Authors: Sharon Kendrick
‘If you don’t mind, I’d rather go somewhere…a little more private.’
‘I don’t think so,’ he said softly. ‘You’ve already had more than enough concessions. You’ve got your opportunity—which is precisely two minutes—to tell me what all this damned mystery is about.’ His mouth hardened. ‘And it had better be good.’
Her voice was trembling, but somehow she got the words out. ‘Our meeting was very different from most you must encounter, Your Majesty—or at least I’m assuming it was. It was back in the summer, nearly two years ago—in England, at a party during a tour of the Zaffirinthos marbles. In fact we did more than meet. Much more. As it happens we had a short affair, and as a consequence…’ She saw the disbelief and the anger which was beginning to blaze from his amber eyes. ‘As a consequence I…I have a little son. Or rather
have a son. What I should say is…you have a son, Your Majesty.’
The Royal Baby Revelation
started story-telling at the age of eleven and has never really stopped. She likes to write fast-paced, feel-good romances, with heroes who are so sexy they’ll make your toes curl!
Born in west London, she now lives in the beautiful city of Winchester—where she can see the cathedral from her window (but only if she stands on tiptoe). She has two children, Celia and Patrick, and her passions include music, books, cooking and eating—and drifting off into wonderful daydreams while she works out new plots!
Don’t miss Sharon’s contribution to
The Balfour Legacy
in August 2010
This book is dedicated with love to the mischievous and inspirational Monica Black—whose talents as wife, mother and raconteur are legendary.
Table of Contents
light streamed down from the vaulted ceiling but Melissa didn’t pay it any attention. Even palaces paled into insignificance when measured against the realisation that her moment had come.
Sometimes it seemed as if her life had been defined by this moment—and that her future would be determined by its outcome. A moment she could trace right back to that terrifying second when she’d held the strip of plastic in her shaking fingers and seen the unmistakable blue line which had confirmed her pregnancy.
And the world as she’d known it had changed for ever.
‘Did you hear me, Melissa?’ Stephen’s voice punctured her ballooning thoughts. ‘I said that the King will see you shortly.’
‘Yes. Yes, I heard you,’ said Melissa, her heart beginning to pound as she allowed herself a brief glance in one of the ornate mirrors which lined the ante-room of the Zaffirinthos palace. She was not a vain woman—there would have been no time for vanity in her life even if her looks had warranted it. She had the kind of face which wouldn’t have launched even a single ship—let alone a thousand. But an audience with the King…
The King who had fathered her son!
As she tidied her long, thick hair for what felt the hundredth time she hoped she looked better from the outside than she felt on the inside. Because she had to look her best. Her very best. She had to make Casimiro believe that she was worth something. That she was fit to be the mother of his child. Smoothing damp palms down over the linen of her new dress, she looked anxiously to Stephen for some kind of confirmation. ‘Do I…do I look okay?’
He flicked her a brief glance before returning his attention to the clipboard in his hand. ‘You look fine—but you do realise he isn’t going to notice what you’re wearing? Royals never do. We’re staff so we’re deemed servants—and they never look properly at servants. We’re just there—like part of the wallpaper.’
‘Wallpaper,’ she repeated blankly.
‘That’s right. Part of the background. All he wants from you is a brief outline of the itinerary for tonight’s ball. Basically, I’ve told him everything he needs to know—but since you’ve organised the flowers and the band he wants to speak to you himself, to thank you. It’s a courtesy thing. Keep it short and keep it sweet, and don’t forget—only speak when you’re spoken to.’
‘Of course I won’t forget.’ There was a pause. What Melissa might have called a pregnant pause if the expression hadn’t mocked her quite so much. ‘You know I’ve…I’ve met the King once before,’ she ventured.
Stephen frowned as he looked up from his clipboard. ‘When?’
made her say that? Was it perhaps to pave the way for the number one dream scenario she’d nurtured for so long—that Casimiro would immediately acknowledge Ben as his son and heir? That she would be able to tell people about Ben’s dad with a certain amount of pride, instead of biting her lip and saying that she’d rather not talk about it?
The only trouble with dream scenarios was that once you started coming up with them, it wasn’t easy to stop.
Because wasn’t it possible that the King might even be grateful to her for the bombshell she was about to drop—especially as his younger brother’s wife had recently given birth to a son. The world’s press had fanfared the birth of an heir to the fabulous Mediterranean kingdom, but Melissa knew that wasn’t true. Because Ben was the heir.
The true heir.
She cleared her throat. ‘When…when we did that museum party in London, for the touring exhibition of the Zaffirinthos marbles. Casimiro was there—and at the after-show party. Surely you remember?’
‘Sure I do.’ Stephen screwed up his eyes. ‘You helped me hand out the canapés that night, Mel—I doubt whether you actually engaged him in any conversation other than, “Would you like another hors d’oeuvre, Your Majesty?” And if you’re expecting him to remember you from back then, you’d better think again.’
