“I don’t think it fully set in that Mark was a prince until I saw him wearing his crown Saturday night,” Krystina said. “You don’t normally see princes reading bedtime stories and attempting bath time without assistance from a nanny or something.”
“You don’t normally see princes at all in the Hudson Valley of New York state,” Alex said. He and Krystina were walking along the Kingston Point Rail Trail looking out over the Hudson River, enjoying the Monday afternoon sunshine during her lunchbreak.
“Yeah, why is he here? Shouldn’t he be running his country?” Krystina had changed out of her dress shoes and laced up sneakers to go for their walk. She looked adorable in her professional skirt and blouse sporting bobby socks and Keds.
“Hazel wanted to live by a waterfall,” Alex explained. “Madain Saleh is a desert surrounded by a desert.” The oasis where the Sayid’s ruled was a tiny spot of land valued for an ancient spring of pure water that bubbles up from somewhere below the earth’s surface.
Krystina giggled. “Well, he sure found her a pretty waterfall to live near.”
“I found that waterfall, thank-you-very-much.” Alex puffed out his chest and lifted his chin. “Searching for that house launched my career as a real estate agent.”
“And a fine real estate agent you are, my dear.” Krystina answered his haughty bragging with a playful endearment of her own. They laughed lightly and Alex pulled her just a little closer.
“He’s not needed in his kingdom right now.” Alex continued his explanation. “The king is still alive and ruling. Mark has a few cousins vying for his place on the throne, even though King Sayid chose Marcos as the crown prince.”
“Shouldn’t he be learning how to run the country?” Krystina asked. “If he’s going to rule someday.”
“He keeps in close contact with the king,” Alex said. “Why? Are you trying to get rid of me?”
“Get rid of you?” Krystina creased her brow. “Why would you think that?”
“If he goes, I go.”
“I’m Prince Marcos Sayid’s advisor,” Alex said. “I’ve committed my life in service to my prince.”
“Why do you always refer to him as your prince? It’s almost possessive.”
“The best way to understand the possessive nature is to think of having the royal family in one space, each adult prince or princess has his or her own advisor. No advisor is assigned to more than one member of the royal family. Thus, I am his advisor and he is my prince. While we are attending any formal event, especially at the palace, we are rarely more than a few feet apart.”
“That’s really weird.” Krystina was quiet for moment as they walked, then she spoke very softly. “So, you would really have to leave if he does?”
“What if you wanted to get married or something.” She waved her hand in the air dismissively.
“Mark’s married. Why couldn’t I be?”
“But wouldn’t you have to live over there?” she asked.
“How would that be different than if I were a serviceman deployed in the Middle East?”
“I guess it wouldn’t be,” she agreed.
“The big difference is, I have a private jet and can come home to America anytime I want.” He hesitated and turned to face her, taking both of her hands in his. “Or, I could bring my wife to live with me in the palace.”
“Is the palace beautiful?” she asked, a note of awe in her voice.
“Elegant and ostentatious and adorned in gold and silks, with shining white marble flooring, crystal chandeliers hanging from cathedral ceilings, velvet thrones and Persian tapestries.”
“I’d like to see that someday.” Krystina stepped closer, her blue eyes a deeper color than usual, her cheeks flushed from their walk.
“I’d like to take you there someday.” Alex also took a step closer, his hands still clasping hers. His voice was soft and reverent.
“Planning a trip there anytime soon?” she asked, hope in her inflection.
“Not until Hazel stops popping out baby princes once a year.” Alex chuckled. “Hard to travel while pregnant and toting around a couple of car seats and diaper bags.”
“I hadn’t thought of that.” She still hadn’t backed away, so Alex released her hands and wrapped his around her waist, pulling her even closer. Little effort would be required for him to lean down and brush his lips with hers. Was it too soon for that? They’d spent time together almost every day since they’d met a week ago. He wanted to take their relationship to the next level but knew he needed to come clean and tell her what he’d done.
“I have a confession to make,” Alex said, cringing from the stress of what he was about to do.
He hated to break up their lovely afternoon, but if he wanted to pursue a relationship with Krystina he couldn’t allow this secret to hang between them.
“Your best friend’s a prince,” Krystina guessed, resting her hands gently on his arms. “Oh, wait, I already knew that confession.”
“That is common knowledge.” Alex glanced at the walking path then lifted his gaze again. “No, this is a little more serious.”
“Whatever it is, I’m sure we can get through this together.” Her whispered answer was reassuring but it didn’t stop his heart from racing.
“I thought you were in on it,” Alex admitted, averting his eyes across the Hudson River so she couldn’t see his guilt.
“In on what?” Her innocent naivete was endearing.
“The plot to embezzle cash away from the county treasury.”
“What?” Krystina dropped her hands and stepped away pulling herself out of his arms.
“I don’t think that now.” Alex tried to backpedal. “I mean, I can’t know for sure. You do have full access to every file in the county. If anyone would know details, you would.”
“How could you think that about me?” Her eyes were full of fire. “And here I was starting to fall for you.”
“I’m falling for you too,” Alex said, trying to reach for her hand again.
“Don’t touch me,” she snapped at him. She shook her head in disbelief, turned on her heel and strode back toward his car.