To Kiss a King
"An addictive series, full of heart and romance and endings that give a happy sigh."Emily March
New York Times Bestselling Author
He’s heralded around the world as a romantic icon. The last thing he needs is to fall in love.
King Eduardo diTalora is riding a popularity high, thanks to his political acumen, his charitable endeavors, and above all, the storybook romance he had with his late wife, Queen Aletta. He plans to use that goodwill in the best way possible, to push long-term projects that will benefit his country.
When Claire Peyton, the new American ambassador, pitches a project of her own, Eduardo wonders if it’s possible to find love a second time. But as Claire and Eduardo face the political and personal repercussions of time spent together, each of them must choose between their duty to country and their love for each other.
But when the world sits in judgment, does love stand a chance?
Release date: July 28, 2020
Print pages: 204
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To Kiss a King
“Good morning, Your Highness. How was your time with Greta this morning?”
King Eduardo diTalora cast a sidelong glance at his longtime personal assistant, Luisa Borelli, as she fell into step beside him. Polished as always, she wore a soft brown skirt and tailored jacket with low heels. Her black hair was twisted into a flawless knot at her nape and tiny gold studs dotted her earlobes.
Luisa was very good at her job. One would never know by looking at her that she was also the devil incarnate.
Eduardo shook his head, then looked forward, his smile encompassing various staff members who lingered in the hallway, waiting for him to arrive at his office. To Luisa, he said, “It wouldn’t be a proper Monday morning if Greta hadn’t spent the weekend plotting new ways to torture me.”
“Precisely which part of the session did you find torturous, Your Highness? The box jumps?”
“No, because she decided to change the box jump portion of the workout to stepping onto the box—”
“While holding a fifteen-kilo medicine ball.”
“Then she added a series of planks. Apparently, running is insufficient for building core strength. I attempted to convince her otherwise, but she refused to listen to my wisdom.”
“She is stubborn that way. But I daresay that when it comes to matters of health and fitness, Greta is usually right.”
“As is the cousin who referred her and wouldn’t stop nagging me until I hired her.” He raised a brow at Luisa, but buffered it with a smile that she returned.
Eduardo wished one of the guards a good morning as he and Luisa rounded the final corner to his office, then Luisa said, “It’s my duty to ensure you serve the country to the best of your ability. Maintaining a high level of fitness is essential to that task. If it makes you feel better, tomorrow I’ve scheduled a run at six a.m. The weather should be ideal. Mild and clear with low wind.”
Most people would consider a sunrise run torture, but to Eduardo, a crack of dawn jaunt along San Rimini’s waterfront or through the hills above the palace sounded like heaven. He could breathe fresh air, listen to music, and allow his mind to wander. For that single hour, he was responsible to no one but himself, and there was no Greta at his side to insist he could work harder or crank out one more rep.
If he could crank out one more rep, he was the type to do so without being told.
Eduardo greeted a courier who waited near Luisa’s desk, then glanced at his assistant. “I’d be obliged if there are waffles in the dining room following that run tomorrow. Samuel had oatmeal today. Good oatmeal, but still oatmeal.”
“I’ll see what I can do, though Samuel mentioned that he’s planning on baked quinoa with berries.”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.”
“Perhaps you could pretend it’s a waffle?”
“I shall pretend I didn’t hear that, either. I’ll pretend you said, ‘Yes, Your Highness, I will request waffles and ensure Samuel provides plenty of syrup. Perhaps a few of those berries on the side.’”
Luisa raised a finger to indicate that the courier should wait for her, then she and Eduardo entered his formal office. Eduardo’s chief political advisor, Sergio Ribisi, sat on a sofa beside Eduardo’s press secretary, a burly young man named Zeno Amendola who looked better suited to commanding a rugby team than a press room. The two were hunched over a tablet, reviewing what Eduardo assumed were notes for their morning meeting. Across from them sat Margaret Halaby, his Director of Charities and Patronages. Margaret had her hands in her lap, a pen threaded between her fingers. A notepad lay on the sofa beside her, its top page filled with indiscernible scribbles, bullet points, and arrows. She stared past the two men, lost in thought.
Luisa made a small noise to catch their attention. All three rose in unison and wished Eduardo a good morning. He waved them back into their seats, then asked Luisa to give him a five-minute warning before he needed to leave for his first event of the day.
“How was your session with Greta?” Zeno asked once Luisa closed the door behind her.