Melissa gave a brief, nervous smile. Of course her boss wouldn’t have noticed—for there had been no chemistry or eye contact between the party planner’s assistant and the eligible King during what had been just another glittering socialite gathering. You would hardly expect the guest of honour to engage in light-hearted banter with a woman who was there simply to serve the privileged throng.
And yet what would Stephen say if he knew just what the King
said to her the very next night when she had been cold and empty and aching for some human comfort? Something along the lines of how criminal it was for her to wear panties at all…and then he had proceeded to remove them with a dexterity which, when coupled with a passionate kiss, had made any argument against his love-making completely futile.
But Stephen was clearly oblivious to the fact that she had become intimate with the man who ruled the prosperous Mediterranean island of Zaffirinthos. He had no idea that Casimiro was Ben’s father. In fact, neither did her aunt, who was looking after Ben back in England at this very moment. No one did—not even Casimiro himself. It was a terrible, aching secret she had been forced to keep to herself—but soon she would be free of the intolerable burden.
‘And people are still concerned about the King’s health, of course,’ continued Stephen thoughtfully.
At this, Melissa stilled. ‘He’s…he’s not ill?’
‘Ill? He’s the fittest man I’ve ever seen—which is a miracle when you stop to think about it,’ said Stephen reflectively. ‘You know he nearly died the year before last, don’t you?’
Despite the warmth of the late-May evening, Melissa couldn’t suppress the shiver which Stephen’s words produced as they took her back to that terrible time. A time which had been like a living hell. Of course she knew that Casimiro had nearly died—hadn’t she sat awake for hours watching the twenty-four hour news channel, wide-eyed and weary from lack of sleep as she’d waited for bulletins which had told her very little?
The King is fighting for his life
had been the one grim and enduring announcement which had made her recognise that she couldn’t keep burying her head in the sand.
And hadn’t Casimiro’s eventual recovery spurred her into action—slamming home the realisation that she must tell him about his baby? Even if she’d failed in her attempts to contact him before—because Kings were pretty much unreachable to people like her—this time she must. She
For Ben was more than just a beautiful little boy she adored with all her heart—he was the progeny of a king; heir to a royal kingdom—and didn’t they both have a right to know that?
‘He…he fell off his horse, didn’t he?’ she questioned—a fact she already knew. Actually, about the
fact she knew about the accident—though perhaps Stephen could tell her more.
‘Landed on his head—reckless fool. Was in a coma for weeks.’
‘But he’s all right now?’
‘Apparently. Though one of his staff was indiscreet enough to tell me that the King’s initial relief at his full recovery has given way to a cold demeanour which makes most of them quake.’
This was not what Melissa wanted to hear. She wanted to hear that Casimiro was the sunniest person on the planet. That he would smile on her with delight when she grabbed an opportune moment to tell him her earth-shattering news, and tell her that she wasn’t to worry. That he would sort it all out.
‘Cold?’ she echoed.
‘Positively icy.’ Stephen laughed. ‘So, like I say, Melissa—keep it short and keep it sweet.’
‘I’ll try to remember. See you in a while,’ she said, and with strangely reluctant footsteps, she began to follow the footman who was waiting to lead her to the King’s offices.
She’d only arrived at the palace yesterday—stepping off a private jet which had been light years away from her usual mode of public transport on crowded buses and trains. Ready to help Stephen with the final preparations for the ball that King Casimiro was throwing. It was to be a belated wedding party for his younger brother Xaviero and wife Catherine—as well as a celebration of the birth of their baby son. And Stephen was organising the gathering—these days he seemed to have a monopoly on high-profile events, and royal gatherings were his speciality.
Stephen Woods was her boss—she helped him plan his society parties, a job she’d stumbled on more by chance than by judgement. They’d met when Melissa had been temping in one of his offices—after she’d been forced to drop out of college due to a lack of funds when her mother had died. In the midst of her grief, Stephen had recognised her talent and made her feel as if she was worth something. Time and time again, the flamboyant caterer had told Melissa that her artistic eye was invaluable to him. That her talent for transforming the mundane into something extraordinary was what helped get his business talked about and her behind-the-scenes work was second to none. Which was why he valued her enough to let her choose her own hours and to work them around Ben—and she was so grateful to him for that.
Lost in thought, Melissa barely noticed the splendour and dimensions of the magnificent palace as she followed the footman along the wide marble corridors. The paintings on the walls seemed to all blur into one and the statues of ancient gods and goddesses bathed in sunlight were completely lost on her. She just kept thinking about Ben—and how his life was about to take on an entirely new direction. Very soon he would have a father at long last—a father he could grow to know and to love. Someone who would be able to enrich his young life with all kinds of benefits.
Eventually coming to a halt, the footman knocked loudly on an ornate pair of doors and she heard a single terse word emanating from within.