“Hi,” Sam whispered to Leanne, just barely close enough for her to hear him.
“Hey, what’s up?” Leanne took a deep sigh and slouched her shoulders. “Sorry I haven’t returned your calls.” She scuffed the toe of her sneaker against the white tiled floor of the maternity ward in the hall outside the elevators.
“You’re not finished with your PhD, are you?” Sam offered an olive branch. “I wasn’t really expecting to hear from you.”
“Yeah, that’s why you had all of your brothers tell all of my sisters that you were crying into your pillow every night in misery because I dumped you.”
“Not all of your sisters,” Sam corrected her. “None of my brothers are dating or married to your oldest sister, Ruth.”
“How is school?” Sam wasn’t sure what to say to her. The last time they’d seen each other he’d offended her and promised he wouldn’t bother her until after graduation. Dare he hope she chooses to leave college after her master’s degree and not continue on for a PhD?
“Honestly? Not the same without Adele at home,” Leanne said. “She was my study partner. I keep thinking everything will go back to normal when she comes home from her honeymoon but then I remember that she’ll be living down here with you guys. She’s never coming home.”
Sam wasn’t sure how to empathize. Leanne was right. Adele was never coming home. He wondered how he might be able to alleviate some of Leanne’s stress without invalidating her concerns. “That’s tough.”
“Anyway, classes are fine, I guess.” Her face brightened. “Hey, you’d get a kick out of one of the classes I’m taking next semester. Natural Resources Management.”
“Now that’s something I could help you with,” Sam said. “I’ll be your study partner for that class.”
“I’m gonna hold you to that.” Leanne pushed his shoulder playfully.
Sam took advantage of her closeness. “I’m gonna hold your hand.” He slipped his fingers in between hers and held on. She didn’t pull away.
Leanne rested her head on Sam’s shoulder and he pulled her close. “How is my sister?”
“They’re probably going to do a cesarean delivery this afternoon,” he told her. “They’re trying to keep Baby Ishy cooking as long as possible, but if he goes into distress, they’re getting him out of there.”
“I wish I could see Mirium,” Leanne said. “I doubt they’ll let me back to her room.”
As they stood in the hallway holding one another, the door to the elevator opened revealing a surprise. Nick and Adele, back from their honeymoon.
Leanne and Adele squealed and pulled each other close as only sisters can. Nick and Sam clasped each other’s hands and pulled together for a hug.
Others in the family hurried over to give them hugs and welcome them, everyone’s worry about Mirium’s pregnancy momentarily set on the back burner.
A minute later the elevator opened again, and the girls’ parents arrived. There were more hugs around the group and more smiles and more tears.
Tears shifted to panic when Lyle came stumbling out the door of the maternity ward, collapsed into a chair, and lowered his face to his hands, sobbing.
Lyle’s impassioned group text contained lots of exclamation marks and two demands: “Come to the maternity ward!!! And pray!!!”
“Mom’s in labor!” Sam jumped from his chair and called across the common area between his and Liam’s offices. Every secretary and receptionist and designer and salesperson between here and there glanced up with expectant smiles.
“Could be Mirium,” Liam said with less urgency than Sam felt. Liam was still staring at his phone as he moseyed out of his office, where he’d been holding down his chair and sipping the flask in his top drawer. “Why else would Lyle be the one sending the text?”
“No, it’s way too soon for Mirium to be in labor,” Sam said. “That’s why she’s been on bed rest for weeks.” He grabbed the file folder on his desk and handed it to his secretary without any instructions. She was competent enough to know what to do without any direction.
“That would explain why he said to pray,” Liam reasoned. “I mean, yeah, we want Mom to have comfort while in labor, but that doesn’t require prayer. Heck, what do I know? If there is a god, I doubt he’d listen to a sinner like me.”
“Hey everybody,” Sam called out. “Get some blue balloons and cigars. We’re either having a baby brother or a nephew this afternoon!”
There was a general cheer in the office along with well-wishes and congratulations.
“Oh, and apparently pray,” Liam added. “If you believe in that crap.”
“I’ll pray enough for both of us,” Liam’s secretary said in a flirty voice.
“You do that, babe.” Liam winked at her then cleared his throat. “I mean, Mrs. Shaw.”
“Seriously?” Sam rolled his eyes at his brother and strode over to the elevator, pushing the button to call the lift to their floor. He turned back to his own secretary. “Can you have the doorman get us a limo out front by the time we get down there?”
“Yes, Sir, Mr. Cohen.” She picked up the phone.
“Come on, Liam,” Sam grumbled as Liam whispered something close to his secretary’s ear, causing her to giggle. When he and Liam were finally in the elevator and the door closed, Sam chastised his brother. “That’s a sexual harassment suit waiting to happen.”
“Eh, we’re fine.” Liam leaned against the side of the elevator wall and folded his arms across his chest. He smirked and raised his eyebrows, challenging Sam to argue.
Sam wasn’t giving Liam the satisfaction of a response. He just glared at him for the duration of the sixty second ride in the high-speed elevator from the top of the high rise to the ground level.
Their limo was waiting at the front door, as requested. At least one of their secretaries was competent at her job. They were both surprisingly calm on the ride to the hospital, considering they’d been asked to pray.
Sam wasn’t sure what he believed about prayer and a higher power. Their father had never insisted his sons participate in any religion, although they were surrounded on all sides with a variety of choices. He’d always encouraged them to have good moral values, which apparently wasn’t working on several of his sons. Sam committed to living a righteous life and making his father proud and had thus far succeeded.
His older brothers, not so much, Liam especially. Nicholas and Jacob on the other hand were perfect saints to the point of extreme. Sam marveled how five brothers could be raised the same but grow to have such a dichotomy of values.
Before he could ponder further, the limo pulled up to the hospital and Sam stepped from the car before the driver could park, not waiting for Liam but knowing he’d follow. After another—slower—elevator ride they emerged into a waiting area on the maternity floor.
