Affairs of State - By Jennifer Lewis
“The prince is staring right at you.”
“Maybe he needs a refill.” Ariella Winthrop sent a text requesting another round of the salmon and caviar. The gala event that Ariella had planned was a fund-raiser for a local hospital and nearly six hundred guests were milling around the ballroom. “I’ll send a server his way.”
“You haven’t even looked at him.” Her glamorous friend Francesca Crowe was an invited guest at the party. With her long dark hair in a shiny sheet down her back and her voluptuous body encased in an expensive beaded dress, Francesca fit right in with the crowd of billionaires and their buddies. It was often awkward when friends came to Ariella’s events and wanted to chat and hang out while she needed to attend to the details. Luckily, Francesca was the kind of person she could be blunt with.
“I’m busy working.” She responded to another text from her staff about a spill near the main entrance. “And I’m sure you’re imagining things.” She didn’t glance up at the prince. Hopefully he wasn’t still looking at her. She was starting to feel self-conscious.
“Maybe he’s as intrigued as everyone else by the mysterious love child of the United States president.”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that. And I’m going off the idea of meeting President Morrow on your husband’s TV network.” Francesca would know she was kidding, but her heart clutched as she thought about it. Everyone was talking about her and her famous father and she’d never even met the guy.
“Go on. Look. He’s gorgeous.” Her friend’s conspiratorial tone, and the fact that she’d ignored her comment about the TV special entirely, made Ariella glance up in spite of herself.
Her eyes locked with a tall man halfway across the room. His short-cropped dirty blond hair contrasted with his black tuxedo. A jolt of energy charged through the air as he started walking toward her. “Uh-oh, he’s coming this way.”
“I told you he was looking at you.” Francesca smiled and stared right at him. “And he doesn’t need champagne, either. Look, his glass is full.”
“I wonder what’s wrong.” Her pulse quickened and she plastered on her most helpful smile as he approached. It was never easy to know if you should introduce yourself in these situations. She was working at the event, not attending as a guest, so was it a breach of etiquette to greet a prince? She wished her business partner, Scarlet, was here. With her background as a D.C. socialite, she knew just how to handle these dilemmas.
Before she could collect her thoughts he stood right in front of her. He held out his hand, so she shook it. His handshake was predictably firm and authoritative. “Ms. Winthrop, Simon Worth.”
He knew her name? Her brain scrambled. He must have read the media stories like everyone else. “Pleased to meet you.” His eyes fixed on hers with startling intensity. A dark honey color, they seemed to see right past her studied professional façade to the woman beneath.
“I’m impressed.” His voice was deep, with a masculine gruffness that stirred something inside her. Oh dear. There was nothing good about being attracted to a royal guest. Still it was kind of him to compliment her.
“Oh, thank you. That’s sweet of you.” It wasn’t often that guests thanked the party planner personally. Or even noticed that she was alive. “We do enjoy hosting these fund-raisers.”
He’d let go of her hand, but his gaze still held her like a deer in a rifle sight. Humor sparkled in his golden eyes. “Not your party planning skills, though I’m sure those are impressive, too. I admire how well you’ve handled the blazing spotlight of press attention on your personal life.”
“Oh.” She felt her cheeks heat, which was unusual for her. This man was having an unsettling effect on her sanity. “I suppose it helps that I don’t have much of a personal life. I’m all work all the time so they haven’t found a lot to write about.” Now she was babbling, which made her feel even more hot and bothered. “And it’s easy to stay detached when I genuinely have no idea what they’re talking about half the time.”
“I know how you feel.” He smiled. “I’ve had cameras poked in my face since before I could speak. I finally realized that if there isn’t a good story, they’ll just make one up and hope you play into their hands by making a fuss over it.”
She smiled. “So it is better to put your hands