High Treason(9)

By: DiAnn Mills

Under normal circumstances, he’d be attracted to the little woman beside him with the long blonde hair. Blue eyes. Super hot. Super smart or she’d not be in her position. But the situation was super irritating.

“The elephant between us refuses to eat my peanuts,” she said with her attention on the phone.

“The elephant is a Saudi prince who has a distinct opinion about a woman’s role.”

“He’s in the US. Our turf. Our terms.”

“Can’t change his beliefs because he has a temporary address.”

“Look. I’m aware of Middle Eastern culture. For the record, I’ve used it to my advantage. Makes me wonder who has the biggest problem with it, you or Prince Omar?”

“A man would have his respect.”

“And yours?”

“I’m not sexist.”

“Are you sure?” She dropped her phone into her bag. “Both of you will have to get over it. I have the assignment, and I intend to work it.”

He scratched the back of his neck. “You have no idea how hard this will be.”

“I’ll manage.”

He sensed her eyes drilling a hole into him. “Are you planning my demise?”

“No. We have our differences, but I’m thinking about the day. I’m sorry your friend Zain was killed.”

“Thanks.” Later he’d manage his grief. He’d been assigned to Prince Omar before Zain was killed, and he wanted to see the case to the end, find the killer, and protect the prince on his own terms. Not necessarily the best attitude, but he owned it. Mr. Ego himself.

Monica would learn in a few short hours about Prince Omar’s beliefs. Kord banked on her quitting before the day was over—unless she was made of tougher stuff.

The House of Saud had a hierarchy according to each family member’s status. Prince Omar’s ranking fell in the middle range of importance. His life and experiences were worlds apart from Kord’s, but they remained solid friends, a man whom Kord had trusted in the past. Western media depicted the prince as always in search of a good time. When Kord had been in Riyadh, he’d experienced a caring side of the prince with his immediate family and regard for those he met. He showed devotion to his two wives and seven sons.

“Kord, what’s your gut take on the prince’s agenda?” Monica said. “Are his plans contributing to what happened?”

“It’s more about which one of our joint enemies pulled the trigger today.”

“Should I ask who despises us and the Saudis this week?”

“Who doesn’t?”

“Right. What else are you thinking?” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“I sense there’s more.”

“Are you a mind reader? That isn’t on your bio.”

“Intuitive. So, partner, what’s spinning in your head?”

She had a quirk or two. “If I were in Saudi Arabia, I’d be following up different leads. Prince Omar’s designs to negotiate with American oil and gas companies to lease oil reserves is a shrewd business move. Oil demands are declining, and better to conduct the business now than when the country has little choice.”

“How are the Saudi conservatives handling the leases?” Monica said.

Kord breathed in deeply. “They’re furious. They believe the oil reserves are given by Allah to the Saudis and therefore for the wealth of the kingdom. A dangerous move for Prince Omar and those who support him, but if the conservatives wanted the prince dead, they’d have made the attempt there.”

“The oil leases could get him killed,” she said. “Or one of Saudi Arabia’s spiderweb of enemies is using the controversy to eliminate him. Is he wanting the negotiations to be completed before the Offshore Technology Conference in May?”

“Most likely so. He’s on the roster for this year.”

“Why is Prince Omar the one escorting his mother instead of his father? Then he could tend to business while she received care.” When Kord didn’t respond, she dove in. “Is he using his mother’s medical condition as a smoke screen?”

“He’s keeping the media at bay.”

“How much are they aware of his plans?”