Heir to a Desert Legacy - By Maisey Yates
SAYID AL KADAR SCANNED the empty street and tugged the collar of his coat up, shielding the back of his neck from the raindrops that were threatening to infiltrate. The Portland drizzle was intolerable in his opinion.
Even in this more desirable part of the city, everything seemed locked together. Stone on the road, the walk, the buildings that stretched up into the sky. It all felt closed in. A glass-and-steel prison. It was no place for a man like him.
No place for the heir to the throne of Attar. And yet, according to every piece of data he’d gathered over the past twenty-four hours, this is where the heir to the throne of Attar was.
The moment he’d found the paperwork in his brother’s secret vault, he’d been driven to find out if there was a chance that the heir had survived. Alik had confirmed not only the child’s survival, but his whereabouts, in record time. Not that his friend’s speed and efficiency should surprise Sayid at this point. Alik never failed.
Sayid shoved his hands into his pockets and crossed the street, just as a woman was approaching the same apartment building he was intent on.
He smiled at her, reaching for the kind of charm he’d buried long ago, if he’d ever truly possessed it. A kind of charm he rarely bothered to feign anymore. It worked. She keyed in her code and then held the door open for him, her smile wide and inviting.
He wasn’t looking for that kind of invitation.
He went into a different elevator than she’d chosen and waited for it to carry him to the top floor. He felt out of place here, and yet, being away from the palace brought its own relief.
His jaw tightened as the lift rose, tension bunching his muscles to the point of pain by the time the doors slid open. The hallway was narrow, the building broadcasting its age with each creak of the floorboards. Dampness hung in the air, clung to his clothes, his skin, another side effect of the unpleasant climate.
It reminded him of a jail cell. He had never had a reason to come to the United States before. His place was in Attar, in the broad expanse of the desert. Though, now that his duties kept him close to the palace, it felt nearly as foreign as this cold, damp place.
Since his plane had touched down, he’d been struck by the constant wetness. A chill that soaked through everything, wrapped itself around his bones.
Or maybe the chill wasn’t something that could be blamed on the weather. If he were honest, he would admit that he’d been cold for more than six weeks now. Ever since the word had come about the death of his brother and sister-in-law.
And now there was this.
The child. He made it a goal of his to avoid children, babies in particular. But there would be no avoiding this.
He paused at the door that had a thirteen bolted to it and knocked. He could not remember the last time he’d knocked.
“Just a second.” There was a crashing noise, a loud curse and the wail of a baby, then footsteps. He could hear someone leaning against the door. Checking the peephole most likely.
In which case he doubted he would be given admittance. Something else he could not remember facing at any time in his recent memory, at least outside of a combat situation.
He heard a shuffling noise and imagined that the woman who was behind the door was now leaning against it, not opening it, as she’d just seen who was on the other side.
But there was no benefit to Chloe James hiding from him. None at all.
“Chloe James?” he said.
“What?” Her response was muffled by the heavy door between them.
“I am Sheikh Sayid al Kadar, regent of Attar.”
“Regent, you say? Interesting. Attar. Nice country I hear. In northern Africa right near—”
“I am aware of the geography of my country, as are you, in ways that go beyond textbook knowledge. You and I both know this.”
There was a sharp spike in the crying, the volume rising, the tone growing more shrill. Loud in the contained environment. Louder behind the apartment door, he imagined.
“Um, I’m busy,” Chloe said. “You’ve woken up the baby now and I have to get him back to sleep so...”
“That is what I’m here about, Chloe. The baby.”
“He’s cranky right now. But I’ll see if I can fit you into his diary.”
“Ms. James,” he said, aiming for civility. He could push