Prince Ever After(8)

By: A.C. Arthur


“I came to ask you to dinner so that we can clear the air,” Roland told her, cutting off her thoughts.

Val shook her head. “There’s no need,” she insisted and moved her arm slowly out of his grasp.

He looked down, watching as she slipped her purse onto her shoulder. “I’m fine. You’re fine. We should just go our separate ways.”

Roland seemed to contemplate her words—for much longer than Val thought was necessary—before finally giving a little nod.

“I’ll agree that we’re both fine. But I’m hungry and after being on your feet all day, I’m sure you are, too. So let’s just get something to eat and get that part of the evening out of the way.”

It occurred to her to refuse again. Yes, she thought, that was the best thing to do. Her father could be a mean drunk whose debts were far larger than his bank account, and for that Val had endured her share of pitying looks and uninvited advice from the citizens of Grand Serenity. The deal her father had supposedly made for her to marry Prince Kristian was another source of contention where Val and the good people of Grand Serenity were concerned. They’d whispered about her and the prince all her life, and when the prince finally announced that there was nothing between them and that he would be marrying another woman, the whispers turned into vicious gossip. The poor little town girl trying to get into the palace.

Val didn’t know which situation she despised more. What she did know was that she was sick and tired of it, and she definitely did not want to do anything to spark any more stares or whispers or gossip about herself. So she should tell Prince Roland no. She could have dinner on her own, as she had planned.

“Come on, don’t be afraid,” Roland told her. “I’m hungry, but I won’t bite. I promise.”

The expertly cut goatee went a long way to giving him a mature and masculine vibe. But it was that devilish grin, the twinkle in his rich brown eyes and the divine way in which that damn suit fit his toned and muscular frame, that were the deal breakers.

“I’m not afraid of you,” was her reply. “And I’m in the mood for pasta.”





CHAPTER 3

It rarely rained on Grand Serenity, less than twenty-five inches were received a year.

This evening, it was raining.

Roland could see the splatter of drops on the window as they sat in the corner booth at Jacobi Pearson’s restaurant by the sea. It was an old-world place with its peeling yellow paint and the frayed faux-straw umbrellas over the tables on the outside. The inside walls were painted a muted brown, the room had cement floors and there were booth seats with splitting upholstery. It was the last place on this island that a prince should be seen having dinner, yet Roland found himself there at least once a week when he was home.

“It’s the best spicy shrimp pasta I’ve ever had.” He spoke after being lost in his thoughts for a few moments.

She hadn’t seemed to mind him not talking, as she appeared engrossed in her meal and her own thoughts, as well. Originally he’d intended to watch her, something Roland had yet to figure out why he was doing in the first place. Valora Harrington was no doubt an attractive woman, but she was far from the blatantly sexy, worldly women Roland was used to passing the time with. Case in point, the last woman Roland had shared a meal with was Delayna Loray Montoya, a Brazilian heiress who hated her father but loved his money. She was gorgeous and rich and almost as reckless with her life and her finances as Roland was reputed to be. They’d spent a whirlwind weekend together in Rio where Roland could scarcely remember leaving the hotel room. Then, on Monday morning, he’d been on a jet headed to Milan where he played poker for the next two days and took an important meeting on the third. That had been three months ago. Roland hadn’t seen or spoken to Delayna since then, and they were both completely fine with that fact.

Valora Harrington was homegrown. She represented everything that Grand Serenity was—at least, how Roland saw the island through his mother’s eyes. Hope. Perseverance. Dignity. Those three words were printed just beneath the Grand Serenity emblem on everything a tourist could possibly purchase from the island. To Roland, they’d been ingrained in his mind. Today, he thought, was the first time he’d seen them in a person.

“It is definitely amazing,” she replied as she finished another bite and took a sip from her wineglass. “Thank you, Your Highness, for suggesting this. I haven’t had time to visit some of our local treasures in a while.”

“You’re a tour guide. Surely you recommend this place to our tourists,” he commented while tearing off a piece of the crusty, still-warm bread that was served with their meal.

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