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She sighed inwardly. So much for a hot bath and a good night’s sleep. “I’ll take care of this,” she said to Gerard, taking the paper from him. She looked at the paper and almost laughed. Three plain salads, no cucumbers, no dressing. Three beef filets, cooked medium, no sauce. Two triple-fudge cakes. She could have gotten this food almost anywhere for a fraction of the cost, but royalty wanted to eat—and pay—like royalty, she supposed.

She looked at an item scribbled on the bottom of the page: Dom Pérignon 1983, four bottles. It was already 11:00 p.m. It wasn’t going to be easy to get the champagne tonight. And the flowers? If the hospital gift shop didn’t have them, she’d be out of luck.

That’s what her job was about, though. Achieving the impossible for guests. And she did have a touch for it, she had to admit. Sometimes she couldn’t even believe her own luck. Seat reservations would be canceled just as she was calling to ask for them; caterers would have last-minute availability. Once a famous Broadway actress had even come in from the rain just as an ambassador’s assistant was asking if there was any way to win an audience with her. That coincidence had seemed nearly supernatural, but she wasn’t one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Lily was about to leave when two women, clearly mother and daughter, entered with an exaggerated air of self-importance.

“I imagined that the great Montclair would have more staff than this waiting to greet royalty,” the woman said indignantly. She was almost as wide as she was tall and Lily didn’t know how she managed to affect such a regal aura, but she did.

The younger, and maybe even wider, woman with her raised her chin in haughty agreement.

“We weren’t expecting you until tomorrow, Your Highness,” Gerard said, hurrying over to her. He gave a small, awkward bow. “Please accept my apology. I am Gerard Von Mises, the proprietor.”

Princess Drucille sniffed. “Prince Conrad will be most displeased with this reception.”

Lily could only imagine what Prince Conrad was like, given his stepmother’s attitude. She hated to see poor Gerard struggling with this woman’s insults, knowing that business had been so rough recently that he was lucky to have the staff he had.

“When will he be here?” Lily asked, hoping, for Gerard’s sake, that he might be far enough behind to get a better showing of staff members, even if it meant pulling people off of other floors.

Princess Drucille looked as if she’d heard a fly buzzing nearby but couldn’t tell exactly where it was.

“He is here now,” the younger woman, Lady Ann, responded. “So you are too late.”

“Tell me, boy,” Princess Drucille said to Gerard, “has Lady Penelope arrived yet?”

Gerard went pale.

Lily went blank. Lady Penelope? Who was that?

“Lady Penelope,” Princess Drucille said again, and, answering Lily’s unasked question, she added, “The daughter of the Duke of Acacia. My secretary made a reservation for her as well.”

Gerard snapped his fingers behind him and Karen and Barbara quickly looked in the book, but Lily knew there was no Penelope on the list, Lady or otherwise.

“She hasn’t arrived,” Lily said quickly. “But the Pampano Suite is ready for her.” There was no Pampano Suite, but once, when a Russian dignitary had checked in at the last minute, they had configured two adjoining rooms and called it the Pampano Suite, in honor of the waiter who had come up with the idea.

Gerard looked relieved. “Of course, the Pampano Suite. Yes. I remember.”

“Excellent.” Princess Drucille began walking again. “Then we will retire to our rooms now and wait for our dinner. I expect it won’t be too long,” she added pointedly.

“Not too long, no,” Gerard said. Then asked Lily quietly, “Can you do it?”

She looked at him. He was clutching his hands so tightly in front of him that his knuckles were white. His brow was drawn up as if it were being pulled by a string. “Sure,” she said to him, with a little more confidence and a lot more energy than she felt. “Don’t you worry about a thing.”

“I don’t know how you always manage these things,” Karen whispered. “But if you can score dinner from Le Capitan, I will be amazed.”

“Me, too. Just keep your fingers crossed for me,” Lily told her.

She was about to go into the back office and start making calls when the prince himself came through the door like a cool breeze on a stagnant summer night. Lily wasn’t often impressed by fame or title, but something about the man’s energy, and the way he carried himself, was absolutely commanding. For a moment she couldn’t take her stunned eyes off him.

He was taller than she’d realized—his broadly muscled physique made him look more compact in photographs. Also, his eyes, even from a distance of several yards, were the most striking pale blue she had ever seen. She didn’t know if that was an optical illusion because of his raven-dark hair and tanned skin, or if they really were as vivid as they seemed. He slowed as he came into the lobby and his eyes locked onto hers. For one wild moment she felt as if someone had whispered in her ear, sending shivers down her spine.

All that and a royal title, too.

No wonder women fawned over him.

Not that Lily had any intention of doing so.

“Good evening,” he said, his voice clipped, and just barely accented.

“Good evening, Your Highness,” she said, feeling a little silly using the unfamiliar formality.

“Ah, you know who I am.”

“Of course.”

His gaze was the definition of penetrating. “I’m a day early, I realize. Are my quarters ready?”

She nodded. His manners were slightly better than his stepmother’s—at least he acknowledged that they might not be prepared for him. “Yes. And I’m getting ready to call Le Capitan now.”

His driver came through the door carrying several heavy-looking dark suitcases and an expression of fatigue, his breath bursting out in short shots.

“Le Capitan?” the prince repeated quizzically.

“For dinner, darling,” Princess Drucille said, almost fawning but for the hard edge to her voice. “You remember.”

He looked at her coolly. “I have an appointment tonight.”

Her smile was false and self-conscious. “Very well.”

Lily gave her very best customer-service smile. “Is there anything else we can do to make your stay more comfortable, Your Highness?”

Prince Conrad leveled his blue gaze back on her and she felt a tremor course through her. “Give me privacy,” he said.

She felt taken aback by his tone and the implication that she intended to sit around and chat with him. “Of course.”

He gave a short nod. “And I expect that when I have guests, you will be…discreet.”

He was referring to women, obviously. Guests. Plural.

Lily had to ignore a lot with this job. This was just more of the same. Yet something about Prince Conrad’s demeanor made it a little less palatable than usual. “Of course,” she said again, reminding herself that any media attention he brought to the hotel would only do Gerard’s business good. And she was all for anything that helped Gerard.

“Good.” He turned his gaze to Stephan, who was standing at the front desk with Karen, and asked him something in his native tongue.

Stephan nodded and held up the key Karen had just handed him.

Prince Conrad gave a single nod, and both Stephan and the other man jumped to attention, picking up the suitcases and carrying them toward the elevator.

Princess Drucille watched him with a sneer, then said to Lily, “I’ll be waiting for my dinner in my suite. I assume it has a dining area.”

“Yes, it does, of course,” Lily said, still watching Prince Conrad walk away, his trim shape and well-cut suit slicing through the atmosphere like an arrow, as Princess Drucille followed

“Lily…Le Capitan,” Gerard reminded her in urgent tones, drawing her attention back. “Her Highness does not look like a woman who likes to be disappointed.”

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