‘That good, huh?’ Nicky gave a slow, knowing smile. ‘I guess that answers my question. Way to go, baby.’
Ruthlessly focusing his mind on the game, Casper watched as the England winger swerved round his opponent and dived for the corner.
The bored blonde gasped in sympathy. ‘Oh no, the poor guy’s tripped. Right on the line. Why is everyone cheering? That’s so mean.’
‘He didn’t trip, he scored a try,’ Casper growled, simmering with masculine frustration at her inappropriate comment. ‘And they’re cheering because that try puts England level.’
‘This game is a total mystery to me,’ the girl muttered, her eyes wandering to a group of women at the back of the royal box. ‘Nice shoes. I wonder where she got them? Are there any decent shops in this area?’
Casper blocked out her comments, watching as the England fly-half prepared to take the kick.
A hush fell over the stadium and Saskia glanced around her in bemusement. ‘I don’t understand any of this. Why is everyone so quiet? And why does that gorgeous guy keep staring at the ball and then the post? Can’t he make up his mind whether to kick it or not?’
‘He’s about to take a very difficult conversion kick right from the touchline. He’s concentrating.’ Casper’s gaze didn’t shift from the pitch. ‘And if you open your mouth again I’ll have you removed.’
Saskia snapped her mouth shut, the ball snaked through the posts, the crowd roared its approval, and a satisfied Casper turned wearily to the fidgeting blonde next to him. ‘All right. Now you can ask me whatever you want to know.’
She gave him a hopeful look. ‘Is the game nearly over?’
Casper subdued a flash of irritation and resolved never again to invite anyone who didn’t share his passion for rugby. ‘It’s half time.’
‘So we have to sit through the whole thing again? Tell me again how you know the captain.’
‘We were in the rugby team at school together.’
Clearly determined to engage him in conversation now that there was a pause in the game, Saskia sidled a little closer. ‘It was very bad of you to kiss that waitress. You are a very naughty boy, Cas. She’ll go to the newspapers, you know. That sort always do.’
Casper stared blankly at the crowd, trying to blot out the scent of her hair and the taste of her mouth—the softness of her deliciously rounded bottom as she’d lifted herself against him.
For a brief moment in time, she’d made him forget. And that was more than anyone else had ever done.
‘Why does your popularity never dip?’ Clearly determined to ingratiate herself, Saskia kept trying. ‘Whatever you do, however scandalous you are, the citizens of Santallia still love you.’
‘They love him because he’s turned Santallia from a sleepy, crumbling Mediterranean country into a hub of foreign investment and tourism. People are excited about what’s happening.’ It was one of Casper’s friends, Marco, who spoke, a guy in his early thirties who had studied economics with him at university and now ran a successful business. ‘Santallia is the place to be. The downhill-ski race has brought the tourists to the mountains in the winter, and the yacht race does the same for the coast in the summer. The new rugby stadium is sold out for the entire season, and everyone is talking about the Grand Prix. As a sporting venue, we’re second to none.’
Hearing his successes listed should have lifted his mood, but Casper still felt nothing.
He made no effort to take part in the conversation going on around him and was relieved when the second half started because it offered him a brief distraction.
‘What Santallia really wants from you is an heir, Cas.’ Saskia delivered what she obviously thought was an innocent smile. ‘You can’t play the field for ever. Sooner or later you’re going to have to break your supermodel habit and think about the future of your country. Oh no, fighting has broken out on the pitch. They’re all sort of locked together.’
Leaving it to an exasperated Marco to enlighten her, Casper watched as the scrum half put the ball into the scrum. ‘That was never straight,’ he murmured, a frown on his face as he glanced at the referee, waiting for him to blow the whistle.
‘Did you read that survey that put you top of the list of most eligible single men in the world? You can have any woman you want, Cas.’ Oblivious to the impact of her presence on their enjoyment, Saskia continued to pepper the entire second half with her inane comments, all of which Casper ignored.
‘A minute of play to go,’ Marco murmured, and Casper watched as England kept the ball among the forwards until the final whistle shrilled.
The crowd erupted into ecstatic cheers at the decisive England victory, and he rose to his feet, abruptly terminating Saskia’s attempts to converse with him.
Responsibility pressing in on him, he strolled over to his Head of Security. ‘Anything?’
‘Holly, sir. Holly Phillips. She’s a waitress with the contract catering company.’
‘I already sent a team to her home, sir. She isn’t there.’
‘But I’m sure the photographers are,’ Cas said grimly, and Emilio nodded.
‘Two rows of them, waiting to interview her. Prince and waitress—it’s going to be tomorrow’s headlines. You want her to have protection?’
‘A woman who chooses to kiss me in full view of television cameras and paparazzi doesn’t need my protection.’ Casper spoke in a flat, toneless voice. ‘She knew exactly what she was doing. And now she’s lying low because being unavailable will make it look as though she has something to hide. And having something to hide will make her story more valuable.’
She’d used him.
Casper gave a twisted smile. And he’d used her, too, hadn’t he?
Emilio frowned. ‘You think she did it to make money, sir?’
‘Of course.’ She’d actually had the temerity to thank him for what he’d given her! At the time he’d wondered what she meant, but now it was blindingly obvious.
He’d given her media opportunities in abundance.
He searched inside himself for a feeling of disgust or disillusionment. Surely he should feel something? Apparently she’d considered the loss of her virginity to be a reasonable price to pay for her moment of fame and fortune and that attitude deserved at least a feeling of mild disappointment on his part.
But disillusionment, disgust and disappointment all required expectations and, when it came to women, he had none.
Emilio was watching him. ‘You don’t want us to find her, Your Highness?’
Ruthlessly pushing aside thoughts of her soft mouth and delicious curves, Casper glanced back towards the pitch where the crowd was going wild. ‘I think we can be sure that when she’s ready she’ll turn up. At this precise moment she’s lying low, laughing to herself and counting her money.’
‘YOU have got to stop crying!’ Exasperated and concerned, Nicky put her arms round Holly. ‘And—well—it isn’t that serious, really.’
‘Nicky, I’m pregnant! And it’s the prince’s baby.’ Holly turned reddened eyes in her direction. ‘How much more serious can it get?’
Nicky winced. ‘Isn’t it too soon to do a test? It could be wrong.’
‘It isn’t too soon. It’s been over two weeks!’ Holly waved a hand towards the bathroom. ‘And it isn’t wrong. It’s probably still on the floor where I dropped it if you want to check, but it doesn’t exactly give you a million options. It’s either pregnant or not pregnant. And I’m definitely pregnant! Oh God, I don’t believe it. Once—once—I have sex and now I’m pregnant. Some people try for years.’
‘Yes, well, the prince is obviously super-fertile as well as super-good looking.’ Nicky gave a helpless shrug, searching for something to say. ‘You always said you couldn’t wait to have a baby.’
‘But with someone! Not on my own. I never, ever, wanted to be a single mother. It was the one thing I promised myself was never going to happen. It really matters to me.’ Holly pulled another tissue out of the box and blew her nose hard. ‘When I dreamed about having a baby, I dreamed about giving it everything I never had.’
‘By which I presume you mean a father. God, your dad really screwed you up.’ With that less than comforting comment, Nicky sank back against the sofa and picked at her nail varnish. ‘I mean, how could anyone have a kid like you, so kind and loving, and then basically just, well, walk out? And you were seven—old enough to know you’d been rejected. And not even coming to find you after your mum died. I mean, for goodness’ sake!’