When they finally decided they’d tempted themselves enough for one day, Gus pulled out his phone and sent a text to his brother, Aaron, informing him that they were running a little late and that he’d be walking Phoebe home. He texted Aaron the address and the approximate time they’d be done, then got back to work.
Side by side, they hosed down the cages, settled all the dogs back into their clean cages and provided them with food, water, and a bed to sleep on for the night.
“Thanks for staying late to help finish the cleaning,” Phoebe said as she pulled the entrance door shut and locked it with her key.
“Do you ever feel like you run this place?” Gus asked as she tucked her keys into her pockets.
“Sometimes,” she said, draping her arm through his and snuggling close to avoid the wind. “Thanks for walking me home. I don’t like walking in the dark by myself.”
“Anytime,” He said. “Although I should have just had Aaron pick us up and he could have driven you home.”
“I’m a little bit intimidated by your brother,” Phoebe admitted. “He throws his title around like he actually rules your country.”
“Sometimes I think he wishes he did,” Gus said. “He comes across really haughty though.”
“Who does rule your country?”
“The president of the United States,” Gus said. “I was born here, remember?”
“Right, but I mean the place where your ancestors rule?”
“I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard it’s a beautiful oasis in the middle of a vast desert where my great, great grandfather, King Sayid of Madain Saleh, clings to life at the age of one hundred and six.”
“Dang, that’s seriously old.”
“His throne is contested, but no one really wants it anyway.”
“What do you mean?”
“My great grandfather was born second in line to the crown prince, Jared Sayid.”
“Does everyone in your family inherit the middle name of the king?” she interrupted.
“I’m sure you and I can name our children anything we want,” Gus teased her.
“Anyway… finish telling me the story.”
“The crown prince, Jared, died very young, causing the crown to be in limbo. My great grandfather, Marcos thought he should be the new crown prince, but Jared’s widow thought the crown should go to her son, who was a five-year-old at the time. She convinced the king that as long as Marcos doesn’t have an heir, the line should continue through Jared’s blood. Because the king thought Marcos would remain a bachelor forever, he chose to go with the safe route and bestowed the title to Marcos’ five-year-old nephew in order to ensure the bloodline would continue.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Phoebe said. “Who’s to say the nephew will ever have any children?”
“Exactly,” Gus said.
“So, what happened to Marcos?” Phoebe seemed completely engrossed in the story now.
“He called up this chick he met at his best friend’s wedding and asked her to marry him so he could quickly produce an heir before his father died.”
“But his father still hasn’t died.” She shook her head in confirmation.
“Correct,” Gus said. “Which is why the crown is still contested.”
“But how did you end up being born in America?”
“Marcos got tired of dealing with his brother’s widow and moved to Cancun.”
“Okay…” Phoebe creased her brow. “That takes your family closer to the United States.”
“My father came to the U.S. to go to North Carolina State University, met my mother, and started popping out little princes.”
“Very funny,” Phoebe said.
“I came up with it all on my own,” Gus said.
“This is my house.” Phoebe stopped outside a wrought iron fence that enclosed a tiny yard surrounding a tiny house that looked like it needed a new roof, new shutters, a paint job, and who knows how many other repairs.
Gus felt terrible leaving her there when he’d be travelling in his brother’s Mercedes home to his mansion.
“Thanks for everything,” Phoebe said. “I owe you one.”
“How about if we owe each other a date?”
“A date, huh?” She took a step closer and laced her fingers through his. He pulled her close and didn’t hesitate to press his lips to hers again, as he’d done a few hours ago.
That was the moment her dad came barreling out of the tiny house. “Get yer hands off my daughter!”