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The Sheikh’s Forced Bride

By:Leslie North


1





Sheikh Khalid Al-Qasimi took a deep breath to steady his nerves and let it out. He stared at the enormous wood doors in front of him. Drawing another slow breath, he put his hands on the brass door handles. Once he stepped through those doors, his life would change forever. And not for the better.

Letting go of the door, he shook his arms out and looked down at his traditional white robes of his country.

From behind, Ahmed’s deep voice carried to Khalid. “She makes a beautiful bride, and Mehmood is a very traditional man, so I’m sure your wedding night with your bride will be a memory to treasure.” Ahmed stepped up and nudged his brother’s arm.

Khalid shot him a scornful look. “You are partly to blame for our father making me do this. I’m not interested in Mehmood or his daughter. And I don’t care if she’s a virgin. Do you think the women we saw in America were virgins?”

Ahmed shrugged. “You knew this day was coming. Granted, maybe a day with father a bit less angry than he is just now.”

“Wait until it’s your turn. I suspect our father’s mood has more to do with the level of our transgression and less to do with age. You’re next, little brother.” Khalid turned his attention to the door again, waiting for the peace he needed before walking through.

Ahmed shook his head and offered up a weak smile. “It was just one night of fun.”

“Fun? A good time is one thing. Dishonor is another.” Khalid placed a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “And this is about family honor—and me keeping my place in our family. Now, go. I’ll make my entrance behind you.”

“If there were another way…” Ahmed let the words trail off.

Khalid had thought the same thing. But he knew his choices here—marry or lose everything. He was not ready to say goodbye to his brothers or to his homeland. So he would take the other option Father had put before him. He patted Ahmed’s shoulder and dropped his hand.

Ahmed shook his head, pulled his black bisht with the gold trim over his shoulders and opened the doors. It was strange to see Ahmed in anything but the perfectly tailored suits he always wore. Ahmed stepped into the room, his white keffiyeh swaying as he walked.

Khalid understood that it was each son’s responsibility to preserve their family’s honor. He understood his father’s reasons for arranging this marriage-but of course the main reason was that it would combine both families’ wealth. And this marriage prevented Khalid from marrying anyone else—in other words, from making yet another mistake.

The marriage made perfect political and business sense, but Khalid preferred a world that was not quite so calculating. He had always thought that someday—a much later someday—he would marry a woman whom he loved. Regardless of her background. That was yet another dream to be set aside it seemed.

Khalid took another deep breath, reminding himself that he was destined to one day become sultan.

He never should have disrupted the meeting. But he’d been drinking, and of course his father had found out. The embarrassment had proven Khalid’s undoing.

“Marry and prove yourself worthy of your family’s name, or never show yourself to me or to anyone of your family again.”

Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Qasimi’s words had been harsh, but Khalid had at least been happy to have been given a choice, such as it was. He would prove he was ready to accept his responsibilities.

He drew his own black bisht over his shoulders, adjusting the tail of his keffiyeh out so the headpiece could hang down his neck onto his back. He pulled the gold trim close in front and then followed Ahmed’s path up the aisle.

The ballroom seemed to be packed to capacity with both families, but not everyone in attendance was a blood connection. A few of his father’s American business partners stood out in their tailored suits. Everyone else wore traditional garments. Khalid pasted on a stiff smile. He would get through this somehow.

The deep red carpeting and golden walls seemed to him garish. Lights glittered in the golden chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Further back from the main aisle, round tables covered with white table covers stood out against the carpet. Golden chairs boasted red cushions the same color as the carpet. In the Western weddings he’d been to, Khalid had seen the guests seated in rigid rows, all facing the front in some sort of somber ritual. But weddings in Sharjah were celebrations through and through. The party began before the ceremony took place and it lasted until the last person left.

Reaching the front of the room, Khalid stepped up to where Mehmood waited. Mehmood gave Khalid a nod and then turned to the side.

Double doors to the left of the ballroom opened and Fadiyah stood framed in the entrance.

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