When his supervisor is knocked out of commission by a broken ankle, Brian is sent on a prestigious business trip to Dubai. The company is counting on him to keep one of their most important clients, but Brian soon finds his nerves giving way to a less than strictly professional interest when he meets the hot air balloon-loving vice-president of marketing, Karim.
Will Karim and Brian become more than just clients or will the marketing be too much?
The waiter brought out a couple of large plates of the eggplant dip, and set them with trays of flatbread on either end of the table. As Karim leaned over to help himself, Brian tried to think of something to say. He finally came up with, “Do you visit the States often?”
“Now and then. I mostly liaise with our European offices, so I keep a flat in London.”
Which explained the accent. Brian scooped up some of the eggplant dip on a sliver of flatbread, careful to use his right hand, and took a bite. The dip was creamy and tart and contrasted nicely with the stiff flat bread.
“You're a New York man?” Karim asked. Brian nodded, swallowing and wiping his mouth on his napkin, just in case. “I love Central Park. I'd be accused of treachery if my English friends heard me say it, but there's nothing in London that can compare.”
“Central Park is something else,” Brian agreed, although it took him a moment to remember the last time he'd been there. A couple of months earlier, he recalled. He'd had an unsuccessful date with an Ultimate Frisbee player.
They ate in silence for a few moments. There was a surge of laughter from the other end of the table, although Brian hadn't heard the cause behind it. Karim shook his head indulgently, like a permissive schoolteacher. “Some of us can't be let out of the office.”
“Speak for yourself, Your Highness.” Abdullah chuckled, the ends of his gutra bouncing on his shoulders. “I'm a perfect gentleman.”
Karim laughed. Brian was dying to ask about the title, but he didn't want to sound like an idiot or a fawning fan. He hesitated and, when Karim finished his bite of baba ghanouj and wiped his fingers on his napkin, Brian said, “You'll have to tell our New York managers how they can get people to call them that. A few of our vice-presidents have been trying to get us to call them 'your majesty' for years now.”
Brian was happy with that; it was light-hearted, and it got a smile from Karim. “They'd need to be one of about seven thousand people in one of the ruling families of the United Arab Emirates,” Karim replied. “But believe me, that's more trouble than it's worth.”
“You're a prince?” It didn't come out quite as suavely as Brian had hoped..
“Think of it more like a Kennedy,” Karim replied. “One of those minor cousins who doesn't get a lot of press and still has to hold down a full-time job.”