An American Cinderella:A Royal Love Story(6)

By: Krista Lakes

“I am so sorry,” I said quickly. “I can buy you a new one.”

The first man laughed. “Miss, if anything, I should be buying you something. The Frisbee is my fault. I'm the one who ran into you.”

I looked down at the broken plastic in my hands and realized he was right. I held out the broken piece to him and he took it with a smile.

“This is my friend, Andre. I'm Henry, by the way,” he introduced himself. He put the broken piece of Frisbee in his left hand and held out his right.

Andre nodded politely as I reached out and shook Henry's hand. His grip felt just as nice the second time as it had the first. Strong. Confident.

“I'm Aria,” I told him. “It's nice to meet you.”

“The pleasure, and responsibility is mine,” he replied. His accent made him sound like a chivalrous knight of old. He was probably only in his late twenties or early thirties, but he had a depth and confidence to him I didn't see often in men my own age.

“It's fine,” I assured him. “Other than some grass, no harm.”

Those blue eyes watched me for a moment, as if weighing my words. “Alright, then.”

Andre started walking away, and I assumed that was the end. It was time for me to be going, anyway. I needed to go fill out paperwork and yell at my stepmother.

I picked up my fallen purse and empty coffee cup. At least I had finished my coffee before Henry ran into me.

“Let me buy you lunch,” he said.

I turned in surprise, thinking he had already left. Instead he stood to the side, smiling and holding his broken toy.

“I have to go,” I told him, straightening up with my things. “I'm supposed to be somewhere.”

“Coffee, then?” he asked, pointing to my cup. “I am doubly sorry if I spilled it. I can get you a new one on your way.”

“It was empty,” I reassured him with a smile. His concern was sweet. “And it's fine. I'm good, I promise.”

“I feel badly, and I want to make it right,” he replied. His blue eyes were serious. “Please, let me make it up to you. Tell me where I can find you. I'll bring you lunch tomorrow.”

I chewed on my lip. I didn't want to tell a strange man where to find me, but I did need to get going. I was late as it was. There were limits to what my stepmother would tolerate. I couldn't stay here or stop for coffee.

I had the feeling he wouldn't take no for an answer, so I was going to have to give him something. Even though Henry was cute and seemed nice enough, this was DC. There were some weird people here, not even including the politicians.

However, there was something about Henry that I liked. I liked his easy smile and the way he looked at me with those ocean eyes. He was handsome and charming, so I did something I didn't usually do.

“I'll be working at the Trade Representative Office tomorrow,” I told him. “It's in the Winder building. Just ask for Aria R. at the front.”

He grinned, lighting up his whole face. “Perfect. I'll bring you lunch. What kind of food do you like?”

I chuckled. “Anything. Everything. If it has noodles, I am a fan.”

“I think I can work with that,” Henry said, nodding and already planning.

I had no doubt he was going to forget. Who brings lunch to a random stranger? It was a sweet offer, but I expected absolutely nothing from it.

“I need to get going,” I said, shouldering my bag. “It was nice to meet you, and I'm sorry about your Frisbee.”

“It was my fault,” he repeated. “I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.”

I nodded my head and started walking. I glanced back once to see him watching me with a smile and I wondered what I had just gotten myself into.

Chapter 4

The rest of the journey to the office was uneventful. No random strangers collided with me and I didn’t fall to the ground. The entire way, I did think of Henry, though. His easy smile seemed to stay with me even after he was gone from sight.

I secretly hoped he would run into me again.

The Winder Building sat regally on the corner of the street. Painted white, the second level wore wrought iron balconies that gave it an almost Southern charm. As much as I disliked the fact that I was unwillingly returning to my roots, I did like the building. It was from the time of the Civil War and radiated history.

I walked up to the heavy wooden door, took a deep breath, and stepped inside. I had been here a million times, yet I felt as nervous as my first time. It felt like stepping back seven years in my life to my very first day. I’d worked as an office assistant here for three years while I got my degree. I thought I would never be back except as a visitor.

“They told me you were coming, but I didn’t believe them,” a deep voice said from the security desk. I knew that voice, and I smiled as my eyes adjusted from the bright sunlight to the artificial lights.