“So Lola, tell me what you do.” Tarquin leaned forward with a curious expression on his face. “And how you met Xavier. The newspapers didn’t really print much.” He paused and looked at Xavier. “Aunt Henrietta is quite upset at you.”
“She’ll get over it.” Xavier shrugged. “She has Sebastian to get it right for her.”
“Sebastian isn’t getting married as well is he?” Tarquin’s eyes widened with glee. “Oh wait until I tell —”
“Tarquin.” Xavier rolled his eyes. “Calm down. You’re overwhelming, Lola.” He shook his head and turned to look at me. “How are you feeling, my dear.”
“Huh?” My jaw dropped. My dear? Really? He was really putting it on. I tried not to laugh in his face as I contemplated telling him just where I wanted him to jump from. I leaned back in the Rolls Royce that was escorting us to the royal palace. Everything felt so surreal. The chauffeur had bowed when he’d seen Xavier and I. He’d actually bowed. And then he’d held the door for me and everyone had waited for me to make my way into the back of the car first. It was so weird. I wasn’t used to that. Guys back home didn’t even hold the door open for me when we went on dates.
“Are you jetlagged?” His eyes danced as he mocked me and reached over and touched my forehead.
“Funny.” I glared at him. “We were only flying for about two hours.”
“I suppose you’re still tired from Paris.”
“Yeah, perhaps.” I looked out of the window and stared at the city we were passing through quickly. “It’s so quaint here.”
“Don’t let looks fool you. There’s nothing quaint about Romerius.” Xavier licked his lips slowly. “I’ll be happy to —”
“Xavier, I hope you didn’t tell her that Romerius is like London or even Berlin.” Tarquin grinned. “She’ll leave from boredom.” He looked at me. “Not much goes on here. Everyone knows everyone and let’s just say everyone is excited to meet the famous Lola Franklin.”
“Famous?” I grimaced.
“Oh yes.” He pulled out his phone. “I’ve had texts from all my friends asking about you. If you’re as pretty as your photograph. If you’re nice. If I think you’re a gold-digger.”
“It wasn’t me that said it.” Xavier interjected loudly and put his hands up. “Please say I’m safe.”
“For now.” I gave him a look and tried not to smile.
“What are you two talking about?” Tarquin looked confused and I shook my head.
“Don’t worry about it.” I laughed. “I can’t believe people thought I was pretty.” I smiled happily. “I’ve never thought I photographed particularly well. So that’s nice to hear.”
“Are you joking?” Tarquin looked shocked and then looked at Xavier with a curious expression. “Is she joking?”
“Joking about what?” I frowned and gasped as I saw a huge palace in the distance. “Oh my God, that’s not where you live? That looks bigger than Buckingham Palace.” I stared at the huge building as we passed through the ornate gold gates.
“Yes, that’s my home.” Xavier said dryly. “And Tarquin is shocked that you would inquire if you are pretty or not. We’re not used to modesty in Romerius. Mostly every pretty girl knows she is pretty. So for him to meet a beautiful girl like you and for you to be shocked that others can see your beauty, well it astounds him.”
“I’m not beautiful though.” My face burned a deep red as I played with my hair and stared at them both. What was he talking about? As far as I was concerned I was fairly average. There was nothing that screamed beautiful to me when I looked in the mirror. Granted there were days that I felt more pretty than others, but I’d never felt beautiful.
“Is she for real?” Tarquin spoke to Xavier, but stared at me. “You’re gorgeous, Lola.”
“You think so?” I looked down, feeling embarrassed.
“Of course you are.” Xavier frowned. “Your hair is silky and a deep rich chestnut brown. Your eyes are warm and open. Your skin is smooth and your complexion resembles that of a juicy peach. Your body is curved like a sexy statue. You, my dear, are as close to a work of art as a woman can get.”
“You’re joking.” I bit my lower lip and stared at him in confusion. “Right?”
“Why do you not believe?” Xavier’s eyes narrowed.
“Most guys like girls with blonde hair, blue eyes, skinny waists...” My voice trailed off.
“That’s a vision of beauty in America, to some people.” Xavier shrugged. “Yes, there are beautiful blondes and beautiful skinny women. However, no woman should think that they have to fit those three characteristics to be seen as beautiful. You my dear are a natural beauty.” He picked up my hand and ran his fingers up my arm and then to my neck. “Here in Romerius, we value the beauty in every woman. And I’m a man that likes a bit of flesh on my woman’s bones.” His fingers went to my waist and then to my leg, where he rubbed my thigh. My body was on high alert as he touched me and I could feel a fire burning up in my legs.
“I’m not sure any woman likes to be told she has a bit of flesh on her bones as their stomach is being rubbed.” I laughed. “But I’ll let it slide.”