Mark snuck through the quiet hallways as if he was afraid to get caught requesting an audience with his father. The hour was not late, and he’d never had to hide his actions here in his own home.
The light coming from under his father’s door indicated that someone was inside the office. Mark rapped his knuckles lightly and waited.
“It’s open.” King Sayid’s muffled voice gave Mark permission to enter. His office held all the grandeur of any head-of-state. Mark was curious if The Oval Office in America or the Queen of England’s office was as pompous as his father’s. Dark masculine wood furniture accented the off-white sculptured carpet and drapery, gold fixtures, and lighted water feature that trickled down the north wall as if an infinity pool spilled from the ceiling.
“Your Majesty—” Mark bowed in respect upon stepping into the ostentatious room— “May I have a moment of your time.”
“Of course, my son.” The king rose from the desk and came around to offer a leather chair. “You are welcome any time.”
“Thank you, father.” Mark sat in the proffered chair and rubbed his sweaty palms across his pantlegs, forcing himself to breathe evenly. The king sat opposite him on the matching chair.
“What’s on your mind, You Highness?” Sayid asked formally.
“The future of our kingdom, Your Majesty.” Mark took courage and answered in a similar tone. “I want you to name me Crown. Immediately.”
“What brought this on suddenly?” his father asked, cocking his head to the side. “It’s only been a year since your brother died. There’s no hurry.”
“I sense there is urgency,” Mark said. “Especially in light of what happened this evening.”
“What happened this evening?” Sayid spoke dismissively and brushed a fleck of lint from his slacks.
“There was another attempt at harming my wife,” Mark said, not coming right out and saying he suspected Tayma of foul play. He was still reading his father’s reaction.
“I’ll start an inquiry to see if we can figure out who’s behind these… attempts.”
“That’s not good enough, father,” Mark said. “It’s time you made a firm declaration and named me Crown. The kingdom deserves to know your intention for your successor. Jared reminded me on his deathbed, that as long as our father is still alive, I will not be called upon to lead. It is my hope that you will lead our kingdom as long as humanly possible. But the people need to know who will follow you. I am the only viable candidate for Crown and it’s time you state that as a declaration.”
“You’re right, son.” King Sayid pursed his lips and his gaze strayed to the far corner, unfocused and sad. “I think… naming you Crown feels like admitting that my Jared is no longer with us.”
“I miss him too, father.” Mark felt emotion prick his eyes and he forced himself to maintain his dignity. “But we will carry on his legacy as he would want us to.”
“You will do a fine job, serving in his stead.”
“Thank you, father.” Mark bowed. “When should we schedule my coronation?”
“I’ll check with my advisers and determine the appropriate date for a National holiday.”
Before they could discuss the issue further, the door to the king’s office burst open and the Princess of Tayma strode into the room. “Finally. I couldn’t find either of his nannies and thought I was going to have to put Omar to bed without any help. But thankfully I found them both on the back-patio smoking and I insisted that they come inside and do their job—” Tayma stopped short when she realized the king was not alone.
Mark stood slowly and held his chin high, narrowing his eyes at his sister-in-law.
“What is he doing here?” Tayma asked, stepping closer to the king.
“We were just discussing my coronation,” Mark said. “Since your husband died over a year ago and it’s time we got on with naming his successor.”
“My husband’s successor is Omar,” Tayma said confidently.
“I’m talking about the king’s successor,” Mark said. “A crown prince does not have a successor.”
“Minutia.” Tayma waved her hand dismissively. “My son is next in line. Nothing more needs to be discussed.”
“How about if we discuss how your presence in this meeting is not required and you can show your way out the door,” Mark said.
“I already had plans with—eh, a meeting scheduled with—the king prior to your arrival. It is you who needs to leave.”
“So, it’s true?” Mark asked. “The rumors… are true?”
Sayid shoved his hands in his pockets but didn’t bother answering. He held his head high as if he had nothing to apologize about.
“The kingdom seems to be running shy on princes so you’re just gonna dig your claws into the king?”
“That’s an interesting way to view the situation.” Tayma smirked.
“Does mother know about this?” Mark asked his father. “Your… queen.”
“Your mother will always be the queen, son. Even when I take a second wife.”
“You plan to make her a wife?” Mark nearly yelled at his father and pointed at the princess. “She’s your daughter-in-law!”
“Your mother’s not able to have any more children,” Sayid said, his voice calm with reason. “She completely understands my position.”
“Until the princess decides to poison her also,” Mark grumbled. “Then the Princess of Tayma will take her place as the Queen of Madain Saleh. Is that how this will work?”
Tayma stepped over to rest her hand on the king’s arm and turned to Mark with a smirk.
“Will her children call you grandfather?” Mark sneered.
“That’s enough, son.” Sayid’s voice was calm but firm.
“You’re right. It is enough. My wife and I are taking a holiday to visit Nicolas and his family. Let me know what date you decide for my coronation.”
With that, Mark strode confidently from his father’s office, disgusted.