“We need to leave, Your Highness,” Collins said, pulling the double doors to their suite shut behind them. “There have been too many incidents. The three of you aren’t safe here.”
“What happened?” Nasrin asked as Lyla took Benjamin from her arms. The young lady hired to be Lyla’s assistant and trusted adviser had gradually taken on the role of nanny as well.
Lyla still insisted on being Benjamin’s primary caregiver but welcomed the extra set of hands especially during times when she was expected at dinner with the royal family. Mark suspected tonight was the last time Lyla would be told when and where and with whom to eat a meal. She strode over to her favorite intricately carved rocking chair she’d convinced him was required for young mothers and draped a silk scarf across her shoulder to cover any exposed parts while she nursed their baby.
Collins and Nasrin were so frequently in the royal suite that no one was fazed by nursing and diaper changes and cleaning baby spit up off the polished marble floor. Collins had even been known to change a diaper or two and was always on hand to fetch whatever the ladies needed, even if that meant making a run to the market. Mark suspected Collins and Nasrin had grown affectionate toward one another, but no one had come right out to admit anything.
Each of them had a suite of rooms on opposite sides of Mark and Lyla’s to have them easily accessible should they be needed. But the four of them frequently found themselves congregating in the chic sitting area centrally located near the nursery.
“There’s no way I can have that soup tested here in the kingdom because I don’t trust anyone.” Collins paced the marble floor, avoiding the largest of Mark’s prized Persian rugs, visibly distraught.
“I want to speak to the king tonight,” Mark said, collapsing onto the brocade sofa near where his wife fed Benjamin. “But I suspect his answer will be dismissive. He doesn’t seem to see any faults with Tayma.”
“May I speak frankly, Your Highness?” Collins stopped pacing and his expression was one of fear that he would be chastised for whatever he was about to say.
“Of course,” Mark said. “I value your council.”
“I suspect they’re having an affair.”
“What?” Mark sat forward and glared up at his adviser. “The king? And the Princess of Tayma?”
“And I think the queen is aware.”
“How do you know of such things?” Mark rested his elbows on his knees and bowed forward, gripping his hands into his hair as if he could pull the words he’d heard back out of his mind.
“The palace has many eyes and many ears,” Collins said.
“I agree with your adviser’s assessment, Your Highness.” Nasrin stepped closer to Collins, lifting her chin with confidence. “There is talk.”
“And you’ve only now decided to tell me this?”
“Prior to this evening, my suspicion was a hunch. After what happened tonight, I’m quite confident.”
Mark felt his heart plummet. He didn’t want to think of his father that way.
Lyla piped in her opinion. “Did you notice how none of them acknowledged my concern about the soup? And then changed the subject, allowing Tayma to steer the conversation away from my concern about being poisoned?”
“Poisoned?” Nasrin rushed to Lyla’s side, kneeling next to her chair and placing her hand on Lyla’s arm. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Don’t worry, I didn’t actually eat any of the soup.” Lyla patted Nasrin’s hand. “I found the remainder of the conversation fascinating though. Only in a monarchy are a couple’s marital relations a topic of national interest.”
“Your Highness, if I may return to my original concern—” Collins nodded briefly to Lyla and then turned to Mark— “How soon can we leave?”
“We can stay in Dubai until our yacht is ready,” Mark said, standing.
Mark glanced around at his posh surroundings with its gilded tapestries and pure gold accents on hand-carved furniture with the finest craftmanship he desired. He reminded himself his money could recreate the luxury he had come to expect.
He reached his hand down and brushed the backs of his fingers across Lyla’s cheek. “You two please stay with Lyla and Benjamin while I go claim an audience with the king. Depending on his reaction, we’ll leave quietly in the next day or two.”
Mark didn’t wait for anyone’s answer, just strode from the room and pulled the double doors to their suite closed on his way out.
A stand alone novella in the All's Fair in Love and Sports Series by Julie L. Spencer.