He nailed Zeno with a glare. The man had the audacity to grin in return.
“I saw her carrying a medicine ball through the parking garage,” Margaret said. She turned to Zeno. “Ever do squats with one of those? Or throw them at a target? It makes for a fantastic workout.”
“Medicine balls are great tools.” He widened his eyes in mock excitement. “I like to do walking lunges while holding one overhead. Real muscle burner.”
“This is a conspiracy,” Eduardo told them. “I can outrun everyone in this building except the security personnel—and perhaps even a few of them—yet all of you insist I see Greta three times a week.”
“It’s reassuring to the citizens of San Rimini to know that you are taking steps to protect your health and that your heart is as strong as can be following your surgery,” Sergio said. “Besides, you like Greta.”
“Not when she’s telling me to hold a side plank an extra thirty seconds. I informed her that San Rimini has strict laws against injuring the monarch.”
“I’m sure she reminded you that you signed a waiver?” Zeno retorted.
He eyed his press secretary. “She insisted that she wasn’t injuring the monarch. Then she informed me that it didn’t matter because I’d signed a waiver.”
Eduardo took a seat at his desk, then thanked Luisa as she reentered the room with a steaming cup of coffee and placed it on a coaster near his hand. When she was gone again, he looked at Sergio. The arrival of Eduardo’s first cup of coffee marked the official start of his workday. “Let’s discuss the difficult items first. You received a letter over the weekend from the Central District Historical Society?”
“Yes, Your Highness. They have concerns about your desire to upgrade the Strada il Teatro.”
“I expected as much, but hoped they would wait until tomorrow’s meeting to express them.”
“They want to ensure they are heard.”
Eduardo resisted the urge to grimace. Everyone wanted to be heard, particularly when it came to making changes to the country’s most famous thoroughfare. The Strada il Teatro sat above the country’s Adriatic coastline and offered stunning views of San Rimini Bay. It was home to several casinos, restaurants, historic buildings, and the Royal Theater, hence its name as Theater Street. It was the country’s most recognizable symbol, aside from the Duomo and the palace itself. However, the last major changes to the street—aside from paving it—took place long before automobiles were commonplace. Traffic often moved at a crawl and the sidewalks were packed with tourists at all hours. Despite the obvious need for refurbishment, San Riminians were protective of its appearance. It was why Sergio had organized a meeting for the following day to present the king’s proposal to those most directly affected. He’d invited representatives from the Central District Historical Society, the casino owners’ board, the San Rimini Business Council, and the San Rimini Grand Prix organizing committee, together with the country’s transportation minister. Sergio had even included those in charge of maintaining the public park that ran below one section of the Strada. Once Sergio had their input, Eduardo planned to present a comprehensive modernization plan to parliament for their consideration.
As king of San Rimini, Eduardo had more power to affect policy than monarchs in countries such as Japan or Sweden. He could not vote, but he had the right to introduce legislation and speak on any matter under discussion in parliament. In the centuries since San Rimini had transitioned from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy, kings and queens primarily exercised their political might to improve relations with other nations or to promote charitable and humanitarian causes. They steered clear of detailed policy and budgetary issues.
This piece of legislation would cause many to dig in their heels. However, Eduardo refused to leave the modernization to his successors or to members of parliament who feared that touching the Strada il Teatro meant losing their seats. It was his responsibility to move San Rimini forward.
Eduardo looked at Sergio. “Inform the head of the Historical Society that the palace fully intends to pursue these improvements—make sure you use that word, improvements—to the Strada il Teatro, as they’re in the best interest of the country and to all who hold the central district close to their hearts. We welcome their input tomorrow, which is why we’ve scheduled this meeting.”
Sergio nodded as he took notes. While Sergio wrote, Zeno said, “Your Highness, they’re likely to argue their case to the press. They’ll note that it isn’t in the monarch’s usual purview to delve into such matters.”
Eduardo spread his palms on his desk. “As of last week, I understand that the royal family is viewed favorably by nearly eighty percent of the population.”
“Seventy-seven percent, sir.”
“Seventy-seven percent. Do you know how many members of parliament dream of that approval rating? We have the opportunity to leverage that number for the long-term good of the country. The Strada has remained essentially the same for hundreds of years. The fact it was constructed with parades in mind means it’s wider than other streets of its era, but it doesn’t accommodate modern usage or the influx of tourism our country has seen. Attendees at the San Rimini Grand Prix are pushing against the fences, which is a safety concern. Either the route will need to change or we will need to limit the crowds. No one wants to make that choice.”
