The Fatal Charm of Italy 2

@copyright 2006 Anne E. Fraser and Jean G. Hontz


Owen looked Siena in the eyes. "I've heard of you," he admitted
grudgingly. "Pop says you're the best. But I'm in charge of the
Prince of France's security."

Jean snorted--he was under the impression that _he_ was the one
in charge of that--but he said nothing, preferring to watch
Siena's reaction.

She reached over and patted Owen on the head. "Oh, he's
adorable," she said to Gen. "Has he had all his shots?"

The other three passengers from the Renault had to hide wide
grins, and Gen was fighting laughter. Jean, damn him, was
already grinning.

"I am..." Owen began, his face threatening to match the hue of
his hair.

"You are one word away from being spanked with a newspaper,
puppy," Siena said. "You can work with me on the Prince's
security or you can be stood in a corner. Your choice."

Owen looked at Genevieve, who nodded at him. "We are in a
foreign country and under the mercy of its Prince, Owen," she
said, not unkindly. "Please defer security matters to Siena, at
least while we are on the road. In private quarters, you are
still my personal bodyguard."

That was a compromise Owen could live with. "Oui, Madame," he
said. He turned to Siena. "Your orders, Signorina?"

"You will ride with me. The idea of a personal security guard in
a car that cannot keep up, ai!" she was muttering as she led
Owen over to her Ferrari.

"Nice car," Owen said with some awe.

"Carmine drives a Lammi. I am forbidden to go with him when he
drives it. But that does not mean I cannot go for rides on my
own. That I might possibly share a road with him..." she
shrugged.

"Jean promised to drive slowly enough to let us keep up," Owen
said after a minute. "He lied."

"I do not think it is possible to drive a Porsche that slowly,"
Siena replied.

"How come Owen got to ride in a Ferrari and we're still stuck in
the Renault?" Chantal complained.

"I think Siena wants to adopt him," Erica said, giggling.

"I would really like to be there if he tries to make a move on
her," Toan said, then concentrated on driving and keeping up
with the two much faster cars.

"So, you drive stick?" Owen asked, watching Siena carefully.

Since Siena's Ferarri was a stick shift she frowned trying to
figure out what the hell the boy was meaning. Surely he couldn't
be flirting with her. Her scarred face saved her from that.

"I do not do pretty speeches, Owen Jones. I prefer plain words.
I am a plain person. My prince has enough fancy words and twisty
meanings for the entire court."

"Plain words," Owen said. "Hm. Okay. So, do you want to sleep
with me?"

"Have you seen my face, pup?"

He shrugged. "Outward appearance doesn't mean much. You
interest me."

"You're too young."

"I am considered an adult among my own people. Even my pop
admits I'm of
age."

"Why me?"

Well, she'd said plain words. "Because you're here," he
admitted frankly.

"Then I suggest you wait until we are at the Villa Medici. There
are many pretty women there. If you are still interested despite
your better choices, I will consider it."

"If you say so. But I told you, outward appearance doesn't mean much.
You'll see."

That was when he noticed that Siena flashed her headlights
periodically. A flash of headlights invariably answered her.
Either from lay-bys or from intersections or from bridges above
the main road.

The Italian Prince must have deployed a massive security staff.
True, most of the Princes would travel this road into Florence.
But still...

Owen stopped flirting and sat up straight, hands ready to fly to weapons
if need be. Carmine must have been expecting something serious.

________

"I thought it very cruel of you, Sig... Carmine," Paula said
after a long moment of trying to work out what it was he wanted
to hear. She settled on the truth, unvarnished. "I have never
cared for my bloodline, for my grandfather or great-grandmother
or for the French court. I thought it was very primitive and rural and
boring at first; I was unhappy and longed to be with you in
Capri." She didn't turn her head away, but met his eyes. "I
cried, the first night, Carmine, because I thought you hated me,
especially after what you called me at the Council meeting. But
the longer I stayed in France, the more I came to appreciate
what is there. Affection and deep love, not just between
Genevieve and her Capitaine, but between everyone in the court.
Children run about unafraid underfoot. Genevieve has friends
who have no powers, no affiliation with her but the ties of
friendship. Everyone seems to love her and worry about her. I
learned to love her, and everyone there."

"Would you prefer to live there, then, cara?"

