Prince Lysandros of Pátrai strolled along the Promenade des Anglais, deep in thought. During the Greek civil war, some extremist element had made threats against his life, forcing him to leave his beloved Greece, exile himself to France. At least he was somewhat at home here, received with open arms by his mother's relatives. His late mother's relatives ... For a moment, his mouth twisted in pain. He glanced at his two bodyguards, more alert than before the death threat--one walking unobtrusively ahead of him, the other at an angle behind him.
He shook his head. Why hadn't those fools asked his people, in the villages, at the winery? They were loyal and grateful to him, their benefactor. He'd always seen to it that no one went hungry, or lacked medical attention. The little hospital he had endowed was very well equipped, and all services were free to his people. Yet, some idiots had seen fit to put a price on his head, calling him the oppressor ... He sighed.
Lysandros noticed two men, walking toward him. Both were dressed impeccably in tennis whites. He smiled in recognition: the tall, dark one was Jean-Pierre de Martigny, a longtime friend. He hadn't seen him for quite some time. The other, a chubby, sandy-haired man, was ... Lysandros frowned, trying to remember. Bill Something, a bit of a nuisance at times, a career drunk and would-be womanizer, but women didn't like him. Lysandros shook his head briefly in distaste.
Jean-Pierre approached, visibly pleased, both hands outstretched.
"My dear Lee--I'm delighted to see you here."
Lysandros quickly stretched out his own hands, showing the bodyguards there was no danger. "Jean-Pierre, same here."
Jean-Pierre gestured to his companion. "You remember my second cousin, Bill Haighton-Southey?"
"Of course. How do you do, Bill."
Bill inclined his head formally. "Your Serene Highness." He glanced from his cousin to Lee. "How about a drink on the terrace here? Tennis has positively parched me."
Lee shook his head. He pushed his dark aviator sunglasses more firmly into place. "I'm here incognito."
"Ah. You never liked the fuss and trappings of your rank, did you, Lee?" Jean-Pierre smiled at his friend.
"All right, then, indoors." Bill sounded petulant.
Lee glanced into the Bar Intime they were passing, realizing it was steeped in almost Stygian darkness. He gave a fastidious shudder. No way.
"The Negresco?" Lee suggested.
"Why not?" Jean-Pierre agreed. They turned, retracing their steps. "I'd have thought you'd be in your castle, Lee?" Jean-Pierre asked, noticing that women, sixteen to sixty, were staring openly at Lee. Jean-Pierre shrugged. Nothing new there. Women had eyed Lee avidly since he was about seventeen.
Lee shook his head, remembering the last time he was there. "The castle--you wouldn't believe the damage done to it by the other side. It needs quite a bit of work. Hey, you know Nik Lambropoulos--the poor guy lost just about everything in that stupid civil war. He did a wonderful job on my uncle's villa just outside Athens, so I hired him to restore the castle. Get him back on his feet a bit, as well."
They reached the Negresco and entered. "Let's order drinks in my suite," Jean-Pierre suggested.
"And lose any chance of picking up girls?" Bill groused. Lee glanced briefly at Jean-Pierre, one slim, dark brow raised.
"You go pick up girls, then. Lee and I will have a quiet drink."
"Fat chance, without you two tall, dark and handsomes along. Girls won't look at me, too ordinary."
"If you looked at ordinary young women and didn't drool over models, movie stars and the like, your chances would improve miraculously." Jean-Pierre's voice was derisive. Bill could be a pain, but their mothers were cousins, and close.
"That's easy for you guys to say." Bill whistled soundlessly between his teeth, indicating two young women coming out of the elevator. "Will you just look at the bazooms on the blonde. Come to daddy, sweetheart."
Lee hoped that Bill's voice hadn't carried far enough for the two to hear. Even if they didn't speak English, Bill's tone was explicit. He saw Bill glance once more at the blonde, who seemed to look through him. A moment later, Bill lurched in the direction of the bar.
Lee chuckled. "Plus ça change ... "--The more things change...
"... plus ça demeure la même chose--the more they remain the same. Your suite, Lee."
"You're not going to tell Bill where we are?"
"Maybe when he's sober."
Only after the elevator doors closed, did Lee glance over at his friend. "I've had death threats for supporting the wrong side in the civil war, although I think I'm being threatened by some extremist element. That's why I'm here incognito." Lee noticed Jean-Pierre's eyes drifting to the man standing close. "You know I've always had bodyguards, but now they're super-alert in watching over me. This is François."