“Everyone has their fiefdoms,” Sergio pointed out. “The casinos and shop owners don’t want their entrances blocked while work is completed. The Historical Society doesn’t want to alter the appearance of the street. And while the Grand Prix organizers want a safer route and continued growth, they don’t want to risk losing the race for a year or more due to construction.”
“Agreed,” Eduardo said. “So use tomorrow to show them our redevelopment plan, and use our historical and transportation experts to convince them that our proposal is sound. We’ve put months of research into this, and we’re willing to share all of our findings and to listen to their input as we move forward. Change is difficult, but our citizens need the Strada to function for the long term. If we don’t get it through parliament with a seventy-seven percent approval rating, we’ll never get it. Now, what else do we need to address?”
Zeno ran through the items he would cover at the weekly press briefing, which mainly involved the king’s adult children. Prince Antony had visited an opioid addiction rehabilitation facility over the weekend, and Princess Isabella and her husband, Nick, planned to visit three different schools along the country’s northern border to talk with students about San Rimini’s medieval history. Nick, a medieval studies professor at the University of San Rimini, had arranged a string of school appearances in recent weeks to interest children in the topic.
When Zeno finished, Sergio said, “Tomorrow night, you are hosting a dinner at which the new American ambassador shall present her credentials. She arrived in country yesterday.”
“Claire Peyton,” Eduardo said, leaning back in his chair. “I read the briefing last night. She was previously the United States Ambassador to Uganda?”
“Yes. It was expected that she would stay on under the new President, but she was reassigned to San Rimini when Ambassador Cartwright announced his retirement.” Sergio paused. “It’s not a secret that Rich Cartwright spent his final year or two on cruise control. This will be a change. Given that many in the U.S. State Department consider this an elevation of position, she may wish to prove herself.”
“I read about the rural education program she helped institute in Uganda. It looked interesting.”
“Yes, Your Highness. She will likely request a meeting in the coming weeks to present it to you and ask for San Rimini’s involvement. The American president ran on a campaign that focused heavily on education, so it’s a priority for the administration. However, it’s ultimately a no go for San Rimini. Parliament might support sending funds, but sending teachers or advisors would be less likely, given current security concerns. Even the funds will be a challenge while we’re also trying to push the Strada plan.”
Eduardo didn’t need time to weigh his priorities. There was no contest. “It’s my understanding that parliament will address funding for Central District improvements three months from today. I want our proposal to anchor that discussion. From now until then, that’s our focus.”
He took a sip of his coffee, then asked Margaret, “Where are we on the Our Place program?”
“The five-year anniversary celebration will take place on Friday at the elementary school on Via Fontana. As Patron, you will speak briefly about the need for early intervention mental health support in schools and highlight the ways that Our Place identifies and assists children without stigmatizing them. I have some statistics on the continued need for the program and on its success. I should have a draft speech to you by Thursday, which you can then adapt to your liking.”
“Thank you. That’s a visit I look forward to making. Any others?”
Margaret ran through updates on two other charitable organizations the king supported, then provided a follow-up report on an event he’d attended for an animal shelter.
At the same moment Margaret finished her update, Luisa entered the room.
“Your ride is waiting, Your Highness. Your tour of the dementia care center begins in twenty minutes.”
Eduardo thanked Luisa and stood. Sergio, Zeno, and Margaret stood as well. “Are we finished?”
“One last thing, Your Highness,” Zeno said. “There will be questions at today’s press briefing regarding your visit to the Duomo this Thursday afternoon. Have you decided whether to deliver any remarks?”
Eduardo felt the corner of his mouth twitch, a dead giveaway to his staff that he was uncomfortable with a topic. It was a tell he could usually control, but this had hit him out of the blue. Somehow, between his morning workout and thoughts about the Strada, he’d forgotten his annual trip to visit his wife’s final resting place.
“Next year will be the tenth anniversary of Queen Aletta’s death. Given the attention that occasion will draw, I’d prefer to skip the remarks this year and keep the visit low key.”
Before Zeno could object, he turned to Luisa and asked, “Do I have any free time this afternoon to see Arturo and Paolo when they get home from school?”
The boys, sons of Prince Federico and his late wife, Lucrezia, were always happy when he appeared at their palace apartment for a visit. He refused to consider whether their smiles were due to his sparkling personality or to the treats he often brought from the kitchen.
