Her Royal Masquerade (Her Royal Romance)(2)

By: Natasha Moore

Mia began to make her way around the edge of the dance floor, exchanging polite small talk with people along the way. It was easier for her to talk to strangers when she was pretending to be Birgitte. The fancy clothes and makeup helped too. She could tell herself that it wasn’t Mia speaking with these influential people – it was Birgitte, future ruler of Stagatland.

But she quickly saw why her cousin was so sure these people wouldn’t recognize her masquerade. All the quick conversations were superficial, a comment on the weather, an exclamation on the lovely ballroom, best wishes for the king and queen of Stagatland, and then on to the next very important person.

The song ended. In the sudden silence, the crowd on the dance floor parted down the middle. Mia couldn’t resist glancing over to see why. At the other side of the dance floor stood a tall man elegantly dressed in a black tuxedo. His dark gaze zeroed in on her and the power of it held her where she stood. The murmurs that ran through the crowd were nothing compared to the sudden pounding of her heart.

Who was this man? She swallowed to moisten her suddenly dry mouth. Shivers danced along her skin and it was difficult to simply take another breath.

Mia knew she should keep up on international politics, but her students were barely seven years old, so she focused more on reading and writing. As the man strode confidently across the dance floor toward her, she wished she’d at least checked on the insanely handsome important people.

The string ensemble started playing another slow song and the couples began to filter back onto the dance floor, but he didn’t even hesitate in his steps. Mia remained where she stood, as if frozen in place, and maybe she was. The sheer force of his presence commanded it on a subconscious level. Her hand tightened on the champagne flute. Birgitte would have viewed this as a challenge. Mia couldn’t forget that she was the princess tonight, but at the moment there wasn’t a thing she could do but watch him approach.

He didn’t stop until he was a mere step away from her.

“Princess Birgitte.” His smooth voice slid over her frazzled senses like warm syrup, breaking the spell. He enveloped her free hand with his long, warm fingers, lifted it to his lips and pressed a hot dry kiss to her fingertips. She swore she could feel the warmth of his breath through the long white glove.

Did he know her cousin? How could Birgitte have done this to her?

Mia nodded once, a quick dip of her head, but she was afraid her lips would tremble if she tried to force a smile. “Good evening,” she replied in her most gracious princess voice. She slowly slid her hand out of his.

“This white blonde hair.” He reached out and had the nerve to wrap one loose tendril around his finger as if he was used to taking whatever he wanted. “Impossible to mistake. So lovely.”

She swallowed. “Thank you.” She’d left her hair down tonight on purpose. The unusual hair color she shared with her cousin was what most people noticed. They rarely looked past the long white tresses to focus on her features. “How lovely to see you,” she added, lifting her chin in a pose she’d seen her cousin hold on many occasions. A silent question when one shouldn’t have to ask.

He bowed gracefully. “Vittorio Fiorenzo, crown prince of Mezzano. You are our guest this evening.”

Oh no. Mia desperately hoped she didn’t blush. She should have at least researched the Mezzano royal family. “Of course, Your Royal Highness. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.

Thank you for your gracious invitation.”

“Vittorio, please. And the pleasure is mine.” He tugged almost imperceptibly on her hair before releasing the strands from his fingers. “It seems impossible we haven’t met before.

Unfortunately, we seem to have traveled in different circles until tonight.”

Oh, he had no idea.

Mia took a tiny sip of champagne and tried to ignore the strange scrambling of nerves in her stomach. Was it simply apprehension at maintaining her deception, or did it have something to do with the impossibly handsome man in front of her? Was he really flirting with her?

Or rather, with Birgitte?

The sharp planes of his face and his strong jaw gave him a hard look, but his deep brown eyes were warm. His thick dark hair was wavy and long enough to skim the collar of his tuxedo jacket in the back. His sensuous lips curved into another lazy smile and she couldn’t help but wonder what they would taste like.

Really? When had she ever wondered that before?

His scent was a heady mix of musk and man, and it wound around her senses, tugging at places inside her that hadn’t been tugged at in quite a while. What a shame he was a prince.