“I’ll come with you to meet her, Eli.” Savannah took his hand and pulled Eli toward the door of the playroom.
“I don’t want to meet her,” Eli whined, resisting, but only a little. “I don’t want to have anything to do with her.” He had made up his eight-year-old mind. He was too young to be an uncle.
Heck, his seventeen-year-old brother was too young to be a father. But the crown prince of the Kingdom of Madain Saleh was required to marry at the age of sixteen and expected to produce an heir immediately.
Jared had no argument getting married at sixteen and frequently shared details with Eli that his little ears didn’t want to hear.
Born Prince Elmer Sayid, Eli was just glad he hadn’t been born first. He was quite content hanging out with his friends in the little homeschool that had been established for the children of the palace.
Savannah, the daughter of the king’s captain of the guard, was his best friend, and her younger brother, Kadin followed them around like a puppy dog.
They never treated him special because he was a prince. Most everyone at the palace brushed him aside. Because he was so far removed from the title of Crown, he was of little importance.
Being the lesser prince never bothered him until now. He was free to run and play and have fun with his friends while his brother, Jared, had to learn how to run their kingdom. Not that Jared took his duties seriously.
Jared loved being Crown Prince for the perks. He was treated like a god and fawned over. It wasn’t enough to be married to an eighteen-year-old princess, Jared hadn’t attended the birth of his daughter because he was drunk and in bed with one of his many lovers.
And now Eli was expected to smile and pretend he was happy for his brother and congratulate him and profess his undying devotion to the baby princess who had just shoved him even further away from any claim to the title of Crown. Not that he cared.
“I’ll come with you too, Eli,” Kadin said. He grabbed Eli’s other hand and tugged.
Eli couldn’t resist them both. He dragged his feet all the way to the nursery where two nannies were already employed round the clock to care for the baby.
Jared would never lift a finger to change a diaper of feed the little princess, and likely his young bride wouldn’t either.
The Princess of Linah wasn’t exactly the mothering type. She had been selected and arranged to marry Jared based on her lineage, beauty, and connections in Jordon.
“There you are. It’s about time.” Jared’s brow creased when Savannah pushed Eli in the door of the nursery. “Can we get this family photo done already. I have other plans.”
Eli wanted to ask her name but bit his tongue. Highlighting Jared’s behavior in front of the entire royal family wouldn’t gain either of them favor.
Jared stood dutifully behind and to the left of his wife, who was holding a little pink bundle. Their great-grandparents King Sayid and Queen Salaina took their place of honor at the far left of the group. The king’s second wife, Eli’s grandmother, the Princess of Tayma stood next to her son, Eli’s father Prince Omar, with their mother to his right.
Eli didn’t know where he fit in this crazy group. He was the only man in the room not wearing a crown, because he wasn’t old enough, and his status had now been downgraded below that of his infant niece. Why even pose for the photograph?
As he took his place to the far right of the group, Eli glanced over at his two best friends, the only people he knew cared about him unconditionally and found them both making funny faces at him.
The smile that lit Eli’s face at precisely the moment the photographer took the group photo of the Sayid Royal Family, had nothing to do with happiness in his family, and everything to do with his goofy best friends.