One week before Christmas
The cool Mediterranean breeze pulls at my hair, causing my curls to slap at my shoulders and lick at my face. I grip the railing of Ahmed’s luxury yacht as I stare at the dark waters of the sea with a growing sense of unease.
Something has gone wrong in the game I’m playing, and everything is about to come back and bite me in the ass.
Behind me, Ahmed speaks quietly in Arabic to our steward. He thinks I don’t understand, but I’ve made it a point to learn some of the language.
He’s dismissing the steward with instructions for the crew not to bother us, regardless of what they may see or hear.
Ice floods my veins, but I can’t let my fear rule me. If I have any hope of making it out of this little spur-of-the-moment ‘pleasure cruise’ unscathed, I need to keep my wits about me.
“Meredith,” Ahmed says, his voice firm. The tone is something he usually reserves for those he considers beneath him, and I’ve been hearing a lot of it today.
I don’t know what has brought about this change, and it’s extremely concerning.
“Come, have a drink with me.”
I can’t disobey.
Slipping my mask back into place, I relax my lips and fix a serene look on my face as I turn to face him.
Walking towards him across the deck, the breeze whips at the skirt of my flowy dress as I force myself to imagine that I love him, that he’s handsome. That he’s everything I want in a man and not everything I actually despise… so that warm affection fills my eyes.
Ahmed extends a flute of sparkling champagne towards me while his dark eyes roam critically over me.
Shit. I don’t think he’s buying it.
Fingers wrapping around the flute, I bring it up to my lips and sip from it. The sweet liquid fizzles and pops across my tongue before sliding down my throat.
I drink just enough to settle my nerves and appease him. The last thing I need right now is to have alcohol muddling up my thought processes.
Ahmed’s eyes never leave me as he lifts his own flute and drinks deeply from it. In his own words, he’s a ‘bad Muslim’. When he leaves the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, he likes to indulge in all the vices the world has to offer.
Alcohol. Pork. Gambling.
He has admitted that his vices have caused him to fall out of favor with his family, but it hasn’t stopped him. A prince of significant power and financial means, he’s not about to let a little thing like familial favor hold him back. No, he enjoys having the world at his feet too much.
It’s what drew me to him in the first place.
For the past several weeks, I’ve been stringing him along. Slowly weaving my web around him while he’s been playing the game completely unaware.
But something changed today. Something has happened without my knowledge and tipped him off.
And I can’t figure out what.
My performance has been flawless. Everything has been progressing as it should. There’s still several weeks left to go before I move in for ‘the kill’, so to say.
Ahmed sets his empty glass down on the table and grabs me by the arm. He’s draws me closer and plucks my glass from my hand.
Setting my glass down, his eyes never leave my face. They search me, probe at me, as if he’s trying to see the things I don’t want him to see.
Things such as my true revulsion for him. For his kind. And his nationality has nothing to do with it. He’s just another man with too much money, too much power, and he’s long overdue for someone like me to knock him down a few notches.
If anything, the fact that he’s a prince only makes his fall sweeter.
Men like him, like my stepbrother, think just because they’re rich and powerful, they can get away with anything.
Get away with lies. Infidelities. Murder.
It took me a few years to find my place in this world, but now that I have I relish in it. Growing up pampered to an excess, I have no true skills. I found higher education tedious. The hours spent studying was pointless. A waste of my life. There are so many figures in my bank account, what is the point of work? To prove I have some value beyond my looks?
I don’t hunger for power. No, it’s quite the opposite. I’d prefer to be without it. Power brings too many headaches and responsibilities. And it’s a constant struggle to keep a grip on it. There’s always someone waiting around the corner, someone like me, ready to knock you down.
So what is left?
Socializing? Boring. Treat life as one long luxury vacation? Been there, done that. It’s not as fun as it sounds. Help the poor and downtrodden? With what skills? I could donate all my money, but then where would that leave me?