In case you missed the big announcement on Monday, THE FUTURE KING is available to download and read across all the usual online retailers.
For today's mid-week tease, read the full chapter one right here. Enjoy.
July 2020, Bagumi
“Some people use funerals to chase skirts undercover!”
Prince Azikiwe dan Ibrahim Saene read the tweet and winced, averting his gaze. The sprawling green landscape and silvery waters of the Lake Miri estates came into view as the helicopter approached, the whirring rotors a muted background sound with the noise-reduction headphones.
A few seconds later, his gaze returned to his smartphone, and a reluctant smile curled the corner of his lips as he reread the caustic post Princess Amara Onoh had shared yesterday after a picture of Zik and a female friend had appeared on social media.
Of course, he had known @theonohprincess had been referring to him as soon as he’d seen the caption. The woman had been taking swipes at him and riding his ass for a few years and not in a pleasurable way, like a tick burrowed under his skin he couldn’t eradicate.
Caustic or not, he was compelled to read her online opinions. Compelled to engage in their ridiculous battles and respond accordingly. Still, his comeback of “Some people should have empathy for those in mourning!” on this occasion had been less than lacklustre.
Running his personal account, @playerzik, he was usually savvy and sometimes savage when it came to virtual banter. Yet, when it came to Amara, he found himself tongue-tied and restrained.
For one, she was his best friends’ baby sister. Secondly, she was his sister Isha’s best friend. Lastly and most crucially, she was his older brother Zawadi’s fiancée and would be Zik’s full-fledged sister-in-law and a member of the Saene royal family in a few months.
Therefore, although Amara baited him frequently like it was a part-time hobby, his hands were tied, and he could never respond with the full severity some of her comments deserved.
In any case, why did she always snipe at him when he appeared in photos with other women? She was engaged to his brother. So, what was her problem?
What ticked her off? Why did she automatically assume he had sex with every woman he met? That would be irresponsible and grossly inappropriate in a lot of cases.
Over the years, he’d acquired a reputation as a playboy and had been linked with different famous ladies—international movie stars, musicians, models, and socialites. However, it didn’t mean he lacked scruples. His lovers were always unattached, consenting adults who knew the score right from the start and wanted to scratch a very temporary itch. Full stop.
Why did Amara love to insinuate something sinister lurked behind his every move?
The gentle jolt of the copter landing on the green lawn roused him from his reverie. He tucked his phone into his pocket, shaking his head to dispel thoughts of Amara. He had other, more pressing matters to focus on. Like the summons to visit his father today.
In the distance loomed the manor located in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty, one of the royal residences of His Majesty King Ibrahim dan Aziz Saene of the Kingdom of Bagumi.
Unlike Darusa Palace—or DP as it was fondly known—located in the bustling metropolis, Lake Miri was a country house in the middle of a reserve, surrounded by farmlands and plantations. While DP became his official home from his teenage years onward, Lake Miri held some of Zik’s earliest memories. His ancestors had been born here, including his father, which made it very significant to his family.
So being called here, to discuss a delicate family matter, no less, must mean something significant. What, though?
Last night’s phone conversation with his brother replayed in his mind.
“Papa wants to see you at Lake Miri tomorrow. Six p.m.,” Zawadi said after the initial pleasantries.
“Sure. What’s it about?” Zik replied, trying to gauge if this would be an informal family gathering or a formal royal conference. The senior active members of the royal family met once every quarter to discuss duties. Zik attended when required. Otherwise, he avoided these meetings.
“Something’s come up. Sorry about the short notice, but it’s an urgent matter.” His brother sounded ominous.
Unease wormed through Zik’s gut. They’d been cautious, but the pandemic had dealt a few surprising blows already. “Everyone is alive and well, right?”
He hoped his brother would tell him if it was bad news rather than keep him in suspense for twenty-four hours, which would be cruel.
“Of course. Everyone is well. It’s nothing of the sort. Just a matter of state,” Zawadi reassured.
“Oh. Good. See you tomorrow then.” Relieved, he exhaled.
Had he been wrong to exhale in relief back then? Being here brought on a different vibe, one that hung like an ominous dark cloud over him.
