“Murdered?” Alex felt panic crush his chest. “Prince Eli?”
“No, his brother, Jared.”
Alex let out a sigh of relief. Not that he reveled in anyone’s death, but Eli was special. “Who would want to murder Jared?”
Even as the words left his mouth, Alex couldn’t help listing several people in his mind. The guy was a jerk.
“Well I don’t know how many people were involved in the murder plot, but I know who plunged the dagger,” Mark said. “Prince Omar’s advisor.”
“As a wedding present the night he married the Princess of Linah.”
“What?” Alex sat down hard on the nearby chair. He couldn’t wrap his brain around any of this. “Isn’t he old enough to be her grandfather?” And having an affair with her great- grandmother. Alex didn’t vocalize that remembrance.
“Almost old enough, yes,” Mark said. “What I can’t understand is why Linah would want to murder her own father.”
“Is Prince Eli pretty upset?” Alex asked. “Jared was his brother.”
“You can ask him on Thursday if he meets us at the airport,” Mark said. “The funeral’s on Friday.”
“F—Friday?” Alex glanced up to where Krystina stood with her shoulder resting against the door frame between the kitchen and the dining room. He sensed her parents were listening as well. Her brows were creased in compassion. “When do we fly out?”
“I’m working on the arrangements, but I think if we take a helicopter down to Hudson Valley Regional, we should be able to take the private jet from there. If we leave Kingston Wednesday morning, we can fly all day and then through the night and be to the Prince Abdul Majeed Bin Abdulaziz Domestic by mid-day on Thursday.”
“Are Hazel and the boys coming with us?” Alex was impressed by how smoothly Mark was able to rattle off the name of the airport closest to Madain Saleh. It was quite a mouthful.
“She’s considering it,” Mark said. “The boys are a handful under normal conditions, and you and I will be busy. And with her being pregnant… I don’t know.”
“What if you had a couple extra hands?” Alex smiled at Krystina, an idea forming in his head.
Krystina must have seen his vision before he asked because she was bouncing on her toes and Alex could almost hear the words in her head. Take me! Take me!
“Let me guess, you want to bring Krystina.” Mark chuckled.
“Only, ya know, if you need her to come.” Alex shrugged nonchalantly, not that Mark could see him.
“Of course, bring her along,” Mark said. “Maybe her coming will convince Hazel to come.”
“Okay, well, sounds like we need to get packing,” Alex said.
Krystina jumped up and down like a cheerleader on the sidelines of a football game waving poms in the air. Her youthful jubilance was going to keep him smiling for years as they grew old together. He couldn’t wait.
Mark’s voice took on a more serious tone. “Thanks for coming with me, man.”
“I would follow you anywhere, Your Highness,” Alex spoke with just as much seriousness. “You know that.”
“You have proven that over and over, my friend.”
“I guess I’ll see you Wednesday morning.” Alex said goodbye to Mark and tucked his phone in the pocket of his sport coat just as Krystina hurried into his arms, climbing onto his lap.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
“Let’s see if you’re still excited after eating sand for several days.” Alex chuckled and Krystina leaned forward to plant an excited kiss on his mouth.
“You are not going anywhere with this man, young lady,” Krystina’s father said from the doorway, his arms folded, and his brow furrowed.
“Oh, yes, I am, daddy.” Krystina hopped off Alex’s lap and reached a hand down to help him off the chair. “I’m an adult with my own job and I pay my own bills, and if I want to fly on a private jet with my boyfriend to the Middle East to stay in a palace with princes and princesses and eat delicious Middle Eastern cuisine, I will.”
Alex stood and reached into his pocket for the keys to his car while slipping on his shoes. He called into the dining room, “Thank you for a lovely meal, Mrs. Clark. Sorry we have to bolt, but duty calls.” Thank goodness, he thought to himself. He opened the door and bounded down the porch steps.
Krystina jumped onto Alex’s back from the porch like a little girl riding piggyback. He laughed and started toward the car, then suddenly turned back to the still-opened front door where her dad stood with an angry scowl.
“Oh, and I should probably inform you that I intend to ask your daughter to marry me sometime soon.” Alex spoke with confidence, not asking permission, just giving her dad the heads-up. “Don’t worry, we’ll elope when we’re ready, so you’ll never have to deal with me again.”
“I promise to call when your first grandchild is born,” Krystina called behind her, giggling.
Alex realized he’d better not leave things that flippantly. He turned around again. “We’re kidding,” he called. “Of course, you can come to the wedding. Unless we really do elope. I don’t know.”
He shrugged his shoulders and hoisted her further up his hips, carrying her the rest of the way to his Porsche. Resting her on her feet, Alex rubbed his chin.
“You know, if we’re going to give them grandbabies, we’re going to need a bigger car.”
“Let’s go car shopping when we get back from the Middle East,” Krystina suggested.
“And maybe ring shopping while we’re there?” Alex asked, lifting his eyebrows.
“I am so loving this trip already,” she said.
With his little sports car between them and the front door to her parent’s house, Alex pushed Krystina gently against the side of his car and took her face between his hands, lowering his mouth to cover hers.
A few seconds later he heard the front door slam, but he didn’t stop kissing her for several long, heavenly minutes.