“Stop!” Santos ordered, causing the SUV to swerve to the curb, cutting across several lanes. Horns blared and his guards swiveled around in their seats.
“That’s her!” Santos said, sitting up as he watched the elegant woman in a pair of tan slacks, white blouse, and colorful scarf walk into a building. Looking around, he was startled to realize that she’d walked into a school. Was she a mother? Did her children attend this school? The official beside her looked to be someone in authority. Was her child in trouble?
“We’re going there,” he announced, pointing to the school entrance. “Contact Prince Gaelen and let him know that I’ll be late this morning.”
Immediately, his aide pulled out his phone and started dialing while the driver pulled into the school, coming smoothly to a stop by the entrance.
Two guards stepped out to check the neighborhood while another three moved into the building, obviously searching for threats.
Santos stepped out of the SUV and looked around, buttoning his suit coat as he took in the old-style building. Several students peered curiously out of high windows, but not seeing anything interesting, they moved on.
Stepping into the large, tiled school lobby, he looked around. One of his guards nodded towards several sets of double doors.
“She’s in the auditorium, Your Highness. There is a conference about inner city kids and education.”
Santos nodded, wondering if she was a teacher. It would make sense, but the clothes she wore seemed too expensive for a schoolteacher. The profession was perpetually underpaid and schools always underfunded. It was something he planned to change in Padar as soon as he could focus on that aspect of improving the country. Hence, his need to get this peace treaty finalized with…Santos pushed Prince Gaelen from his mind, preferring to concentrate on his mystery woman.
Besides, perhaps he would learn something in this meeting that he could take back to Padar in addition to learning the name of the woman he hadn’t been able to get out of his mind since yesterday.
Stepping into the auditorium, he paused, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dim light. The stage was lit up as someone talked about test scores and graduation rates. Looking around, he allowed his eyes to skim across the backs of the people inside. When he sensed movement to his right, he looked there. In the last row, sitting alone, was the woman! And she was staring at him.
He moved towards her and knew the exact moment when she stopped breathing. Staring up at him, he captured her gaze, willing her to…what? Talk to him? Not likely. Not in this setting.
Talia held her breath as the extremely tall man sat down in the chair next to her. Every cell in her body was aware of him, every muscle tense, waiting for...something. She wanted him to speak so that she could hear his voice, praying that his voice was as deep as she imagined, as deep as it had been in her dreams last night.
But he didn’t speak. Instead, he turned and looked straight ahead, paying strict attention to the speaker. Once again, Talia had the sense that she should know him, but her mind wouldn’t function. She was too overwhelmed, too astounded by his size and his presence.
“Shh!” he whispered, not moving his head.
Talia quieted, amused at his shushing. Had he really done that? She couldn’t remember anyone shushing her since she’d left for college! Her tutors hadn’t even shushed her. She’d been too quiet and intense during her lessons, loving knowledge and eager to learn more. Okay, maybe not very focused during her math classes, of course. She’d truly hated math, but had eventually figured out how to get through it.
Turning back to the speaker, she smothered a smile and sank down a bit lower in her chair. Unfortunately, she was too aware of the man sitting next to her, of his long legs and strong thighs. His elbow rested on the armrest beside her, causing his body to lean towards hers slightly. His shoulders were already so broad, but the angle of his body caused those shoulders to invade her personal space.
Not that she minded. Not in the least, she thought. In fact, Talia leaned slightly closer still, silently inhaling the clean, masculine scent of him, the citrus aftershave and…just the maleness of him. He smelled amazing!
“This is important,” he whispered. “You should be writing this down.”
Startled, Talia looked down at her notebook. Sure enough, she’d trailed off mid-sentence when she’d seen him enter the auditorium. Talia had no idea how much information from the speaker she’d missed. Her fingers were slack around her pen and she couldn’t write down the point the speaker had just made even if her life depended on it. She simply couldn’t concentrate. Not with him sitting there next to her, looking strong and powerful and dangerous…tapping into her long-desperate hope that she might be daring too.
He nodded again. “That’s important too. Write that down.”
She blinked when he glanced down at her. “What are you…?”
He shook his head, silently shushing her again. “I’ll do it,” he took the notebook and pen from her. He wrote down several salient points and, after several minutes, Talia slowly remembered to listen to the speaker. It wasn’t easy, and the speaker never received her full attention, not while this man sat next to her, distracting her brain, but she could hear.
He filled several pages of her notebook with notes in the form of bullet points. When he wasn’t writing, and she thought something was important, she took the pen and notebook back, startled when their fingers touched. The fission of awareness surprised both of them, but she pulled back, blinking as she scribbled down the point.
A dozen pages had been filled by the end of the speech, mostly in his bold handwriting.
He took the notebook from her again during the applause, and wrote something else down, then handed it back to her.
“I’ll see you tonight,” he said, then abruptly stood up and left the auditorium.
Talia blinked after him as the door closed softly behind him. The next speaker was already introduced by the time she broke through her stupor and glanced down at her notebook.
That’s when her heart began to race again. Written with his bold scrawl, were the words, “Dinner tonight at the Accelleron Hotel. Seven PM.”
It wasn’t a request and Talia smiled at his arrogance. If any other man had written that, she would have simply ignored it and gone on with her day. But because it was that man, the one who had done delicious, naughty things to her body last night in her dreams, she would definitely be at that hotel at seven o’clock tonight.
Suddenly, that daring, adventurous spark roared to life inside of her. She wasn’t going to be the shy, studious woman who feared dangerous situations. Tonight, she was going to rendezvous with a daring, handsome man with dark, intense eyes and shoulders that a woman could lean on, a hard, powerful body that she’d love to…well, that was for another time, she warned herself, shifting in her chair.