“Not today,” Luisa said. “They have a school trip to the aquarium and won’t return until evening.”
“I see. And what about time to see Gianluca?” he asked. Prince Antony and his wife Jennifer’s infant son was his newest grandchild. “Does anyone know when the baby sleeps?”
A chorus of no and he doesn’t rose around the room.
“Well, then. Please let Jennifer know that if there’s a good time, I’d love to visit. If Gianluca happens to be sleeping, I’ll simply watch him sleep.”
“You have fifteen minutes free around three-thirty, Your Highness. I’ll let her know you’ll be available.”
He nodded to Luisa, thanked Margaret for the work she was doing on the Our Place speech, then addressed Sergio and Zeno. “You know what to do for the Strada. We have ninety days. Let’s improve the country.”
* * *
“We’re about to meet an icon.”
Claire Peyton’s gaze slipped past her personal assistant, Karen Hutchinson, to survey the scene outside the car window. “Either that, Karen, or the husband of one. More likely the latter.”
Their plane had touched down two days earlier, but Claire hadn’t quite adjusted to the fact that she now lived in the tiny, wealthy southern European country of San Rimini rather than the eclectic Kololo neighborhood of Kampala.
Claire turned her focus to the road, making note of the route the driver followed from the embassy to the palace, but not before gesturing toward banners on the front of a museum proclaiming the return of Aletta: The Exhibition, after several years on tour. The blues and purples of the setting sun reflected in the building’s glass windows, lending it an ethereal quality.
It seemed appropriate, given the subject of the exhibition: a collection of gowns, jewelry, and other items owned by San Rimini’s late queen.
“I’m not so sure,” Karen replied. “How many of these tourists will send home souvenirs with images of Queen Aletta, do you think, versus images of the king or his children? King Eduardo has a certain magnetism that’s hard to ignore.”
“I’d choose anything showing the scenery, myself. It’s phenomenal.”
Karen made a noise of agreement, then they fell silent, taking in the view.
The glittering strip of casinos and restaurants lining the Strada il Teatro, the long thoroughfare that paralleled San Rimini Bay and the Adriatic Sea beyond, seemed as if it couldn’t possibly exist on the same planet as the streets of central Kampala. In Kampala, boda-bodas zipped in and out of rush hour traffic, the riders seemingly oblivious to the risks of their patched-together motorbikes and the chaos that surrounded them. Students, office workers, and sidewalk vendors crammed the sidewalks and occasionally zigzagged through traffic. The sound of car horns was constant.
Here, however, expensive cars crept along the boulevard or idled curbside, discharging passengers in front of the casinos. Couples in evening wear strolled from their hotels toward the Royal Theater, where the marquee announced the evening performance of La Traviata. Not far from the theater, the high dome of San Rimini’s national cathedral, the Duomo, rose to dominate the hillside.
Old World charm and romance permeated the district, like a fairy tale come to life.
Claire flashed on a memory from when she was fourteen or fifteen years old. She and her friends had gathered around the television in her parents’ living room as the future king of San Rimini married Lady Aletta Masciaretti. They’d practically left drool spots on the carpet when Eduardo winked at his bride while slipping the ring on her finger, and Aletta had tried to hide a grin. Claire found it surreal that she’d be face-to-face with King Eduardo diTalora in less than an hour, at the formal ceremony to present her diplomatic credentials.
She tried to tell herself that as popular as His Highness might be, his late wife was the one with true icon status. Libraries, schools, and a wing of the Royal Memorial Hospital were named after Queen Aletta.
Claire was simply in the country for as long as the President desired, to represent the United States and its interests to the best of her ability. To do that, she had to remain focused on the king’s position as a politician and as the face of his wealthy country, not on his celebrity status or the way she and her friends had mooned over him as they watched his wedding all those years ago.
The car eased past a knot of well-dressed tourists who stood at the curb waiting for the light. Several carried purchases from trendy boutiques, while others held bags bearing the logo of the country’s seaside aquarium. Finally, the driver reached their turn, then threaded his way along the narrow cobblestoned side streets, following the arrows pointing to La Rocca.
“La Rocca di Zaffiro,” Karen said, glancing at the sign. “The Sapphire Rock.”
“I spent a good chunk of last night reading about its history,” Claire said. “The oldest remaining section, the keep, was built at the beginning of the First Crusade to keep watch over the bay. The stone was chosen to blend into the landscape and make it difficult to spot from the water. But when the keep was expanded, a trick of the light at certain times of the day caused the new stone to appear bright blue from the water below.”
