“It doesn’t matter how many little princes you and your new princess pop out. My son was still the first born and has claim to the title.” Jared’s widow didn’t wait for Mark and Lyla to get unpacked before she stormed into their personal bedroom suite asserting her dominance and making it very clear she wasn’t backing down.
While Mark and Lyla had been on their honeymoon, the Princess of Tayma had continued to spend a great deal of time with the king and her young son Omar, feigning affection in order to gain favor.
“I don’t need an heir to claim my title,” Mark said with disdain. “As much as I love my nephew, he will never be my king.”
“Mark my words, Marcos,” Tayma said, purposely degrading him with her use of his given name rather than his title. “I will convince your father to name Omar as Crown even if Lyla is pregnant.”
“Her Highness, as you will call her, is not required to be with child for me to claim my title, either. And you would do well to remember your place, princess.”
“That’s Your Highness to you, Marcos,” Tayma said flippantly.
“I will afford your title the respect it deserves when you have earned that respect,” Mark said. “Now leave my residence before I have you arrested.”
“As if.” Tayma flipped her long braid over her shoulder then glanced dismissively at the woman challenging her position. She said with a sickly-sweet voice, “It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Lyla.” Tayma lifted her chin and marched from the room.
“Gee, she’s friendly,” Lyla said with a chuckle. “I understand now why you were stressed to the point of breaking when we first met. She brings out the worst in you.”
“I apologize that you had to see that side of me,” Mark said. “I will do my best to reign in my anger when dealing with the princess.”
“She’s a handful,” Lyla said. “What did your brother ever see in her?”
“Her title,” Mark said. “Theirs was an arranged marriage.”
“Oh.” Lyla wrinkled her nose. “I’m glad you weren’t Crown back then.”
“Me too. It is tradition that the crown prince marry at the age of sixteen.”
“Sixteen?” Lyla’s jaw gaped. “How old was the princess?”
“Eighteen, I think.” Mark shrugged.
“Dang, she had to marry a little boy. No wonder she’s cranky.”
“How are you holding up?” Mark asked. “Are you completely overwhelmed? I haven’t even presented you to the king and queen yet.”
“Do you always refer to your parents that way?” Lyla asked.
“I slip occasionally, but it’s a good habit to get into just to maintain their status as a rule of thumb and then we don’t make mistakes in front of the staff or members of the community.”
“Good point, I guess.” Lyla slumped into a chair, defeated. “To answer your question, yes, I am overwhelmed. But I’m a big girl. I can handle it.”
“What do you think of your living quarters, Your Highness?” Mark spun around, holding out his arms to show off the grandeur in which she would be living.
“Love the Persian rugs,” she said with a teasing grin. “Hate the sand.”
“I will ignore your comment about the sand since we met in Dubai. If you hadn’t wanted to live within the blazing desert, you wouldn’t have come to the Middle East.” Mark laid himself down on the large Persian rug in the middle of their bedroom and propped himself on his elbow, wagging his eyebrows at her.
“I was on vacation, Your Highness. If you remember correctly, it was never my intention to get married at all.” Lyla stalked forward like a lioness on the attack.
When she got close enough, Mark grabbed her playfully and rolled her onto the carpet, growling and tickling her neck.
“Stop!” Lyla cried out. “You’re gonna make me pee my pants.”
“Not on the Persian rug, woman.” Mark pulled back but kept a gleam in his eye. “This thing cost more than my Range Rover.”
“I guess you better stop tickling me then.” Lyla relaxed into Mark’s arms and he lowered his face to hers for a lingering kiss.
“Your Highness, is everything all right?” Collins came rushing into their bedroom suite, the door of which was still wide open from when Tayma stormed out. “Oh! I am so sorry!” Collins started backing out of the room with his hand covering his eyes.
“Collins, stop,” Mark called. “Come back. We were just goofing around.” He sat up and offered a hand to Lyla.
“Yes, His Highness was just showing me the… lovely furnishings in my new bed chambers. Isn’t that right, darling?” Lyla raised her brows and batted her eyelashes at Mark.
“Her Highness is quite fond of Persian rugs,” Mark explained to his manservant and he and Lyla both cracked up.
“I’m sorry to have disturbed your… uh… tour of her new chambers,” Collins said. “I’ll just pull the door closed on my way out.”
“Wait, no, please.” Mark scrambled to get off the floor and helped Lyla up as well. “I need your help.”
“How can I be of service, Your Highness?” Collins lowered his head in a respectful bow.
“We are expected to make an appearance before the king and queen, and then to have dinner with them,” Mark said. “I will need to be dressed for the occasion, as will Her Highness. Have we secured a lady for her? And have her belongings been delivered?”
“Yes, Your Highness,” Collins said. “The princess will find that her things have been arranged in her closet and can be rearranged to her liking. Shall I send up her maid?”
“Uh… in a few hours,” Mark said. “We just arrived and will need some time to… uh… rest after our long flight. Travelling… ya know.” Mark’s attention was drawn once again to his wife, who raised her eyebrows and smirked.
“May I now be excused and pull the door shut on my way out?” Collins asked, a hint of desperation at the end of his question.
“Please do…” Mark’s gaze never left his wife’s as he pulled her gently in the direction of their large, marble bathroom. He barely registered the main door to the suite latching quietly as he raised his brow suggestively. “Bubble bath?”
“Heck yeah.” Lyla said, pulling closed the door to the spacious bathroom, offering that little extra degree of privacy.
An audience with the king and queen could wait. They had more important things to do first.
A stand alone novella in the All's Fair in Love and Sports Series by Julie L. Spencer.