An American Cinderella:A Royal Love Story(6)

By: Krista Lakes

“Yes, I'm fine,” he assured me, rising to his feet. “I am so very sorry, miss.”

He held out a hand to help me up. I looked up and into the most handsome face I think I've ever seen. His hair was golden with just enough red to glint in the sun and he looked down at me with ocean eyes. His jaw was strong and his shoulders were broad in a t-shirt and gym shorts. I took his hand, feeling my heart speed up. It wasn't every day a handsome man crashed into me.

He tugged me up gently, a smile crossing his face as he did so. His grip had strength and he pulled me up with ease.

“Thanks,” I said. He waited until I had my balance to let me go. I missed the warmth of his hand as soon as it was gone.

“Again, I apologize.” He put his hand to his heart, making his bicep flex. He was in great shape. “You're sure you are okay?”

“I'm sure,” I told him, dusting the grass from my slacks. At least I didn't wear a skirt today. “I just didn't see you coming.”

“To be fair, I did come up from behind. I assume you were looking at the monument,” he said, looking up at the tall obelisk himself. “It's my fault.”

“Are you two okay?” another man asked, jogging up beside us. He had a similar complexion, but darker hair and a crooked nose that looked like it had been broken several times. The man was tall and also in great shape.

“We're fine, Andre,” the first man assured him with a small wave of his hand. “It was my fault. I wasn't looking where I was going.”

Andre still looked concerned. Somehow, his shoulders got bigger and his face darker.

“It's totally fine,” I replied, putting on a smile and trying to diffuse the situation. “Oh, and here's your Frisbee.”

I leaned over and tried to pick up the plastic disk. Unfortunately, I only picked up half of it, as it had broken into two pieces. I wasn't sure who exactly had landed on it, but given the ache in my hip, it was probably me.

“I am so sorry,” I said quickly. “I can buy you a new one.”

The first man laughed. “Miss, if anything, I should be buying you something. The Frisbee is my fault. I'm the one who ran into you.”

I looked down at the broken plastic in my hands and realized he was right. I held out the broken piece to him and he took it with a smile.

“This is my friend, Andre. I'm Henry, by the way,” he introduced himself. He put the broken piece of Frisbee in his left hand and held out his right.

Andre nodded politely as I reached out and shook Henry's hand. His grip felt just as nice the second time as it had the first. Strong. Confident.

“I'm Aria,” I told him. “It's nice to meet you.”

“The pleasure, and responsibility is mine,” he replied. His accent made him sound like a chivalrous knight of old. He was probably only in his late twenties or early thirties, but he had a depth and confidence to him I didn't see often in men my own age.

“It's fine,” I assured him. “Other than some grass, no harm.”

Those blue eyes watched me for a moment, as if weighing my words. “Alright, then.”

Andre started walking away, and I assumed that was the end. It was time for me to be going, anyway. I needed to go fill out paperwork and yell at my stepmother.

I picked up my fallen purse and empty coffee cup. At least I had finished my coffee before Henry ran into me.

“Let me buy you lunch,” he said.

I turned in surprise, thinking he had already left. Instead he stood to the side, smiling and holding his broken toy.

“I have to go,” I told him, straightening up with my things. “I'm supposed to be somewhere.”

“Coffee, then?” he asked, pointing to my cup. “I am doubly sorry if I spilled it. I can get you a new one on your way.”

“It was empty,” I reassured him with a smile. His concern was sweet. “And it's fine. I'm good, I promise.”

“I feel badly, and I want to make it right,” he replied. His blue eyes were serious. “Please, let me make it up to you. Tell me where I can find you. I'll bring you lunch tomorrow.”

I chewed on my lip. I didn't want to tell a strange man where to find me, but I did need to get going. I was late as it was. There were limits to what my stepmother would tolerate. I couldn't stay here or stop for coffee.