“Cass is a hundred times more woman than you can ever be. For as long as you are here, I do not want you near her. You don’t even have the right to think about her. Is that clear?”
Sandra forced herself to nod.
“To make sure you understand, I want to hear you say several things.” Julian slowly walked to stand behind Cass, leaving the other woman no choice but to meet his gaze and Cass’.
“I want to hear you admit that you’re a jealous vindictive cow.”
Sandra gasped in outrage.
Even Cass was dismayed. “Julian, you don’t—-”
He shook his head, once, and sensing that he was immovable on this score, Cass’ protest died on her lips.
“She needs a dose of her own medicine, darling. She thinks her money gives her the power to bully others, to say anything she wants and have no one speak against her.” He looked at the other woman, his expert judgment on human character enabling Julian to accurately determine the kind of friendship the two women had. “Don’t you agree, Pauline?”
Pauline, careful not to look at her companion, said yes. Sandra was a bully. And it was time, Pauline thought with rising courage, that she got a dose of her own medicine.
Sandra gasped again. “You bitch—-” She moved to slap Pauline, but the other woman caught her arm and managed to slap Sandra first.
“You had this coming,” Pauline threw back. “It’s exactly like what the prince said. You tell me I’m your friend. And if we’re honest, I’m your only friend, but you treat me like your slave all the time.”
“Ugly vain selfish cow!”
“Enough!” The command, honed by centuries of royal authority, was too powerful for the women to ignore and they broke apart, Pauline breathing hard as she faced the prince while Sandra had a sullen look on her face.
“You still have something to say, Sandra.”
Fury and envy making her irrational, she shot back, “And if I don’t?”
Julian’s smile became menacing. “You can see for yourself the moment you leave this island.”
Her moment of false bravado expired at the threat underlining the prince’s words. She gritted out, “I’m a jealous vindictive cow.” She glared at Julian and Cass. “Happy now?”
Julian looked down at Cass. “What do you think, sweetheart? Do you want her to say anything else?”
Turning red, Cass carefully evaded the other woman’s hateful gaze as she mumbled ‘no’.
A few moments later, Julian had dismissed the women and they were alone in the tent.
“I’m sorry that had to happen,” Julian said.
“It wasn’t your fault.” Cass watched her fingers flutter anxiously over the crystal ball. She tried not to say what was in her heart, but that was tantamount to lying, and in the end she admitted quietly, “I never imagined you’d…come to my defense.”
His chest clenched at the unexpected confession. She was so open and trusting, Julian thought grimly. He knew that she hadn’t spoken the words to make him feel guilty. Even though they had technically known each other for only a day, it felt like he had known her for a long time – long enough to know that Cass truly believed what she was saying.
And how could he blame her for thinking that? His duty to the kingdom always came first. Didn’t he tell her that all the time?
Julian was brooding again, and it made Cass feel guilty. He looked so composed all the time that most people were fooled by it. They thought him capable of handling every problem in Ethereal, but how was that possible when Julian was as human as the rest of them?
Julian had his limits, too. Although he never spoke of his past or even his present life in her dreams, he always told her how alone and burdened he felt.
That is why I need you to live for me. To wait for me. I need you, Cass. Even if we meet and I don’t say it, this will remain true. I need you.
Remembering the prince’s words in her dreams made Cass decide to throw caution to the wind and seize the day.
Against all odds, the prince had come for her.
And he was only staying in St. Roch for two more nights.
Surely the right thing to do was clear?
Julian was startled when he felt Cass reach for his hand. He looked down at her in askance, and his chest constricted once again as he watched Cass bring his palm to her lips. “Thank you for defending me.”
He said quietly, “I’d never let anything happen to you.”
“I know.” Rubbing her cheek against his palm, she looked up and told him, “I’ve changed my mind, too.”
He raised a brow. “About what?”
“I think I’m going to take the weekend off, after all.”
“I still don’t like you calling anyone else as Sir.” Julian’s voice spoke of his irritation as he lifted her up to place her on the passenger seat of the airboat, which made up the first activity for the day.