The first family member Sam noticed was his mother, still very pregnant and sitting awkwardly in a waiting room chair. That meant Mirium was in labor. Crap. It was too soon. No wonder Lyle asked them to pray. Sam tried to count weeks and months and couldn’t remember either of their due dates.
“Mom, we came as soon as we could. No don’t get up. I’ll come to you.” Sam leaned over to give his mom a hug. He looked around the waiting room. His father, Levi, stood and patted Sam on the shoulder and his younger brother Jacob wrapped his arms around Sam’s waist.
Liam followed Sam into the waiting room but kept his hands in his pockets mumbling something about hating the smell of hospitals.
“How is Mirium?” Sam sat beside his mom and took her hand in his.
“They’re probably going to do a cesarean delivery this afternoon. The medicines aren’t working. They can’t get the contractions to stop. They’re afraid Baby Ishy’s in distress.” Her throat caught and she lifted a tissue to her face, not far from tears. Her first grandbaby was in that hospital room and she was probably having a hard time holding herself together.
“I’m sure the nurses and doctors are doing all they can, and Baby Ishy will be just fine,” Sam reassured his mom, patting the top of her hand.
The elevator door binged and opened and out stepped Mirium’s oldest sister, Ruth Ashish followed by her sister Rachel, and finally, their sister Leanne. Just the woman Sam wanted to see.
Leanne’s jaw dropped when she noticed Sam sitting there and looked back into the elevator as if considering reentering and making a break for the lobby of the hospital. The elevator door closed, leaving Leanne standing there staring at him.
Sam rose from where he was sitting beside his mother and a tunnel formed between him and Leanne. She was here.
He forgot the reasons he was in the hospital as his feet carried him forward and he stood before the woman he loved. He could breathe again.
She was here.
“Nick! How’s married life?” Sam was excited to see his younger brother’s name on the caller-ID. He pushed away from his desk and stretched, then turned to glance out his window at the Dubai skyline.
“I’m great, Sam. Adele and I have decided to remain on our honeymoon forever.”
“That’s fine. I’ll just continue to run your businesses without you here. That or turn your accounts over to Liam and he can destroy your future.”
“Don’t you dare.” Nick laughed. “We’ll be home eventually. What’s everyone up to?”
“Well, let’s see, mom is very pregnant. Dad’s busy getting his affairs in order so he can take time off when little Joseph arrives.”
“They’ve named him? That’s so sweet.” Nick sounded nostalgic. “What about Mirium? Do they know if they’re having a girl or a boy? How is she feeling?”
“Not good. She had some preterm contractions and wound up on bedrest,” Sam told him. “Lyle’s still working but mostly from home. They’re having a boy and are naming him Ishmael, but everyone mostly just refers to him as Baby Ishy.”
“Ah, that’s so adorable. I can’t wait to have kids.”
“Adele pregnant yet?” Sam asked. “You’ve been married well over a month now, right?”
“Not for lack of trying.” Nick laughed and called out, “Hey!” It was obvious Adele had smacked him on the arm or stomach or something.
“You need to have your wife talk to her sister,” Sam said, an idea forming in his thoughts. “Leanne’s not speaking to me right now.”
“What did you do?” How quickly Nick deduced that the reason Leanne was upset was because Sam had done something wrong.
“I was just excited that her family was moving to Dubai along with our family, but she said she doesn’t want to move because she’s still in college and I said she didn’t need to go to college because if she marries me, she’ll be rich and won’t have to work and she got all offended and kicked me out of her hotel suite.” Sam took a deep breath after saying all that in one sentence.
“Wait, slow down. Back up. Our families are moving to Dubai… permanently?”
“Well, until Father gets this yacht building bug out of his system and drags us somewhere else on whatever superyacht you design for him.”
“Wh-what?” Nicholas stammered.
“Oh, I forgot. You hadn’t heard. Dad bought Calwell Industries and wants you to design him a couple of superyachts, you know those really big yachts that only billionaires can afford.”
“I know what a superyacht is,” Nick said with exasperation. “I don’t know how to design one!”
“Well, time to do some research, I guess. You can’t have sex twenty-four-seven, right?”
“You’d be surprised.”
“At this rate I’ll never find out since Leanne won’t return my calls. While you’re researching yacht building, have your wife call my girlfriend, will you?”
“I’ll get right on that,” Nick grumbled.
“Where are you guys, anyway?” Sam asked.
“Hey, you’re pretty close to where Prince Marcos and Lyla are honeymooning in Puerto Aventuras. Get this, they found a resort called the Barcelo Maya Palace. Guess he wants his new bride to feel like a princess before he takes her home to meet the king and queen. They probably don’t want to come back from their honeymoon either.”
“Wait, when did Marcos get married? He didn’t even have a girlfriend.”
“He met her the night of your wedding. Married her a few weeks later.”
“Why didn’t he call me?” Nick asked. “I’m his best friend.”
“You’ve been a little busy the past few weeks. He probably didn’t want to… uh… disturb you.” Sam cleared his throat playfully.
“No excuse. I’m going to call him and give him a hard time.”
“You do that. And get your wife to call her sister.”
“Dude, you’ve said that three times now.” Nick chuckled.
“Good, maybe my request will register as being important. I’m a good salesman.”
“You are a good salesman,” Nick said. “Now, go get back to work because you’re doing my job too, right?”
“Oh, come on,” Sam teased his brother. “Liam is sober for a few hours a day. He can handle your accounts.”
“Quid pro quo, my brother,” Nick said. “You take care of my accounts while I’m on my honeymoon; I’ll have my wife talk her sister into being your girlfriend again.”
“Deal.” Sam breathed a sigh of relief, suddenly wanting to get back to work. “Say hello to Adele for me. Love you.”
“Love you too,” Nick said.
