- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Looking out the window of her suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C., this evening, she felt a pang of envy for the people on Pennsylvania Avenue below. Walking, driving, even just standing on street corners ... none of them realized how lucky they were to be able to go outside without anyone calling it a security risk.
Princess Teresa, who had spent the first twenty-one years of her life as Tess McDougall, of Liberty, Ohio, remembered what that was like. Until she was nineteen years old and went to school in England on an exchange program, no one had taken particular notice of anything she did. Until her classmate Philippe Carfagni had asked her out on a date, that is.
Then, suddenly, everyone was interested.
Because Philippe Carfagni also happened to be the crown prince of Corsaria, a tiny but fashionable principality off the coast of Italy.
Their romance had been whirlwind. Their wedding drew crowned heads from all over Europe, and seemed every inch the fairy-tale-come-to-life, with the handsome prince whisking the princess off to his five-hundred-year-old castle by the sea.
She should have known that the rocky coast - beautiful but treacherous - was a harbinger of things to come.
Tess had thought she was in love with Philippe, she really did, but it hadn't taken her long to realize that she had been more in love with the idea of being in love with a prince. And her idea of a prince had clashed terribly with the spoiled, womanizing, reckless reality.
That recklessness had led to Philippe's demise a year and a half ago. On a ski trip in Switzerland, he had challenged his bodyguard to a race down a dangerous mountainside. Almost immediately, a small avalanche had swept them both away, leaving Tess the beloved widowed princess of a country in mourning.
Had it not been for Philippe's younger sister, Maria, Tess would have returned home to the United States as soon as a respectable mourning period had passed.
Unfortunately, she hadn't, so magazines and tabloids still found her newsworthy when there wasn't a more significant royal to write about. Even more difficult was the fact that she was always surrounded by security advisors telling her that it wasn't safe to go to that neighborhood, or that shop wasn't secure, or that restaurant was too open, and so on. Their intentions were good, she knew. That was what made it so hard for her to disregard their advice or tell them all to just leave her alone.
"Ma'am?" the crisp voice of Tess's private secretary, Clara, cut into her thoughts.
"I'm sorry." Tess took one last, longing look at the street below, sighed and turned back to Clara.
"What were you saying?"
"That the Boden Foundation just phoned and said that tonight's function raised approximately one point three million dollars for breast cancer research."
"Wonderful!" Tess clapped her hands together.
"So it was worth making the trip."
She went to the closet and took off the fitted-to-the-point-of-constricting designer dress. It was gorgeous and impractical - like so many things in her life these days.
"You still have other engagements," Clara pointed out. "A meeting with the ambassador -"
Tess stiffened, remembering her last meeting with the ambassador. He'd spent two hours propositioning her.
"- the opening of the Corsarian designer Luigi's new store ..."
Luigi had tried to attach her name to his for years, and had earned a lot of money with his less-than-honest business practices. She didn't want to endorse him in any way. "Let's cancel." She stopped in the middle of hanging her dress. "And the ambassador, too. Just tell them I'm ill." She slipped into a pair of soft silk pajamas.
"Very well, ma'am. If you're certain."
"I am." She finished hanging the dress and strode across the room to her bed, throwing the sheets back with a flourish. "Now, is there anything worthwhile on the calendar this week?"
"Just a fund-raiser for the Cats in Need charitable foundation - an association that brings attention and respect to lesser known breeds of cats."
Tess could see the headlines already: Pampered Princess Pampers Pets. Or worse. "I definitely feel a cold coming on. Let's cancel everything for the next week."
"Yes, ma'am, right away." With one last dubious look, Clara gathered her pad and pen and left the room.
Tess watched her go, then turned off the light and lay down in bed, her heart pounding. She couldn't keep living this life anymore. Cats in Need, spoiled clothing designers, lecherous diplomats ... this wasn't how she'd envisioned her life. She wanted to be useful to people, to genuinely help and contribute to society. Once, she had aspired to be an elementary school teacher. That, she realized now, would probably have been a more fulfilling life.
She tossed and turned in the soft sheets for about three hours before getting out of bed and going back to the window. Cars still rumbled along the avenue and a surprising number of people were still wandering about on their pleasant, late-June evening.
She wanted to be one of them, to start over with a clean slate. And why not? Maria was poised to take over Tess's charity patronages in Corsaria soon. Then there would be no need for Tess to remain. She could start a new life.
The idea excited her so much that her heart began pounding. A new start. And what better time than now? After all, Clara had just cleared her schedule for a week. For the first time in years, Tess's time was her own, and she wanted to enjoy it in complete peace and quiet. Alone.
Within minutes, she had decided what she was going to do. She was going to go to Sapphire Beach on the North Carolina coast, where she'd spent her summers as a child. Without security, without a secretary, without anyone who might interfere with her privacy, Tess was going to take a holiday.
Excerpted from Princess Takes a Holiday by Elizabeth Harbinson Copyright © 2003 by Elizabeth Harbinson
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.