“Fancy private jet.” Kadin barely moved his lips, almost in full advisor mode, but not yet within earshot of anyone.
“Nice of them to keep us waiting this long,” Eli complained. His cousin’s plane had landed ten minutes prior and Eli and Kadin were baking in the desert sun. Although both were wearing formal linen robes meant to wick away heat and sweat from the body, nothing could tame the sun beating down. But Eli was determined to be the first person his cousin saw upon arriving on the tarmac. Make it clear one of the royal family had come to retrieve him rather than a driver.
Eli’s first thought as Prince Marcos appeared in the open doorway of the private jet was that he was very young, and uncomfortably regal as if this was new to him. What could he expect? The kid had grown up on the American continents. There was nothing regal about America. Haughty, but not regal. A hint of a smile played on his face when noticing Eli and then the kid descended the stairs with confidence.
Too much confidence.
The amount of confidence that dared him to wear his full crown as he arrived in the kingdom, as if asserting his position and dominance. This kid didn’t realize he was about to enter a lion’s den. Eli had two choices; let him get eaten alive or teach him how to tame lions. He’d rely on first impressions to decide how to proceed. He stepped forward and extended his hand, one of the few people in the kingdom equal enough to do so.
“Greetings, my cousin. I’m Eli.”
“Mark—” Prince Marcos reached for his cousin’s hand. Interesting. Of course, Eli had done the same thing in using his nickname upon introduction. The young prince cocked his head to the side and creased his brow. “What’s your real name?”
“Elmer,” Eli said through clenched teeth, wondering how he’d react and which of the American cartoon jokes he’d spout.
“I can see why you go by Eli.” Mark chuckled, not skirting the humor.
“Yeah, what were my parents thinking?” Eli’s fought a smirk and leaned his shoulder against the black Hummer limo again. Being a wealthy prince had its advantages. They traveled in style.
“Who is your father?” Mark asked, probably familiar with Jared, and their father, and the king, but not remembering the lessor prince of the family.
“Crown Prince Omar Sayid of Madain Saleh,” Eli said, raising his chin slightly almost challenging Mark to question his father’s claim to the title. Not sure what made him slip his father’s former title before his name, Eli somehow wanted to remind Mark that when his grandfather left the kingdom forty years ago, the opinion within most of the royal family was that Omar was Crown. The title had been conferred upon his son Jared now, but Eli inherently wanted to make the distinction.
Mark didn’t bat an eyelash or alter his stoic expression. “My grandfather spoke highly of his nephew. Will I have the opportunity to meet him?”
“Absolutely,” Eli said. “We have a planned reception for you this evening.”
“I’m honored,” Mark said, then stepped aside and waved another young man forward. “This is my advisor, Alexander Cohen-Stephenson.”
Eli fought to maintain his own stoic expression. The Cohen family were practically royalty in the Middle East even though they made claim to no physical kingdom. Almost like being a Kennedy in the United States. If Mark’s advisor was a Cohen, that elevated his status considerably.
“Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Alexander.” Eli greeted Alexander in a similar casual style as he’d greeted Mark minus the handshake.
“Likewise, Your Highness.” Alexander nodded his head respectfully.
“And this is my advisor, Kadin,” Eli said, indicating his best friend. Mark smiled and stood erect as Kadin bowed his head regally.
“My honor to meet you, Your Highness,” Kadin said.
While they were yet speaking, several gentlemen were busy lowering a casket from the jet and Eli turned reverently to watch as the late Prince Marcos Sayid was brought to the ground and rolled carefully into a waiting hearse.
“Come,” Eli said, opening the door to the waiting limo. “Let’s escort Prince Marcos home.”