“Okay, after I pull your father away, spend some time with your mom. I really don’t want the captain to see you before I have a chance to talk with him.”
“Don’t take too long.” Savannah wrapped her arms around Eli’s waist. “I don’t want to be away from you.”
“If all goes well, hopefully this is the last night we have to sleep apart.” Eli gazed down brushing her hair away from her face and was tempted to press his lips to hers again. He forced himself some restraint, knowing he wouldn’t want to stop. He needed to see her father with a clear head and without swollen lips. The thought brought out a tiny smile. “Now go hide around the corner while I retrieve your father.”
“Okay, okay.” She lifted onto her toes to plant one tiny kiss on his mouth and hurried into the next hallway.
Eli took a deep, steadying breath and stepped forward, ready to get this over with. He reached up and wrapped his knuckles on the thick, ornately carved wooden door.
Captain Robert Dumont, of the king’s royal guard, opened the door to his apartment with his usual stoic, confident expression. One of the few people in the kingdom not required to greet the royal family with a nod or bow, the captain held his chin aloft. “Your Highness, welcome.”
Robert stepped aside, holding the door open. Few doors in the palace were closed to the royal family and turning away a prince would never occur to even the captain of the guard.
But Eli didn’t enter the elegant apartment reserved for the captain and his family.
“Captain, if you would, I’d like to have a word with you alone,” Eli said with reverence and respect, in no way demanding an audience. “Would you be willing to join me for a walk?”
Glancing into his apartment where his wife, Virginia, stood with a soft smile, Robert answered with a curt nod. “Of course.” He pulled the door closed behind him and turned down the hall in the direction where Savannah was hiding.
“This way, please.” Eli’s words were a little too demanding, and he softened his tone. “If that’s okay with you.”
“Your Highness, you are quite literally allowed to demand me to do whatever you want.” Robert didn’t crack a smile but turned to follow Eli’s direction.
“In that case, I demand you to think of me as a man for a few moments and forget I’m a prince.”
Robert finally chuckled and relaxed. “Whatever you say, Your… uh… Elmer.”
“Captain Dumont, I’ll get right to the point. I’d like to marry your daughter.”
“Have you any other daughters of whom I’m not aware?”
Brushing aside Eli’s snarky comment, Robert asked, “When?”
“Tomorrow?” Robert stopped short.
“Yes, sir.” Eli turned to meet the captain where he had stopped.
“I believe we have a funeral to attend tomorrow,” Robert said.
“Which is why we’re waiting.”
“Waiting?” Robert raised his eyebrows.
“Until after the funeral, yes.”
“Aside from my shock at this declaration, I’m curious how you’re planning to handle the logistics of her being in Jerusalem at the university and you being here in the kingdom.”
“I flew her home this morning,” Eli said.
“My daughter is here?” Robert turned to face Eli then looked up and down the hall. “Where?”
“Please don’t ask me that,” Eli requested. “I don’t wish to lie, but I would really like a moment with just you before you spend the remainder of the evening with your daughter and your wife.”
Robert cocked his head to the side. “Why?”
“I know it’s an old-fashioned notion, but I’m asking for your permission and blessing.”
“I appreciate the sentiment, but shouldn’t the permission be granted by the king? As much as you’d like me to think of you as a man and not as a prince, the reality is, you are a prince. There are protocols that must be followed. Have they not already chosen a princess from some far-off land to be your wife?”
“The king has already given us his blessing,” Eli said. “We asked him an hour ago. But as you said, the reality a me being a prince means my wedding will include a coronation and my wife will be named a princess. I want to know you are okay with Savannah being named as my princess.”
“Why would I have a problem with that, son?” In a rare show of endearment, Robert placed his hands upon Eli’s shoulders and met his gaze.
“There are many responsibilities that accompany the title, and not all of them are pleasant.”
“How does she feel about the prospect of marrying you?”
“She asked if we could have the king perform the ceremony this afternoon if possible.” Eli gulped, not wanting to admit to Savannah’s father the physical reasons why they’d like to be married immediately.
Robert suddenly leaned his head back and laughed heartily. Dropping his arms, he met Eli’s gaze again and lifted his eyebrows with a knowing expression. “I see you continue your insistence of maintaining purity until marriage.”
“Why is that such a foreign concept to people?” Eli asked.
“The notion doesn’t exactly run in your family.” Robert chuckled then must have realized the way he had just spoken ill of the royals to whom he’d sworn his loyalty and protection. He straitened his back and raised his chin. “I mean… uh…”
“Don’t worry about saying what the rest of us are thinking but aren’t willing to admit out loud, at least not in my presence. You might want to keep your opinions to yourself in front of others.”
“You did ask me to treat you like a man and not a prince.” Robert seemed to be holding his breath waiting for reprimand.
“I did indeed,” Eli said, then continued. “I’d like you to spend some time with Savannah this evening and decide for yourself if she’s in love with me and if you’re okay with her marrying me. Then, if you feel so inclined, I’d love to have your blessing.”
“I don’t need to spend time with her to know your character, Your Highness. I’ve known you since before you were born. My son is your advisor. My daughter has been your playmate all her life. But most importantly, I know that you love her unconditionally and have her best interests in your heart.”
“I do, captain.” Eli gulped and nodded.
“Then you have my blessing, Your Highness,” Robert said with reverence.
“Thank you, sir.” In an unprecedented move, Eli threw his arms around Robert and hugged him like he would a father, if his own father wasn’t a stuffy and cynical man.
Robert hesitated and then returned the hug.
Eli suddenly pulled away from his future father-in-law with a renewed excitement. “I’m going now to have the king draw up the proper paperwork, and ensure that Savannah’s crown is commissioned, and to prepare my suite for her to move in with me, and I already know which ring she has picked out, and she’s waiting for you in your apartment. Thank you, captain! I’ll see you at the funeral tomorrow. You won’t regret this, I promise.”
Without waiting for Robert to answer, Eli hurried down the hall toward his great-grandfather’s office. The proper contracts, the queen’s blessing, and the gift from her collection of royal jewels, were his last hurtles. That, and about twenty-four hours of tortuous waiting.