"Oh, no. I will go back for visits, if I might, but my heart is
here, in Italy. In this court." She raised her head, hoping
that she would not go too far, but fearing she would. "My heart is here
with you, Carmine. I love you. I always have."

He turned to look at her. "Cara," was all he said as he quickly
looked away again.

After what felt to Paula as a year of silence he finally added,
"It is dangerous to be the lover of a Prince in Italy. Even to
be his friend. You would be better finding love elsewhere. But
I do understand that hearts can be most stubborn. Even in light
of ..." He made a dismissive motion and then changed the
subject.

"I am sorry you thought I hated you. But I wanted you to see
that there are other ways to live and to rule. Italy is not the
sort of country where love can rule. Too much intrigue in our
blood, I think. Since Rome was founded we have been about
betrayal and blood."

"Adele would tell you that is utter bosh," Paula said, and saw
his lips twitch. "You are afraid I will betray you. I am not
Genevieve's spy, Carmine. She and I did not speak for many
years before you sent me to her court. Nor am I a betrayer. I
will admit I can be a bitch, but I claim that as a privilege of
being female. There was no-one in France who made my heart feel
the way you make it. If you sent me there to live permanently, I
would waste away, pining for you." She was pushing him now, she
knew; but he let Adele get away with it. She didn't see any visible
weapons, either stick or sword, but that didn't mean he couldn't
punish her some other way. But oddly, Paula didn't feel afraid.

He turned then toward her fully. Well, okay , she was almost
afraid.

He raised his hand. She closed her eyes, prepared for a severe
slap.

Instead he'd touched her hair, ever so gently. "Oh, cara. You
are so unwise."

She opened her eyes and met his. "It is my choice."

"Indeed it is," Carmine replied. "As you seem to have chosen,
attend the meeting in my private salon in an hour's time.
Rodrigo will show you the way if you are not familiar with it."

It was a dismissal.

But not an unkind one. Paula wondered if the no formality rule still
held, and pressed her luck just one more time. She squeezed Carmine's
hand. "I will be there," she promised, and fled. Slowly, with dignity,
but still... fled. 

--------------------------------

The contingent from Great Britain chose to fly. It was not a
terribly long flight from Gatwick to Peretola, so it could be
safely conducted via private jet. On board were Blaine, Prince
of Great Britain (and Ireland, much as they hated it), his
consort Olivia, the pilot and copilot, and a small group of
retainers and security. Blaine pretended to hate the fuss in
travelling, but Olivia knew he enjoyed it; especially to France
or Italy.

Nobody enjoyed having to travel to Spain or Germany.

"Ah, safely down," said Olivia, as the jet touched the tarmac.

"You aren't still nervous of flying are you, my dear?" asked
Blaine, amused.

"Forgive me," Olivia said sheepishly. "I still cannot bring
myself to believe that large pieces of metal can stay up in the
air. It is against all common sense."

Members of the British court smiled. Like any good Prince,
Blaine kept a mixture of species around him for extra security;
so those on the plane included a witch and two Nameless Ones as
well as vampires. Carmine was the only Prince who did not employ
members of that strange warrior race.

"Prince Carmine sent us a message that he would have his
security people meet us," said the copilot, once he was able to
unbuckle himself and come back to talk to his passengers. "He
has requested, respectfully, that you remain on board the jet
until they can get here."

"Oh, please no," said Olivia, looking up at him. "I must
absolutely get off and stretch my legs."

"We will be perfectly fine," Blaine assured the copilot. "But
my consort dislikes airplanes; we won't go far."

His Prince had spoken; it had been polite, but still an order.
The copilot bowed. He was not only a vampire, but one of
Blaine's fledglings. He'd been turned _after_ acquiring his
pilot's license. "As my Prince commands," he said.

He turned back and talked to the pilot, who shrugged. Her
responsibility was the aircraft and the passengers when they
were on it. If they chose to leave the jet against sound advice
not to, it wasn't her problem. Anyway, she was human and in no
position to say no to a vampire. She gave permission to have the
door opened and the stairs lowered.

Blaine assisted Olivia off. Had she been human, she would have
been shaking; as it was, she leaned momentarily against her
husband when they reached the ground.

"Thank you, luv," she said, and then somebody shot her.