Sam hung up with his brother and immediately dialed the number for Nick’s newest acquisition. “Mr. Netanel, this is Sam Cohen, Nicholas’ brother. Did you hear he got married? He wanted me to check and see if there’s anything you need from us while he’s on his honeymoon. Oh, good. I’m glad things are going well. Can you meet for lunch next week?”
“Sam, I need your help,” Prince Marcos said, breathless with urgency.
“How can I be of assistance, Your Highness?” Sam shifted his phone to his other ear. “Oh, and sorry to hear about your brother.”
“Thank you, he will be missed.” His answer was a little too dismissive for a relative in mourning. Marcos hurried on with the reason for his call. “I need you to locate Lyla Donovan. She’s a guest at your resort.”
“Is she the woman who fell in the pool after Nick’s wedding?” Sam didn’t immediately hop up from where he was having dinner with his older brother, Liam, in the Sushi restaurant at the resort. With Nicholas on his honeymoon and Lyle dealing with his wife on bed rest with a difficult pregnancy, Sam found himself often stuck alone with Liam.
“Yes, I’m going to marry her,” Marcos answered.
“Really? Does she know of your plans?” Sam pushed a little piece of salmon around with his chopsticks, dipping it in soy sauce and a tiny pile of wasabi.
“I told her, but she hung up on me.”
Sam couldn’t help laughing loudly. “Just hung up on you for no reason?”
“Well, I may have offended her,” Marcos said. “But I’m coming to beg her forgiveness.”
“Oh, this I gotta see. What do you need my help for?” Sam lifted the perfectly garnished raw fish into his mouth along with clump of basmati rice.
“I don’t want to have to search the whole resort for her. I don’t have time.”
“What’s the urgency?” Sam asked, setting aside his chopsticks and dabbing at his mouth with a cloth napkin. He rose from his seat and pulled a money clip from his pocket. He tossed a hundred dirham note onto the table, glancing over at his server to make sure she saw him pay for their meal along with a generous tip. He kicked his brother, who was completely distracted by his phone, probably texting Rachel again. “Come on. We gotta go help Prince Marcos.”
“My father’s making me get married and produce an heir as soon as possible.”
“And you’re going to ask Lyla to marry you?” Sam asked. “Couldn’t you snap your fingers and find some princess somewhere to be the lucky egg donor?”
“I want Lyla,” Marcos said, so matter of fact.
“Well, I want Leanne, but a guy doesn’t always get what he wants,” Sam said. “I suppose if you’re a prince you can get anything you want.”
“You’d think,” Marcos said. “But it’s not that simple. Lyla hates me.”
“If she hates you, why do you want her so bad?” Sam wondered if he was asking himself or Prince Marcos.
“Because… because I just do,” Marcos stammered with an answer. “She’s Lyla.”
“I actually understand better than you realize.” Sam thought about his own answer to the same question. Why does he want Leanne? Because she’s Leanne. “I’ll go find Lyla right now. How soon will you be here?”
“The limo is pulling out of the airport, so in about twenty minutes.”
“On it.” Sam hung up the phone as he strode from the restaurant, Liam in tow, and headed for the lobby.
Sam was almost creeped out by how quickly the front desk staff were able to locate one of their guests, almost as if they kept tabs on everyone in the resort. He wondered how closely they kept tabs on him, and if they would give up personal information to anyone or just because he was the owner’s son. Something to investigate. For now, he was just glad to locate Lyla Donovan.
He didn’t have to wait in the lobby for long before a small but distinguished limousine pulled up and Prince Marcos emerged along with his advisor, Collins. They didn’t even wait for the driver to come around and open the door for them.
Without preamble, Marcos asked, “Did you find her?”
“Yeah, she’s out back at the tiki bar having drinks with a couple of girlfriends.”
“Perfect.” Like the confident prince he was, Marcos strode through the lobby without asking any of them to follow. They all did. Collins hurried to stay at his right shoulder.
Sam and Liam—who had finally pocketed his phone—hung back and waited near the entrance to the back patio as Marcos and Collins approached the table where Lyla and her friends sat.
Marcos swung an empty chair around from the next table and straddled it, leaning against the back directly across from Lyla. Collins also pulled up a chair but sat in a more conventional manner.
The shocked expression on Lyla’s face was a combination of anger and wonder. Sam wished he were close enough to hear their conversation but didn’t want to eavesdrop or intrude.
Collins lifted his hand to wave over a waitress just as Marcos left his chair and circled the table to take Lyla’s hand. With very little coaxing, she slipped her hand in his and allowed him to help her to her feet. He backed away from the table, the entranced girl practically in his arms already.
“Dang, he’s good. What the heck?” Liam said.
“He says he’s gonna marry her,” Sam told his brother. “Come on, let’s go see what he does.”
Sam and Liam approached the table where Collins now sat alone with Lyla’s two friends. None of them even glanced their way.
All eyes in the poolside tiki bar were trained on the prince and his new girlfriend walking in the garden. Some guests in the bar even had cell phones raised, no doubt taking photos and videos that would go live on social media.
Within a few minutes Marcos stopped Lyla and lifted her hand to his lips then pulled her close. She didn’t seem to resist. Marcos pulled back just slightly and cocked his head to the side, asking her a question none of them could hear.
Marcos pulled her closer and Sam expected him to kiss Lyla. Instead, he leaned down and kissed her neck, just below her earlobe and then moved to the other side and kissed her there as well.
One of Lyla’s friends at the table whimpered and whispered, “Swoon.”
“Gee, is that all it takes?” Sam muttered. “Gonna have to remember that.”
Marcos whispered something to Lyla, his lips close to hers again and waited, a feather’s width apart, allowing her the choice to complete the kiss… or not.
Suddenly Lyla reached into Marcos’s hair, and she pulled him to her, kissing him with wild passion and abandon. He forgot, or ignored, all the people watching, and kissed her solidly, holding nothing back.
