Prologue to Billionaire Hero - Monroe
“Why would any sane person want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?” Monroe’s dad used to say.
Yet here he stood—again—in full gear, heart racing, stomach tumbling, waiting for the final go-ahead. Not that Monroe wanted to jump; he was compelled to jump.
The United States flag sewn onto his uniform and the Special Forces Insignia on the sleeve of his shoulder added the extra layer of necessity. Knowing the importance of the mission was the final driving force that gave him the courage to take that last step.
His team was counting on him.
The rush of air pressed against his body as he plummeted toward the earth. So far below. Veiled in the black of night. Monroe could barely see what he knew was the canopy.
Monroe dove in the direction where his men would be gathering, grasping one another’s hands in a tight circle, keeping them together. They separated with barely enough time to deploy their parachutes and silently slipped between the trees. And behind enemy lines.
Part One: Aaron's Story - Chapter One
Prince Aaron Sayid stepped out the door of the small airliner and into the Guatemalan sunshine. He slipped on a pair of black shades as he glanced around the tarmac, not really expecting to see Felicia, but hoping, nonetheless. He started down the stairs, followed by his younger brothers, Owen and Hayden.
The Mundo Maya-Flores International Airport was anything but international, unless the distance between Cancun, Mexico and Flores, Guatemala counted. Technically, the four-hour flight crossed over the border between the two countries, and that’s what warranted the designation.
The princes rarely flew commercial. Although their family estate was worth over a billion dollars, they didn’t want to wait for someone to charter a private jet. So, they booked first class seats on the earliest available flight and came to meet their feisty third cousin who was brave enough to reach out to them by telephone.
The Sayid brothers had lived in New York State all their lives even though they’d known they were heirs to the throne of the tiny Middle Eastern Kingdom of Madain Saleh. Their father, Prince Marcos Sayid had served as Crown Prince until Aaron turned twenty, at which time the Crown had been conferred upon him during a simple coronation.
Aaron had claimed the title of Crown for just over a year before King Sayid died at the age of 106 and Aaron realized he didn’t really want to move to the desert. He and his three younger brothers willingly abdicated the throne to one of their cousins who already lived in the kingdom.
Now they were merely spoiled, rich kids with time on their hands. Fly to Guatemala to meet a pretty girl? Sure, why not? What else would a twenty-one-year-old guy want to do for the summer?
Although royalty, Aaron and his brothers hadn’t shown their faces on international television in several months and knew they probably wouldn’t be recognized. They needn’t have worried. Three hot guys of Middle Eastern descent blended right in with the Hispanics in the tiny Guatemalan airport. All of them had thick, dark hair, caramel skin, and sultry, brown eyes.
They had arranged for a limo to take them to their hotel, so they expected to look amongst a crowd for their names on a professional sign held by a driver.
Instead, a few friends and family members held homemade signs and amongst them was a petite ball of energy with long, black hair and a colorful dress that bounced along with her excitement. Her hand-drawn sign had Aaron’s name spelled wrong and the ‘S’ backward.
Aaron knew the minute Felicia recognized him because she broke rank with the other people waiting for family members and rushed forward, throwing herself into his arms and dropping her sign on the floor. Owen bent down to pick up the sign as Aaron swung Felicia around and they hugged like long-separated lovers rather than two people meeting in person for the first time.
They had texted and spent time together on video chat multiple times since the day she called him last week. He’d been introduced to her sisters and brothers and parents and best friends and her pet goat. He knew that her favorite breakfast was some sort of chocolate slop that he couldn’t pronounce made from black beans and soaked up by homemade tortillas. He knew she was an expert at weaving and made textiles that the family sold at market. And he knew that she smelled like some sort of natural essential oil that he could get lost in.
He closed his eyes and held her there in the airport lobby while his brothers found their limo driver and waited for Aaron so they could all go retrieve their luggage.
“I have missed you,” Felicia said in Spanish, her cheek pressed to his, her feet dangling around his knees, her arms around his neck. Although size was not indicative of age, combined with her youthful energy and excitement for life, she seemed too young to be twenty-one.
“We Facetimed this morning,” Aaron answered in Spanish, not releasing her from his arms. He’d taken a crash course refresher of his high school Spanish in preparation for this trip.
“That was many, many hours ago,” she said, pulling back to look him in the eye.
