Interminable meeting. Rubbery chicken with a…she frowned curiously at the congealed “sauce” and shuddered. The chicken was covered in some sort of mess that was…it was bad. Then there was the flat soda, uncomfortable chair, and pointless discussion.
Yep, this meeting checked all the boxes, Talia thought as she smothered yet another yawn. Without being too obvious, she checked the time, relieved to discover that the meeting was scheduled to end in five minutes.
The meeting was being held in a private room in one of the city’s finest hotels, one that Talia’s family owned. But she hadn’t mentioned that fact to any of the other attendees. She wasn’t here as Princess Talia el Raminar of Izara. She was here as the head of her country’s social services, to learn about innovations in public services over the past year. Unfortunately, this speaker wasn’t discussing innovations. His topic was a continuous complaint about a lack of government funding.
Talia shifted in her chair and glanced up as the hotel manager pushed open the heavy doors of the meeting room and stepped inside. Talia realized that the manager was trying to catch her attention.
Suddenly, Talia’s heart pounded against her ribs as her eyes locked onto the man behind the manager walking through the lobby. He wasn’t a hotel employee. No, this man was too…strong. Powerful! Authoritative, she corrected. And fascinating! Who was he? She felt her muscles tighten and her stomach do an odd little flip.
At the same moment that she noticed him, the tall, ominously fascinating stranger turned his head, his eyes latching onto hers and their gazes locked. She caught her breath, startled by the intensity she saw in his dark eyes. For a long moment, Talia felt…captured! In the back of her mind, Talia wondered why he didn’t look as transfixed as she felt, but that didn’t matter as her heart thudded and her body melted with the heat coming from his gaze.
And then he was gone, the door to the private meeting room silently closing as the hotel manager moved through the tables to her side.
Released, Talia took a slow, deep breath, letting her lungs fill with much-needed oxygen. Wow! She’d met hundreds of men over the years, but never had she felt so captivated. That man, whoever he was, had an intensity about him that was…startling.
The manager began to whisper something in her ear, but the audience politely clapped, overpowering his words. Talia clapped as well and the manager pulled back, understanding that his words would have to wait.
Ten minutes later, the meeting ended and Talia gathered her purse and notebook, her assistant, Rachel, stepping closer to fill her in on the next meeting.
“You have a meeting with the head of the Department of Education in twenty minutes,” Rachel explained efficiently. “Since you’re going out tonight, I’ve blocked off several hours for yourself, and I have the salon at the hotel standing by in case you’d like a manicure or stylist before your evening with your college friends.” She clicked on her tablet. “I’ve heard very good things about the sal…” she stopped, blushing. “Right. Your family owns the hotel,” she laughed with a small shrug. “Of course the salon employees will have exceptional skills.”
Talia smiled back at Rachel and nodded, thinking that the woman was such a blessing. The woman was only a few years younger than Talia and hadn’t been working with the Izara government very long, but she seemed to have a world of experience at doing just about everything. And she always managed to anticipate Talia’s needs. “Thank you, Rachel,” she replied, moving through the lobby of the hotel. “You should join me later,” she said, walking through the lobby but her eyes darted around, wanting one more glimpse of the intriguing man. “My treat. Do you have plans for tonight while I’m out?”
Unfortunately, the man wasn’t anywhere in sight. Rataqaha! Talia eyed her assistant carefully, smiling when the woman simply shrugged. “I have a good book that I’ve been wanting to read, Your Highness,” she replied. The woman was even efficient with her words. “No need for a mani-pedi when the characters in the book won’t even notice.”
Smothering a yawn, Talia muttered an appropriate response. She was so tired. Tired of the meetings and tired of boring meals. She wanted…excitement! She wanted to go out and do something fun and adventurous!
“Have you ever gone sky diving, Rachel?” Talia asked, then wondered why her mind had gone to an activity so outrageous. It wasn’t as if Talia would ever jump out of a plane. Nope, she didn’t have a death wish, but the idea of something exciting…such as spending the evening with an intriguing man…was tempting.
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