Several patrons at the outdoor bar whistled or catcalled, cheering on the prince for his conquest. People applauded and cheered.
When they finally came up for air, Marcos closed his eyes and pressed his forehead to hers, breathing heavy enough for Sam to see from twenty feet away.
Lyla whispered something to him, and Marcos pumped his fist into the air calling out, “Yes!” Lyla placed her hand on his chest and spoke to him again too quiet for any of them to hear. They spoke to each other for a few more minutes before Lyla leaned her head back and laughed.
Marcos picked up both her hands in his and kissed them before lowering himself to the ground and speaking passionately up to her. Sam didn’t need to read lips or have hypersensitive ears to know Marcos was asking Lyla to marry him
“Yes! You silly man!” Lyla called out. “Get up here and give me another kiss!”
Marcos stood and lifted her into his arms, swinging her around as they both smiled and laughed and the people in the bar clapped and cheered. He stopped spinning, rested her back on her feet, and they spoke quietly to one another again.
Marcos eventually cradled her face and Lyla closed her eyes, surrendering to one more sweet, soft kiss. He pulled away after just a few short seconds, and they both opened their eyes, staring into one another’s souls.
“I’m taking notes,” Sam said. “I gotta get me some of those skills.”
“I think every guy in this bar is taking notes,” Liam acknowledged.
Eventually Lyla slipped from Marcos’s arms and held his hand in hers until the last possible second as she backed away from him, leaving him standing alone in the garden as she glided back to her friends.
Sam watched as they gathered their purses and phones and beach towels and sweatshirts and other belongings and started toward the elevator to head back up to their suites.
Before entering the elevator, Lyla turned one more time and waved lightly to Marcos. His answering expression was that of cheesy, blissful happiness as she stepped into the elevator and disappeared.
“Lucky son of a prince,” Sam grumbled. If only convincing Leanne would be that easy. Sam had serious doubts. Instead of dwelling on his own pain, Sam headed over to congratulate Marcos on his engagement.
“Crown Prince Jared Sayid of Madain Saleh passed away last week following a tragic motorcycle accident,” the news anchorman said.
“Turn that up,” Sam told his brother, Liam. The television was mostly background noise in his office, but that announcement caught Sam’s attention. The newscast continued as Liam reached for the remote control.
Liam was lounging in Sam’s fine leather executive chair as Sam unpacked supplies transported from his old office in Jerusalem to his new penthouse suite of offices in a high-rise downtown Dubai. Another newly acquired real estate venture their father had purchased the following year.
“He is survived by his wife, Princess Tayma, and their son, Prince Omar.”
“Yeah, right,” Liam said. “Jared’s lover is probably more upset about his death than the princess.”
“You’re probably right,” Sam said.
“There are rumors that Prince Jared’s younger brother, Prince Marcos Sayid intends to challenge the throne from his nephew, claiming a five-year-old is too young to hold the title as Crown.”
“Dude, seriously?” Sam’s mind whirled through possibilities. A five-year-old crown prince? Yeah, that wouldn’t work. Someone needs to be ready to take over the kingdom if King Sayid dies. But Prince Omar would be next in line for the throne. Sam wondered how they would make that work.
“The king has yet to release a statement regarding the matter.” The background behind the reporter changed. “In other news, Wall Street stocks rallied after last week’s announcement that Cohen Enterprises would be acquiring the struggling shipping company, Calwell Industries following weeks of negotiations.”
“Hey, we made the news,” Sam said. Guess they couldn’t keep things under wraps for long.
“A spokesman for Calwell Industries told the Associated Press they were honored to be working with the international conglomerate and expect an amicable transition.”
“What!” Liam called out. “There was nothing amicable about that hostile takeover. They’re such liars.”
“I’m sure Trahan didn’t want the world to find out what a terrible businessman he was.” Sam chuckled.
“Not everyone was meant to run a business.” Liam leaned back and kicked his feet onto the desk in front of him and laced his fingers behind his head.
“Present company included,” Sam grumbled. “Why don’t you get over here and help me unpack these schematics.”
“Don’t we have people for that?’ Liam asked.
“I don’t trust anyone with my engineering plans.” Sam allowed the scent of the familiar ink and paper of his engineering drawings to replace the new carpet and fresh paint smell permeating his office.
“And yet you would trust me?” Liam chuckled.
“No, not really.” Sam realized Liam had a valid point. He switched topics, knowing the only reason he hadn’t kicked Liam out of his new office yet was because he was getting up the nerve to ask him the important questions. “Have you heard from Rachel?”
“Yeah, we text all day long, but she hasn’t mentioned Leanne if that’s what you’re really asking.” As if to confirm his statement, Liam’s phone binged with an incoming text and Liam grinned as he responded to the message.
“She won’t return my calls,” Sam admitted.
“That ship sailed before you climbed on board,” Liam said. “Might as well find someone else. Leanne’s way too boring anyway. She’s such a geek.”
“Watch it, that’s my future wife you’re talking about.”
Liam threw his head back and laughed. “Yeah, right. She’s gonna want to marry a professor or something. She needs someone with a little more intellectual stimulation than you, little brother.”
“Hey, I’m smart. I can design a complete mining plan to refine potash and extract potassium salts without a stupid degree.”
“That’s the real issue, though. She’ll want a guy with a degree.”
“You think?” Sam’s shoulders slunk along with his hopes.
“Yep.” Liam popped his p for emphasis.
“Well that just sucks.”
“If you really want to win Leanne’s heart, get yourself a nice pair of glasses, an Oxford sweater vest and a pocket protector and meet her at the library at her university.”
“Come here, little brother.” Liam stood from the chair and stepped to the floor to ceiling windows of Sam’s office. He draped his arm around Sam’s shoulders and gestured out the window. “See that city? Dubai is filled with thousands of beautiful women. Take your pick.”
