The Prince's Christmas Vow(2)

By: Jennifer Faye

 “That’s not what we’ve heard. There are rumors floating about that someone special has caught your attention. Could you share her name with us?”

 Maybe the reporter did know something about Zoe, after all. Though the palace employees had all signed confidentiality agreements, there could still be a leak. A delivery person? A guest? There was always room for someone who’d slipped through the cracks. But obviously, whatever this woman knew wasn’t much or she’d be throwing out names and facts.

 He couldn’t lose control of this interview. It wasn’t just the building that was about to get a fresh lease on life. If his plan succeeded, their futures would both have makeovers. After all, he’d been putting off getting on with his royal duties long enough now. He’d grown. He’d learned. And now he was becoming the man he should have been all along.

 With his twin brother, Alexandro, now married and spending a lot of time abroad in his wife’s homeland, more responsibilities had befallen the king. But the king was not in the best of health. The physicians kept warning him to slow down. And that’s why Demetrius’s plan just had to work. He didn’t want his father to have a heart attack or worse.

 The first part of his plan included gaining the public’s trust. The second part was a bit more delicate—getting his estranged wife to quietly sign the annulment papers. The question that needed answering was why had she ignored the papers for months now?

 By the time the revitalization project had finally gotten off the ground, so had Zoe’s career as an interior designer. She’d worked on some of the most notable buildings here in Bellacitta, the capital of Mirraccino. With the public enthralled with her work, he knew he needed to hire her. His advisors, knowing his history with Zoe, said he was foolish. But Demetrius insisted he had reasons for this unorthodox approach.

 His first reason was that she had a flare with colors and arrangements—a way to make people sit up and take notice without it being over-the-top. And the second reason was to be able to get close to her without arousing the press’s suspicions. With her close at hand, he’d be able to work the answers out of her that he needed to put his short-lived marriage to a very quiet end.

 Demetrius struggled to maintain his calm and easy demeanor. “Today, I’d like to focus on Mirraccino and in particular the South Shore redevelopment. It’s very important to me and to the king. It promises to bring new homes and businesses to the area as well as create new job opportunities for the local residents.”

 “So the rumors of a new princess are false?”

 Drawing on a lifetime of experience of dealing with the media, he spoke in a calm, measured tone. “You will be my first call when I have a marriage announcement. But I believe right now the viewers would like to hear more about the project.”

 The reporter’s brows rose and her eyes filled with unspoken questions, but he met her gaze head-on. If she dared to continue this line of questioning into his personal life, he’d wrap up this interview immediately. It wasn’t as if she was the only reporter on the island, though she did host the nation’s most popular entertainment show.

 Color infused her cheeks as she at last glanced at the camera. “The South Shore project is going to benefit quite a number of people. How exactly did you come up with the idea to revitalize this area?”

 “This endeavor is something that has been of interest to the crown for some time now. However, it wasn’t until recently that we were able to gain the last of the property deeds in order to push ahead with the plans.”

 The loud rumble of an engine caught his attention. He sought out the source of the noise. It was a taxi that had pulled to the curb near his limo. A tall, willowy brunette emerged from the blue-and-white taxi. She turned and leaned in the passenger window as she handed over the cab fare. If Demetrius didn’t know better, he’d swear that was his wife. But he refused to let his imagination get the best of him and upend this interview.

 He turned back to Ms. Russo. “Residenza del Rosa is our first project. We will have it up and running by the beginning of the new year.”

 “So you have plans for more than just the mansion?” Ms. Russo sent him an expectant look.

 “Sì.” Demetrius swallowed hard and forced his thoughts back to business. “Residenza del Rosa is already well underway. As soon as we have the necessary funding secured, we will start on phase two, which will be to build affordable housing.” The clicking of heels caught his attention. He refused to be distracted. Security would handle it. “We intend to make the South Shore accessible to both the young and the young at heart. This area will once again be a robust community.”

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