“I don’t like you,” Tayma said through clenched teeth and a fake smile.
“No way!” Lyla turned to her with an equally fake smile, sarcasm dripping from her words. She laid her hand on Tayma’s forearm as if they were engaging in girl talk. No one outside a ten-foot radius would have a clue they weren’t the best of friends, and no one could hear them except Mark and Collins. There were bodyguards in between them and the rest of the market square. “And here I thought we were finally having a breakthrough.”
“Not a chance.” Tayma lifted a long, pink scarf off a vendor’s table and held it up to Lyla’s face as if to check whether the scarf was her color. “As long as there’s the possibility that you could have a son and he might challenge my little prince, you will need to sleep with one eye open.”
“Is that a threat, princess?” Lyla asked with a cheerful laugh, glancing behind to offer Mark a smile. He knew she was biting her tongue about the things she wished she could say to Tayma.
“That’s a promise,” Tayma said, draping her arm through Lyla’s as they walked through the dusty town square. Although paved roads and concrete sidewalks attempted to provide a sure footing, the constantly blowing sand swept the pavement clean even as the next layer of sand was deposited.
Mark wasn’t thrilled with the direction this conversation was turning but he wanted to give the women space to get to know one another. He held back and raised his eyebrows to Collins.
“On it,” Collins mumbled, pulling out his cell phone, no doubt ordering additional security for Lyla.
He knew Lyla wasn’t happy here in his kingdom, if that’s what it could be called. The only real benefit Madain Saleh offered to the world was a very deep and very refreshing natural aquifer in an otherwise barren desert wasteland.
Dating back well over two thousand years, this was the only stop between Tabuk and Medina before there were cars.
The original lonely castle still stood, worn by the elements and now used mainly as an historic marker where foreigners came to take pictures with the hieroglyphics and view the ancient tombs.
No longer used for its original purpose, the stone structure had been replaced by a state-of-the-art palace with modern facilities and high-speed internet.
Mark sensed he and Lyla wouldn’t live here much longer. She wasn’t thrilled about the linen scarves wrapped around her head, neck and shoulders, mostly as protection from the elements rather than to show her submissiveness to her husband. She hated the sand and despised her sister-in-law.
He had already begun devising plans on how to get her out of the desert while still maintaining his title and attempting to keep his promise to his older brother.
The Princess of Tayma wasn’t giving up and he wanted to demand she go home to her own kingdom and assert her dominance on someone other than his wife. A beautiful oasis dating back to the sixth century before Christ, Tayma was a kingdom the princess should be proud to call her own. Yet here she was in Medain Saleh, causing more trouble than she was worth.
But she had a little boy who she insisted was next in line to the throne. Mark wouldn’t put it past her to go to extreme measures to keep that status quo, and he intended to get his wife out of her line of fire.
If only he hadn’t promised his brother to help raise his nephew. He’d be free to travel the world with his bride. If only…