Looking at him, Holly realised that not once during her entire passionate episode with the prince had she thought ‘this should have been Eddie’.
‘I know you only did it to bring me to my senses,’ Eddie said. ‘And it worked. I see now that you are capable of passion. I just need to be more patient with you.’
The prince hadn’t been patient , Holly thought absently. He’d been very impatient. Rough, demanding, forceful.
‘I didn’t kiss the prince to make you jealous.’ She’d kissed him because she couldn’t help herself.
‘Never mind that now. Put my ring back on your finger, and we’ll go out there and tell the press we’d had a row and you kissed the prince because you were pining for me.’
Life had a strange sense of humour, Holly reflected numbly. Eddie was offering to get back together. But she was already being propelled down a very different path.
‘That isn’t possible.’
‘We’re going to make a great couple.’ He was smugly confident. ‘We’ll have the Porsche and the big house. You don’t need to be a waitress any more.’
‘I like being a waitress,’ Holly said absently. ‘I like meeting new people and talking to them. People tell you a lot over a cup of coffee.’
‘But who wants to be weighed down with someone else’s problems when you can stay at home and look after me?’
‘It can’t happen, Eddie—’
‘I know it’s like a fairy tale, but it is happening. By the way, the flowers cost a fortune, so you’d better put them in water. I need the bathroom.’
‘Door on the right,’ Holly said automatically, and then gave a gasp. ‘No, Eddie, you can’t go in there.’ Oh, dear God, she’d left everything on the floor—he’d see.
Wanting to drag him back but already too late, she stood there, paralysed into inactivity by the sheer horror of the moment. The inevitability was agonising. It was like witnessing a pile-up—watching, powerless, as a car accelerated towards the back of another.
For a moment there was no sound. No movement.
Then Eddie appeared in the door, his face white. ‘Well.’ His voice sounded tight and very unlike himself. ‘That certainly explains why you don’t want to get back together again.’
‘You’re holding out for a higher prize.’ Looking slightly dazed, he stumbled into the living room of Nicky’s flat. Then he looked at her, his mouth twisted with disgust. ‘A year we were together! And we never—you made we wait.’
‘Because it didn’t feel right,’ she muttered, mortified by how it must look, and anxious that she’d damaged his ego. That was the one part of this whole situation that she hadn’t even been able to explain to herself. Why had she held Eddie at a distance for so long and yet ended up half-naked on the table with Prince Casper within thirty minutes of meeting him? ‘Eddie, I really don’t—’
‘You really don’t what?’ He was shouting now, his features contorted with rage as he paced across Nicky’s wooden floor. ‘You really don’t know why you slept with him? Well I’ll tell you, shall I? You slept with him because he’s a bloody prince!’
‘And you’ve really hit the jackpot, haven’t you?’ He gave a bitter laugh. ‘No wonder you weren’t excited about my Porsche. I suppose he drives a bloody Ferrari, does he?’
Holly blinked. ‘I have no idea what he drives, Eddie, but—’
‘But it’s enough to know you’re getting a prince and a palace!’
‘That isn’t true. I haven’t even decided what to do yet.’
‘You mean you haven’t decided how to make the most money out of the opportunity.’ Eddie strode towards the door of her flat, scooping up the flowers on the way. ‘I’m taking these with me. You don’t deserve them. And you don’t deserve me. Good luck in your new life.’
Holly winced as the flowers bashed against the door frame and flinched as he slammed the door.
A horrible silence descended on the flat.
A few forlorn rose petals lingered on the floor like drops of blood, and her finger stung from the sharp thorn.
She felt numb with shock. Awful. And guilty, because it was true that she’d shared something with the prince that she hadn’t shared with Eddie.
And she didn’t understand that.
She didn’t understand any of it.
Two weeks ago she would have relished the idea of getting back together with Eddie.
Now she was just relieved that he’d gone.
Sinking onto Nicky’s sofa, she tried to think clearly and logically.
There was no need to panic.
No one would be able to guess she was pregnant for at least four months.
She had time to work out a plan.
Flanked by four bodyguards, gripping a newspaper like a weapon, Casper hammered on the door of the fourth-floor flat.
‘You didn’t have to come here in person, Your Highness.’ Emilio glanced up and down the street. ‘We could have had her brought to you.’
‘I didn’t want to wait that long,’ Casper growled. In the past few hours he’d discovered that he was, after all, still capable of emotion. Boiling, seething anger. Anger towards her, but mostly at himself, for allowing himself to be put in this position. What had happened to his skills of risk assessment? Since when had the sight of a delicious female body caused him to abandon caution and reason? Women had been throwing themselves in his path since he’d started shaving, but never before had he acted with such lamentable lack of restraint.
She’d set a trap and he’d walked right into it.
‘I know she’s in there. Get this door open.’
Before his security team could act, the door opened and she stood there, looking at him.
Prepared to let loose the full force of his anger, Casper stilled, diverted from his mission by her captivating green eyes.
He knew her name now.
She was dressed in an oversized, pale pink tee-shirt with a large embroidered polar bear on the front. Her hair tumbled loose over her shoulders and her feet were bare. It was obvious that she’d been in bed, and she looked at him with shining eyes, apparently thrilled to see him. ‘Your Highness?’
She looked impossibly young, fresh and naïve and Casper wondered again what had possessed him to get involved with someone like her.
She had trouble written across her forehead.
And then she smiled, and for a few seconds he forgot everything except the warmth of that smile. The anger retreated inside him, and the only thing in his head was a clear memory of her long legs wrapped around his waist. Casper gritted his teeth, rejecting the surge of lust, furious with himself, and at the same time slightly perplexed because he’d never in his life felt sexual desire for a woman dressed in what looked like a child’s tee-shirt.
This whole scenario was not turning out the way he’d expected.
How could he still feel raw lust for someone who’d capsized his life like a boat in a storm? And why was she staring at him as if they were acting out the final scenes of a romantic movie? After the stunt she’d pulled, he’d expected hard-nosed negotiation.
‘I see you didn’t bother dressing for my visit.’ Ignoring the flash of hurt in her eyes, he strode into the tiny flat without invitation, leaving his security team to ensure their privacy.
‘Well, obviously I had no idea that you’d be coming.’ She tugged self-consciously at the hem of her tee-shirt. ‘It’s been well over two weeks.’
Casper assessed the apartment in a single glance, taking in the rumpled sleeping bag on the sofa. So this was where she’d been hiding. ‘I have a degree in maths. I know exactly how long it’s been.’
Her eyes widened in admiration. ‘You’re good at maths? I always envy people who are good with numbers. Maths was never really my thing.’ Colour shaded her cheeks. ‘But I always had pretty good marks in English. I think I’m more of a creative person.’
At a loss to understand how the conversation had turned to school reports, Casper refocused his mind, the gravity of the situation bearing down on him. ‘Do you have any idea what you’ve done?’
Biting her lip, she looked away for a few seconds, then met his gaze again. ‘You’re talking about the fact I kissed you in front of the window, aren’t you?’ Her glance was apologetic. ‘It’s probably a waste of time saying this, but I really am sorry. I honestly had no idea how much trouble that would cause. You have to remember I’m not used to the press. I don’t know how they operate.’
‘But you’re learning fast.’ Her attempt at innocence simply fed his irritation. He would have had more respect for her if she’d simply admitted what she’d done.