‘What’s wrong with it? Straight from one palace to another.’ Nicky gave a saucy wink. ‘Undo a few buttons, go into the President’s Suite and flirt. It’s what I’d do.’
‘Fortunately she isn’t you!’ Sylvia’s cheeks flushed with outrage as she glared at Nicky. ‘And she’ll keep her buttons fastened! Quite apart from the fact I don’t pay you girls to flirt, Prince Casper’s romantic exploits are getting out of hand, and I’ve had strict instructions from the Palace—no pretty waitresses. No one likely to distract him. Especially no blondes. That’s why I picked you in the first place, Holly. Red hair and freckles—you’re perfect.’
Holly flinched. Perfect? Perfect for melting into the background.
She lifted a hand and touched her unruly red hair, dragged into submission with the liberal use of pins. Then she thought of what lay ahead and her battered confidence took another dive. The thought of walking into the President’s Suite made her shrink. ‘Sylvia—I really don’t want to do this. Not today. I just don’t feel—I’m having—’ What—a bad hair day? A fat day? Frankly it was a battle to decide which of her many deficiencies was the most pronounced. ‘They’re all going to be thin, blonde, rich and confident.’ All the things she wasn’t. Her hands shaking, Holly removed the tray of empty glasses from her boss’s hands. ‘I’ll take these back to the kitchens. Nicky can serve the royal party. I don’t think I can stand them looking at me as if I’m—’
As if I’m nothing .
‘If you’re doing your job correctly, they shouldn’t be looking at you at all.’ Unknowingly echoing Holly’s own thoughts, Sylvia removed the tray from her hands so violently that the glasses jangled again. Then she thrust the tray back at Nicky. ‘You take these glasses back to the kitchens. Holly, if you want to keep this job, you’ll get up to the President’s Suite right now. And no funny business. You wouldn’t want to attract his attention anyway—a man in his position is only going to be interested in one thing with a girl like you.’ Spotting another of the waitresses craning her neck to get a better view of the rugby players warming up on the pitch, Sylvia gave a horrified gasp. ‘No, no. You’re here to work, not gape at men’s legs—’ Abandoning Holly and Nicky, she hurried over to the other girl.
‘Of course we’re here to gape at men’s legs,’ Nicky drawled. ‘Why does she think we took the job in the first place? I don’t know the first thing about scrums and line-outs, but I do know the men are gorgeous. I mean, there are men and there are men. And these are men, if you know what I mean.’
Not listening, Holly stared into space, her confidence at an all-time low. ‘The wonder is not that Eddie dumped me,’ she muttered, ‘But that he got involved with me in the first place.’
‘Don’t talk like that. Don’t let him do this to you,’ Nicky scolded. ‘Please tell me you didn’t spend the night crying over him.’
‘Funnily enough, I didn’t. I’ve even been wondering about that.’ Holly frowned. ‘Perhaps I’m too devastated to cry.’
‘Did you eat chocolate?’
‘Of course. Well—chocolate biscuits. Do they count?’
‘Depends on how many. You need a lot of biscuits to get the same chocolate hit.’
‘I ate two.’
Holly blushed. ‘Two packets.’ She muttered the words under her breath and then gave a guilty moan. ‘And I hated myself even more afterwards. But at the time I was miserable and starving! Eddie took me out to dinner to break off the engagement—I suppose he thought I might not scream at him in a public place. I knew something was wrong when he ordered a starter. He never orders a starter.’
‘Well, isn’t that typical?’ Nicky’s mouth tightened in disapproval. ‘The night he breaks up with you, he finally allows you to eat.’
‘The starter was for him, not me.’ Holly shook her head absently. ‘I can’t eat in front of Eddie anyway. The way he watches me always makes me feel like a pig. He told me it was over in between the grilled fish and dessert. Then he dropped me home, and I kept waiting, but I just couldn’t cry.’
‘I’m not surprised. You were probably too hungry to summon the energy to cry,’ Nicky said dryly. ‘But eating chocolate biscuits is good news.’
‘Tell that to my skirt. Why does Sylvia insist on this style?’ Gloomily, Holly smoothed the tight black skirt over her hips. ‘I feel as though I’m wearing a corset, and it’s so short.’