“Here’s to the adventures of Lucy and the prince!”
The rally cry, fifteen voices strong, made it official. My face was surely as red as my strawberry margarita. My giant, delicious strawberry margarita. So delicious, I threw down an extra tip for Gervase, my favorite Velvet Margarita bartender.
“Viva! To Lucy and her príncipe!” he shouted, skirting the bar to sweep me into a gallant tango. I laughed but blushed harder. Uh-oh. Out came the cell phone video cams, belonging to the majority of my friends and family, gathered tonight in my favorite Los Angeles bar to see me off on said “adventure” with said “príncipe”. To be more specific: Prince Shiraz Cimarron of the Island of Arcadia, one of the world’s most mysterious chunks of land, overseen by the most fascinating royal family since the Tudors. Of the whole family, Shiraz was the most intriguing—or so the western media claimed. To them, he was one hell of a fascinating subject: pretty but pragmatic, serious and secretive, an outer shell of calm hiding a cutthroat businessman on the inside…
And, at the age of twenty-five, had not had a single serious romantic relationship.
The press had indulged in a lot of fun with that one—and still were. A glance at the video monitor over the bar, broadcasting one of Gervase’s favorite celebrity gossip shows, proved as much. The audio feed wasn’t necessary to follow along, since the image montage was accompanied by headlines which blended mesmerizing and mortifying into a rare art form.
His Highness of Hotness—Hiding a Hidden Harem?
Shirtless Shiraz—but where are the Bikini Babes?
Single and Cimarron: Blessing or Curse?
Prince of Playboys…or not?
Cimarron CEO: Nasty and Naughty or Virgin in Hiding?
I blushed on the guy’s behalf. Almost felt sorry for him.
To be honest, it was hard to feel anything but lust when treated to a nonstop parade of Shiraz Cimarron’s magnificence. Was I proud of swimming in such a shallow first impression puddle? Of course not. But it was the truth, as blatant and bold as the man’s beauty itself. When confronted with both, sometimes all a woman could do was…
The third Cimarron in line to the Arcadian throne was a work of art, plain and simple. Piercing blue eyes. Greek god lips. Strong, jutted jaw. A lean but sculpted body, likely developed from running and swimming in the constant sunshine on his island. His skin was the color of Moroccan sand, his elegant face framed by hair like midnight over that exotic land. Gazing at him was like marveling at a natural wonder; his picture should’ve been shuffled into the screensaver image packets between Moab cliffs and Tahitian Rainbows.
Yeah, he was that stunning.
That sinful. That unreal.
I didn’t just live in LA. I’d grown up here, in the land where illusion was reality and vice versa. I’d waited in coffee lines, stood at airport security, and picked up my dry cleaning beside pasty, bad-tempered people who’d been touted to the whole world as sex on sticks. Camera angles and editing tricks could turn Broom Hilda into a Victoria’s Secret goddess—
Which meant maybe that unreal Arcadian prince was really a doughy little yokel, and photo filters had done the rest.
That was it. My safety valve. The sane way to approach this little “jaunt” out to Arcadia. Recasting the stud as doughy dud meant my head could stay on straight—and focus on the bigger picture here.
The much bigger picture.
Like landing the contract to coordinate the hugest wedding event of the year. The Cimarron royal wedding day.
The event, a double ceremony to bind Shiraz’s two older brothers to the American women with whom they’d fallen in love, would be more than the biggest coup for the wedding planning company into which I’d poured myself for the last eighteen months.
It would mean that company was officially half mine.
But for now, that company had only one president’s name on the door.
Yeah, the same Ezra throwing me the weird once-over from down the bar. Even a couple of twice-overs.
What the hell was he up to? Those glances weren’t flirty but Ez had something on his mind…something making him laser his baby blues right into me.
I had to get to the bottom of this.
And probably, if my bladder had any say in the matter, before I got to the bottom of my next drink.
At least Father Gravity and Mother Tequila played nice, allowing me a graceful twirl to wrap up the celebration spin with Gervase. I landed in the perfect position to sweep a saucy bow to the crowd. “And now, the principé’s new wench must pee.”
Everybody laughed—except Mom. She rolled eyes so closely matching my own in color, their tiny gold flecks were apparent even in the bar’s dim light. “Lucina Louise. Must you be so crude?”
“Antonia Marie,”—yeah, the first name-middle name hookup was our snarky subtext for affection—“must you be your daughter’s damn shadow?”
“Only when I’m her designated driver.” She smirked and folded her arms.
Smirked at me.
In a damn bar.
“Okay, okay. Break it up, hussies.”
Dammit. Ezra needed to be renamed the happy hour ninja. Five seconds of distraction and the man had slipped all the way over here without detection. No way not to notice him now. His strong fingers curled over Mom’s shoulders, his Charlie Hunnam scruff resting atop her poofy-styled head. Sometimes I wondered if the man’s looks had gotten matched to the wrong destiny. With that lumberjack jaw and cascading Thor hair, he should’ve been a pussy-chasing demon with a guitar or a Harley (or both), not a bisexual Jewish wedding planner with a natural talent for crazy centerpieces, perfect photo ops, and awful phallic jokes.
Not that I had a chance to hear a single phallic funny now, thanks-no-thanks to Mom. “Who you calling hussy?” she bantered, adding a girlish giggle.
“You.” Ezra smacked a kiss to her cheek. “Hussy.”
“Gahhhh.” I slashed a hand through the air. “Stop.”
“Pssshhh,” Mom snickered.
“I love it when we make her do that,” Ez chuckled.
Pinched glower. “Excuse me. You two are already making me want to puke, and I’m only down by one Gervase special.”