First Meetings are fun, because they set the stage for what’s to come. Sometimes, they go very well. Other times, not so much. The initial meeting between Angelica and Royal consists of him bumping into her in the hallway outside her father’s office. However, love gives them a second chance, and they meet at the art gallery he runs.
Turning around, a familiar dark haired man strutted across the lobby, well manicured hand extended. He flashed a brilliant grin, taking her hand in his. Silver eyes twinkled as he lifted her hand, kissing it.
“I believe I ran you down earlier, Miss Hull. Let me apologize. Your father sometimes makes me so angry, I can’t see straight.” He sandwiched her hand with both of his.
“I have that same problem with my mother,” she replied. “At least you didn’t knock me on my rear. Royal Prothro, isn’t it?”
“I see your father already told you about me.” He looked mildly annoyed. Hands dove deeply into the pockets of his well tailored suit, he stood somewhat hunched over, like a schoolboy in trouble.
“Not really. Your name, and a passing comment about how you’re infuriating one another. That was it, before Her Majesty required his presence.”
Royal chuckled, clapping his hands. “Oh, I can tell we’re going to get along famously,” he said, a hit of an accent in his deep, melodious voice.
“I thought you got along with Petra.” Angelica followed Royal to the elevator and he led her to his office.
“I do, because I can charm her. Your father, well….”
“There’s no charming Daddy.”
“No. And I don’t try. We’re each in an untenable position. I don’t want to be there, and he doesn’t want me around. I’m completely unqualified, and we both know it.”
Royal sighed, opening a massive oak door with his name on a brass plate. “Because my grandfather is putting pressure on us both. He’s more than a tad influential in these parts. He thinks that I’m wasting my life writing novels, while I manage the gallery. He also thinks your father’s an advertising genius.”
“I’ve always thought the two things were dichotomous,” she replied with a flick of her eyes over her shoulder.
“Thank you! Precisely what I’ve always said. There’s no doubt your father is brilliant, and superior at what he does, but there’s no teaching me. I have no desire to learn how to influence people into buying one brand of toothpaste, or toilet tissue, over another.”
“And yet you also manage the DeGrummand art collection? How do you have time?”
“By not doing the job my grandfather wants. I’m afraid I upset your father today. I told him I quit. We’re making one another miserable. If I resign, he’s got an out. I can handle my grandfather’s disappointment in me. I don’t want him taking it out on Brendan. Despite our professional differences, your father’s a fine man. I like and admire him.”
They talked several hours about the DeGrummand collection and his position at the gallery. The interview extended into the dinner hour, and he invited her to dine with him. Angelica, who had missed lunch because of the card party, readily accepted his invitation.
“I’m dining at the Old Mill tonight. Does that suit you?”
“Certainly, if I’m dressed for it.”
“You look incredible.”
She was dressed in a suit that consisted of a claret colored bolero jacket, matching skirt and a white, tailored blouse. Her chestnut hair was done in a loose chignon. Diamond studs, given to her by her father for her twenty-first birthday, graced her ears.
Eyeing her escort critically, Angelica felt rather under dressed. His three piece suit was an impeccable fit. He had a swimmer’s build, wide shoulders, tapering to a narrow waist. His hair was so black, it was nearly blue. His silver eyes were ringed with dark lashes. She thought she looked frumpy in comparison, but if he approved her appearance, she wasn’t going to argue.
“Did you drive over?” he asked.
“Then perhaps I could catch a ride with you, instead of calling for the car?”
“Certainly. You have a driver?” she couldn’t keep the surprise from her voice.
“I’m often on the phone, or doing paperwork. I keep a portable office in the car, and work while Sam drives. Inconvenient sometimes, but far healthier. I’m not dodging traffic whilst trying to text, nor am I up until the crack of dawn getting caught up.”
“Makes sense. I sometimes wish I had a driver. I hate traffic.”
“In the wrong city then.” Royal opened her door, seeing she was settled before going to the passenger side.
“Yes, but this is my home. Besides, Petra would be so disappointed if I moved. She’d have no one but Daddy to boss around. What would she do?”Angelica’s scathing tone wasn’t lost on Royal.
“Don’t get along with her well, I take it.”
“I don’t like my mother. Sometimes, I’m not even sure I love her much. I stay for Daddy. He needs me.”
He nodded. “Similar to the reason I stay, though for my mother, not my father. He, like my grandfather, thinks I’m wasting my talent.”
“What novels do you write?”
Royal grinned, glancing out the window. “Romance. Under a pseudonym, of course. Perhaps you’ve read Alana Royal’s Knights of the Table Round?”
“My God, that’s you? No wonder there’s no picture on the cover. The biography is very sketchy as well.”
“Born in Yorkshire, lives in the city. Owns a mated pair of Yorkies….”
“Yapping little nuisances.”
“Not mine, Mum’s. The bio is actually her.”
“How on earth do you promote the books without doing interviews?”
Royal shrugged, shaking his head. “Phenomenal staff and lots of money. However, with this next one, third in the series, I’m going to have to do interviews. Not sure how I’m going to manage. I’m afraid my readership will drop when they find out I’m not a woman.”
“Get a ringer,” she suggested, sliding into a narrow opening between cars.
“Someone to pretend to be you. Well, not you, Alana Royal.”
“Interesting idea. But what if she decided to tell?”
“Get someone you can trust. Your mother or a sister or something.”
“Mum’s not well. She couldn’t handle the schedule. No sisters, aunts or female cousins.”
“Haven’t one. Nor fiancee. My last one said I was incorrigible, and left with half my belongings in her boxes. I caught her before she stole the other half. Even now, she’s suing me for palimony. Because she left, she’s not got much to go on. Still, bloody inconvenient.”
“Your life sounds like mine,” Angelica said as she made the turn into the parking lot. “A romantic train wreck.”
Royal’s laugh was tinged with sorrow. “I fear I don’t know your circumstances, but mine—sadly, yes.”
© 2020 Dellani Oakes