“I wondered how it got its name. I’d never thought of it as being blue.” She craned her neck, but there was no way to see the palace from their position.
“Most of the current palace was built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with a gray stone that looks nothing like the original. But apparently, if you look down on the keep from up in the mountains, you can still see hints of the blue.”
“Two minutes to the gate,” the driver said, twisting so he could be heard in the back seat.
Claire thanked him. Showtime.
Without being asked, Karen held out a compact so Claire could do a quick check of her makeup. Spotting a smudge at the edge of one dark brown eye, she used her pinky to swipe at her eyeliner, then, satisfied, she returned the compact. She adjusted the fabric of her red silk skirt to keep it from wrinkling before their arrival, then checked to ensure the looped buttons down the front of her white silk top remained firmly closed.
No, this was nothing like living in Uganda. She ran a hand over her hair one final time, making sure no strands protruded from the sides of her short cut, then took a deep breath.
As if reading her mind, Karen said, “Your job here will be different than it has been the last five years. You’ll actually need to use hairspray and wear formal gowns more than once or twice a year. You’ll be working with both the royal family and with parliament.”
Claire couldn’t quite hide her smile. She always tried to look professional, but she couldn’t remember being as concerned with her appearance during her time in Africa. Of course, the cameras hadn’t been on her as frequently then, whereas paparazzi were part of the San Riminian landscape. “I had a few gowns shipped from my storage locker in the States. They should arrive in a few days. I just hope I can be as effective here as I was in Uganda. The work we needed to do there was more apparent.”
“You can. You have an impeccable reputation and the weight of the U.S. government behind you. And you’re you. No one stands in the way of Ambassador Claire Peyton.”
Claire smiled. Karen always knew the right thing to say. “Thank you for the vote of confidence.”
Karen raised her hand, palm out. “Voice of truth.”
The car rolled to a stop outside a massive pair of wrought iron gates. After a uniformed guard walked around the vehicle to inspect it, then spoke with the driver, he nodded to another guard. The gates opened, allowing them to enter the palace grounds. Gravel crunched beneath the tires as they skirted the edge of a large garden, then circled to the palace’s rear entrance.
As the driver opened the door for them, a lean woman with light brown, shoulder-length hair approached from the wide stone staircase. Her chic beige dress and the confidence with which she walked would have identified her as being a member of the royal family, even if her familiar face didn’t.
"Madam Ambassador," the young woman greeted Claire in clear, American English that hearkened to her upbringing outside Washington, D.C. She smiled first at Claire, then at Karen. “I’m Amanda diTalora. It’s a pleasure to welcome you to San Rimini. My husband, Prince Marco, looks forward to meeting you when you present your credentials to King Eduardo tonight."
“I look forward to meeting Prince Marco, as well.” She gestured to her right. “This is Karen Hutchinson, my personal assistant.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Hutchinson. If you’ll accompany me, I’d consider it an honor to give you a quick tour of the palace’s public areas before dinner begins.”
Claire thanked Amanda, and as she lifted the hem of her long silk skirt to clear the stone steps, she added, “I hope I’m not keeping you from getting ready for dinner. I was told the attire is formal.”
“It is, but I can change quite quickly.” She gestured toward a group of palace employees gathered nearby and said, “The palace has a large staff who basically run my life so I don’t have to. My gown and shoes are being laid out for me as we speak. All I have to do is put my arms and legs in the proper spots.”
Amanda dropped her voice so only Claire and Karen could hear. “It takes some getting used to. I worked with children of dignitaries before I married Prince Marco, so even though I spent a great deal of time around wealth, I lived in a tiny studio apartment near Dupont Circle and barely had two dimes to rub together. I considered ramen noodles and tomato soup to be major food groups.”
Claire shot Amanda an understanding smile. “You can’t imagine how familiar that sounds. When I was in college in New Mexico, word spread like lightning whenever the local grocery had a sale on ramen. I lived on the stuff—well, that and cans of tuna. I hate to think how much sodium I consumed. By the time I moved to Georgetown for graduate school, I was so sick of ramen that I agreed to move into a three-bedroom apartment with five other people. I chose food over privacy.”
“Ouch. Georgetown is wonderful, but it’s a challenge living there on a student budget.”
