A sharp pain exploded in her heart, and somewhere in the back of her mind she recognized it as the shattering of hopes and dreams. Only last week he’d told her how much he loved her, how lonely he was without her.
He’d said so many things, so many sweet, wonderful things. Lies. All lies. Alberta stumbled backward a step and tried desperately to contain the wrenching sob that begged to be released.
She didn’t want to see any more, yet couldn’t tear her gaze away from the sight of the man whom she’d believed loved her k-ssing and car-ssing another woman. Someplace in the back of her mind, she knew she needed to escape, before Lexis saw her, before she completely humiliated herself. But her feet refused to listen to her brain, and she remained frozen in place as her heart broke into a million pieces.
* * *
Back in the guest house
knocked. “Princess Alberta?” There was no reply. No sound whatsoever seeped through the wooden door. No light shone from beneath the door, either. She couldn’t be unpacking and freshening up in the darkness, he thought. He knocked again and when there was still no answer, he twisted the knob and eased open the door.
The room held a stillness that indicated emptiness. “Princess Alberta?” he said softly, then turned on the overhead light. Immediately he spied the open window with the screen removed. He raced to the window. Had somebody ripped the screen away to kidnap Alberta? A fear that turned to rage as he realized the screen could not be removed from the outside, but only from the in,side.
That meant Alberta herself had removed the screen and disappeared into the encroaching shadows of the night. Why? The question rang in his head as he raced out of the house. He hesitated on the sidewalk, unsure of which direction to go. He had to find her.
As a princess of Aristo, she should not be wandering around alone. Dammit, she knew better than to go off on her own, he thought as he hurried down the sidewalk. His gaze swept left, then right as he ran, searching for any sign of the princess under his protection.
King Enoch would have his head if anything happened to his beloved daughter. As he hurried along, he encountered two palace guards. The first one had seen nobody all evening long. The second guard told him he’d given Princess Alberta directions to Lexis’s quarters and gave the same directions to Mike.
He breathed a sigh of relief as he spied her familiar, petite shape standing on the sidewalk just outside Lexis’s residence.
He grabbed her by the shoulders and whirled her around to face him.
“How dare you compromise my position and your own safety by sneaking out?” he exclaimed angrily.
Her beautiful eyes w¡dened at the sight of him, then she burst into tears. “And don’t think your tears will temper my anger with you at the moment,” he continued irritably. “I will not be manipulated by your tears. What you did was foolish and irresponsible.”
“You have no idea just how foolish and irresponsible I’ve been,” she cried, and before Mike knew her intent, she threw herself against him, sobbing as if her heart was breaking in two.
* * *
Her tears had now changed to deep, wrenching sobs. “I don’t know what I’m going to do… I’ve been so incredibly stupid … how am I ever going to tell my parents…” The words came jerkily from her, interspersed with choking sobs. He’d thought her tears to be an attempt at manipulation so he wouldn’t stay angry with her.
Now he recognized them as something much different. What could be so bad that she couldn’t go to her parents? A million questions filled his head, but as he saw several royal guards wearing expressions of concern walking in their direction, he took her arm. “Princess, pull
yourself together,” he commanded brusquely.
It would not do to create a scandal. The answers to his questions could be told to him when they were back in their private quarters. He guided her away from Lexis’s residence and back toward the guest house where they were staying. He nodded curtly to the guards, apparently satisfying them that everything was under control.
Once they were again in the guest house, she buried her face in her hands. “Princess … do you wish to talk about whatever it is that has you distressed?” “I loved him. I thought he loved me … he told me he loved me, but he lied. It was all lies.”
Mike relaxed as he realized the reason for her tears was apparently nothing more than a foolish matter of the heart. Women, he thought. Such passionate, emotional creatures. Mike had never been bothered with such nonsense. “Who told you he loved you?” he asked curiously.
“Lexis?” She nodded. “I thought we were going to get married, but he lied. He was with somebody else just now … his lover.” Mike frowned, unsure how to handle this uncustomary display of emotion. “Then the man is a snake and you’ll find another man who will marry you,” he said gruffly.
He wanted nothing more than for her to stop crying. “No, I won’t,” she cried miserably. She jumped up off the sofa and walked to the window. “You don’t understand,” she said, her back to him. “No man will ever want me now.”
He stared at her in bewilderment. “Don’t be silly. You’re an attractive young woman and I’m certain you will have many suitors in your future.” “I’m not a young woman,” she protested, her back still to him. “I’m twenty-nine years old and no other man will ever want me because … because…” She twirled around and looked at him, sheer misery reflected in the darkness of her eyes.
“I’m pregnant with Lexis’s child.” Mike s-cked in a gasp of shock.
To be continued
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