Princess in the Iron Mask - By Victoria Parker
‘LUCAS, MY FRIEND, I have a favour to ask of you.’
Lucas Garcia had survived some of the worst conditions known to man, therefore a favour in his eyes involved hand grenades, automatic rifles or the calming of troubled waters on an international scale. What it unequivocally did not suggest was flying to London to retrieve a wayward snit of a girl, who disrespected the wishes of her father and showed no concern for her family or the country she’d been born to!
Anger blended with a tinge of discomfort in his gut as he took shelter beneath the green-striped awning of a coffee shop on Regent Square. Although summer approached, rain fell in heavy sheets, pooling at his designer-clad feet. Cold and inhospitable, the damp seeped through the wool of his Savile Row attire to lick at his skin.
‘Dios, this city is miserable,’ he muttered, scanning the wide glass entrance of ChemTech, London’s foremost biomedical research centre, as he awaited the arrival of his current mission.
‘Bring her home, Lucas. Only you can succeed where others have failed.’
He was honoured by such high regard, and during his three years as Head of National Security for Arunthia he had successfully executed every order without question, standing by his moral code to honour, protect and obey. But this...
‘I write. I appeal. Yet she ignores my every plea.’
Lucas flexed his neck to relieve the coil that had been tightening there ever since he’d left the office of his crowned employer two days ago.
What kind of person turned her back on her heritage, her birthright? Who would give up the luxurious warmth and beautiful lush landscape of Arunthia for a perilous city built of glass and thriving on iniquity?
As soon as the thought formed the answer came stumbling out of a traditional black London cab, weighed down with enough paperwork to make a significant dent in the Amazonian rainforest. Smothered in a long grey Mac, with her slender feet encased in nondescript black pumps, she blended into the dour backdrop seamlessly. Yet his avid gaze lingered on the wide belt cinching her small waist, enhancing the full curve of her breasts. Her dark hair was scraped back, gathered at her nape in a large lump, yet Lucas could almost feel it lustrously thick and heavy in his hands. Hideous spectacles covered a vast proportion of her oval face. But that didn’t stop his imagination roaming with the possible colour of her eyes.
Princess Claudine Marysse Thyssen Verbault.
Hunched under the punishing thrash of rain, with the elegant sweep of her nape exposed, she seemed...vulnerable. Swallowing hard, he could almost taste her flurried panic as she grappled with her purse, fighting against the clock to be on time for a meeting he’d ensured would never take place.
Lucas ground his heels into the cement—stand down, Garcia—and stemmed the impulse to rush to her aid, erase her panicked expression. Instead he called upon years of training, focused on doing his job and concluded that her appearance was neither his care nor his concern.
Flipping back one charcoal cuff, he glanced at his Swiss platinum watch. With a jet on standby he’d estimated a four-hour turnaround, and frankly it was all the time he was willing to spare.
Taking one last look at the reluctant royal as she stormed through a deluge of puddles, bedraggled and unkempt, Lucas stroked his jaw in contemplation.
Trained in warfare, and adept at finding the enemy’s weak spot, he should be confident this assignment would be a stroll on the beach. After all, she was a biochemist—he’d captured mass murderers in half the time. Still...
* * *
‘Oh, my God, no.’ Claudia Thyssen glanced at the wall clock, swaying on her feet as she stood at the entrance to her lab. Her. Very. Empty. Lab. Instinctively she reached for the doorframe and gripped so hard a dull ache infected her wrist.
On any other day she would have been grateful for the isolation. So it was rather ironic that when she needed a room full of heavy pockets to fund her research the place was as deserted as an office on Christmas Day.
Her face crumpled under the sting of frustration burning her throat.
She was too late. Twenty minutes late, to be precise. Unable to avoid a visit to the children’s ward at St Andrew’s, where she’d been collating data for weeks, she hadn’t banked on a monsoon and the entire city shuddering to a standstill.
It had taken her days to psyche herself up for this visit. Long days, considering she’d