“Who’s that elegant and handsome man? And is he married?”
“That’s Prince Raman, the grandson of King Gaurav. And no, he isn’t married–yet.”
That’s him! I stared at the picture in shock. That’s Mani. We met one evening at Merit Casino Royale. I didn’t go there to gamble but I figured that since I was in Montenegro with my closest friends, Claudette and Yvonne, I would check it out. It was my first time going to a casino.
The casino was located on 10th floor of the one of the most luxurious Montenegrin hotels where there was a magnificent view over Adriatic sea. I was overwhelmed by the many games, slot machines, the crowd and the excitement in the air. While Claudette and Yvonne headed for the slot machines, I wandered about, stopping now and then to check out the live poker games. I saw the electronic roulette but I walked right past it. I was there to observe not to play.
I saw him at the Black Jack table. He looked up and our eyes met. Like a moth drawn to a flame, I drifted over to where he was. I stood there, oblivious to the other people around the table. My eyes were fixed on him. It was if it were just the two of us in the room. From what I could see, he was doing very well. I stayed there and watched, mesmerized, wondering who he was and if he was there alone. He hit the Blackjack and after the dealer gave him his winnings, he rose from the table. My heart skipped a beat when I saw him coming towards me.
When he reached me, he smiled and said, “Hello.” This close he was extremely handsome.
“May I buy you a drink?”
“Sure.” I followed him to the lobby bar.
“What’s your name?” he asked me when we were seated at the table and the waitress had brought over our drinks.
“Mariam. What’s your name?”
“My friends call me Mani.”
“Is this your first time in Montenegro, Mani?”
“Yes. What about you?”
“Yes, it’s my first time.”
“Are you here alone?”
“I’m here with my girlfriends. What about you?”
“I’m here alone.”
We chatted for a while and by the time we returned to the casino, it was after mid-night. I introduced him to Claudette and Yvonne. He hung out with us for a while and then he said he had to leave. He pulled me aside and asked me which hotel I was staying at and if he could take me out for a drive the following day. I said yes, of course. After he left, Claudette exclaimed, “He’s gorgeous.”
Yvonne agreed and then added, “He looks familiar. Is he somebody famous?”
“I don’t think so. If he were famous, somebody would have approached him when he was in the casino or at the bar with me.”
I hardly slept that night. I was so excited about seeing him in the morning. He was waiting in the lobby when I went down. He looked gorgeous in the expensive looking white shirt and khaki pants.
He took me to the coastal town of Bar where we spent the day. We visited the Palace of King Nikola which was located on the promenade, facing the sea. He told me that it was built in 1885. We visited its chapel and winter garden. In the palace is the local museum When we were finished with the museum, we went for a long walk on Susanj Beach. We had lunch at Royal Beach Restaurant. Before driving me back to my hotel, he took me to the Olive Tree which was situated in a picturesque park. The park’s entrance fee was one Euro. He paid for both of us.
“They say that this olive tree is a symbol of Bar and it’s the oldest tree in Europe. Can you believe that it has stood here in this position for over 2,000 years?”
“Wow. That’s amazing.”
“According to legend, feuding families come to the tree to make peace with each other.”
I took photos of the tree which was actually a historical monument before we walked through the park where the atmosphere was very relaxing. It was an incredible day. I had so much fun. I didn’t want to part company with him. On the drive back to my hotel, he asked me about myself and my family. He didn’t tell me much about himself only that he wasn’t married or in a relationship. I was very surprised but extremely pleased to hear that.
Outside of my hotel, he asked me to have dinner with him that evening. I readily accepted. When I told Claudette and Yvonne that I had a dinner date, they were thrilled. “Have fun,” they said.
At precisely six-thirty, he was outside of my hotel. I was so happy to see him and I could tell that the feeling was mutual. After we exchanged greetings and lingering looks, we were off. He told me that we were having dinner at The Conte Restaurant is located in the Conte Hotel, the hotel he was staying at. It was a glorious evening and we were seated at a table on the outdoor terrace which sat directly above the sea. The idyllic atmosphere combined with great quality food made the night a very unique experience for me.
The next day, we went to Our Lady of the Rocks, an artificial island created by bulwark of rocks and by sinking old and seized ships loaded with rocks. We visited the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Rocks, the largest building on the islet with a museum attached. We popped into the gift shop as well because I was curious to see what souvenirs I could pick up for my family.
We had dinner again that evening and we went to his hotel. He took me up to his apartment which had a stunning view of the sea. It was a spacious room with a sitting area and private entrance. We stepped out on to terrace and gazed at the sea for several minutes.
When we stepped back inside the room, he turned me around to face him. We stared at each other before he pulled me roughly against him and kissed me. As we exchanged hungry kisses, I tugged his jacket off. He broke off the kiss to haul my dress down. In a matter of minutes, we were naked. He scooped me up and carried me over to the bed.
We were soon under the sheets making passionate and explosive love. When it was over, we laid there for a long time, our arms and legs entangled. Then, we reluctantly climbed out of the bed and got dressed so that he could take me back to my hotel.