Amanda took her time guiding Claire and Karen through La Rocca’s first floor, stopping to point out each of the historically important rooms and showing the best way to the king’s official office, since Claire would likely visit during her tenure. Her manner made Claire instantly comfortable. She suspected that Amanda’s easy ability to connect with others explained why she’d become popular with the people of San Rimini, despite being an American.
As they circled back toward the Imperial Ballroom, where the dinner and reception would soon begin, a man wearing a tailored black suit and understated gray tie approached and asked for a moment with Claire to discuss business.
Amanda nodded, then checked her watch and acknowledged that it was time for her to prepare for dinner. To Claire, she explained, “Sergio Ribisi is King Eduardo’s top political advisor. I’ll allow him to introduce himself, then he’ll cover the program for the evening and escort you to the ballroom. I will see you there shortly.”
Claire thanked Amanda for taking the time to show her around the palace. Sergio Ribisi shook both Claire and Karen’s hands as they made their introductions. To Claire, he said, “It’s my pleasure to welcome you to San Rimini, Madam Ambassador. I expect we will continue the strong relationship Ambassador Cartwright worked to build between our two countries. He was quite popular both here and in parliament. He spoke highly of you.”
She thanked him for the compliment while Karen took the opportunity to walk to a window a discreet distance down the hall, taking in the view of the garden so Claire could speak to the king’s advisor in private.
“How may I help you, Signore Ribisi?”
“Please, call me Sergio.”
“Sergio, then. You said you wished to discuss business?”
“Yes, though I’d like to run through the evening's schedule with you first.” The rail-thin man proceeded to tick off the order of events for the evening. Everything coincided with the briefing Karen had given her earlier.
As Sergio spoke, Claire studied his face. There were a few lines at the corners of his mouth, as if he held his stress in his jaw. But his eyes were bright, his teeth white and straight, and he had a full head of thick, jet black hair. He was around thirty-five, if she had to guess. She wondered how long he’d been working for the king. He was young to be in the innermost of King Eduardo’s circles.
“That sounds straightforward,” she said as he wrapped up. “Was there something else?”
“Yes, Madam Ambassador.” He hesitated a beat, then said, “Before you arrived, your office sent a letter to mine outlining the issues that you hope to address during your first days here. While most of the items involve furthering diplomatic initiatives discussed by your predecessor and King Eduardo, there was one new item you mentioned that I’d like to discuss.”
Claire knew what was coming. She kept a polite smile on her face despite the wave of disappointment that rose in her.
“While you were in Uganda, you worked with the government to institute a regional education program directed at disadvantaged children. It’s my understanding that you brought in teachers from the United States, and then from several other nations to work with children.”
“That’s the core of the program, yes. It started in Uganda but has since expanded to neighborhoods in need in Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi. My successor plans to continue the program. It’s my belief—and the President’s—that when children from rural or poor areas have access to the same educational resources as children in larger urban areas, they’re better able to contribute to their economies once they leave school. They aspire to careers once considered beyond their reach. Perhaps in finance, the law, or medicine. We’d even like to see some of those children come back and teach in the program themselves.”
“I read the summary report, which was impressive. You’ve built solid partnerships. You noted in your letter that you planned to continue your support of the program to the extent feasible in your new role here, and that you hoped to discuss the matter with King Eduardo.”
Claire chose her words carefully. “San Rimini has an excellent education system and a tradition of providing assistance to its neighbors. I believe involvement in this program could be of great benefit. Even if I had remained in my post in Uganda, I would eventually have contacted your government regarding a potential partnership. Austria and Italy are already contributing funding and sending teachers.”
“Yes, your letter mentioned that.” The young man straightened slightly, as if needing to shore up his courage before speaking further. “The king has looked into it, and while he does see the long-term benefits of the program, he doesn’t feel it’s feasible for San Rimini to offer their financial support or to supply teachers at this time. I wanted to let you know before the ceremony tonight—”
“So I won’t lobby the king over dinner?” Claire said, raising an eyebrow. “Without his support, it’s unlikely to get far with parliament.”
“In other words, he doesn’t want to say no in a public place, while the cameras are watching.”
Claire assessed the man’s silent reaction to her words. She wanted to argue, to explain that she had no intention of approaching the king tonight about any of her proposals, let alone about the education program, but sensed this wasn’t the proper moment, nor the proper person.
She smiled, but it was a cold smile. “Thank you, Sergio. I’ll take that under advisement.”
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