“Royal princesses really should not have crushes on Hollywood actors,” Lady Margaret Von Strauss told Alex for what felt like the seventh time that day. “It’s improper and unseemly.”
“It’s not a crush,” Alex protested again, even as she straightened her dark-haired wig in the mirror. She found a pale scarf and tucked it around her hair, then put on a big pair of rounded glasses that dwarfed her face. “I just want to see what he looks like in person.”
Okay, so it was a crush, but Alex would be damned if she’d admit it to stuffy Margaret. Margaret was supposed to be her companion-slash-assistant but with their age difference, Margaret felt a lot more like a mother or a babysitter. For goodness’ sake, it wasn’t as if Alex was going to hunt Luke Houston down on the set of the movie and proposition the man. She just wanted a peek at him.
And really, what was the harm in that? She’d never get the chance again. Movies didn’t often choose to shoot on location in tiny Bellissime. Their country was tucked into the mountains between France, Switzerland, and Italy, and while they were world famous for truffles and chocolate? They were not famous for tourism. The fact that a car-chase action movie was being shot mere kilometers from the royal palace?
Of course Alex had to get out and see that.
Dreamily, she stepped out of the back of the sedan and pictured Luke Houston. He was utterly handsome and charming, even if his movies were a little on the questionable side. She’d seen Mars Troopers seven times, fascinated with his character, and Alien Overlord only three times because his role had been a small one. She’d seen all of the Pirates! Ahoy! movies more times than she could count, because he’d been a scruffy sailor who stole the heart of the heroine. And while Alex wasn’t much of an escapist, she had to admit that she’d wished to be that damsel in distress more than once.
Most of the time, she just wished she was the actress, so she could spend time around Luke himself.
“Wait here,” Margaret said to Alex, and put a hand on her arm. “I’ll look for photographers.”
Alex nodded and waited patiently by the ivy-covered wall of an old building. It was an old chocolate warehouse for a business that had gone belly-up last year. According to her “sources,” the movie was shooting a series of gambling scenes in this warehouse. Judging by the fleet of trucks and cars parked along the cobblestone road, her source had been correct. Alex felt a breathless twist of excitement in her stomach.
She was going to see Luke Houston, the hottest, sexiest man in Hollywood.
It was risky, of course. So incredibly risky that her body clenched rigid with fear when a car drove down the street. If Grandmother found out, she’d be upset. She’d heard it so many times in the last year. With your mother’s actions, things are unsteady. Now, more than ever, we need to present a serene, unified front to the people.
And she would . . . right after she met Luke.
Margaret returned after circling the building. “I don’t see any paparazzi,” she said, a bit winded. “Are you still sure you want to do this, Your Grace?”
Alex nodded. She wasn’t turning back now.
Margaret gave her a long-suffering sigh, then smoothed her hair. “Very well. Let us enter, then.” She opened the door to the warehouse and the two women went inside. They didn’t knock, of course. Alex never knocked, and knocking implied that you weren’t supposed to be there and were asking for permission. Alex never asked for permission, either.
The interior of the warehouse was echoing. It looked like a small building, given that most of Bellissime’s buildings were older. The interior seemed empty, though. The ceiling was shadowy, and in the distance, she could see a lit area and several people crowded around it, microphones hovering. Others raced around, and there seemed to be power cords everywhere. At the far end of the warehouse, two trailers were parked neatly next to each other. Off to one side there was a table laden with sandwiches and fruit trays and drinks, and a few employees hovered near it.
Alex clasped her clutch purse tightly, gazing around with excitement. So this was his newest movie. What would he be playing this time? A gambler? An ex-con with a heart of gold? A billionaire with a vendetta?
One employee broke off from the group near the table and approached them, frowning. “Can I help you ladies with something?” He had a thick American accent, and he sounded disgruntled to see them.
Margaret stepped forward, a haughty expression on her face. “I need to speak to the person in charge here.”
The man crossed his arms. “You ladies need to leave. This shoot is off limits.”
Shoot! So they were shooting! Her expression serene, Alex picked at invisible lint on her navy wool jacket and then smoothed a hand over the matching skirt.
“Who is your superior?” Margaret’s voice was icy.
“I’m in charge of set security, so unless you want to be tossed out on your ass—”
Alex cleared her throat. They weren’t here to make a fuss, just to snoop around.
Margaret glanced back at Alex, and then nodded. She leaned in toward the man. “My name is Lady Margaret Von Strauss, and I am the personal companion of Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra Olivia III of Belissime.” At the man’s blank expression, she continued. “You do know this country is a monarchy, yes? Her Grace wishes to take a look at the set.”
The man’s jaw dropped, ever so slightly. He looked over at Alex.
She tilted her head in acknowledgement.
“I . . . need to talk to the director. You two wait here.” He gestured at the women, then pulled a walkie-talkie to his mouth and began to murmur into it as he stepped away.
Margaret returned to Alex’s side with a sniff. “Rude Americans.”
“Now, now,” Alex said, voice placating. That was her job. She was always the faultless, kind one. It was Margaret’s job to be the bad guy. “I’m sure we’re intruding. If the director asks us to leave, we will.”
“He won’t if they tell him who you are,” Margaret said with another haughty sniff. She was very old-fashioned and didn’t grasp that society was changing, and that royalty weren’t quite . . . revered in modern times.
A tall, thin man with wild gray hair came trotting forward a few minutes later, the frowning guard at his heels. He had wire-framed glasses that didn’t seem to sit quite straight on his nose, and his clothing was rumpled. “Princess!” He extended his hands out to Alex. “It is a pleasure to have you on set.”