He thought for a minute she was going to lean closer and kiss him and he would have kissed her back without hesitation. Instead, she slid down and he kept his hands on her waist until she regained her footing.
“Hola Felicia,” Hayden said, reaching for a hug. She hugged him back but not with the same enthusiasm as with Aaron. Then she reached over to hug Owen.
“Are you here alone?” Aaron glanced around for anyone else he might recognize from their video chats and found her father, Dominic Cohen, waiting nearby. Aaron was glad he hadn’t kissed Felicia with her dad watching and stepped over with his hand extended. “Senor Cohen, good to meet you.”
“Pleasure to meet you as well, Your Highness,” Dominic said, shaking his hand and subtly bowing his head. Aaron had grown up with the haughty attitude of royalty and he was done with that.
“Please, just call me Aaron,” he said, also bowing subtly, bringing himself down to equal standing with the man who was his mother’s cousin. “And these are my brothers, Hayden and Owen.”
“Nice to meet you,” Hayden said, shaking Dominic’s hand.
“Thank you for welcoming us to your country,” Owen said, also extending his hand to Dominic.
“How did you get to the airport? Do you have a car here in the city? Or would you like to ride back with us?” Aaron kept one arm around Felicia’s waist as he spoke to her father. He couldn’t seem to resist connecting with her now that they were together.
“We took a bus from Melchor de Mencos,” Dominic said.
“You should ride with us in our limo.” Aaron glanced around to find their waiting limo driver. “How much room do we have?”
“We have seating for eight, sir,” the limo driver said. “But… your hotel is only ten minutes away.”
“We could get a different hotel,” Aaron said, turning back to Dominic. “Are there any hotels near your home?”
“There is one right in town,” Dominic said, puffing out his chest proudly.
“Sir, my rates are quite high,” the limo driver said in accented English, almost whispering as if to give Aaron an opportunity to decline without embarrassing himself in front of his friends. “The fare would be much greater than taking the bus.”
“How much?” Aaron asked in the same conspiratorial whisper, knowing the money didn’t really matter.
“There and back, plus the gasoline, and my time, an hour and a half each way…” the man gave him a figure that was less than Aaron had paid for a new suit to wear to his brother’s graduation.
“I’ll double that if you treat this lovely young lady as if she’s a royal princess, and this gentleman as if he’s your honored guest,” Aaron said, still whispering in English.
The limo driver pulled his shoulders back and lifted his chin. “Thank you, sir.”
Aaron watched the man hurry to Felicia and hold out his arm, switching to Spanish and offering to escort her to the limousine.
“You sly dog,” Hayden said with a chuckle.
“Uh, guys”—Owen pulled them aside, showing them the screen of his phone. “The only hotel in Melchor de Mencos is a complete dive.”
“Are there any others close?” Aaron asked.
Owen was already scrolling. “This one looks nice, and it’s only twenty-five minutes further. The San Ignacio Resort. Ooh, they have a suite called the Royal Suite. It’s like the hotel knew we were coming.”
“Ha, let me see that.” Aaron took Owen’s phone and strode over to where the driver was helping Felicia and Dominic into the limo. “Do you know where this hotel is located?”
“Yes, sir, but that’s even further.” The driver’s eyes grew wide.
“Would it help if I put you up in a room for the night?” Aaron asked.
“In that hotel?” The man looked as if he was holding a winning lottery ticket and wasn’t sure if it was real. He seemed to catch himself and realize how his professional persona had slipped. Lifting his chin again, the man said, “That would be acceptable.”
“Perfect,” Aaron said, then hurried over to climb in the car beside Felicia. He held the phone closer to her and Dominic to show them the website for the resort. “Look, we found something with more room and the hotel’s only twenty-five minutes away from your house.”
“But… that’s in Belize.” Felicia shrunk back and curled her lip.
“Is that okay?” Aaron wasn’t sure what to think of her reaction.
“I’m sure it will be fine.” Her voice squeaked at the end of her sentence as if she wasn’t convinced.
Still, the resort seemed amazing from their website. He handed the phone back to Owen. “Book us a couple of rooms. And cancel our reservation here in Flores.”
Felicia glanced at her father then plastered on a fake smile and that’s how they spent a very uncomfortable hour and a half on the way to their home.