As if he hadn’t heard her at all, Grant continued, “She’s n-not the prince’s type.”
Fawn was startled. “Who?”
Now, Grant looked equally surprised. “Lou, of course.”
The two of them began sweeping across the dance floor with the other couples, and Fawn wondered numbly why it had never occurred to her at all that the prince and Lou could be together.
Looking up at Grant, she said unevenly, “I r-really must be an idiot, aren’t I?” Hysterical laughter threatened to escape her throat. “I d-didn’t even think of that scenario.”
“You’re n-not,” Grant reassured her. “You’re j-just too nice…” He stopped speaking as he concentrated on assisting her make a quick dip in the dance floor, making sure to synchronize their movements with the other couples. When he pulled her up, he said quietly, “You w-weren’t able to i-imagine me doing s-something you c-couldn’t p-possible do y-yourself.”
When the music ended, they bowed to the audience with the rest of the couples, and thunderous applause rose to the rafters. The host stepped forward then, officially opening the casino to ticketholders.
As Fawn rushed towards the back stairs, thinking that perhaps the prince had held Lou off from causing more trouble, Grant caught up to her, saying, “I’ll h-help you look for them.”
She shook her head quickly. “That would be awkward—-”
“Not r-really. If you do f-find them together, I’ll b-be able to get her off t-the prince’s hands, and you g-guys can…talk.”
That made sense, but—-
She laughed nervously. “Right. Talk.”
Grant’s eyes bored through hers.
“We’re really just going to talk,” she protested weakly.
“D-do me a favor, and just please shut up?”
“Grant!” But she was far from offended and instead grinned up at him. “You almost sound your old arrogant self!”
“S-shut up.” But he was grinning down at her, and for that one single moment – it was as if they were back to where they started, and they were just good friends that looked after each other.
Together, they raced up the stairs, and Fawn tried not to let her mind dwell too much on how surreal everything felt. She and Grant were together looking for their respective lovers, and neither of them was trying to kill each other for it.
How crazy was that?
“Thanks for doing this,” she blurted out as they reached the landing for the second floor.
“Remember what I said?” Grant glared at her over his shoulder. “You’re m-making me sound more like a loser with every word you speak.”
She flashed him a peace sign, saying weakly, “Sorry.”
They checked the offices one at a time, with half of them empty while the other half was occupied by interns from Derek Christopoulos’ staff. They all had their headsets on and were in front of their laptops, furiously typing as they monitored bids for the ongoing online auction.
When they reached the office at the end of the hallway, Grant and Fawn looked at each other.
“L-last one,” Grant muttered under his breath.
Her smile wobbled. “I know. And either they’re both here or they’re somewhere else.”
Grant gave her an odd look. “A few m-minutes ago, you were convinced they w-weren’t together.”
She looked at him steadily. “It’s the only plausible reason, isn’t it?” Another tiny little ache in her heart, but it hurt a hundred times more now. “But I trust him.”
This time, Grant didn’t say anything, only turning towards the door, and Fawn swallowed behind him as he reached for the knob.
Grant opened the door slowly, and her heart began to play a staccato beat out of fear.
And then she heard the prince say, “Come in, Bennett. I’ve been waiting for you two.”
Pushing past Grant, she tumbled inside the room—-
One second for her to memorize everything she saw inside the room—-
Matte gray walls.
A low ceiling.
White blinds drawn shut over four pairs of windows.
A pile of empty boxes next to a gray couch.
A money tree on the opposite corner.
And at the center of the room was the prince, dressed in his beautiful black tux, and there was something hurtfully nostalgic in the way he was perched on the edge of the desk.
His green eyes collided with hers.
Surreal, everything was so stupidly, painfully surreal.
He was alone, but it didn’t matter.
Lou wasn’t with him, but she almost wished it were the other way around.
Because the way the prince was looking at her now—-
One second, Fawn thought numbly again.
One second for her to immortalize the scene in her mind.
One second for her world to crumble.
One second for the ground to disappear under her, and then she was falling, falling, falling—-
Heartbreak was viciously cruel like that.
“I paid Lou Merrill a million dollars to stay away from you.”
The prince’s voice was perfect in its cadence, perfect in its absence of emotion. Listening to it made her feel faint, and Fawn wondered numbly if heartbreak could be an actual illness.
“I’ve made sure she’s aware of the consequences if she chooses to break her word.”