No wonder women all over the world flocked to him, Garth thought, suitably awed by the prince’s, well, sheer awesomeness. Those looks alone would make women lust after him. Add the fact that he was a prince to one of the wealthiest kingdoms in Europe, and Garth could easily believe a recent news report that the Prince received millions of love letters each day. In fact, one employee of the kingdom said that if all the pages of love letters written by the prince’s admirers were to be recycled, then they would have been enough to print an entire year’s supply of textbooks for Ethereal’s schoolchildren.
The Prince’s clipped tone had Garth snapping out of his thoughts.
“You will at least inform me when I am permitted—-” So much ice dripped from this last word that Garth had to keep his teeth from chattering. “—-to fly out of the island. You can at least do that, can you…Garth?”
Garth could only manage a sickly nod. The Prince knew his name, and the only reason the Prince was letting him know this was all too clear.
His head on that much-dreaded silver platter, if Prince Julian were to think Garth wasn’t doing all he could to help him off the island.
SUMMER WAS ALWAYS GOOD for business in St. Roch, Sunny, a plump widow in her thirties, thought contentedly. The island was always packed with tourists, and both men and women tended to be in the mood to fall in love. That, of course, meant brisk sales for her floral shop. Her roses were one of a kind, a variety only found in St. Roch, and she made sure her sellers mentioned that fact whenever male customers came to buy bouquets for their ladyloves.
“I’m done for the day, Sunny.”
Seated behind the cashier, Sunny looked up to see eighteen-year-old Cassandra Baker stepping out of the greenhouse, which was built as an extension at the back of the shop. Young Cass was her garland maker, a blind girl with amazing talent for making wreaths and garlands.
Cass turned towards her direction after dumping the gloves into the bin. “I’ve done about thirty-something wreaths for today. Is that enough for the luau tomorrow or do you need extras?”
“That brings your weekly total to close to almost two hundred. That should be more than enough,” Sunny answered.
Even though Cass had been working at the shop for over two years, Sunny still couldn’t help but feel impressed at how, well, capable Cass was, in spite of her handicap. If not for the somewhat vague, glassy look in her eyes that indicated her blindness, everything about Cass appeared normal at first glance. She never bumped into things, never asked for assistance, and there was not one instance Sunny ever heard the younger woman express bitterness or regret about her condition.
She was an incredible girl, and that, Sunny thought with a quiet sigh, was probably why Cass was usually targeted by catty bitches. Men so easily fell in love with Cass’ bright, can’t-get-me-down disposition, but the girl never seemed to notice, and this, of course, only made the women hate her more.
“You’re feeling bad for me again, Sunny.”
The older woman made a face. “How many times do I have to tell you this? You are not to read people’s mind when you’re not in costume as Mademoiselle C!”
Cass wrinkled her nose. “It’s just…”
“The locals may accept you as you are,” Sunny reminded the younger woman gently, “but the rest of the world is different.”
“Are they really so different?” Cass couldn’t help asking.
“They’re worse,” Sunny answered flatly, thinking of all the evils that she had left behind in her old life. “And this summer…I heard Garth say we’ll be hitting an all-time high for tourist arrivals. That means you need to be on your guard at all times. And I want to hear you promise exactly that, Cass. No slipping up, no reading minds when you’re not playing Mademoiselle C.”
The younger girl flashed her a sweet dimpled smile as she said obediently, “I promise.”
Sunny wasn’t fooled. Everyone on the island knew Cass as stubbornly independent, not liking anyone to give her special attention because of her blindness. By making Cass promise not to be so free with her clairvoyant ways, Sunny knew she might as well have pushed Cass to do the opposite.
“Sunny? Is it okay if I leave now?”
Sunny reached for her pen and started fiddling with it, Cass’ question making her feel oddly restless. It was almost as if the girl’s ability to see the future had rubbed off on her. She had a very strong feeling that something big was about to happen to Cass—-
“You feel it, too?” Cass gasped.
Sunny groaned. “Cass! You did it again!”
Sunny groaned a second time. “You’re so hopeless—-”
“I’m sorry, Sunny, but you were practically shouting it in your mind.” Cass rubbed her arms as if goose bumps had popped up all over her body. “But I can’t believe you feel it, too.”