreciated the value of the collection.”

“Huh,” the guard made a disappointed noise. “She looks a lot like one of the portraits. I thought she might be visiting royalty.”

“No,” Xavier denied firmly. “She’s just a beautiful woman and a friend.”

That was his answer. Until notified otherwise, Amanda was just an attractive woman he wanted to get to know better. The soldier’s orders were to keep her close, to obtain information.

The man intended to do just that.

CHAPTER FOUR

A
MANDA
LET
HERSELF
into her apartment still floating high on that goodnight kiss. She’d replayed the date over and over in her head, reliving the best night of her life.

Dinner at The Top of the Mark proved a feast for the soul. Thirty-four floors in the sky, the revolving restaurant provided a panoramic view of the city. She felt like she was eating among the stars, making the four-course meal a gourmet dream.

And that wasn’t even the best part. Xavier elevated the experience to a whole new level. Attentive and charming, the conversation flowed so smoothly time flew.

She kicked off her shoes and set them neatly in the closet as she remembered the trip to the museum where he gave her a personal tour of the exhibit he protected so zealously.

The jewels and costumes took on extra meaning as he spoke of the events, both violent and celebratory, where they’d been worn or used. Coronations, balls, and battles—the entire collection represented a way of life far beyond her imagining. It seemed the thing of fairy tales, but grittier, with all the trials and tribulations of real life, of real people.

And his kiss. Oh my.

He made her feel as if she’d never been kissed before. And she hadn’t, not by a man of his experience. And yet it wasn’t practiced. It was totally personal, totally focused, totally intense.

He’d made her toes curl, her skin tingle and her body shiver in the best possible way. With longing and need.

Stripping in the bathroom, she placed her dress in the dry cleaning, her lingerie in the hamper.

She’d never needed before. Not that her experience was vast. Sure she’d kissed a few guys, but she’d only had one lover, and it had been pleasant enough, but it turned out he was more interested in a good grade from her grandmother than in Amanda.

Big mistake on both their parts.

In the shower she admitted this thing with Xavier may be a mistake as well. She’d let anger at her grandmother propel her into a date she was leery of. And already it would hurt more to walk away from him than it had to leave the jerk who was only after academic acclaim. She missed being with Xavier, wanted to call and see if he made it back to the hotel okay, if they were taking good care of him, if he liked her as much as she liked him.

Her lack of experience rose up in a tide of insecurity as she wondered if he found her immature. She hoped not. Couldn’t believe he did. Those kisses were in no way juvenile.

Enough already. Any more rehashing and she’d revert to grade school mentality and sock him in the arm the next time she saw him. She needed something to occupy her mind or she’d never get to sleep tonight.

A knock sounded at the door. She frowned, unaccustomed to getting company so late. A glance through the peephole showed her manager. She opened the door.

“Amanda. You had a delivery today. I heard you come in so I thought I’d bring it up.”

“Thanks, Mr. Vey.” She took the box and bid the man good night.

Recognizing the box that contained her mother’s diaries, Amanda carried it to her bed and opened it. Inside she found a note from Grandmother.

Amanda,

Your grandfather believes your disappointing behavior the other night was the result of distress. You can thank him for this.

Grandmother.

Even as she read the note, Amanda didn’t know if she could believe it or not. Was this another example of Grandmother ascribing her own feelings to Grandfather, or had he really put his foot down?

Eager to get to the journals, she decided to brood on the issue at another time. Instead she started pulling out books. She pulled one out and flipped to the first page. And found the first reference to her father.

I never believed in love at first sight until I met him, my prince. I know, it’s childish. But that’s how he makes me feel, as if I’ve found my Prince Charming. Maybe it’s because I’m in Europe where castles abound and royalty is a reality.

I know I can’t trust the feeling. I hear mother’s voice in my head cataloging all the reasons why I should keep my distance, but I can’t. I won’t.

I can’t stop thinking about him. He makes me happy. And we haven’t even been alone; always we’ve been in a crowd of friends though we’ve spent hours talking. And today he stole a kiss.

Stole? Why do I say that when I wanted it so badly? And he actually made my toes curl. I’ll never look on that term as a cliché again.

