Prince Ever After(6)

By: A.C. Arthur

“Do you think the Reckless Royal will ever marry?” the now-familiar woman with the accent asked.

A man chuckled. “Hell, no! Not if he knows what’s good for him. He’s gonna get way more play from the ladies as a single prince than if he ties himself down with one woman.”

“Huh! I doubt that,” the younger woman argued. “Ever heard of gold diggers and home wreckers?”

Murmurs came from the crowd. More opinions, Val supposed, that didn’t involve the museum or her job. Her head was beginning to hurt. After three earlier tours, this was the last one of the day and she really wanted it to be over with so she could go home, take a hot bath and settle in for the night. She did not want to stand there and fend off rumors or make assumptions about the royal family, or anyone else, for that matter.

“Ever heard of falling in love? Cherishing your wife? Respecting the covenant of marriage?” Yet another woman asked. “I swear, all young people think about these days are one-night stands and monetary compensation for time served in a relationship.”

“The woman that puts up with Roland DeSaunters’s gambling and philandering should damn well be compensated big-time! Did you see how much money he lost in a poker game just last month? And then the two women he was seen coming out of that hotel in Dubai with?” This woman shook her head in disgust. “He’s gonna be a slippery snake to tame.”

“Awww, come on. I wouldn’t say all that.”

Val’s head shot up at the sound of his voice. She had to come up on tiptoes to see over the heads of the people in her group. Seconds after he spoke, the crowd parted like the royal horns were blowing to signal a procession. And there he stood, amidst people who had paid seventy-five dollars per person to tour the island’s famed museums. Prince Roland DeSaunters was dressed in a black suit and a white collarless shirt. A colorful reflection bounced off the silver watch at his wrist, thanks to the sun’s vibrant rays drifting through the large arched windows.

When nobody spoke again, he walked down the aisle the people had created, coming to a stop beside Val. She had swallowed a number of times in an attempt to find her voice. As the tour guide, she should say something. That was a given. But what exactly was she supposed to say? It wasn’t every day that the prince appeared and inserted himself into a tour.

“The present is always a juicier topic of discussion than the past,” the prince said to the crowd. “Wouldn’t you agree, Ms. Harrington?”

“That’s it!” the first woman with all the questions about Malayka shouted. “I knew I recognized your face from somewhere. You’re Valora Harrington. You were engaged to Prince Kristian before he dumped you for an American.”

And now her mortification was complete.

Not only had seeing Roland again brought back the infuriating memories of last night and her father’s foolish bet, now this woman was touching on yet another embarrassing subject for her. Would it ever end?

“The prince and I were never engaged,” Val stated evenly. “As the time for arranged marriages has long since come and gone here, the union       that was envisioned by my father was highly overrated.”

“In other words,” Roland added with his standard drop-the-panties smile, “my brother was never committed to any relationship with this woman and therefore could not have been so foolish as to dump her for someone else.”

Val felt the heat rising immediately. It crept up her neck and filled her face until she almost gasped with the thought that she was actually blushing.

“Now,” Roland continued with a snap of his fingers. “Let’s move on to more exciting stories. Like the time I found one of these doubloons in an old trunk at the palace. It was quite a find, and my siblings were sick with jealousy because I found it instead of them.”

He talked so easily as he walked casually through the marble-floored rooms. The tourists, thankfully, jumped right into his tale of treasure discoveries in the royal palace and the possibility of more being left about the island. Val wondered if he knew he had a natural gift for storytelling. That was what he was doing, she thought about twenty minutes later when they were finishing the tour and Roland was coming to a grand finish complete with a tattered map that was said to have belonged to the infamous pirate Blackbeard.

There had been no need for her to say a word since Roland had covered not only The Sunset building, but The Starlight building, as well. For the latter, he had woven a bit of romantic intrigue into his story, while highlighting some pieces from the antiquities collection and the island’s early history collections.

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