Always excited to discover new African romance novels. Check out this one set in Abuja, Nigeria.
HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS by Aisha Onekata
Sufyan Muhammad Al-Amin has always craved a simple life. Born into royalty, it’s the one thing he can never have. After the sudden demise of his elder brother under strange circumstances, his worst nightmare comes to be as he automatically finds himself next in line to the throne of a powerful emirate.
But he isn’t the only one with problems. Tammy Adebayo, an average class career woman can’t seem to keep her life from falling apart as she suffers from yet another heartbreak and loses her job too in an unending string of failures.
When a chance meeting brings these two from opposite worlds together, a friendship develops that soon turns into a beautiful love. However, trouble brews in the form of a scheming, manipulative ex-fiancée, and soon Sufyan is faced with the dilemma of choosing between preserving his family’s royal legacy and the woman he loves.
While he grapples with the choice of pleasing his heart or bowing down to tradition for the sake of family, his attempt at finding closure for the death of his brother eventually brings him face to face with a long-standing secret. One that threatens the safety of his family and could mean the end of their rule in the emirate.
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“You’re a workaholic, Sufyan!”
Sitting alone at his favourite table of the cozy little restaurant he loved, Sufyan Muhammad Al-Amin frowned, pinching the bridge of his nose as he so often did whenever he was frustrated. It wasn’t the first time he was hearing that particular accusation from his mother. Coming from her, the words were usually mildly spoken, because she knew he could never change and had learnt to accept him that way. But tonight, those same words came out holding so much pain and disappointment, it was hard not to feel guilty.
He closed his eyes for a moment and spoke softly into his phone, as softly as he could manage given his present mood. “Umma, please. There’s no need to be dramatic. I’ve only been gone for two days. Just two days. The business isn’t going to run itself, you know.”
“You arrived from Port Harcourt only four days ago!” Samira complained. “Before that it was Lagos! Now you’re in Abuja again! Aren’t you going to spend any time at home again? Haba, don Allah!”
“Mother, this is nothing new. You already know the nature of my work.”
“For God’s sake, you are not the only one in that company!” she cried. “As CEO you can afford to take some time off once in a while—especially now when your family needs you the most!”
Sufyan sighed. He would be lying if he said he didn’t understand how his mother, a strong woman, the strongest he had ever known, had turned into one so needy and always demanding his presence. Mahmood’s death had left a lot of unpleasantness in its wake, and one of those was a mother who didn’t want him out of her sight. It was as though she feared she might lose him too the way she’d lost his elder brother.
“Your place right now is at home, Sufyan, with your family. Drop whatever it is you’re doing and just come home. Please, Son.” Samira sounded desperate, emotional. It tore at his heart sensing the tears that silently trickled down her face in her brief silence.
“Umma…” he began, not quite knowing what to say to comfort her.
“You can’t continue to use work to hide your pain,” she went on. “It’s going to come out sooner or later, but better sooner—trust me. It’s okay to mourn your brother like the rest of us, Sufyan. Come home so we can mourn him together.”
Mourn. He hated that word. But she was right. The pain was the reason why he couldn’t stand to stay in one place. It was the reason why he was here now in Abuja—not because he desperately needed to view the progress of the multi-storey hotel project his family’s construction company had begun several months ago. Right now anywhere was better than home, where the atmosphere of grief hung like a thick cloud that refused to disappear.
He couldn’t bear the intense sorrow, the tears of everyone around him, especially when he couldn’t even shed any. Ever since the janaza two weeks ago he’d been like a statue, unable to cry. The news of Mahmood’s death hadn’t fully registered with him yet. It still felt like a dream. He wanted desperately to pour out the pain that was killing him inside, but somehow he just couldn’t. He thought about what a mercy it would be to stop feeling so much pain—and betrayal.
Unbidden, bitter thoughts of Surrayya entered his mind. He instantly shook them away. He wasn’t going to allow her further crush his spirit this evening, same way she had crushed his heart. He opened his mouth to provide his mother with an answer that would keep their conversation short, but Samira hurried on before the words could depart his mouth.
“Before you give me any more excuses, Surrayya came by the palace this afternoon and she was surprised to hear that you had travelled again.”
He hissed, cursing under his breath. Surrayya! It was always the same thing with his mother. Why couldn’t she just leave him alone?