Sam shrugged out from under his brother’s arm. “I don’t want thousands of women. I want Leanne.”
“No, I’m not moving to Dubai,” Leanne said, shoving another pair of shoes into her suitcase. “I’m halfway through my master’s program at Jerusalem University. I’m not going to just move down here.” She had been casually packing to leave the resort and was now angry.
“But my father said that he and your father had already decided.” Sam sat on the sofa in her hotel suite and explained the conversation with his family at brunch. “Think of it. We wouldn’t have to be apart and struggle with a long-distance relationship.”
“So, being in a relationship with me is a struggle?” Leanne stopped packing and folded her arms across her chest.
“That’s not what I meant.” Sam rose from the sofa and hurried across the room. He tried to pull her arms apart and wrap them around him. “It’s just that, we could be together all the time, not have to fly back and forth to see each other.”
“It’s only a four-hour flight and you have a private jet. I think you’ll be okay.” She softened a bit in his arms.
“True…” Sam couldn’t argue with her logic.
“Look, I’m sure there will come a day when we can be together.” Leanne rested her hands onto Sam’s chest and pushed him slightly away. “But now is not a good time. I need to focus on my studies.”
“You’re not breaking up with me, are you?” Sam asked, clinging to her waist, wishing he could close the distance between them but not wanting to pressure her.
“No… not really.” Her reply was not exactly the boost of confidence Sam hoped for. “I mean, I’m not actively looking for someone to replace you. I just need to get through these last few years of school before I think any further in my life than that.”
“Few years?” Sam’s voice cracked. “I thought you were halfway through your master’s degree. You’ve only got about a year left, correct?”
“I want to get a PhD.” Her matter-of-fact statement came with an implied duh.
“Why do you need a degree at all?” Sam asked. “If you marry me, you’ll be so wealthy you’ll never have to work.”
“You think I’m getting a degree so I can get a job?” She was no longer pacifying him and had shifted back to anger. What had he said wrong?
“I don’t know, maybe? Why else would someone get a degree from a university?”
“To learn knowledge.”
“You can learn without having to sit in a classroom.”
“I want that degree, okay?” She shrugged. “I want the diploma, the piece of parchment paper I can hang on my wall in a frame.”
“I’ll never understand that,” Sam admitted. “The degree just seems like a vanity metric.”
“Now you’re calling me vain?” she asked, pushing him completely away.
“No, I’m not calling you vain.” Sam tried to backpedal. “I’m just saying you don’t need the piece of paper. All you really need is the knowledge.”
“Get out of my hotel room.” Leanne pointed toward the door. “Now.” Her quiet firmness was more frightening than if she’d yelled at him.
“Leanne, don’t do this.” Sam reached to pull her back into his arms.
She pushed him away more forcefully. “I said, get out of my hotel room. Now.”
“Okay, okay.” Sam held up his hands. “I’m going.”
He walked to the door to her hotel suite but turned around before leaving.
“When can I see you again?”
“How about never?” She lifted her chin.
“That doesn’t work for me,” Sam said. “I need to see you sooner than never.”
“Come to my graduation ceremony to watch me get my PhD and maybe I’ll talk to you then.”
“I’ll take it.” Sam brazenly crossed the room again, pulled Leanne into his arms, and kissed her soundly for several long moments, long enough for her to surrender to his embrace, then he released her and stepped away. “See you after graduation.”
“I have a family announcement to make.” When Levi Cohen, Sam’s father, called a family meeting, everyone listened. At least he had waited until brunch the day after the wedding. Sam and his brothers were still nursing hangovers from staying out at the tiki bar the night before.
“Gee, dad, don’t you want to wait until Nicholas and Adele are home from their honeymoon?” Liam asked with a sneer. As the oldest of Sam’s brothers, Liam had a hard time accepting their father’s doting attention to their younger brother. Historically used as a public relations figurehead in the Cohen dynasty, Liam had been less and less capable of handling any social events without embarrassing the family.
“The deal will be signed long before then.” Their father waved his hand dismissively. “I’m buying a yacht manufacturing company.”
“A y-yacht company?” Sam asked. If someone had asked Sam five minutes prior what business venture his father would tackle next, he never would have come up with that answer. “But you know nothing about building yachts.”
“Nicholas mentioned on our last acquisitions trip that he’d like to learn to create things rather than just acquire them,” their father said.
“And we’re back to Nicholas again,” Lyle said, draping his arm around the chair of his wife, Miriam. His role in the family businesses had shifted since getting married. Where he used to schmooze the daughters and wives of dignitaries and royalty, he had tamed down and resigned himself to becoming a dad. “Sometimes I wonder if you remember that you have five sons, rather than one.”
“Soon to be six,” their mother said, resting her hand on her rounded belly. At forty-six years of age, Sam’s mother, Sarah, had conceived again unexpectedly, and was due to have her baby just two months ahead of her first grandchild.
“Don’t worry, gentlemen,” their father said to all of them. “When I die, my fortune will be split equally among you and all will be well.”
“I think we’d all rather have you than our inheritance,” Jacob said. As the youngest brother, for a few more weeks anyway, he was still a spoiled teenager. Mostly a momma’s boy growing up, Jacob had been spending more and more time with Nicholas and their father, learning the family businesses and earning their father’s respect.
Sam wasn’t exactly jealous, but he was quite literally stuck in between his younger brothers, Nicholas and Jacob, and his older brothers, Liam and Lyle. At twenty-five years of age, Sam was unsure where he fit into this family. He had embraced his role as one of the four vice-presidents in the family’s conglomerate of businesses, but still preferred working with the natural resource holdings.
For most of their lives, Liam and Lyle hadn’t done much to be proud of. Living like rich playboys, they had partied more than they worked and used their father’s generosity to their advantage. Sam had hovered in their shadows, not quite encouraging their wild antics, but not stopping them either.
