Tense silence filled the room.
“Then…” Jason expelled his breath resignedly. “We can’t do anything to change your mind?”
The prince shook his head.
“You’ll really let her go just like that?” Nick demanded.
“It’s what we’ve always known would happen,” the prince answered tonelessly.
Monte Carlo was the theme of the event, with the university’s newly built trade hall transformed for the night into a glamorous casino. With the design team opting for a neoclassical interior, the trade hall’s cream walls were interspersed with lustrous shades of red and gold while temporary floral accents were applied to the fifty-foot ceilings.
Intricate DIY chandeliers made from recycled materials hung over every casino table, showcasing the talents of Christopoulos University’s art department. An ongoing auction would be held throughout the night of the event, with funds coming from winning bids to be donated to the council’s chosen charity.
Even though doors were to officially open at six in the evening, long queues had started to form mid-afternoon, with the event garnering interest not only from students of CU and nearby universities but also crowds of local residents, all of whom had heard that every one of the BBF would be in attendance.
Entering one of the second-floor offices of the trade hall, the prince spied Fawn standing next to the windows, her reflection revealing her gawking expression as she watched the swelling crowd below them.
She had already dressed for the event, in a little black dress that Keanne had insisted on buying for her. It was pretty enough, the prince acknowledged grudgingly, but as far as he was concerned, there was too much ‘little’ and not enough ‘dress’ in the outfit. While the long sleeves and scooped neckline were modest enough, the dress’ paneled skirt also fell several inches above her knee. It left most of her legs exposed, and her sky-high heels, yet another gift from Jason’s provocative French fiancée, were no help at all, making her legs look a lot longer and slimmer.
Fawn had finally noticed his arrival, and turning around, she beamed at him, exclaiming, “You’re here!”
Walking swiftly towards her, the prince smiled down at her, murmuring with a wicked smile, “The Prince of Darkness in the flesh, and—-” He raised her hand to his lips, surprising her. “At your service.”
Turning red, she yanked her hand away, making him laugh.
“What’s gotten into you?” she half-mumbled, half-hissed.
“I’m merely practicing,” he said innocently, “for tonight’s opening waltz.”
He offered his hand. “Shall we go down? Everyone’s waiting for us below.”
She shook her head, looking even more bewildered. “You know I can’t hold your hand. The place’s crawling with council members, have you forgotten?” When he didn’t answer, her brows furrowed, and she asked, “Is something wrong?”
Everything was wrong.
But he couldn’t make himself say it.
Looking at her, all the prince could think of was, I need more time with her.
A month, a week, a day—-
Even an eternity felt too short.
And yet, it was what life asked of him.
“Prince?” Concern underlined her soft tone.
Before the prince could answer, the door opened, Keanne poking her head inside and exclaiming, “There you are!” Pushing the door wide open, she gestured to them, saying, “We’ve been looking all over for you two. The waltz’s about to start, and we need you guys to be in position.” Winking at Fawn, she asked teasingly, “Are you excited about getting to dance with Reid?”
Fawn turned red. “Of c-course not.”
Keanne released a tinkling laugh. “C’est mignon!”
Her cheeks reddening even more at Keanne’s obvious amusement, Fawn moved away from the prince, mumbling, “I mean it. I’m not excited at all.” At the other girl’s knowing stare, Fawn couldn’t stop herself.
She started to babble.
“It’s true. I think it’s yucky—-”
The prince jerked, and Keanne gaped.
“He’s too, err, elegant, he’s probably going to be too stiff when we dance—-”
Fawn caught sight of the prince’s murderous glance.
Shutting up, she started backing away from the prince, but when he took a threatening step towards her, she panicked and hurriedly hid herself behind a laughing Keanne. “Umm, I think I need to go look for Grant—-”
The prince growled, prompting her to babble mindlessly again.
“For work,” she stammered. “I need to talk to Grant because of work and not because, you know, he’s a real macho man—-”
The prince said coldly, “I’m going to kill you.”
“I, uh, really have to, uh, bye!”
Keanne doubled over in her laughter as she watched Fawn scurry away without looking back. As the prince stepped outside the room, Keanne remarked lightly, “Elle t’aime, oui?” She loves you, yes?
When Reid didn’t answer, she continued in a softer tone, “I know how much you’re helping us. And Jason told me what you’re willing to sacrifice, but—-” She took a deep breath. “I don’t agree with it. I’d rather Jason and I face kidnap attempts every day than—-”
“I appreciate the sentiments—-” The prince turned to Keanne, a corner of his lip turning up in a faint smile, saying very, very gently, “But it’s not your decision to make.”