“Two years ago, I came home from college and took a job in the county building permits office. While I’d been away at the university, these four cocky rich guys moved into town and started a company with this state-of-the-art factory building solar panels and stuff. Everyone in town loved these four guys because they provided about a hundred new jobs.”
“Seventy-six, actually.” Alex coughed playfully.
“Okay, seventy-six new jobs. Close enough. Anyway, one of the guys was so arrogant he challenged our long-standing mayor and won. One of the guys was a complete recluse and lived across the river in a super fancy house with his young bride and their baby boy. He was rumored to be a prince or sultan or something, but no one really knew because he didn’t show his face in public.”
“Didn’t mean to be so mysterious,” Mark said.
“Shh…” Hazel said. “I want to hear the rest of the story.”
“The other two guys both ran for city council. That’s when I first saw Alex.” Krystina squeezed his hands and he felt his cheeks heat. Yep, he was blushing. “One of the guys was more like a used car salesman and he mostly ran the business and the factory.
“The other guy was a real estate developer, a little more reserved, content to allow his buddies to take the spotlight. But his sultry brown eyes wandered the crowd, surveying everything and everyone. He had a cocky smile and oozed the kind of confidence a guy can only get by being the richest man in the room.”
“Second richest if Prince Marcos was in the room.” Alex winked at Krystina and let go of her hand long enough to reach over to Mark for a fist bump. “Sorry, continue.”
“Anyway, I couldn’t take my eyes off him and leaned over to my friend asking, ‘Who is that?’ She told me everything she knew about him, which wasn’t much. But it was irrelevant. I was smitten at first site. He was totally out of my league though and I knew he’d never notice me. Until he walked into my office a few weeks ago and I made a complete fool of myself drooling over him.”
“You were adorable,” Alex said, his husky voice lowering.
“Alex, I was drawn to do for your looks and confidence and smile and those brown eyes, but after spending the afternoon laughing with you, I fell hard. You were so much more than I ever realized, and I love the man you are on the inside. I promise to be the best wife I can be for you, although I have no idea what you’re looking for in a wife.”
“You,” Alex whispered.
“I, Krystina Clark, take you, Alexander Cohen-Stephenson, to be my husband, to have and to hold for as long as we both shall live.”
Alex held her gaze and mouthed the words, I love you. Krystina mouthed them back. They just stared into each other’s eyes like lovesick kids. Someone in the room sniffed, probably Hazel.
King Sayid stepped forward again. “Were those the right words?”
“They were perfect,” Alex said.
“Okay, then, here is the contract.” The king spread the paperwork onto his desk and held out an elegant pen.
“Would you care to sign first, my lady?” Alex raised his eyebrows at Krystina, who stepped forward and took the pen from the king.
Krystina leaned over and confidently signed her name, then handed the pen to Alex.
Alex leaned forward and held his hand above the most sacred document he’d ever received the privilege to sign. His hand was steady as he wrote his signature, then he took a step back and held out the pen to his best friend. “Your Highness, would you do the honor?”
Mark’s scrawling name contained his title and read, Prince Marcos Sayid of Madain Saleh. He handed the pen to Eli, whose signature read, Prince Elmer Sayid of Madain Saleh.
The final signature added at the bottom of the page read, King Sayid of Madain Saleh. He stepped back and grinned at Alex and then Krystina. “By the power vested in me by the Kingdom of Madain Saleh, I hereby pronounce you husband and wife.” He leaned closer to Krystina and spoke out of the side of his mouth. “Are you sure you don’t want me to put a crown on your head?” Everyone in the room chuckled, some through their sniffling.
“Nah, I think I’m good.” Krystina wrapped her arms around Alex’s waist. “I don’t need a prince. I have a councilman.”
“Can I kiss my bride now?” Alex asked the king.
“Sure.” Sayid stepped back.
Alex reached his hands up and lifted Krystina’s face, then lowered his lips to hers. There was a hint of passion in his kiss, more a promise of passion later that night.
Everyone in the room applauded, and so did Krystina’s mom, pausing only to wipe tears from her cheeks. Krystina’s father leaned closer to the computer and looked right into the camera.
“Hey, you, mister fancy councilman”—Lincoln paused to dab at his cheeks— “You’d better take care of my little girl, you hear?”
“Yes sir, I promise. You have my word.” Alex stopped, his throat choking with emotion. He stepped back and his bride stepped forward to say goodbye to her parents.
“Bye Momma and Daddy.” She waved from the other side of the planet. “Thanks for being here.”
“You look beautiful, sweetheart,” Tammy said. “Congratulations.”
Her father never said anything else, but Alex could see him in the background dabbing at his eyes.
By the time they had completed their goodbyes, everyone else had left the office, other than the king. “You kids head on out of here now. I’ll close down the computer and lock up. Congratulations.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty.” Alex bowed his head respectfully to King Sayid.
Krystina ignored conventions and threw her arms around the king. “Thank you so much, Your Majesty.”
“You’re welcome, sweetheart.” Sayid returned her hug and smiled over her shoulder at Alex. “You have a fun night.”
“If you insist.” Alex coughed lightly and felt his cheeks warm. The king winked at him and playfully shoved Krystina in his direction.
When they’d left the bright office and were alone in dimly lit hallway, Alex swept Krystina into his arms and kissed her as he walked toward the grand staircase that would lead upstairs to their room.