“Umma, I don’t want to hear anything about Surrayya,” he told her curtly. The mere mention of that name made his blood pressure rise.
“But why?” Samira was as confused as she was worried. “If you two had a fight it doesn’t mean you should completely shut her out. She’s really upset, you know. She’s been crying, complaining you wouldn’t pick her calls. What is going on, Son?”
“Nothing? Why wouldn’t you just tell me the truth, Sufyan?”
“The truth is, Surrayya is not a topic I wish to discuss at the moment, Umma. Please!” He knew his mother could be quite difficult when it came to letting go of a subject. She was the proverbial dog with a bone. So he added more emphasis on the please.
“Thank you.” To his surprise she gave up with a sigh of resignation, as if she was too tired to pursue the topic. And frankly he was too. He was tired, weary after a long day at the construction site, exhausted from all the raw emotions he was keeping locked up inside his heart.
“Don’t thank me. This isn’t over. Whether you like it or not, as soon as you return we’re going to iron this out—whatever it is that’s going on between the both of you. Ka ji ko? Is that clear?”
He shook his head. There was no ironing anything out. He really didn’t need to make up his mind about Surrayya with everything he knew now, everything he’d seen with his own eyes. He was done with their relationship. Pure and simple.
But for now he would humour her, if only it meant getting his mother off his back. Or else he feared the conversation might never end.
“Good. Now you wrap up whatever it is you have to do and return home immediately.”
Sufyan shook his head. He should be used to Samira’s authoritative tone by now. She was after all the queen of Gwarzo, transformed by decades of royalty into the powerful, no-nonsense queen her subjects respected and loved.
“I hear you, Mother.”
Arguing was useless. He’d learnt that a long time ago, born into royalty, forced to live a lifestyle that sometimes felt like a curse, and now having to embrace a destiny he never wished for.
With the prevailing monarchical system in Gwarzo, having an elder brother had somehow assured him that he would never have to ascend his father’s throne. Truth is Mahmood would have been a better king, naturally aristocratic from birth and possessing all the qualities of a true leader. Not him, Sufyan, who wanted nothing but a simple life. He who saw his current status in the kingdom as nothing but a burden. What kind of king would he make?
What’s more, he would have to give up his seat in the company, step down from a job he loved so much. Perhaps for some that wouldn’t be too much to give up, but for him it was like giving up his life. He couldn’t even imagine that right now.
Ending the call, Sufyan slipped the phone back into his kaftan pocket. He leaned forward in his chair, picked up his fork. Though he wasn’t left with much of an appetite now, he was determined not to allow all the worries he had left behind to ruin his mood completely.
The food was delicious, as always. One of the many reasons why he loved dining at Rousseau’s. The charming little restaurant offered the peace and anonymity someone always in the spotlight like him desired. Seated in its hardly crowded interior, pacified by the gentle tune playing in the background, he could think, relax, and observe others for a change.
Without wasting any time, his eyes moved back to the young woman he’d been watching earlier, seated all by herself at a table in the middle of the restaurant. That oval, high-cheek-boned face and flawless golden brown skin had arrested his attention from the second he’d set his eyes on her. She wore a simple, cap sleeved black midi dress that clung to her curvy body. Her hair, a thick mass of dark, wavy shoulder length curls, framed a lovely face.
But it was the unmistakable air of melancholy that surrounded her that piqued his interest the most. She looked like an elegant statue holding a glass of red wine she was hardly interested in, staring ahead of her to a distant place only she knew. At first he’d thought she was staring at him. But her eyes were blank, watery. She blinked just then, releasing tears she wasn’t even aware of.
He forgot about his own problems, captivated by the sadness of this young woman who looked like the weight of the world rested on her shoulders. He wondered what her story was. In that black dress she looked like a woman in mourning. A widow perhaps? Had she lost someone dear to her heart like he had? He scanned her finger for a ring but found none. Was she suffering from a heartbreak? What had she lost?
What could make a beautiful young woman sitting all alone in a restaurant look so lost?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aisha Onekata was born and raised in northern Nigeria. At a very early age she developed a strong passion for reading and creative writing. She writes heartwarming, suspense-filled romantic novels that portray the rich, multi-cultural setting of her home country. Aisha is an entrepreneur by day and a writer by night. His Royal Highness is her debut novel.
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