Amanda laughed, relating with her mother as she read on.

The next time he asks me out I’m going to agree. It may be foolish to pursue a relationship when I’m here for such a short time. Mother would say so. But feelings this strong deserve a chance. If I know it’s not for forever then I should be safe, right?

I haven’t journaled for years but I needed to put my thoughts in order, and this helped. Maybe it will help, too, to read about my romantic adventure when summer is over and I’m back home in the position mother has chosen for me. Or since I’m being brave here, it’ll give me courage to be brave there and seek a position of my own choosing.

Amanda read the next two entries but her mother’s “prince” had had to pop away on business and it was mostly angst about her original decision not to go out with him, and how she wouldn’t make that mistake again if she did, please God, get to see him again, and he still wanted to see her alone.

A lesson learned to grab opportunity when it hammered on your door.

Closing the book, Amanda checked her alarm and then switched out the light. Thank goodness for Michelle, and the push she gave Amanda at the preview event. Otherwise she’d be like her mother, wishing and regretting what might have been instead of remembering a fabulous kiss.

With a sigh she closed her eyes and let her mind take her back to Xavier’s embrace.

* * *

Xavier wore his dress uniform for his talk at the museum. His role as senior security officer for the exhibition called for discretion so he and his men wore black suits with white shirts and a black tie adorned by a tie pin of the Royal Republican Guard crest.

But for this event the he figured if he was speaking on being a royal guard he should look like one. The pants were navy with a gold-banded red stripe down the outside of the leg; the jacket was stark white with black epaulettes and red braiding looped over the right shoulder. Medals and ribbons earned through the course of duty decorated his chest to the left.

At home he’d wear his dress sword sheathed at his side. As this was a peace mission, he’d left it locked up in his quarters at home. In its place he’d borrowed one of the simpler weapons from the collection and carried it in a long leather case.

The Children’s Museum of Art and Science sat on the edge of Golden Gate Park. A two story red brick and towering glass building, it married the romance of art and the clarity of science.

Inside, a woman seated at the information desk directed him up a flight of stairs and to the left.

“Oh the kids are going to love you.” She chortled. “I might sneak up and have a peak myself.”

He thanked her and bowed, earning another trill of delight. The corner of his mouth curled up as he took the stairs. American women were so easy to charm.

He found Amanda surrounded by children ranging in ages from about six to ten. She sat in their midst holding a copy of the
Little Engine That Could,
explaining the mechanics of a steam engine.

The kids were totally into the lesson. And it quickly became clear they were trying to trip her up. But she stayed on point and answered all their questions, patient and in control.

“Why do they call it a choo-choo train?” One youngster asked.

Amanda reached down and picked up a large picture of a steam engine. “Well, see in this diagram how the steam vents out into the air?”

“Yeah,” the kids called.

“When this valve opens, the steam escapes in a rush of pressure making a choo-ing sound. As the train starts, this piston,” she pointed to the diagram, making sure all the kids could see, “is moving very slowly, but once the train starts rolling the piston gains speed and the exhaust is released faster and faster and each time it goes choo, choo, choo.”

“Thoo-thoo train,” declared a little boy missing his front teeth.

“That’s right.” Amanda looked up and spied Xavier.

Her face lit up, showing her delight in seeing him. His gut tightened as an answering pleasure swelled in him.

But he had no time to worry over the warmth of his reaction to her interaction with the kids. She was a natural with them, a clear indication she’d make a good mother someday.

Noticing her attention had strayed, the children followed her gaze to him.

“It’s Prince Charming.” A little girl gasped.

Mon dieu
. The Lord save him. He supposed he did look a bit like the cartoon character in his uniform. The Lord knew he never wanted the pressure that came with the crown.

Duty and friendship put him close enough to the Prince to see what he dealt with on a daily bases. The demands—everyone wanted something from him—the politics, the economy, the public appearances...it was never ending, and it all fell on the Prince’s shoulders.

