His dark gaze shifted to her mouth, and the impact of that one searing glance scorched her body like the hottest flame. She felt her lips tingle and her heart thumped against her chest.
And that warning beat was the wake-up call she needed.
Oh, God . ‘Your Highness.’ Was she supposed to curtsy? She’d been so transfixed by how impossibly good-looking he was, she’d forgotten protocol. What was she supposed to do?
The unfairness of it was like a slap across the face. The one time she absolutely did not want to be noticed, she’d been noticed.
By Prince Casper of Santallia.
Her horrified gaze slid back to the tissue in his hand. And he knew she was upset. There was no hiding.
‘Breathe,’ he instructed in a soft voice. ‘Slowly.’
Only then did she realise that he’d positioned himself right in front of her. His shoulders were wide and powerful, effectively blocking her from view, so that the rest of his party wouldn’t see that she was crying.
The problem was, she could no longer remember why she’d felt like crying. One sizzling glance from those lazy dark eyes and her mind had been wiped.
Shrinking with embarrassment, but at the same time relieved to have a moment to compose herself, Holly took the tissue and blew her nose. Despair mixed with fatalistic acceptance as she realised that she’d just given herself a whole new problem.
He was going to complain. And who could blame him? She should have smiled more. She should have paid attention when the bored-looking blonde seated to his right had asked her whether the goat’s cheese was organic.
He was going to have her fired .
‘Thank you, Your Highness,’ she mumbled, pushing the tissue into her pocket. ‘I’ll be fine. Just don’t give me sympathy.’
‘There’s absolutely no chance of that. Sympathy isn’t my thing.’ His gorgeous eyes shimmered with sardonic humour. ‘Unless it’s sympathy sex.’
Too busy holding back tears to be shocked, Holly took another deep breath, but her white shirt couldn’t stand the pressure and two of her buttons popped open. With a whimper of disbelief, she froze. As if she hadn’t already embarrassed herself enough in front of royalty, she was about to spill out of her lacy bra. Now what? Did she draw attention to herself and do up the buttons, or did she just hope he hadn’t noticed…?
‘I’m going to have to complain about you.’ His tone was gently apologetic and she felt her knees weaken.
‘Yes, Your Highness.’
‘A sexy waitress in sheer black stockings and lacy underwear is extremely distracting.’ His bold, confident gaze dropped to her full cleavage and lingered. ‘You make it impossible for me to concentrate on the boring blonde next to me.’
Braced for an entirely different accusation, Holly gave a choked laugh. ‘You’re joking?’
‘I never joke about fantasies,’ he drawled. ‘Especially sexual ones.’
He thought the blonde was boring?
‘You’re having sexual fantasies?’
‘Do you blame me?’ The frank appraisal in his eyes was so at odds with her own plummeting opinion of herself, that for a moment Holly just stared up at him. Then she realised that he had to be making fun of her because she knew she wasn’t remotely sexy.
‘It isn’t fair to tease me, Your Highness.’
‘You only have to call me Your Highness the first time. After that, it’s “sir”.’ Amused dark eyes slid from her breasts to her mouth. ‘And I rather think you’re the one teasing me.’ He was looking at her with the type of unapologetic masculine appreciation that men reserved for exceptionally beautiful women.
And that wasn’t her. She knew it wasn’t. ‘You haven’t eaten your dessert, sir.’
He gave a slow, dangerous smile. ‘I think I’m looking at it.’
Oh God, he was actually flirting with her.
Holly’s legs started to shake because he was so, so attractive, and the way he was looking at her made her feel like a supermodel. Her shrivelled self-esteem bloomed like a parched flower given new life by a shower of rain. This stunningly attractive, handsome guy—this gorgeous, mega-wealthy prince who could have had any woman in the world—found her so attractive that he wanted to flirt with her.
‘Cas.’ A spoiled female voice came from behind them. ‘Come and sit down.’
But he didn’t turn.
The fact that he didn’t appear willing or able to drag his gaze from her raised Holly’s confidence another few notches. She felt her colour mount under his intense, speculative gaze, and suddenly there was a dangerous shift in the atmosphere. Trying to work out how she’d progressed from tears to tension in such a short space of time, Holly swallowed.
It was him, she thought helplessly.
He was just gorgeous.
And way out of her league.
Flirting was one thing, but he had guests hanging on his every word—glamorous women vying for his attention.
Suddenly remembering where she was and who he was, Holly gave him an embarrassed glance. ‘They’re waiting for you, sir.’
The smooth lift of one eyebrow suggested that he didn’t understand why that was a problem, and Holly gave a weak smile. He was the ruling prince. People stood in line. They waited for his whim and his pleasure.
But surely his pleasure was one of those super-groomed, elegant women glaring impatiently at his broad back?
Her cheeks burning, she cleared her throat. ‘They’ll be wondering what you’re doing.’
‘And that matters because…?’
Envious of his indifference, she laughed. ‘Well—because generally people care what other people think.’
She gave an awkward laugh. ‘Yes.’
‘Do you care what other people think?’
‘I’m a waitress,’ Holly said dryly. ‘I have to care. If I don’t care, I don’t get tips—and then I don’t eat.’
The prince lifted one broad shoulder in a careless shrug. ‘Fine. So let’s get rid of them. What they don’t see, they can’t judge.’ Supremely confident, he cast a single glance towards one of the well-built guys standing by the door and that silent command was apparently sufficient to ensure that he was given instant privacy.
His security team sprang into action, and within minutes the rest of his party was leaving the room, knowing looks from the men and sulky glances from the women.
Ridiculously impressed by this discreet display of authority, Holly wondered how it would feel to be so powerful that you could clear a room with nothing more than a look. And how must it feel to be so secure about yourself that you didn’t care what other people thought about your actions?
Only when the door of the President’s Suite closed behind them did she suddenly realise that she was now alone with the prince.
She gave a choked laugh of disbelief.
He’d just dismissed the most glamorous, gorgeous women she’d ever seen in favour of—her?
The Prince turned back to her, his eyes glittering dark and dangerous. ‘So.’ His voice was soft. ‘Now we’re alone. How do you suggest we pass the time?’
HOLLY’S stomach curled with wicked excitement and desperate nerves. ‘Thank you for rescuing me from an embarrassing moment,’ she mumbled breathlessly, desperately racking her brains for something witty to say and failing. She had no idea how to entertain a prince. ‘I can’t imagine what you must think of me.’
‘I don’t understand your obsession with everyone else’s opinion,’ he drawled. ‘And at the moment I’m not capable of thinking. I’m a normal healthy guy, and every one of my brain cells is currently focused on your gorgeous body.’
Holly made a sound somewhere between a gasp and a laugh. Disbelieving, self-conscious, but hopelessly flattered, she stroked her hands over her skirt, looked at him and then looked towards the door. ‘Those women are beautiful.’
‘Those women spend eight hours a day perfecting their appearance. That’s not beauty—it’s obsession.’ Supremely sure of himself, he took possession of her hand, locking her fingers into his.
Holly’s stomach curled with excitement. ‘We’re not supposed to be doing this. They gave me this job because they thought I wasn’t your type.’
‘Major error on their part.’
‘They told me you preferred blondes.’
‘I think I’ve just had a major shift towards redheads.’ With a wicked smile, he lifted his other hand and carelessly fingered a strand of her hair. ‘Your hair is the colour of a Middle Eastern bazaar—cinnamon and gold. Tell me why you were crying.’
Caught in a spin of electrifying, exhilarating excitement, Holly’s brain was in a whirl. For a moment she’d actually forgotten about Eddie. If she told him that her boyfriend had dumped her, would it make her seem less attractive?