Either way, he was fully aware of the irony of the situation.
He’d had relationships with some of the world’s most beautiful, experienced and sophisticated women, but none of them had made him feel the way she had.
This was possibly the first time he’d enjoyed uncomplicated, motiveless sex. Sex driven by sheer, animal lust rather than human ambition.
Yes, the girl had known he was a prince.
But he was experienced enough to know that she’d wanted him as a man.
Hearing the faint brush of clothing against flesh, he knew she was dressing. For once he was grateful for the iron self-control and self-discipline that had been drilled into him in his few years in the army, because that was the only thing currently standing between restraint and a repeat performance.
It must have been novelty value, he reflected grimly, his shoulders tensing as he heard her slide her feet into her shoes. That was the only explanation for the explosive chemistry they shared.
Which left them where, precisely?
He turned to find her watching him, and the confusion in her beautiful green eyes turned to consternation as a discreet tap on the door indicated that his presence was required.
The girl threw an embarrassed glance towards the door and frantically smoothed her skirt over her thighs. It was obvious from the uneven line of buttons on her shirt that she’d dressed in a hurry, with hands that hadn’t been quite steady. Her hair was still loose, spilling over her narrow shoulders like a fall of autumn leaves, a beacon of glorious colour that effectively announced their intimacy to everyone who saw her.
Focusing on her soft mouth, Casper felt a sudden urge to power her back against the table and lose himself in her incredible body one more time.
‘They’ll be waiting for you in the royal box.’ Her husky voice cut through his disturbingly explicit thoughts, and she hesitated for a moment and then walked over to him.
‘Y-your Highness—are you all right?’
Casper stared down into warm green eyes, saw concern there, and suddenly the urge not to let her go was almost painful. There was something hopeful and optimistic about her, and he sensed she hadn’t yet discovered that life was a cold, hard place.
Her smile faltered as she studied the grim set of his features. ‘I guess this is what you’d call a bit of an awkward moment. So—well—’ she waved a hand ‘—I have to get back to work and you—well…’ Her voice tailed off and her white teeth clamped her lower lip. Then she took a deep breath, closed the gap between them, stood on tiptoe and kissed him on the mouth. ‘Thank you,’ she whispered. ‘Thank you for what you’ve given me.’
Caught by surprise, Casper stood frozen to the spot, enveloped by a warm, soft woman. She tasted of strawberries and summer and an immediate explosion of lust gripped his body.
So he wasn’t dead, then , he thought absently, part of him removed from what was happening. Some things he could still feel.
And then he heard a massive cheer from the crowd behind him and knew instantly what had happened.
Not so innocent , he thought grimly. Not so innocent that she didn’t know how to work the press to her advantage. She was kissing him in the window, in full view of the cameras covering the game and the crowd.
Cameras that were now focusing on them.
She might have been sexually inexperienced, but clearly that hadn’t prevented her from having a plan.
Surprised that he was still capable of feeling disillusioned and furious with himself for making such an elemental mistake, Casper locked his fingers round her wrists and withdrew her arms from his neck.
‘You can stop now. If you look behind me, I think you’ll find that you’ve achieved your objective.’
Confusion flickered in her eyes and then her attention fixed on something behind him. ‘Oh my God.’ Her hand covered her mouth. ‘H—how did you know?’ Her voice was an appalled whisper and she glanced at him in desperate panic. ‘They filmed me kissing you. And it’s up on the giant screens.’ Her voice rose, her cheeks were scarlet, and her reluctant glance towards the stadium ended in a moan of disbelief. ‘They’re playing it again and again. Oh God, I can’t believe this—it looks as though I’m—and my hair is all over the place and my bottom looks huge, and—everyone is looking.’
His eyes on the pitch, Casper watched with cool detachment as his friend, the England captain, hit a post with a drop-goal attempt.
‘More importantly, you just cost England three points.’
