Home > The Rebel Prince (Royal Billionaires of Mondragón #5)(8)

The Rebel Prince (Royal Billionaires of Mondragón #5)(8)
Author: Jewel Allen

How wrong they were.

I caught a reflection of my pale face in Hector’s rearview mirror, a pang of loneliness descending upon me. Yes, loneliness. I’d been so busy the last few years building my journalism career that I’d isolated myself from friends and family. A royal’s life was already lonely as it was.

It wasn’t the high life everyone saw on Instagram feeds. It was the occasional glamour or glittering balls and galas, and maybe some shopping trips, but the rest of the time was spent eking out a mundane existence of daily living. Royals went to the bathroom too. To continue the analogy, they wiped themselves with the same TP.

When I faced forward again, I caught Mat watching me in the passenger visor mirror. He studied me with those blue eyes like my younger times when I went clubbing with the girls and the guys eyed me from the sidelines.

Mat had always been casual or sarcastic, not…invested, so it was all I could do to not stare back in shock. But then he smiled, and that happy-go-lucky vibe returned. I knew better than to think he found me attractive.

I looked out the window again at the time-worn European-influenced architecture and the dozens of vintage cars driving alongside ours or parked along the curb, observing the steady but not insanely busy flow of traffic on the wide boulevards. Havana seemed frozen in time. The scene could have come from a 1950s postcard, one of those in Mother and Father’s stash from their teenagehood.

“I love how timeless Havana looks,” I murmured.

“That’s one way to put it,” Mat said.

I turned, locking gazes with him for a moment. Heat spread from my chest to my face. It was as though we had reached the same level of understanding, when we were both real and raw, and honest. I collected myself and looked back at the passing scene, scared.

What was I more scared of? That he and I would spar the whole time, or that we would end up liking each other?

 

 

Chapter Seven

 

 

Mateo

 

Was I a dumbbell or what? Giving Adele those looks when absolutely nothing good could be gained. It wasn’t like I was trying to wine and dine her. Nor did I hold any hope that she would easily overcome the obvious aversion—well-deserved—she had for me. I resisted the urge to keep on looking over my shoulder to look at the graceful column of her throat, the tendrils of her messy blonde bun framing her oval face, the light in her eyes sparked by the Cuban scene. Anyone I knew who came to this country always came away appreciating its slow old charm, but I didn’t expect someone of Adele’s wealth to like it the way she seemed to.

I’d been to Cuba a few times in my younger years, when Father used to take my brothers and me on diplomatic missions. And of course, I had that one assignment in the past five years. I loved Cuba and even had a Cuban girlfriend for a while who taught me how to dance the salsa, but the country fell out of favor with Mondragón when the Cuban government falsely imprisoned one of our citizens.

That memory reminded me of the call I got earlier that day—something I’d been trying to push to the back of my mind. Crisan—a Cuban criminal I’d put behind bars, my second assignment, had somehow gotten himself paroled from prison and was out again. The caller had warned me to be careful.

What bad timing.

Now I had to watch not only Adele but also my back. Just five days of Cuban sun, and I could be done with my career in espionage forever. I would simply go back into anonymity at some paradise where I could retire all the rest of my days.

The traffic was light today. Really, Cuban traffic was typically light. That was one of this place’s charms. I could already feel the stress of life sliding off my shoulders.

Too bad I couldn’t just kick back and play the tourist. As Adele’s date.

Hector drove the car to the rotunda of a stately three-storied building. This was the Hotel Marcón, where guests paid five hundred dollars a night and where shrimp was dredged in real gold flakes. This should make the princess happy.

After Hector parked, I got out and opened Adele’s door. She slid out gracefully, as though she were headed to a red-carpet event, and inclined her head toward me. Such grace under pressure. She was still polite. After the way I treated her, she was probably ready to strangle me.

She walked up the grand steps ahead of me. The valets at the front door greeted her deferentially. They could see wealth and privilege from a mile away. I almost laughed out loud when one of the men gave me a skeptical glance, eyeing my casual clothes. I wanted to tell him off but didn’t.

The lobby was empty. Hotels like the Marcón didn’t get locals except for the very wealthy. The three-story hotel was designed to price out everyone else. I could feel my blood pressure lower just from the sheer act of entering the building. The atmosphere was pristine with soft music piped in.

“Where is the boutique?” Adele asked a uniformed employee.

The man scratched his head, looking uncomfortable, so I translated for her. She turned to me with a flicker of gratitude, quickly masked. The employee’s directions sent us down to a fountain, behind which was a glass-walled boutique. The dresses weren’t any better than what had been packed for her. For her sake, I hoped she would find something.

My shoes sank into plush carpet in the store. The air smelled of perfume. They probably sprayed everything with an atomizer. Just as I thought that, a rail-thin woman in an elegant dress approached us while dispensing perfume from a crystal bottle.

The cloying smell that filled the air made me want to sneeze.

Adele didn’t seem to notice. She smiled back at the woman and made small talk. The woman spoke flawless English. With me not needed, I wandered around the store, scanning the lobby beyond the glass walls and studying the price tags. I scrutinized one on a bikini bottom. Really? Three hundred American dollars for that scrap of fabric? I heard footsteps approaching and glanced over to see Adele rolling her eyes.

I stammered, “I was just looking at the price…”

She breezed past, and my excuse died on my lips. I shook my head. I didn’t need to defend myself to her. In the background, I heard some swishing of clothes, hangers being taken off the racks.

“This way, madam,” the store clerk told Adele.

Several minutes passed, and I started pacing, restless. Just as I turned to go another length of the store, my eye caught sight of someone in the lobby.

Someone who looked awfully familiar.

That balding head, the slouched shirt and pants in cheap fabric, the pointy nose.

Crisan was here, and he’d found me.

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

 

Adele

 

There wasn’t anything practical about the silk blouses I was buying, but at least they were more comfortable than an evening gown. This one I was trying on with my jeans had buttons at the nape. I would put one through the loop, but the other would pop and vice versa.

“Miss?” I asked through the thick curtain that served as a dressing room door. “Could you please help me?”

When the curtain parted, I looked at the reflection with a smile, ready to express my thanks.

But it was Mat.

“What are you doing here?” I growled, glad I was fully clothed except for the button that kept popping.

“Sorry,” he said, not looking sorry at all. “This is a matter of life and death.” He turned from me and peeked from the side of the curtain out into the rest of the store.

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