Home > The Rebel Prince (Royal Billionaires of Mondragón #5)(3)

The Rebel Prince (Royal Billionaires of Mondragón #5)(3)
Author: Jewel Allen

Which also made me sad. Apart from my beard, I hadn’t exactly tried to hide my identity. Did I look scrawny before or hunky now? Which was it? Or maybe I looked different with my ponytail and beard?

She’d definitely gotten more beautiful over the years. Making me want to win her over.

Inwardly, I groaned. I hated to play antagonist, but I needed to.

To protect my heart.

I couldn’t afford to fall for her again, only to have to say goodbye in five days. Worse, what if she and Diego still had some secret understanding?

I stifled a smile. She was pretending to be busy at her laptop when her fingers were hardly moving and she was trying to ignore me. Finally, she stopped the charade and glanced in my direction. “Do you mind?”

“Sorry?” I said. “Did I do something wrong, Your Highness?”

“Please stop staring at me.”

Her fine brows were drawn together, her gray eyes stormy, and her lips set in a disapproving line.

It took a moment for me to realize I was staring right back at her. “Pardon me.”

I looked down at my hands, my thumbs twiddling together. Making a game of them like the “Hokey Pokey” the Americans do. You put one thumb in; you put one thumb out…

I sensed someone watching me and looked up to Adele’s incredulous glance, my thumbs poking midair.

“What are you doing?” she asked, watching me like I’d gone crazy.

Those gray eyes were beautiful. Distracting.

“Nothing.” I raised my hands and slowly lowered them to my lap.

Within a minute, I heard her tap tap on her laptop. I glanced at her desk, covered with piles and stuff that piqued my curiosity. She had a book open to page ninety-two. I couldn’t tell what the title was, but it seemed to be some sort of illustrated historical reference book. There were two small stacks of papers bound with black clips. They looked like manuscripts, double-spaced and marked all over with notes in red ink.

A picture frame sat on the table, but I couldn’t see who was in it. A boyfriend? She wasn’t married; I knew that much from tabloids. Doesn’t date much, one article summed up. There was a silver cup of pens and a steno pad opened to loopy handwriting in blue.

From the desk, I stole a glance at her. She was bent over the laptop in concentration, tendrils escaping from a bun of hair. I wished I could take out the clips to let it loose down her graceful neck. Her pink sweater looked soft to the touch, inviting.

I figured I’d better stop before she thought I was some creeper. I stood and walked over to the window. The day looked startlingly crisp and bright. So bright it hurt my eyes. And then I remembered I’d gone to bed late last night, tying loose ends on an earlier job. But now I was all Adele’s.

I smiled at the thought of being “hers.” It would be five days of work, and then it would be over. She’d be back to her life; I’d be back to mine. Maybe I could consider going home for New Year’s Eve afterward.

What a pipe dream. No one would miss me anyway. I could go somewhere warm like the Philippines, where I did my second-to-last job. Now that was quite the tropical paradise. Besides, if I showed up back home, it would create too much of a mess.

Below, along the crowded sidewalks, everyone was getting in the Christmas spirit. Downtown Munich—Marienplatz—was lighting up in the setting sun like some fairy tale.

Some people say being a royal is like some fairy tale.

My jaw clenched. Five years ago, what did I know? I thought life was so simple and good. I shook my head. I’d better get it on straight. No need to wish for things to have turned out different.

“Pretty, isn’t it?”

I turned my head and accidentally brushed shoulders with Adele. She had come over and was looking at the scene beside me. As close as she stood, I caught a whiff of a sweet, elegant scent.

This was a first—she actually seemed to want to agree with me. Not only that, but she was smiling. My gaze traveled from her bright silver eyes, over her nose, and down to her lips parted softly in a smile.

“Yes,” I said, clearing my throat and turning back to the scene below. “It is.”

I was acting foolish all over again, unsettled by the princess. What was wrong with me? “I’ve visited here for Christmas a few times.”

“You should this year. Stay after your assignment when we return. We keep celebrating until Feast of the Epiphany.”

“What, as your guest?” The words came out without thought. I was kicking myself. I had spoken out of turn, as her equal.

She sucked in her breath and narrowed her eyes at my faux pas.

“I meant,” I corrected myself, “as a guest to your country.”

“Yes.” She sounded distant. More formal. “I’m ready.”

I took one last look at the picture of Christmas cheer below and then at her. She was extending the handle to a midsize purple suitcase. I offered to pull it, reaching out. My fingers brushed hers, and an unmistakable zing traveled up my arm.

Her eyes widened as though she felt it too. Then she took a step back, revealing the photo in the frame on her desk.

No way.

It was a photo of my soccer-star brother, Diego, in a midair charge toward a ball.

 

 

Chapter Four

 

 

Adele

 

Something shifted in the wind. One minute Mat was smiling, and the next, he was scowling.

“Is he your boyfriend?” he asked.

“Him?” I said, glancing at Diego’s photo and feeling a blush come on. “No. I’m just a fan.”

Then why did I sound so defensive? Like a young girl caught telling a lie?

Because I was.

“Not that it’s any of your business,” I bit out.

We were back to being adversaries. At least, I was. The scowl on his face turned back into a rather infuriating smile. I didn’t know what it was about this guy, but he irked me with his easy confidence. No doubt he easily charmed the ladies. I needed to put him in his place. He was my bodyguard, for heaven’s sakes.

Although, granted, in royal finishing school, there were whispers that lots of princesses like me ended up close to their bodyguard.

Nope. Not me. I had no time for a relationship, let alone one that was only bound to end in heartbreak. I already had to deal with a major heartbreak this year.

Again, Mat plied me with that self-assured smile, like he knew something I didn’t. “I know Prince Diego,” he said as we got into the elevator.

Between his bombshell declaration and the enclosed space of the elevator, I was feeling a little warm under the collar. “Pardon me?”

“I mean, not that well. I haven’t seen him in many years. When did you last see him?”

He was watching me like a bug under a microscope. For a security employee, he was sure being impertinent, but I played along. “This summer.” To my embarrassment, my voice caught in my throat, and I had to turn away, hoping he’d stop his line of questioning.

When he didn’t ask any more questions, relief flooded my chest. But not for long.

“So, is it true what the tabloids say, that you don’t date?”

I crossed my arms in front of my body. “Do you mind? I cannot tolerate this kind of behavior from my security employee.”

He didn’t seem fazed, just giving me that smug smile. “I just needed to know if I have to guard you in someone’s company these next five days.”

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