“Well, I can see why you’re not answering my calls and texts,” Mark said from the doorway.
Alex nearly fell over from where he was leaning back in his chair with his feet propped up, openly flirting with his new friend, Krystina. “Your Highness? What are you doing here?”
As Mark chuckled, Alex sprang to his feet, nearly knocking over his Styrofoam cup of root beer. Fast food wrappers and empty plastic bowls from their chicken salads were strewn across the table in the back room of the county register of deeds office, along with valuable maps and engineering drawings.
Krystina also stood, and her jaw dropped when she saw who was standing in the doorway to her office.
“I see you’re hard at work,” Mark said with a gleam in his eyes. He stepped around the table and held out a hand to Krystina. “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced. I’m Marcos Sayid, but most of my friends call me Mark.”
“I’m Krystina,” she whispered and hesitantly placed her hand in his. She didn’t seem as star-struck by being introduced to Mark as she had been when she’d met Alex, which made him happy. If anything, she was nervous and intimidated by Mark.
“Don’t let him fool you,” Alex said. “Mark doesn’t have friends; he has subjects. And they all call him ‘Your Highness’.”
“Very funny, Councilman,” Mark said playfully. “You and your constituents are not my subjects. But I would hope we could still be friends.”
“Fine, if you insist.” Alex turned to Krystina. “Mark and I were best friends before I became his advisor, so I’ll let that one pass.”
“So… you really are a prince?” Krystina asked, nervously looking up at Mark.
“That’s what the tell me,” Mark said.
“How did you find me over here?” Alex asked, glancing at his watch. “Is it already time for our meeting?”
“Your secretary told me the location where she had your take-out lunch delivered,” Mark said. “And no, we still have a few hours before your meeting. But I want to see what you’ve come up with.”
“A lot, actually,” Alex said, pulling up an extra chair for Mark and seating himself back at the large wooden table that dominated the small office.
Before returning to her seat, Krystina gathered up the fast food wrappers and shoved them in the wastebasket near the door. As if reading Alex’s mind, she pulled the door to her office shut and sat across from him.
Alex forced himself to focus on his prince and the potential scandals they were entrenched in and try to ignore the beautiful blonde who had monopolized his afternoon. When he had committed his life of service to Prince Marcos, he made a vow to be his helper and advisor above all else.
If this budding relationship was meant to be, Krystina would still be sitting across from him in an hour or two after he’d given his full attention to Mark. Still, Alex couldn’t help glancing in her direction and sharing a quick little grin. She winked back at him and he cleared his throat, forcing his eyes back to the engineering plans for one of the properties in question.
“This is just one example,” Alex said, pointing at the drawing. “This is the rendering of the solar array that was planned for this property, and these are the tax records on file with the county.” Alex handed Mark a file.
“Looks good so far,” Mark said, spreading the file in front of him on the table.
“And this”—Alex placed a printed map on top of everything— “is a that same property on Google Maps, the date on which was updated last month.”
“Whoa.” Mark held up the map. “There are clearly two solar arrays on that landscape.”
“Your Highness, we have a problem.”
“I think we should change our tactics at our dinner meeting tonight,” Mark said. “I think we should talk about the kook at the council meeting and see how they react.”
“I’ll follow your lead on that,” Alex said. “And Krystina and I will keep sifting through files to prepare a case.”
“We have no idea how deep this goes into local government and all the contractors involved,” Mark said. “Are you prepared to stand firm if—when—the FBI gets involved?”
“What?” Krystina interrupted. “You want to get the FBI involved?”
“Yes, that is the appropriate next step in a case like this.” Mark’s tone was completely serious. “For now, this information can’t leave this room or all three of our livelihoods—and perhaps our lives—are in jeopardy.”
“Okay,” Krystina whispered, her eyes wide.
“I’m going to scan these documents and save them to several secure locations,” Alex said. “I wouldn’t want this evidence to miraculously disappear from county records.”
“We have a scanner right here.” Krystina stood and crossed the small office. “We could get started right now.”
“Let’s do this,” Mark said, placing the map on top of the file. He shoved the whole stack gently to the other side of the table. “Start with this one.”