“Sorry about your dad, man,” Aaron said. “That sucks.” As the oldest brother, Aaron was supposed to be the leader and had encouraged Alex and the young princes to approach Noah Adlin’s fifteen-year-old son.
“Thanks,” Logan mumbled. He pulled at his necktie then pushed his glasses higher on the bridge of his nose. The designer suit someone had forced him to wear didn’t hide his scrawny frame.
Gus knew the responsibility of befriending Logan would eventually fall on his shoulders. They were the same age and in the same grade. He and his best friend, Alex, would purposely go out of their way to hang out with this geeky little guy who had just lost his father.
The funeral home wasn’t packed, but those in attendance were the country club snobs from the hills of Logan’s neighborhood.
If Logan lived among the upper class in Kingston, Prince Augustus Sayid and his older brothers and parents lived among the uber-rich, meaning they had no neighbors within a few miles’ radius. They secluded themselves in their sprawling tree house that was literally built over a flowing waterfall.
The only family that came close to matching their wealth was the Stephenson’s, and they preferred to live closer to town. Alexander Stephenson, Sr. was best friend and advisor to the Gus’s father, Crown Prince Marcos Sayid of Madain Saleh.
“You’re in my geometry class, right?” Gus asked, knowing it was a rhetorical question. “I never knew our dads were friends.”
“Yeah, I like math.” Probably the smartest kid in their freshman class, Logan always had a book in his hand, and usually kept his head down, avoiding eye contact. He was the poster child for an anti-bullying campaign.
“I don’t think they’ve been friends since a long time ago,” Aaron pointed out. “They all went to college together, right?”
“My dad hung out with your dad at spring break down in Cancun or something. That was when he met your mom.” Logan finally lifted his gaze. “They were all college roommates.” Logan glanced over at Alex, including him in that group.
Alexander Stephenson, Jr. had been born within a few days from Gus and they grew up with a bond stronger than best friends. Alex was an honorary brother to the young princes.
“Back when our dads were party animals.” Alex snickered and pushed Logan’s shoulder lightly. Logan stumbled. “Dude, sorry, don’t know my own strength.” Alex grabbed Logan and righted him.
“I’m just really lanky.” Logan apologized. “You can knock me over with a feather. That’s what the bullies say.”
“Do you get bullied a lot, little man?” Aaron asked, a crease in his brow.
“Not every day,” Logan said. “Just most days.”
“Do your parents know?” Aaron had transferred his big-brother persona onto their new friend. As a senior in high school, Aaron seemed more like a man and less like a teenager. Being less than two years away from his coronation as Crown Prince, he took on a maturity that was protective of his younger brothers and their friends. Coupling that with his athletic physique, good looks, and wealth, he ruled their high school with more authority than their father ruled their kingdom.
“They’re usually busy.” Logan lowered his gaze again. “Well, my dad won’t be busy anymore.”
They all glanced over at the open casket where Logan’s mom was receiving guests with a lacy handkerchief in one hand, faking emotions as she accepted their condolences and made plans for next week’s golf outing.
Kingston’s former mayor, Noah Adlin, had officially died of a heart attack, according to autopsy reports. Suspiciously, this sudden heart attack occurred within twenty-four hours of his former business partner, Andrew Huron’s release from prison. No one seemed to be looking for Andrew, who had skipped town. No one seemed to be questioning why an otherwise healthy forty-three-year-old man would suddenly die of a heart attack.
“Well, you’re not gonna get bullied anymore.” Aaron said, draping his arm across Logan’s shoulder. “I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
“Yeah, and Alex and I will sit with you at lunch tomorrow.” Gus reached over and bumped fists with his best friend. He wondered if the harem of girls who followed them everywhere would join them.
“And because we’re all so close in age, you’ve now got a buddy in the sophomore and junior class as well.” Hayden waved his finger back and forth between himself and their older brother, Owen.
“Thanks, guys, I don’t know what to say. I’ve never had friends.” Logan smiled shyly. “Much less friends who are the most popular guys at our whole school.”
“Well you do now.” Gus felt better about being dragged to this funeral for a man he’d never met, and if rumors were correct, had been a corrupt politician who had masterminded the ultimate municipal corruption scandal. Noah’s schemes had cost taxpayers millions of dollars and destroyed a lot of blue-collar jobs in their town. Allegedly.
Noah Adlin never got caught or indicted for his crimes and let his business partner Andrew take the fall for everything, receiving a fifteen-year prison sentence. Noah continued to throw money around like he owned the town. Logan would forever walk in his father’s shadow.
Gus refused to stand back and watch Logan pay for his father’s crimes. If he happened to get a free math tutor out of the deal, even better. High school was going to be the best four years of Gus’s life. He smirked at Alex, already planning their future.