Zik disembarked the helicopter, ducked under the whirring blades, and walked down the long, stately drive towards the impressive mansion, his personal bodyguard two paces to his right. Palace employees in buggies trundled past, carrying the luggage. He could’ve opted to be transferred by a royal buggy from the helipad to the front door, but he’d rather stretch his legs after hours confined in aircrafts. Plus, the fresh air would do him good, and clear the shroud of darkness threatening to encroach on him.
He’d flown in from Abuja, Nigeria to Darusa, Bagumi by private jet before hopping on the helicopter for the transfer to Lake Miri.
A close friend and member of the Bagumian Princes’ Rugby team had passed away recently following a short illness, and Zik had been in Nigeria over the weekend for the funeral.
The full princes’ squad should have been there. However, the global viral pandemic meant there had been restrictions on number of attendees at the burial ceremony, thus necessitating Zik’s presence as squad representative. Also present had been his best friends and teammates, Ekene and Ejike Onoh, who lived in Nigeria and hadn’t needed to acquire special travel documents.
A sigh escaped Zik. Bagumi had been in full lockdown for three months, from April to July, and although it was a small country, they’d controlled the number of COVID-19 cases to a soft peak, which meant they’d opened quicker than most. Their scientists worked tirelessly on early detection methods, tracking and tracing possible cases, and developing vaccines with the worldwide scientific collective in an unprecedented effort.
This had been Zik’s first trip outside Bagumi in months. After Isha’s wedding, he’d added her International Trade portfolio to his Natural Resources cabinet duties, which meant he travelled often. However, the last three months had seen his longest stint in his country without duty—or pleasure—related visits abroad.
It hurt him that the opportunity had arisen from such a dire event as a death. He’d grieved, mourned, paid his respects.
However, the trip had brought a ray of light bursting through the gloom. The chance to spend time with his besties, two-thirds of the Onoh princes. Earlier today, they’d been at a hotel with outdoor facilities, watching the Hungarian F1 Grand Prix on a big screen under an awning. A huge car-racing enthusiast, in any other year, he probably would have been present in Hungary for this event.
Although they’d watched the exciting race, the mood had been sombre, each person sipping their drink quietly. Yet, being with his friends wasn’t always about the conversations. It had more to do with the company. Before the pandemic, they’d spent almost every other weekend together at some event or just hanging out. Ejike and Ekene understood him and being in the same physical space boosted his energy.
Zik would readily admit the pandemic quarantine period had been almost hellish for him. He didn’t do well in isolation. He was a people person and needed to communicate with others, to see and touch them where possible because he was naturally tactile with the people he loved. However, these days, he had to restrain himself, making it immensely frustrating sometimes.
Of course, his family was there, but due to their quarantine buddy system, he was kind of isolated.
For the lockdown, his parents had gone to Lake Miri. His sisters were married and lived in different countries. Zediah sheltered in place with his young family in DP. Zareb went with his fiancée, Malika, to their home in Darusa. Zawadi was in Somie with Danai, his principal protection officer. Although Zik would swear his brother was in love with the covert agent slash bodyguard—there’d been something there…
Nevertheless, the arrangement had left him alone and he’d retreated to his Onyi stronghold of Beya, at his wits’ end stalking the Beya Castle corridors like a ghost. He’d ended up volunteering at the local pandemic relief centre, distributing palliative packages to the community just so he could have interactions with other humans beyond video conferences. He’d even been hands on with the donation of digital devices to the local secondary students so they could carry on with their home learning when the schools barred physical attendance.
Now, he strode towards his parent’s country residence, the uneasy feeling from last night returning to churn heavy acid in his stomach. What was so important and urgent to require this gathering when they’d avoided physical meetings for months because the king had a heart condition?
“Welcome to Lake Miri Palace, Your Highness.” The butler bowed, along with the other staff all wearing partial face coverings.
“Thank you.” Keeping his black mask on, Zik sauntered into the expansive foyer with stone flooring, high ceiling, and a grand staircase. Although he’d been tested and cleared before the flight from Nigeria, he wouldn’t take any chances.
On the dark-wood table in the corner stood a gilded white vase of fresh flowers and a golden-white bottle of aloe vera antibacterial hand gel. He pumped a couple of squirts into his palm and massaged his hands.