In recent years, Sam had gravitated more and more toward their younger brother, Nicholas. There was something about Nicholas that drew the world to him. His charisma, his communication skills, his natural leadership ability. Sam never felt inferior to Nicholas like he did with their older brothers. He just felt good in Nicholas’s presence.
“Does Nicholas know he’s going to be manufacturing yachts for you?” Sam asked.
“When were you planning to tell him?” Lyle asked.
“Or us, for that matter?” Liam sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. All eyes were on their father and open hostility rolled across the room.
“We needed to get through the wedding.” Their father shrugged. “You all knew there were things in the works. Even Nicholas knew. I’ve been openly selling off all holdings in the greater Jerusalem area. We will be leaving everything behind. Israel will no longer be our home.”
“Where does that leave my family?” Mirium asked, her eyes lowering. All focus seemed to shift briefly to her pregnant belly.
“Your father and I have come to the agreement that we will all leave together.” Daniel Ashish had been their father’s best friend all their lives. Relationships had been strained between the two families in recent months when Lyle had gotten Mirium pregnant and been forced to marry her.
After Liam and Rachel had made a spectacle at the wedding, Daniel had vowed to keep his remaining daughters away from the negative influences of Levi’s sons. That lasted just long enough for Nicholas to replace his lost cell phone and track down his childhood sweetheart, Adele, forcing the family back together for the second wedding in less than six months.
“Daniel is very much a part of all my dealings in Dubai,” their father explained to Mirium.
“So, you’ve just decided that we’re all moving?” Sam asked, frustrated. “What if I don’t want to move? What if I like the life we have in Jerusalem?”
“Son, I need you here in Dubai.”
“I want to focus on our natural resource holdings, not yacht building.”
“We are not selling off our holdings in petroleum and potash,” their father explained. “You will still be in charge of those aspects, but our main business center will be in Dubai. Your offices will be in Dubai.” Father looked around the table pointedly at each one of them and everyone backed down.
“We will go where you want us to go, father,” Jacob piped in, his youthful innocence in stark contrast to his older brothers’ skepticism. Yet Jacob said what no one else was willing. It didn’t matter what any of them wanted to do, they followed their father’s lead.
Levi Cohen was a visionary man. He may be a hard-nosed businessman, but he had an instinct for knowing where the market would swing next. Sam suspected Dubai would be temporary as well although he had little evidence to support his gut feeling. Something about purchasing a yacht manufacturing company made him suspect their family would soon be boarding a yacht and setting off in whatever direction their father would lead them.
Sam took a deep breath of resignation and focused his attention back to the breakfast plate in front of him. No sense in arguing. Everything would fall into place somehow.
Then he remembered what his father had said about Daniel Ashish. His family would be joining them in Dubai. Which meant Leanne would be coming back to Dubai. Sam hid a smile behind a glass of juice, suddenly a little more optimistic.
Sam and his brothers had said goodnight to Leanne and her sisters after the wedding reception, then headed to the tiki bar by the pool at the resort along with Prince Marcos. They lounged in chaises where they could kick back and loosen their ties and remove their sport coats. They had even gone so far as removing shoes and socks and rolling up the pant legs of their tuxes.
“Fantastic wedding.” Prince Marcos Sayid of Madain Saleh held up his glass of Scotch in a toast.
Sam had already tossed back a couple of glasses, as had his two older brothers, Liam and Lyle. Their youngest brother, Jacob, was not yet eighteen and was sipping a soda. He raised his glass as well.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Liam grumbled. “I haven’t gone that many hours without a drink in years.” He downed another large glass of Scotch and laid his head back on the lounge chair, eyes closed and probably not long from needing an escort to his suite for the night.
Nicholas and Adele had decided not to serve any alcohol at their wedding because Liam had made a complete fool of himself at Lyle’s wedding less than a year ago. But when the bride and groom snuck away, presumably to head up to their hotel suite, they left the rest of the bridal party to fend for themselves. By eleven-thirty, the guys headed out back to the tiki bar near the pool.
Since Nicholas was upstairs doing what Sam wished he could be doing, he’d better not fault the guys for having a little fun of their own.
Sam was eyeing the pool and its promise to wash away the oppressive heat that never seemed to dissipate in the City of Dubai. That would require the removal of his tux and that would require traipsing all the way up to his suite. Way too much work just to cool off. He downed the last of his Scotch and a waitress handed him another.
She also handed a drink to Prince Marcos, who was completely oblivious to her flirting. He’d been ignoring women the whole evening and never seemed to dance with any of them more than once.
The young prince, who had been Nicholas’ best friend for years, had nearly upstaged the groom because he was required to wear his crown while attending formal social events. The way traditions had been explained to Sam was if the occasion warranted a tux, it required at least a simple band of gold around his head.
To his credit, Marcos had grown out his hair a little in an attempt to hide the crown. It hadn’t worked. The effect just made him look like a rock star in a tux with a crown. He could probably have his pick of the single women in this outdoor bar.
If Sam hadn’t already been in a relationship with Leanne, he might have been jealous of his younger brother’s best friend. As it was, Sam couldn’t care less how many girls fell at Marcos’ feet.
Or into the pool.
A blonde in a little black dress had locked eyes with Prince Marcos and had become so distracted that she walked right into the pool and landed with a giant splash.
Sam fought the impulse to laugh and pretty much lost the fight, along with his brothers, when Marcos jumped in after her, fully clothed in his tux and crown, presumably to rescue her.
Although the pool was shallow enough for her to touch the bottom, Marcos wrapped his arms around her waist, and she wrapped her arms around his neck. Sam couldn’t hear what they were saying from out on the pool deck, but they were obviously enamored with one another.
After flirting incessantly for several minutes, Marcos carried her out of the pool and set her on the patio right in front of Sam and his brothers. He heard Marcos call her Lyla, then he asked a pool attendant to jump in and fetch Lyla’s shoes from the bottom of the pool.