On the drive over, we made plans to go on one of the tours his hotel offered the following day. Outside the hotel, he said, “I know you came to Montenegro with your friends but do you think it would be selfish of me if I wanted you to spend what’s left of your vacation with me?”
“I don’t think it’s selfish. I would like nothing better than to spend the rest of my time here in Montenegro with you.”
And that’s what we did. We spent the rest of our vacation together. Claudette and Yvonne didn’t mind. “Who are we to stand in the way of romance?” They both exclaimed. Besides, they were having fun too. They had met two Italian men with whom they went sightseeing and to dinner with. So, we were all happy until it was time to leave.
Saying goodbye to him was painful. I tried to be brave. “Thank you for a wonderful experience, Mani. I will never forget our time together.”
He cupped my face between his hands and swore, “This isn’t goodbye, I promise.”
I wanted desperately to believe that I was going to see him again but since we hadn’t exchanged numbers, it didn’t seem likely. How was I supposed to get in touch with him and vice versa? I was really cut up about it. I didn’t want to believe that I would never see him again. I broached the subject with Claudette and Yvonne one day when we were having lunch. And Yvonne said to me, “I strongly believe that if you and he are meant for each other, you will see him again.”
A couple of weeks after my return from Montenegro, my boss, Mr. Paddington called me into his office and informed me he wanted me to fly to Delhi in India to attend a three day conference. He handed me my ticket, the name of the hotel where I would be staying and a company credit card. “Sorry for the short notice but I can’t go because of my brother’s funeral. I’m flying to New York on Sunday. The conference is from Monday to Wednesday. My brother’s funeral is on Tuesday.”
So, here I am in New Delhi. I arrived yesterday and have settled into my room in The Leela Palace. The conference begins on Monday. Today’s Friday and in ten minutes, I’m going on full day Old and New Delhi City Tour. I figured that while I’m here, I should see the place. Plus, last stop on the tour is a palace. I’ve always wanted to visit a palace.
I thoroughly enjoyed the tour. The tour guide is wonderful. He provide such insightful information for each place. He took us to a spice market in Old Delhi and gave us free snacks. That and Humayun’s Tomb were the highlights for me until we came here to the Palace.
I stood there shocked to see a painting of Mani hanging in the gallery of the Palace and then to find out that he’s a prince. I don’t know how long I was standing there but I started when I felt a tap on my shoulder.
I swung around and found myself staring up at Mani. We were the only two people in the gallery. Everyone else had moved on.
He smiled. “Hello.”
“Mani! Or should I call you, Your Royal Highness?”
“No. Call me Mani.”
“Is Mani short for Raman?”
“No. Ram is short for Raman but I prefer Mani.” He grabbed my hand. “Let’s go somewhere more private to talk. He took me to a sitting room.
“Why didn’t you tell me that you were a prince?” Now I knew why he seemed familiar to Yvonne. She had probably seen a photo of him or a write up about him in the media.
“I wanted you to get to know me as Mani and not as Prince Raman.”
“I feel like I’m living in a fairy-tale.”
“This isn’t a fairy-tale. What we had in Montenegro wasn’t a fairy-tale either.”
“Do you live here?”
“Yes. Did you enjoy the tour of Old and New Delhi?”
“Yes, I did.”
“What about your accommodations at The Leela Palace?”
“They’re great but how did–?”
“I called your office in London and Mr. Paddington told me that you were here in New Delhi.”
“How did you know that I live in London and work for Mr. Paddington?”
“I found this out from your friend, Yvonne when your other friend and you went to the washroom. She recognized me but I asked her not to say anything. I called your office but your boss told me that you were on your way to New Delhi for a conference. I found out from him where you were staying. I called The Leela Palace and found out when you arrived and that you were going to be on the tour. And here we are. Mariam, I’m so happy to see you again.”
“I’m so happy to see you too.”
“How long will you be in Delhi?”
“Until the end of the week.”
“Stay for another week. You’ve traveled too far to spend just one week. Spend it here at the Palace with me.”
I hesitated for a moment, my mind in a turmoil. I couldn’t get over the fact that he was royalty.
He took me in his arms, his eyes raked my face, his gaze intense and his voice urgent when he said, “Please stay, Mariam.”
With him looking at me like that and holding me against him, I couldn’t say no. “All right,” I acquiesced. “I’ll stay for another week. I will call and let Mr. Addington know and then call the travel agent to extend the ticket.”
His face broke into a broad smile before he lowered his head and kissed me. I groaned against his lips and held him tightly around the waist as I responded feverishly. It felt so good to be with him again. I realized then that I was head over heels in love with him.
The conference ended on Wednesday afternoon and I checked out of the hotel that evening. Mani picked me up and took me to the Palace. Although he gave me a room which overlooked the well-kept grounds, I always ended up sleeping with him in his room.
On the evening before my flight back to London, he proposed marriage and after I recovered from my shock, I accepted. I was going to marry a prince. This wasn’t a fairy-tale. This was real.