“He does look as handsome as Prince Charming, doesn’t he?” Amanda saved him. “But Prince Charming is a character in a book. This is Xavier Marcel LeDuc, Commandant of the Royal Pasadonian Republican Guard. He’s a real Royal Guard to the Prince of Pasadonia.”

“Wow.” The exclamation came in one voice.

Xavier bit back a grin and bowed to his audience. The little girl who called him Prince Charming melted to her knees. He met Amanda’s gaze and she winked at him. That did win a smile.

“It is my pleasure to meet you,” he said to the small crowd of children. “Miss Carn has kindly asked me here to talk to you about my profession.”

“Yes.” Amanda took control. “Everyone take a seat. We’ll let Commandant LeDuc speak for a few minutes and then you can ask some questions.”

Taking his hand, she led him to the front of the group then she squeezed his hand and left him to it.

“Wait. Hold this.” He pushed the leather carrying case into Amanda’s hands.

She gasped a little at the weight. “What is it?”

“Visual aid. I borrowed a sword from the collection, but I did not realize it would be such young children.”

“Oh my, that would be an impressive show and tell.” She bit her lip as if considering the idea and then shook her head.

“You’re right, they’re too young. They’d want to touch.” She grinned. “You can show me later.”

He deliberately put the thought of showing her his sword from his mind as he turned to his task. Looking at the young faces he realized he needed to keep this simple.

“Pasadonia is a small country in Europe, and instead of a president we have a Prince. This lovely young lady called me Prince Charming, but in fact I’m the person who guards the Prince.”

“Like the secret serve guys?” One of the older boys asked. “I saw them in a movie.”

“Yes, the Secret Service is an agency responsible for protecting the President and other important dignitaries. I am a soldier. In Pasadonia there are two branches of the military, one is civil defense and the other is responsible for protecting the royal family.”

“If you’re a soldier, how come you don’t have any weapons?” a husky kid with spiked blond hair and freckles demanded. “The policeman who talked to us had a gun.”

“Unlike law enforcement, soldiers only carry weapons when there is a need to do so.”

“What kind of weapons do you use?”

“When I guard the Prince, I carry a nine millimeter Glock. We are also trained to defend and fight against a knife attack.”

“What about a sword?” a girl chirped. “Prince Charming has a sword.”

His glance slid to the four-foot-long case Amanda held against her front as if hugging a part of him to her.

“Swords are not used in modern warfare, however, Pasadonia is a traditional country. Swords are a formal part of our dress uniforms, and all members of the militia are required to be proficient swordsmen.”

“Ohh,” the girl sighed.

“Cool!” a boy crowed.

“Swords are sissy.” A husky kid scoffed.

Giving the irritating child a hard-eyed smile, Xavier said, “As I stated, they are not used in today’s military.”

Amanda stepped forward. “Show him the sword.”

He lifted an eyebrow. “I don’t need to prove myself to a child.”

“Of course not,” she agreed readily. “Show him anyway. You can step behind the bug counter. The kids will be able to see but won’t be able to reach it.” She held out the case.

Xavier surveyed the situation. He spoke the truth when he told Amanda he had no need to prove himself to a child, but he did have a drive to please her. Still, the safety of all must be considered. He moved behind the glass cabinet she’d indicated to see if it would suit. It was high enough most of the children had to stand back to see.

Excellent. The kids, with the exception of his heckler, had been well behaved and several adults were stepping closer, showing interest, so it should be fine. He set the leather carrying case on top of the cabinet and unzipped it.

Amanda faced the children. “Commandant DeLuc has brought a sword to show you. This is a very old weapon and it is part of the collection on display at the Art History museum. Stay on this side of the counter. And no touching.”

He removed his jacket, handing it to Amanda before pulling out a pair of leather gloves and donning them to handle the weapon. With sure, precise moves, he lifted the scabbard free of the case.

Holding the scabbard straight out in front of him, he grasped the ornate hilt and pulled the sword free. Metal slid over metal with a sweet swish as the engraved sword was revealed.

A hum of approval sounded from the group. He carefully lifted the weapon and held it up for them to see.

“Awesome.”

“Look at the pretty jewels.”

“Shiny.”

“It looks really sharp.”

“Is it heavy?”

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