The wedding was perfect. Princess Nimrah was elegant. Guests travelled from all over the globe. Champagne flowed. Delicacies were prepared and served in abundance.
And the murder was planned for that evening.
No one knew who the murderer was… except everyone knew who the murderer was.
Plans had been set in place years prior. Meetings had been held. Troops rallied. Allegiances bought and sold.
Prince Jared placed Princess Nimrah’s hand in Ahmed’s in a time-honored tradition of a father giving his daughter to be married. The smirk he gave Ahmed was almost as telling as the gift.
Ahmed bowed before King Sayid as a crown was placed atop his head and his coronation was complete. He posed for countless photos beside his seventeen-year-old bride, his new father-in-law, who was fifteen years his junior, and his prince, Omar, the man he planned to murder. The man who had been his best friend almost as long as Eli had been alive.
Eli was helpless. He’d warned his father repeatedly, but Prince Omar refused to have his advisor arrested. Omar insisted that Ahmed would never hurt him, regardless of the evidence against him.
That night Omar escorted his wife, Princess Nijah, to their suite with a confident swagger and Eli’s heart ached wanting to protect his parents.
The following morning, nothing had changed. The only people who didn’t come to brunch were the bride and groom, as would be expected.
There was an eerie calm throughout the palace, eyebrows raised, shoulders shrugged, no one wanted to ask the question on everyone’s minds. What happened to the plan?
Eli didn’t want to complain. His father was, after all, still alive and all was normal in the kingdom. The palace staff gradually returned the throne room and reception hall back to their normal splendor and elegance showing no signs of a royal wedding. Guests who had been visiting gradually left to return to their own lands, international relations strengthened.
Business meetings resumed, imports and exports discussed, water shortages remedied, skirmishes between tribal communities resolved. Trips throughout the Middle East as well as to Europe, Mexico, and the United States were planned.
Prince Marcos had not returned to the kingdom for Princess Nimrah’s wedding because Hazel was newly pregnant again—for the third time. They’d waited the minimum six weeks after Aaron had been born to conceive Prince Owen, and six weeks after Owen to conceive again. Mark refused to leave Hazel with two babies and morning sickness just to attend the wedding of his spoiled second cousin, royalty or not.
Mark and Eli had made several appearances together over the past year as Eli traveled the world representing Madain Saleh on the UN Security Council. The world knew Crown Prince Marcos Sayid was living in America to be with his wife and that was an acceptable excuse.
The king and Prince Omar gradually laid more and more responsibilities on Eli’s shoulders as Jared continued to insist he was next in line and his daughter, Nimrah, was slated to become Crown Princess with her husband Prince Ahmed prepared to lead the country as king. Their extravagant lifestyle, traveling the world and partying, drew negative attention as if they were Hollywood celebrities that were tolerated because they spent money and threw lavish parties in Dubai, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles.
Ahmed frequently traveled back and forth to the kingdom, meeting with his now-former prince, and Prince Omar’s new advisor, Kurtis. Eli was comforted when Ahmed was away, and on-edge when he was in-kingdom, still suspecting he was plotting Omar’s demise.
Three months after the wedding, Jared began holding secret meetings again, rallying his troops, openly stating his son-in-law, Ahmed, intended to murder Prince Omar.
Eli warned his father, again, and his father ignored the warnings, again.
Then one day a scream was heard throughout the palace when a maid entered the main foyer to find a man lying in his own blood, having fallen from the upper balcony to his death with a dagger to his chest. The dagger belonged to Prince Ahmed.
The murdered man was Prince Jared Sayid.