Naomi made her way through the stacks to an isolated corner that had two comfortable chairs with blue cushions. In between the two chairs was a small table on which she usually stacked her books when she was there for reading. The chairs faced a huge window that looked out onto the gardens. In the area between the window and the chairs was an oval table with two straight-back chairs. This table was where Naomi worked on most of her projects, and sitting at the table, facing the window, was the guard. She would have known this man anywhere. He had wavy black hair and broad shoulders and stood about six feet two.
This was Jayden Greene—the love of her life, although he didn’t know that. They had never officially dated, but they had spent so much time together and had such a strong friendship that it was almost impossible to not fall in love with the man. He had become Duke of Emerald Wood at just eighteen and had taken on all of the responsibilities that the title entailed without complaint. His situation was a little different than most. He didn’t become duke because his dad had died but because his parents had been older when they had him and his sister. His dad also had major underlying health problems, as well as early dementia. Parliament had met with his dad, Gerald Greene, and with Jay to see if Jay was willing to take on the responsibility as soon as he was of age. Jay accepted and had done wonders, both in Parliament and with his dukedom.
“I’m not sure you can effectively guard if you are facing away from the room,” Naomi said.
Jayden turned his head slowly to look at her, his green eyes sparkling. “I can watch the reflections in the window, Princess,” he teased.
“Jayden, are you playing guard duty today, or did you just decide to ambush me in my favorite spot?”
“A bit of both. Are you mad at me for suggesting the thirty-day limit?”
“No. I knew that Parliament would have to make a decision soon. When I didn’t announce an engagement at my twenty-first birthday, many were disappointed. Parliament tried to give me time, but they can’t wait any longer without forcing my hand. Thirty days is a challenge, but I don’t have to marry someone in thirty days; I just have to make the effort to find someone. I am not happy about it because I was hoping that I hadn’t read the signals wrong with the man I love, but apparently, I did.”
Jay studied her for a minute. “You’re in love with one of your friends.”
Naomi nodded. Her emotions were starting to get the better of her. How could she have this conversation with the man she loved when she could only assume that he saw her just as a friend?
Jay turned to face the window again. “He messed up big time, but we can hope that he redeems himself. You are choosing the gentleman from your friends, are you not?”
“Yes. I came here to plan what I need to do and which events need to be set up.”
“Well, I will leave you to it. I will send one of the other guards over here to keep an eye out. Be safe, Naomi. I look forward to the events you have planned.” He stood up and looked her in the eye. “There is still hope for your love. He knows that he messed up and will try to win your heart again.”
Before she could say anything, he was gone. She shook her head. That man confused her. While she had a quiet moment, she decided to pray.