“There you are.” His mother entered the lobby in a flurry of blue butterfly lace boubou, her hair wrapped in a matching stylish turban, feet in silver diamante slippers.
A smile spread across his face as he bowed. “The queen of my heart.”
“I’ve told you that title should be reserved for the love of your life.” She slid her arm through his elbow instead of hugging him like she did before the pandemic, considering they were both tactile. Still, she pulled him into her side for a few seconds, and he went willingly.
“And right now, you are the love of my life.” He grinned as they strolled through the corridor, shoes thudding on the hard flooring. No matter his previous mood, seeing his birth mother gave him joy.
“You are incorrigible.” Her laughter resonated like a gentle, warm tinkle. “So how was your trip? How are the Onohs?”
Some of Zik’s previous unease returned. “Honestly, the trip was depressing. I thought watching the Grand Prix and LH winning would cheer me up. But it didn’t last long.”
“That’s to be expected, love. You buried one of your closest friends on Friday. He was gone too soon. You should allow yourself time to grieve.”
His mother was correct. But life didn’t stop because of loss and grief. There were obligations to fulfil, like this meeting. Then again, seeing his parents wasn’t really an obligation…except when they started hounding him to settle down.
His siblings had already paired up with their life partners. Except Zawadi whose wedding was scheduled for September.
Hang on. Was that the reason for this gathering? The pandemic had messed up many plans, resulting in some wedding cancellations. Perhaps…
“Mum, what’s the purpose of the meeting?” he asked, trying not to jump ahead of himself. No point imagining unlikely scenarios. His mother was a well of information when it came to family matters and always happy to fill him in.
“Why? Aren’t you happy to see me?” She gave him a side glance. Her brown eyes twinkled with amusement, taking the harshness from her words.
He chuckled and squeezed her hand. “Of course, I’m always pleased to see you, queen of my heart. I just want to find out what you know.”
“You’ll find out soon enough when Zawadi arrives.”
He did a pretend surprise jerk and spoke in a teasing, conspiratorial tone. “Is it supposed to be a secret? You have to tell me now.”
His mother giggled. “It’s not supposed to be a secret, silly boy. Didn’t you know Zawadi went to see Danai’s parents a few days ago about marrying her? He’s coming to formally present her to your father.”
“Oh.” Zik’s insides went cold. So, something had definitely been going on there. “Zawadi is going to marry Amara and Danai?”
His mother’s dainty shoulders lifted and fell. “We’ll find out when he gets here.”
Shit. Months ago, he’d had an argument with his oldest brother about Danai, a covert agent sent by the Bagumi Intelligence Service to investigate the palace mole involved in a failed assassination attempt on Zawadi’s life. She’d acted as Zawadi’s principal protection officer until the spy had been caught weeks ago.
Zik had confronted his brother because Zawadi had sacked Danai from their rugby squad unfairly, and it had become apparent that his older brother had feelings for her. But Zawadi had denied it and supposedly cut off any personal interactions with Danai. Zik had made an offhand comment at the time about Zawadi marrying two wives like their father.
Then Covid happened, and Danai became Zawadi’s quarantine buddy, moving to the Somie country house with him for lockdown.
Now, Zawadi was coming to present Danai as his fiancée?
Was his brother really going to wed two women?
Zik’s stomach rolled with dread. He’d thought burying a friend would be the lowest point of the weekend. But he had the sinking feeling it was about to get a lot worse.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: The Future King
Author: Kiru Taye
Series: Royal House of Saene #8
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Tropes: royalty, woman scorned, enemies to lovers, arranged marriage
Release date: Feb 14, 2022
Prince Azikiwe didn’t get the ‘Player Zik’ moniker by chance. Life is for living, and rules are boring. Then his older brother jilts his betrothed and abdicates his royal title. Suddenly the constrictive crown prince title is thrust upon Zik, and his partying days come to an abrupt halt. The least of his worries, though. Now, he contends with the scorned, furious bride chosen for him and a nation at risk of falling into anarchy. Does he have what it takes to become the future king?
WHAT THE READERS ARE SAYING:
"Wow Kiru! What a thrilling finish to the Saene stories."
"Thanks for a beautiful love story, Kiru. This is a winner."