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All of the major network news cameras were rolling as Tedric Cortere, crown prince of Ustanzia, entered the airport.
A wall of ambassadors, embassy aides and politicians moved forward to greet him, but the prince paused for just a moment, taking the time to smile and wave a greeting to the cameras.
He was following her instructions to the letter. Veronica St. John, professional image and media consultant, allowed herself a sigh of relief. But only a small one, because she knew Tedric Cortere very well, and he was a perfectionist. There was no guarantee that Prince Tedric, the brother of Veronica's prep-school roommate and very best friend in the world, was going to be satisfied with what he saw to night on the evening news.
Still, he would have every right to be pleased. It was day one of his United States goodwill tour, and he was looking his best, oozing charm and royal manners, with just enough blue-blooded arrogance thrown in to captivate the royalty-crazed American public. He was remembering to gaze di rectly into the news cameras. He was keeping his eye move ments steady and his chin down. And, heaven be praised, for a man prone to anxiety attacks, he was looking calm and collected for once.
He was giving the news teams exactly what they wanted—a close-up picture of a gracious, charismatic, fairy-tale handsome European prince.
Bachelor. She'd forgotten to add "bachelor" to the list. And if Veronica knew Americans—and she did; it was her business to know Americans—millions of American women would watch the evening news tonight and dream of becoming a princess.
There was nothing like fairy-tale fever among the public to boost relations between two governments. Fairy-tale fever—and the recently discovered oil that lay beneath the parched, gray Ustanzian soil.
But Tedric wasn't the only one playing to the news cam eras this morning.
As Veronica watched, United States Senator Sam McKinley flashed his gleaming white teeth in a smile so falsely genuine and so obviously aimed at the reporters, it made her want to laugh.
But she didn't laugh. If she'd learned one thing during her childhood and adolescence as the daughter of an inter national businessman who moved to a different and often exotic country every year or so, she'd learned that diplomats and high government officials—particularly royalty—take themselves very, very seriously.
So, instead of laughing, she bit the insides of her cheeks as she stopped several respectful paces behind the prince, at the head of the crowd of assistants and aides and advisers who were part of his royal entourage.
"Your Highness, on behalf of the United States Government," McKinley drawled in his thick Texas accent, shaking the prince's hand, and dripping with goodwill, "I'd like to welcome you to our country's capital."
"I greet you with the timeless honor and tradition of the Ustanzian flag," Prince Tedric said formally in his faintly British, faintly French accent, "which is woven, as well, into my heart."
It was his standard greeting; nothing special, but it went over quite well with the crowd.
McKinley started in on a longer greeting, and Veronica let her attention wander.
She could see herself in the airport's reflective glass win dows, looking cool in her cream-colored suit, her flame-red hair pulled neatly back into a French braid. Tall and slen der and serene, her image wavered slightly as a jet plane took off, thundering down the runway.
It was an illusion. Actually, she was giddy with nervous excitement, a condition brought about by the stress of knowing that if Tedric didn't follow her instructions and ended up looking bad on camera, she'd be the one to blame. Sweat trickled down between her shoulder blades, another side effect of the stress she was under. No, she felt neither cool nor serene, regardless of how she looked.
She had been hired because her friend, Princess Wila, knew that Veronica was struggling to get her fledgling con sulting business off the ground. Sure, she'd done smaller, less detailed jobs before, but this was the first one in which the stakes were so very high. If Veronica succeeded with Ted ric Cortere, word would get out, and she'd have more busi ness than she could handle. If she succeeded with Cortere…