With cold detachment, he realised that he was now going to have to brief his security team to get her out of here, but before he could speak she gave him a reproachful look and sped to the door.
‘Do not leave this room,’ Casper thundered, but she ignored him, tugged open the door, slipped between two of his security guards and sprinted out of sight.
Unaccustomed to having his orders ignored, Casper stood in stunned silence for a few precious seconds and then delivered a single command to his Head of Security. ‘Find her.’
‘Can you give me her name, Your Highness?’
Casper stared through the door. ‘No,’ he said grimly. ‘I can’t.’
All he knew was that she clearly wasn’t as innocent as he’d first thought.
Feeling nothing except a desperate desire to hide from the world, Holly sprinted out of the room, shrinking as she passed a television screen in time to overhear the commentator say, ‘Looks like the opening score goes to Prince Casper.’
Hurtling down the stairs, she ran straight into her boss, who was marching up the stairs towards the President’s Suite like a general leading an invading army onto enemy territory.
‘Sylvia.’ Her breath coming in pants, Holly stared at the other woman in horrified silence, noticing the blaze of fury in her eyes and the tightness of her lips.
‘How dare you?’ Sylvia’s voice shook with anger. ‘How dare you humiliate me in this way? I picked you especially because I thought you were sensible and decent. And you have destroyed the reputation of my company!’
‘No!’ Horribly guilty, overwhelmed by panic and humiliation, Holly shook her head. ‘They don’t even know who I am, and—’
‘The British tabloid press will have your name before you’re out of the stadium,’ Sylvia spat. ‘The entire nation heard the commentator say “That’s one girl who isn’t lying back thinking of England”. If you wanted sleazy notoriety, then you’ve got it.’
Holly flinched under the verbal blows, feeling as vulnerable as a little rowing boat caught in a heavy storm out at sea. What had she done? This wasn’t a little transgression that would remain her private secret. This was—this was…‘Prince Casper has kissed lots of women,’ she muttered. ‘So it won’t be much of a story—’
‘You’re a waitress!’ Sylvia was shaking with anger. ‘Of course it’s a story!’
Holly stared at her in appalled silence, realising that she hadn’t once given any thought to the consequences of what they were doing. She hadn’t thought at all. It had been impulse, chemistry, intimacy; she bit back a hysterical laugh.
What was intimate about having your love life plastered on sixty-nine-metre screens for the amusement of a crowd of eighty-two thousand people?
She swallowed painfully. ‘Sylvia, I—’
‘You’re fired for misconduct!’
Her world crumbling around her, Holly was about to plead her case when she caught sight of Eddie striding towards them, his face like a storm cloud.
Unable to take any more, Holly gasped another apology and fled towards the kitchens. Heart pounding, cheeks flaming, she grabbed her bag and her coat, changed into her trainers and made for the door.
Nicky intercepted her. ‘Where are you going?’
‘I don’t know.’ Feeling dazed, Holly looked at her helplessly. ‘Home. Anywhere.’
‘You can’t go home. It’s the first place they’ll look.’ Brisk and businesslike, Nicky handed her a hat and a set of keys. ‘Stick the hat on and hide that gorgeous hair. Then go to my flat.’
‘No one knows who I am.’
‘By now they’ll know more about you than you do. Go to my flat, draw the curtains and don’t answer the door to anyone. Have you got the money for a cab?’
‘I’ll take the bus.’ Too shocked to argue, Holly obediently scooped her hair into a bunch and tucked it under the hat.
‘No way.’ Nicky stuffed a note in her hand. ‘Get a taxi—and hope the driver hasn’t seen the pictures on the screen. Come to think of it, sit with a hanky over your nose. Pretend you have a cold or something. Go, go, go!’
Realising that she’d set into motion a series of events that she couldn’t control, Holly started to walk towards the door when Nicky caught her arm.
‘Just tell me one thing,’ she whispered, a wicked gleam in her eyes. ‘The rumours about the prince’s talents—are they true?’