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Searching For Her Prince
By Karen Smith
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
She couldn't fail the queen. She just couldn't.
As the high-speed elevator dropped ten floors in a matter of seconds, Lady Amira Sierra Corbin felt a bit dizzy. She'd considered this mission from the queen an honor as she'd flown to Chicago from Penwyck. She'd been excited, eager and never entertained a doubt for one moment that she wouldn't be able to meet Marcus Cordello. But for the past three days she'd been thwarted by his secretary.
Monday, she'd been told he was unavailable for two weeks. No one could be that busy.
On Tuesday, deciding to be assertive, Amira had confronted his "keeper of the gate" and maintained she would sit in the waiting room until Mr. Cordello had a spare moment.
Apparently, he'd never had a spare moment. Today Amira had appeared at his secretary's desk early in the morning and hinted that the matter she wanted to discuss with Mr. Cordello was extremely confidential and could change the course of several people's futures. Still the secretary wouldn't budge. But her expression had softened a little as she'd explained that Mr. Cordello had meetings out of the office until Friday, and then he would be leaving the city for a week.
Now Amira glanced around at her fellow passengers on the elevator. She fitted right in, in her violet tailored butfeminine suit that was the same color as her eyes. Her shoulder-length, wavy, blond hair was pulled back and arranged at the nape of her neck in a sedate chignon, and her patent leather, high-heeled pumps and handbag were suitable for an early October day in Chicago.
Even thinking about the "windy" city in which she'd landed couldn't distract her from her mission. Where was Marcus Cordello at this moment? Still closeted behind the steel doors to the rear of the secretary's desk? In meetings that would last through the evening and night? Somewhere else in the city where he was making deals and adding to his fortune? All she knew about him was that at twenty-three, he was a multi-millionaire. He owned this hotel and, as she'd so frustratingly discovered in the past few days, he was surrounded by a staff who catered to and protected him.
She had to see him. He might be a prince and the next heir to the throne of Penwyck!
The elevator doors swished open and Amira stepped into the sumptuous hotel lobby with its marble floor, Persian carpets, asymmetrical flower arrangements and groupings of love seats and chairs arranged for tête-à-têtes. It was dinnertime and the reception desk was busy with businessmen checking in for the night.
Her stomach grumbled and she felt a bit woozy as the aroma of steak and garlic drifted from the restaurant in the corner of the lobby. How long had it been since she'd eaten? Not that she couldn't order room service anytime she wanted, but she'd been so nervous about this meeting and frustrated by the waiting that she'd done no more than nibble the past few days. This morning she'd had a pack of crackers and a cup of tea before setting out for Marcus Cordello's office suite on the twentieth floor. Afraid she'd miss her chance to see the man if she went for lunch, she'd sat in the reception area all day, reading the paperback in her purse.
As she approached Interludes, the hotel's finest restaurant, she realized she was starved. Pulling open the heavy glass door seemed to tax her, but it was the crowd of people there that made her realize how extremely tired she was. There were at least ten people milling about, and the bar area was crowded.
As the maître d' looked at her expectantly, her ears began to ring.
"I'd like a table for one." She hoped he could slide her into an empty spot someplace.
"And your name, please?" he asked, picking up his clipboard.
"Amira Corbin. Can you tell me how long a wait I'll have?"
"At least a half hour, maybe forty-five minutes." Amira didn't think she'd ever felt so hungry or tired in her entire life. Tears pricked in her eyes as she felt a bit woozy again.
She was aware of footsteps and a tall man coming up behind her, but all she could think about was the wait, or a ride up in that elevator to her room and another wait. Her three days of waiting. Her failure as an emissary of the queen.
The room began to spin as the maître d' gave his attention to the man behind her. "You're early, sir. Your dinner will be ready in a few minutes."
She could barely hear the man's deep voice order, "Don't worry about me. Take care of this lady."
Amira's knees began to buckle as the fuzziness engulfed her.
She felt as if she were floating, then she realized strong arms had lifted her and she was being held against a man's chest - a very broad chest. She heard him say, "I'm taking her to my dining room. Make an announcement and see if there's a doctor in the restaurant."
Being held in his arms and feeling his strength, hers seemed to return. Looking up into very green, mesmerizing eyes, she insisted, "I'm fine. Please don't call a doctor."
"You're so fine, you collapsed," he noted wryly. His dark brown hair had a rakishly styled look. His charcoal suit sported a red-and-gray silk tie settled intimately against his gray silk shirt. She didn't think she'd ever seen anyone more handsome.
"I didn't have very much to eat today," she hurried to tell him, not wanting to cause a fuss.
"Then we're going to remedy that." He was already moving with her in his arms. As he strode through the dining room past deep forest-green leather booths, black lacquered tables, and lithographs on the wall, Amira only quickly glimpsed it all.
"Put me down," she murmured, totally embarrassed. "You can't just carry me off."
"I'm not abducting you. I'm taking you to a private dining room. Believe me, you'll get something to eat a lot quicker in there than waiting your turn out front."
"But ..." she started. How could she explain about her very proper upbringing and the chaperone who usually accompanied her whenever she was with a man, even though she was twenty years old.
"No buts about it. I've got a porterhouse steak big enough for two on order. You can have my salad to get started. I'm sure there are rolls already on the table."
The idea of immediately having food in front of her made her but a thing of the past. This chivalrous gentleman looked totally civilized. Since she'd landed in Chicago, her Penwyck world seemed very far away.
"Well?" he asked, not slowing down one wit. "Are you going to let me treat you to dinner?"
She'd always wanted an adventure. Instinctively she knew sharing dinner with this man could be that. Forgetting propriety for the moment, putting aside everything her mother, the queen's lady-in-waiting, had taught her over the years, she gazed into his eyes and smiled. "Yes. I'll let you treat me to dinner. Are all the men in Chicago as chivalrous as you?"
He gave her an irresistible smile. "Not even close."
Excerpted from Searching For Her Prince by Karen Smith Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.