The Controversial Princess(9)

By: Jodi Ellen Malpas


He smiles, accepting a glass of champagne for himself when one of the footmen offers the tray. Mr. Jameson waits for us to be alone before he levels me with a serious expression. “Don’t pretend I would represent anything more than a challenge to you, Your Highness.”

Those words flick thrillingly up my spine again, forcing me to readjust my stance. “I don’t believe I did, Mr. Jameson.”

His head cocks. “Interesting.”

Mine mirrors his. “Indeed.”

And together we smile, now both of us knowingly. This is all rather disgraceful, but this is the most fun I’ve had in a very long time.

“So like I said,” he goes on, “we’re uncannily alike. But you’re way out of my league, Your Highness.”

I wish he would stop addressing me so formally. It’s distracting me from keeping my stone front in place. “Says who?”

“Everyone, I expect.” He flashes me a challenging expression. He definitely shouldn’t look at me like that. He’s goading me, and I rarely need much provoking, least of all from such a divine, handsome creature such as him. “But I’ve never been one to play by the rules,” he adds quietly.

“Me either.”

He grins down at me. “Off with my head.”

“Which head?” I ask around my own smile, thoroughly enjoying our light banter.

His grin transforms into a genuine smile, and it is out of this world. Although I’m certain he’s hiding a little shock at my brashness. Shocked is good. “So it’s true what they say?” he asks, his expression taking on an edge of intrigue.

“What do they say?” I gaze around the grounds casually, spotting my father looking over, his tall, embellished body making him look like the sovereign he truly is. I smile and raise my glass to him, and he does the same, though considerably less smiley, and his observant gaze is passing between Josh Jameson and me. My father is looking at Mr. Jameson like he looks at all men who may be showing interest in the princess. With disapproval, and like he is mentally plotting their disappearance from my life.

“Rumor has it that Adeline Lockhart is the unruliest royal that’s ever lived,” Josh says, winning back my attention. “And after spending just a few minutes with you, I know the rumors are true.”

“You have absolutely no idea.” My tongue slips into my cheek of its own accord while he mulls over my suggestion. “I have two vices, Mr. Jameson.”

“And what are they?” he asks. “No, wait. I think I know one of them.” Staring deeply into my eyes, he studies me, his lips puckering in a cute pout. “One must be hot American men.”

“Quite,” I reply honestly and quickly, pulling a satisfied smirk from him. “So how is Hollywood?”

“Oh, so you do know who I am?” he asks, his smile turning cocky. “My, my, Your Highness. If you’re going to feign ignorance, you need to at least keep up the act.”

I could kick myself, but instead I roll my eyes. “Well?”

“Tiring,” he answers candidly. My imagination spins into overdrive. Tiring. I bet. I’ve seen the endless women draped off his finely tuned body.

“Because of all the women throwing themselves at your feet?”

“Jealous?”

I sigh. “No, more sympathetic.”

“Why would that be?”

“Well, you are clearly unviable for most women, with your fame, inflated ego, and good looks.”

“Am I unviable for you?”

I just manage to withhold my surprise at his continued straightforwardness. “I’m quite sure the King would not approve.”

“But since I’m not one for following rules, and you, Your Highness, seem less than compliant, perhaps I could tempt you to join me for dinner while I’m in London.”

Dinner? I want something, and it isn’t dinner. “You want to have dinner with me? Why?”

“I think you and I will get along.”

“You think?”

“I know.”

I stall for far too long, increasingly mesmerized by the conceited rogue. “It’s very kind of you to offer, but I’m afraid I must decline.” I dig my feet in. I’m being stubborn, playing the game. Making him chase.

“Why?”

“Well, you see, Mr. Jameson, my private secretary keeps my diary. That diary is presented to the King on a weekly basis so he is kept abreast of my royal engagements and everything else I may or may not be doing. If I somehow manage to hide the entry in my diary that will enlighten him of my dinner plans with a renowned Hollywood actor, the journalists who shadow me will ensure he knows. And the rest of the world, for that matter.”