Prince Ethan Sayid of Madain Saleh had every intention of walking into the attorney’s office and stating the facts, “I’m dying, and I need to give away all my money.”
But when the beautiful, young lawyer looked up from her desk with eyes that sparkled like emeralds, he choked. He disguised his accent and changed his approach.
“I need help preparing a will,” he said.
“You’ve come to the right place.” She rose from her desk and stepped forward with her hand raised. “Estate planning is my specialty.”
“You’re perfect,” Ethan said then shook off his awe as he clasped her hand in greeting. “I mean, that’s perfect. I need an estate attorney.”
“I’m Natalie Dolan. It’s nice to meet you, Mister…”
“Salad?” She raised her eyebrows and bit her lower lip. Was she laughing?
“No, Sayid, like sigh-eed.” Ethan cringed. “It’s a traditional middle eastern name that is not widely used in American culture.”
This was why he didn’t want to use his real name anymore. But his attorney would need his full legal name if she was going to help him. She didn’t need to know his full title or lineage, however. At least not yet.
“Please, just call me Ethan unless you’re filling out legal documents.”
He was a prince in name only and the last of his family. His tiny monarchy had been swallowed into the deserts of the middle east and the royal family splintered. When his great-great grandfather, King Sayid of Madain Saleh had died at the age of one-hundred and six, Ethan’s parents had remained in their homeland to take their rightful place as heirs, but the country had now been absorbed into Saudi Arabia.
Ethan had heard tales of how his uncles and father had fought over what was left of their grandfather’s power until all that was left was the money. A monarchy without a kingdom is merely a very wealthy family. Now that his parents had signed over their fortune, Ethan was the sole heir to just over a billion dollars.
And he was dying.
The trouble is cancer doesn’t know who is rich and who is poor, who is young and who is old, who is the last of a decimated royal blood line, or who is the first-generation in a newly-created interracial family with all the promise that ensues. No, cancer doesn’t care.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you,” Natalie said with a barely contained hysteria. She collapsed back into her leather swivel chair. “It’s just been one of those days. I think I need an evening of binge-watching old episodes of The Big Bang Theory and eating chocolate ice cream.”
“I’m rather fond of chocolate ice cream myself,” Ethan said, sitting cautiously in the seat across her desk.
“What about old sitcoms?” She chuckled.
“Is that an invitation?” Ethan leaned forward and couldn’t help his voice dropping to what he imagined was a sexy, smoldering huskiness. He rarely invested the time to pursue a woman, so this was unfamiliar territory.
Natalie seemed momentarily distracted and speechless, then cleared her throat and shook her head as if to refocus. “I don’t date my clients.” She gulped.
“My apologies,” Ethan said. He pulled back his stance and resumed an air of professionalism. “Shall we discuss a more appropriate topic? Help me with my estate planning. I’m a billionaire prince with no throne or heir, and I’m dying of cancer.”
“You’re so funny, Ethan.” She opened a drawer in her desk and pulled out a packet of forms, obviously assuming he was joking. “Here is the stack of paperwork needed to get started. With something so important as estate planning, I prefer to have paper copies in the client’s own handwriting, as well as computer files, and printed copies with signatures. Do you have someone who will be your witness? And do you have in mind who will be your named beneficiaries?”
“I have very little in the way of physical possessions, other than a very large trust account controlled mostly by myself and a few carefully-chosen trustees, none of whom I fully trust. I have done a great deal of research into charitable organizations throughout the world and have determined approximate dollar amounts I’d like to leave to each of them. I have the list here.”
Ethan pulled from his briefcase a fifty-seven-page single-spaced, twelve-point font document that represented his years of research narrowed down to a bulleted list of the names of charitable organizations.
“I have computer files backed up on multiple servers as well as paper documentation for each of these organizations in my nondescript home in an undisclosed location. Given my recent prognosis, I am concerned that my wishes will not be carried out if I don’t take action quickly. I have researched your father’s law firm here in the middle of the United States of America where I have determined that your firm has no affiliation with any of my trustees nor any of these organizations. I apologize for not being forthcoming as to my intentions upon walking into your office, but I must admit I was taken aback by your beauty. I will attempt to maintain a level of professionalism from now on.” Ethan finally stopped, feeling as if he had already overwhelmed the poor girl. He was right.
“I thought you were joking,” Natalie whispered.
“Not in the least, Ms. Dolan,” Ethan said. “My research has shown that you conduct a great deal of your business pro-bono for the less-fortunate in your community and that you don’t seem to be persuaded by the prospect of becoming wealthy from your work as an attorney. But I dare say the large sum of money I will offer you to take on my case will assist you in providing a great deal of service long after my departure.”
“You’re kind of freaking me out right now, Mr. Sayid.” Natalie rose from her chair and began pacing the floor of her small office.
“Again, I apologize. I had hoped to handle this differently but was momentarily caught up in a youthful fantasy of actually meeting a woman who would care about me for my charm and personality rather than my crown and wealth. It is unfortunate that I finally meet someone worth pursuing days after receiving the news that my cancer is inoperable and will likely be my demise. Not that I’m a stranger to adversity, mind you. I’ve had a price on my head since the day it was determined that I was a male, and potential heir to the throne in a highly-contested battle for the last semblance of power in my country of origin.”
“I think I need a drink,” Natalie said.
“I think you need to stick to the chocolate ice cream and binge-watching old sitcoms,” Ethan answered. “I need you at your highest mental faculties if we are to accomplish this task in the limited amount of time I have left.”
“Okay,” she squeaked out.
“Okay, what?” Ethan asked.
“Okay, I’ll take your case,” Natalie said.
“Thank goodness.” Ethan lowered his shoulders in a relieved sigh. “I don’t have time to do any more research.”