Book 3 – Warriors & Watchmen Series
by: Simon Driscoll
Enjoy this free excerpt
Fort Eustis, Virginia
Princess Sariah Khanum stared at the drab room assigned as her temporary living quarters. They weren’t much, compared to the mansion her parents owned in Arlington, but it was better than the rooms she’d stayed in during her twenty-eight years of captivity in Pakistan.
“Your room is as lifeless as mine,” Maryam said.
Sariah jumped at her sister’s presence, and quickly turned to face her. “Don’t you ever knock?”
“Sorry,” Maryam quickly apologized. “I didn’t mean to frighten you. The door was open.”
Sariah’s thoughts became clouded as she tried to remember whether she’d closed the door when she came in or not. Shaking off the confusion, she refocused on her sister. “We won’t be here long,” she reassured herself.
“I certainly hope not,” Maryam said. “But do you think the house will ever be truly safe again?”
“Safe?” Sariah replied. “I’m not sure anywhere in the world is safe right now. But at least we are free.”
Maryam frowned at this. “Free? How can we ever really be free? We are royalty, defined by our birth status. It hangs on my mind like a dark cloud. It’s the reason you were kidnapped, and the reason Atusa died. It’s why those men attacked the house yesterday. I can never be truly free.”
Sariah laughed. “Everyone is defined by their birth status. I meant a more tangible form of freedom.”
Maryam nodded slightly. “Of course. Ignore my shallow musings. It’s too easy for me to forget where you were raised. It’s still weird for me to have an older sister.”
Sariah nodded. “I’ve known about you my whole life, read everything I could about you in the press. But you didn’t know I existed until six months ago.”
“Everything has been more chaotic since you returned,” Maryam said. “But you’re right, we weren’t really free before. Mother has been happier than I’ve ever seen her. It’s as if she was only pretending to be happy my whole life. But now she’s happy through and through. And Father, well, he’s been more active, giving more speeches, speaking openly for the separation of church and state in Iran.”[i]
“Do you think he’ll ever take the throne?” Sariah asked.
Maryam shook her head. “It’s been forty years since our family was deposed. I used to dream about being married off to some prince, maybe even become queen someday. But I gave up on those dreams long ago.”
Sariah sighed. “Until last year, I only wondered when Arsalan would finally marry me. Twenty years is a long betrothal, especially for a man in his forties.”
“You were betrothed to him?” Maryam asked, a look of horror on her face.
“Yes,” Sariah confirmed. “That’s the only reason I kept my virtue intact.”
Maryam gasped. “All those years surrounded by dangerous men, I just assumed . . .”
Sariah shook her head. “Praise be to Allah, no. He kept me safe in more ways than one. But safety and freedom are not the same thing.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” Maryam agreed. “Americans have been exchanging one for the other for more than two decades.”
“Why would they do that?” Sariah asked with a scowl.
“Freedom has no meaning if you’re not safe enough to exercise it,” Maryam explained.
“Safety has no purpose if you’re not free,” Sariah countered.
Maryam looked stunned for a second before she replied, “I never thought of it that way before.”
“It’s why I risked everything to leave Pakistan.”