“That was ill-advised.”
The prince looked up, his expression so wistful that his eyes might have changed colour. “Certainly it was. Yet you must admit, it was the first interesting conversation I have had in an age.”
At first glance, the damage from the prince’s stunt appeared to be minimal. Not that his bodyguard should worry about the social aspects of this absurd function. Rune snuffed like a bull as he waited for his charge to gain a clearer head. “Even so. You have a duty to the young ladies, not to their brothers.”
“Oh, duty.” The wistful expression drained into a childishly sour one. “They want romance, Rune. I don’t want to romance anyone.”
“If you don’t get back to the eligible ladies, sir, they are going to pout and accuse you of wanting romance with a different set.” So saying, he began to steer the prince back to his proper place in the ballroom.
Royalty had a fifty percent chance of being pressed upon or cutting through the crowd like a ladle through soft cheese. Rune was 2.13 metres tall and over 190 kilos. He doubted a wall could have given him trouble, never mind a few hundred people.
To his credit, the prince neither sulked nor slouched. His proud posture carried him along as though Rune was not here at all. Right up to the illustrious mock parkour where his parents awaited him with the next lady. No one commented on the prince’s impromptu dance partner. Neither the king nor queen even raised an eyebrow.
Nor did the lady. If it had not been more than his job was worth, Rune would have laughed aloud. The lady in question was clearly genteel enough for the title, but likely not old enough. She was more than a head shorter than the prince, with a face that would have suited a porcelain doll, and fluffy pink dress to match. The young princess was taller than this girl.
The prince gave no visible reaction. He gazed stoically at the scene before him and said some vaguely pleasant thing in the local language. A nothing phrase that Rune had quite frankly tired of already.
“May I present Miss Duvall.” The queen gestured to the sprout of a girl and went on in florid terms. Once the most pertinent details had been stated, Rune recited a poem in his head. A local born girl with foreign parents. No money or status. No life experience.
The prince bowed his way through the introduction, then led the little lady onto the dance floor. The difference in height made conversation impossible. The prince did not stoop.
A few feminine giggles arose as the dance went on. Rune stood solemnly, listening. A plump, middle-aged woman said, “How darling. His Highness has time enough for all of us, not just marriageable females.”
Another comment rose up to his altitude, this time from a man who had just put down a glass of wine. “Here I thought we’d just be standing around watching girls fawn over the prince. Let’s go, dear.” Then he pulled his companion up to join the dance.
Rune had been in the employ of the Royal Family since before the prince had been born. Perhaps he should have picked up a few more tricks. The queen had not chosen the diminutive lady at random, or to punish the prince. She had managed the situation.
Without quite meaning to, Rune cast a glance around the edges of the party. As ever, Ms Park hovered about, like a very elegant shadow. Perhaps the queen hadn’t been the one managing the situation after all.