They stood there dripping wet for a few moments then left after making plans to meet back here after getting dried off and into something more comfortable.
Lucky prince. They’d been at the bar less than an hour and he already had a date with a pretty girl.
Not that Sam couldn’t spend the night in the arms of a pretty girl. If he wanted to push the issue, he could have Leanne join him at the pool as well. She left with her sisters at the end of the reception, claiming her feet were sore. He’d complain also if forced to wear heels with two-inch spikes.
He was just fine right here with a glass of Scotch and his brothers. They wouldn’t stay too much longer. Just long enough to get Liam inebriated so that he’d stay in his hotel room when they tucked him into bed. He’d caused enough trouble at their brother Lyle’s wedding that the guys were determined not to let that happen at Nicholas’ wedding.
Before any of them could think of leaving the bar, a very frantic Prince Marcos hurried over to them wearing jeans and a T-shirt. “My brother, Jared, was in a terrible motorcycle accident and I need to fly home.” Marcos handed a folded sheet of paper to Jacob. “Please make sure Lyla gets this note. You’re the only one sober enough who I can trust.”
“I promise to get this to her,” Jacob said, taking the note.
“Hope your brother’s okay,” Sam said.
“Thanks, man. They said he doesn’t look good.” Marcos reached out for a quick fist bump then hurried out to the back of the resort where a helicopter was just landing.
“Crown Prince Jared?” Liam asked with a sneer. “The same guy who dated Ruth Ashish when he was already married to that princess from Tayma?”
“Yep, Jared is Marcos’s older brother,” Sam answered.
“Excuse me—” The beautiful blonde named Lyla stood beside them in comfortable clothes that looked suspiciously like pajamas, with fluffy pink slippers. Her wet hair had been combed out and she’d washed off the smeared mascara. “Was that Marcos?” She pointed to where the helicopter was lifting off the back lawn of the resort.
“He asked me to give you this.” Jacob rose from his lounge chair and handed Lyla the folded note.
Lyla read it with a crease in her brow then glanced longingly in the direction of the retreating lights and fading whir of the helicopter blades. “I hope his brother will be okay.”
“Me too,” Sam said. “Or your prince charming is about to become the future king of Madain Saleh.”
Note from Author: Sam’s story picks up where his older brother Nicholas’ story ends, so I’m going to share the last chapter of Nicholas’ story first. You will NEVER read Nicholas’ story on the Chapter-A-Day blog because chapter one will give away every clue to the entire “Top Secret Project” now known as the Sayid Family Saga.
Nicholas Cohen is mentioned throughout the rest of the series, including the most recently shared story, Billionaire Hero. In the epilogue of Monroe’s story, Nicholas is mentioned as having died. He is also mentioned as being Monroe, Henry and Aaron’s great-great grandfather. This story chronologically takes place years prior, but Billionaire’s Sons is actually the final book in the Sayid Family Saga.
You should also know that the entire Sayid Family Saga is written in the Contemporary genre. That means they all have cell phones and private jets and superyachts. Even though the saga spans multiple generations, each story is designed to take place in modern day. None of the stories are historical fiction or futuristic. For any similarities to actual historical events, I have taken extreme artistic liberty. Send me an email when you figure it out! -Julie
Epilogue to Nicholas Cohen’s Story:
They planned the wedding in Dubai, at the Cohen’s largest newly acquired resort so Adele’s friends and family members could come down to attend the wedding. After months of hiding, there was no hint that anyone was searching for the person or persons who had been responsible for Landon’s death.
While in Jerusalem, Nick helped his father quietly sell most of his land holdings and business ventures. They made preparations to leave Israel, presumably forever. Nick knew his father was working on other business ventures in Dubai, but he was unwilling to even ask until after returning from his honeymoon.
Nick had one thing on his mind; planning a wedding so he could be with Adele forever. His older brothers teased him mercilessly about his unwillingness to be alone with his bride until after the wedding. He wasn’t taking any chances. He was already tempted nearly beyond restraint by the woman he’d loved since they were teenagers.
Adele planned a simple wedding that got out of hand. A girl could not marry the son of a billionaire and avoid having dignitaries from all over the world invited. The guest list was beyond their control, but she insisted on simplicity in her dress and flowers and pageantry, and a meal without drinking and partying. Nick was completely fine with that. He didn’t want anything—or anyone—ruining her special day.
The wedding party was nearly identical to that of his brother and Adele’s sister. The biggest change was the order of the lineup, and one additional brother: Nick’s best friend, Prince Marcos Sayid of Madain Saleh. The simple crown he wore was tucked within purposely shaggy hair, grown out just a little for the occasion. In his sorry attempt to conceal his royalty, Prince Marcos instead took on the appearance of a rock star in a tux with a crown. Every eligible woman in the room batted her eyelashes.
The large garden to the back of the resort, where Adele had first told Nick she loved him on the night before their siblings’ wedding, was the perfect location for her to walk down the cobblestone path to meet her groom.
Nick waited in anticipation, his brothers by his side, his father and very pregnant mother sitting in the first row of seats, and his friends and family nearby, for his bride to descend the path and come join her life to his.
The music shifted and Ruth began her descent, followed by Rachel, then Miriam, her dress altered to beautifully showcase her growing belly, and last was Leanne.
Again, there was a change in the tune emanating from the grand piano that had been carefully transported and placed in the garden, and the members of the audience stood. Nick wished they hadn’t. His view was impeded. He broke from his place of honor and stepped to his right, standing instead directly before the aisle where Adele would appear at the head of the path. He wanted to be the first to view the elegant woman who would descend unto him.
Tears ran unabashedly down his cheeks as Adele appeared on the arm of her father, Daniel Ashish. He held back his desire to run to her, sweep her into his arms and carry her the rest of the way, demanding the officiator hurry with their vows so he could be forevermore her husband.
