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Lily stood in place. “Really?”

The girl gave an exasperated sigh. “Can you look?” She gave a completely false laugh and looked at Prince Conrad. “You know how they are. Always looking for a story about me.”

Lily went to the window and looked out. There was no one there. The occasional car drifting past served as the city equivalent to crickets chirping. “I don’t see anyone,” she said.

Brittany scrambled to her feet. “You don’t?” She rushed in an unbecoming fashion to the window and looked out, her face falling when she saw no one. “But I told them…” She looked at Conrad. “I told my people to keep them away and I guess they did. That’s good.” She cleared her throat delicately and said, “Would you excuse me for a moment while I go…powder my nose?” She headed toward the bathroom, but Lily noticed she stopped for a moment to take her cell phone out of her purse.

Lily watched her go, then turned to Conrad. “Will that be all?”

He was looking in the direction of the window, and had obviously not seen Brittany take her phone. “Have there been photographers out there tonight?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“To your knowledge has anyone on the staff made it known that I arrived early?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Hmm.” Again he looked in the direction of the closed bathroom door, then back at Lily. “Please hold all of my calls this evening.”

“Certainly. Is there anything else?”

“No.”

“All right. If you need anything, touch Zero on the telephone keypad and ask for the concierge.”

“Would that be you?”

“I’m one of them.”

“Then shouldn’t I be able to ask for you by name?”

“Well…sure…but I might not be here. If I’m not, anyone else will be able to help you.”

“Conrad!” Brittany called and she stepped gingerly from the restroom.

He glanced at her, then back at Lily and said, “Thank you.”

Lily left thinking Prince Conrad looked like a man who would have better taste than to fall for a pretty but vacant starlet. On the other hand, maybe there weren’t a lot of men who would take substance over appearance.

And if Prince Conrad’s reputation was even half true, he was not a man who was out for substance.

She looked at her watch. It was a few minutes past midnight. She had to be back here in six hours. There was, once again, no point in going home. Especially with several staffers out with the flu.

It was to be another night in the back office. She sighed. Fortunately, the office was as comfortable, if not more so, than the rooms at the Montclair. Gerard wanted only the best, and it didn’t matter if it was the best bed for a guest room, the best sofa for the office, or the best garbage can for the alley. He wanted the best, and that was what he got.

Lily stopped at a supply cabinet and took out a light blanket, then went to the office and lay heavily on the sofa. It felt good to get off her feet. Really good.

She didn’t know how long she’d laid there—it felt like seconds but it might have been an hour or two—when the telephone rang. She roused herself from the sofa and went to the desk. It was an in-house call, relayed by the switchboard to the front desk. She picked it up and tried to sound as if she were awake.

“It seems there has been a security breach,” said a voice she recognized as Prince Conrad’s.

Lily was on alert immediately. A security breach? Had someone broken into his room? Threatened him? Her mind raced from one horrible possibility to another. “What is it?” she asked, as calmly as she could. “Should I call the police?”

“No. It’s reporters. They’re outside.”

“Huh?” She quickly put on her professional voice. “I’ll have security get rid of them.”

“I don’t care so much about that. What I really need is for you to find a way to get my guest out of your hotel undetected. As quickly as possible.”

Lily tried to put the pieces together but was still too fuzzy-headed to manage. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean.”

“My guest, Ms. Oliver,” he said pointedly. “She needs to leave. And you need to make it happen without anyone seeing her go. Contrary to your previous assertion, there are photographers outside and I don’t want pictures of her leaving my hotel in the papers tomorrow.”

Chapter Two

“I’ll be right there.” Lily hung up the phone and muttered an oath. She was not in the mood for this, no matter how rich, famous, or powerful the guest was. She was not in the mood for it.

Lack of sleep was really getting to her.

She stalked to the front of the building, where a group of about five photographers with large cameras stood, looking bored or tired, smoking cigarettes and eating doughnuts.

She braced herself, then went outside. “What are you doing here?”

“We got a call that Brittany Oliver’s here with Prince Conrad of La-dee-dah Land,” one of them said, stubbing out his cigarette on the entry gate. “So, what’s the story, they an item?”

“I have no idea who you’re even talking about,” Lily said. “But I do know that you’re making our guests feel rather uncomfortable.”

“Look, lady,” another said to her, “we’re just trying to do our jobs, just like you. Brittany Oliver’s old news, so maybe this was all set up by her publicist, but we know Prince Conrad is in town for some UN event, and he’s hot right now. So, forget Brittany Oliver. Is Prince Conrad here or isn’t he?”

“I’ve never even heard of him,” Lily responded, in a voice so sincere she almost fooled herself.

The photographer narrowed his eyes and looked at her for a moment before saying, “You’ve never heard of the Playboy Prince of Beloria?”

She shrugged. “Sorry.”

“His father died a few weeks ago, so he’s here to host some charity ball, then accept some award for his father at the UN. You’ve heard of the United Nations, haven’t you?”

She gave a tight smile. “Vaguely.”

“So the guy’s pretty important in those circles. And word is, he’s staying here because this is where his father used to stay, back in the days when this was a happening hotel.”

“Then the word is wrong.” She refused to take the bait about the hotel not being what it used to be. “But you’re welcome to back off a little bit and take all the pictures you want of the place.” She tried to smile, but it came off as more of a smirk. “It’s really beautiful, isn’t it?”

He watched her for a moment, then said to his companions, “She looks like she’s on the up-and-up.”

“I don’t know,” another one said. “If he is there, it’s her job to tell us he’s not.”

Lily sighed. “Listen—like I said, you can do what you like off the property. If you publish pictures with the hotel’s name, so much the better. But you cannot stand here and do it because you are making my guests uncomfortable.” She smiled sweetly. “Please don’t make me call the police.”

“Forget it,” said the lone woman in the pack. “I’m not waiting here all night to take pictures of Brittany Oliver, no matter who she’s with or how many silly girls are ga-ga over him.”

Several of the others began to put their equipment away.

“Thank you,” Lily said to them.

“I’m not budging,” one of them said. “A shot of His Royal holier-than-thou-ness is worth a hell of a lot more than a shot of the inside of my apartment.”

This caused a small rumble of agreement among them. Lily knew that arguing further at this point would make her look suspicious, so she shook her head and said, “Just make sure you stay back from the property, then, or I will call the police on you for loitering.”

She went back into the building trying to formulate a Plan B. By the time she got back to Prince Conrad’s room, she had decided that the best place to hide a person—especially in a case like this—was right out in the open.

“How about if you put on a hat and coat, and we simply have one of the employees pick you up in his private car and drive you back to your hotel?” she suggested to Brittany.

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