She drew in a breath, then pressed her lips together. “All right.”
“I am not here to be entertained or to go riding. I am here to spend time with you. You have charmed me, Lina. I had not thought that would happen again in my lifetime and I am delighted to be wrong. I sense many possibilities.”
Oh, my. The man had simply put it out there. Of course, he was a king and that could have something to do with his confidence level. If only she could say the same about herself.
“I, ah…” She swallowed. “Me, too.”
He laughed, then pulled her close. “So let us see where this all leads.”
And then he kissed her.
A s’ad watched as several members of the kitchen staff set up the dinner. There was a large turkey, along with dishes of stuffing, yams, vegetables, mashed potatoes, gravy and several pies.
“I’m starving,” Pepper whispered to Dana. “Can I have just a bite?”
“No,” her sister told her. “We’re waiting for Kayleen, remember? It’ll just be a few more minutes.”
Kayleen had phoned to say she’d received the message telling her to come to As’ad’s room for dinner and would be right up.
As’ad did his best to focus on the girls, on how Pepper kept sniffing the air and how Nadine gracefully danced from foot to foot in impatience.
His plan had worked perfectly—the room was decorated, the meal prepared and Kayleen would be able to celebrate her country’s holiday. Yet despite the success, he couldn’t shake the deep sense of outrage that stirred within him.
She was leaving in a few months? Just like that? She hadn’t said anything to him, hadn’t hinted. He had hired her to be nanny to the three girls she had insisted he adopt and now she was going to disappear?
Equally insulting was the fact that Dana said she didn’t know if the sisters were staying or going. As if it was their decision to make. He was Prince As’ad of El Deharia. He decided who would stay and who would leave. How dare Kayleen think she could simply walk away without speaking to him.
He took out his anger on the bottle of Chardonnay he’d chosen for their dinner, jerking out the cork with more force than necessary.
Did Kayleen think it was acceptable to leave the girls so soon after bringing them to the palace? Did she think they could bear another upheaval in their lives? What about him? Was he to raise them on his own?
He didn’t know what annoyed him more—the fact that she’d been making plans without consulting him or the reality that she’d been considering leaving in the first place. Not that he personally cared if she went. His outrage was all for the girls, and perhaps for the violation of her position. She was the nanny. She reported to him.
Apparently she was not impressed enough with his position and power. Obviously he needed to show her what it meant to deal with someone in the royal family.
He poured himself a glass of wine and drank it down. Even more annoying was her desire to cut herself off from the world. She did not belong in drab clothes, teaching at a convent school. What would happen to her there? Her bright spirit and fresh beauty would wither and die. She would grow old before her time.
It was up to him to change that. As her employer, he had a duty to protect Kayleen, even from herself. He knew best. At least here, in the palace, she would live her life. So how to convince her that she must stay, must serve him and be nanny to the girls?
He could order her, he thought as he poured a second glass of wine, then dismissed the idea as quickly as it formed. It pained him to admit the truth, but Kayleen was not one to take orders well, even from a prince. So he must convince her another way. He must make her see that there was more to her future than the high walls of a convent school. That there was much she would miss.
It would be one thing if she wanted to leave to live, he told himself. Perhaps to marry, although the idea of her with another man was irritating. Who would be good enough for her? Who would be patient with the unexpected virgin? Who would teach her the—
The thought formed. A solution. Perhaps unorthodox, but workable. He considered the possibilities and knew that it would be successful. A sacrifice, he thought, but not a hardship.
In time, she would thank him.
Kayleen walked into As’ad’s rooms with her mind still on her work. She’d been making a lot of progress on the report he’d requested and had found out a lot of interesting information about the various reasons why some villages sent a lot of young women to college and some didn’t. She wanted to discuss it all over dinner after they—
She paused, noting the room was especially dark, which didn’t make sense. There had been lights in the corridor. Had she accidentally gone into the wrong room?