Painstakingly slow she walked forward, cobblestone step by step by step, until she stood by his side and Daniel handed over his daughter for safekeeping to the boy he had forbade enter his home a few short months prior.
Nick broke his gaze from his bride for a few brief seconds to look his new father-in-law in the eye, man to man, conveying with every fiber of his being that he would protect and cherish this woman whom they both loved.
With no further fanfare, Daniel released Adele’s hand and placed it into Nick’s, then ducked away to go and sit beside his wife in the front row.
“Can I kiss you now?” Nick whispered, gazing into Adele’s eyes.
“Nope,” she whispered back and winked at him. “Marry me first.”
He gently pulled her forward, never releasing her eyes and stood before the man who prompted their vows and rituals that would bind them together legally.
Nick barely registered the words he repeated, yet he felt them to his core. He was promising everything to Adele and more. He was promising forever, if that existed.
As hurried as he’d been to get to this moment, when the officiator pronounced them husband and wife, time slowed. He closed the distance between them and lifted her face delicately, lowering his while maintaining eye contact until the last possible second. He hesitated and hovered inches from a kiss and waited for her to lift onto her toes and meet his lips, sealing their love for one another.
This was only their second real kiss as adults, and might has well have been their first with how sacred this felt.
When they pulled apart an inch or two, Nick pressed his forehead to Adele’s and whispered, “Thank you.”
Adele threw her arms around Nick’s neck and kissed him again, a combination of humor and passion, then pulled away and laughed lightly. “I love you!”
“I love you too.” Nick laughed along with her, lifting her off her feet playfully. Setting her back down he whispered for her ears only, “Am I allowed to admit I’m terrified right now?”
“Good, I’m not the only one.” She giggled. “How about this? Let’s go eat a little food, dance the obligatory number of dances, then go upstairs.”
“Sounds good to me,” Nick said a little louder than he should have.
Adele grabbed Nick’s hand and held it up triumphantly, calling out to the crowd, “Finally!”
Everyone laughed as Adele playfully tugged her groom up the cobblestone steps to the grand ballroom inside. Nick allowed himself to be pulled along, unable to deny his new wife one moment of this new excitement.
Nick had no idea how long it took the rest of the wedding party to ascend the path from the garden, but by the time anyone else arrived in the ballroom where the tables were situated around a small dancefloor, awaiting the meal, he and Adele were alone on the dancefloor holding one another close, swaying to dinner music played softly by the string quartet in the corner.
They eventually allowed others to pull them apart just far enough to sit at the head table and eat a little food. They were dragged around the room greeting the myriad of guests, dancing and dancing and dancing, cutting cake, posing for a million photographs, and hugging many friends and family.
“Look at Sam and Leanne,” Adele said from where they stood on the other side of the ballroom. Nick glanced over to the dancefloor where she pointed, and his heart warmed. They were dancing together, cheek to cheek, both of their eyes closed in a bliss he understood all too well.
“Reminds me of a few months ago when you and I held each other the same way at Lyle and Miriam’s wedding,” Nick said, pulling Adele closer. “Maybe a few months from now we’ll be celebrating another wedding.”
“If he can get her out of the library long enough to date,” Adele said. “Maybe we should warn him about the uphill battle he’ll fight.”
“Nah, I don’t want anything interrupting this moment. I remember what that was like.” Nick kissed the top of her head. “Besides there are a few other things I’d like to do right this minute.”
“Yeah?” Adele turned away from watching the dance and Nick caught her in his arms, loving the silky fabric of her wedding dress beneath his hands. “Do any of those things involve you finally taking me up to your suite?”
“Our suite,” Nick whispered. “From now until forever, what’s mine is yours.”
“All I’ve ever wanted from you was your heart.” Adele gazed into his eyes, passion replacing humor.
“You have my heart.” Nick pulled her closer and his breathing increased. “Would it be okay if I give you the rest of me too?”
“Only if I can give you the rest of me,” Adele whispered.
The purr that emanated from somewhere inside him came out as a soft growl. “Mrs. Cohen, I would very much like to escort you upstairs to our suite.”
“I’ll follow you anywhere, Mr. Cohen.”
With no other formal invitation or goodbye to friends and family, they ducked out the nearest door and Nick swept Adele into his arms, carrying her up the stairs.
Prologue to Sam Cohen’s Story:
“You’re not going to lose your cell phone and run off and ignore me for weeks like your brother did to my sister, are you?” Leanne asked, her deep blue eyes vulnerable and haunted. The sparkling lights from the disco ball turning above the dancefloor cast shadows and glitter across her face.
“I have my phone right here,” Sam told her. He released her gently from his arms, immediately missing the feel of her silky bridesmaid dress. The music from the string quartet continued from the corner of the room. “And your phone number is at the top of my contacts list, see?” He swiped open his phone and showed her the screen.
“Leanne Cohen?” She raised her eyebrows. “You seriously paired my name with yours? Isn’t that a bit presumptuous?”
“I’d call it ‘hopeful’ rather than presumptuous,” Sam answered, slipping his cell phone back into his pocket and puller her back into his arms. “I promise not to get down on one knee and hold a ring in front of you until we’re both ready to take that step.”
“What if I’m never ready?” she asked.
“I find that unlikely.” Sam lifted his chin in mock superiority.
“Again,” Leanne said. “Presumptuous.”
“Just don’t run off on me like Adele did to Nicholas,” Sam said. “We saw how that turned out.”
“Well, I’d say it turned out okay in the end, since they are now married.” Leanne turned her wrist to view her non-existent watch. “As of an hour ago.”
“The road to the altar was bumpy to say the least,” Sam said.
“Good things come to those who wait,” Leanne said.
“And to those who are persistent.” Sam twirled her around and then pulled her close again. “I know how to be patient.”
Great news, Billionaire Hero is now available on Amazon!
Great news, Billionaire Hero is now available on Amazon!