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Woman in a Sheikh's World

By:Sarah Morgan

Woman in a Sheikh's World
Sarah Morgan


SHE dreamed of the desert.

She dreamed of dunes turning red gold under the burning fire of the sun  and of the clear blue waters of the Persian Gulf lapping beaches of soft  white sand. She dreamed of savage mountains and palm-shaded pools. And  she dreamed of a Prince-a Prince with eyes all shades of the night and  the power to command armies.

'Avery!' He was calling her name but she carried on walking without  looking back. The ground crumbled beneath her feet and she was falling,  falling  …

'Avery, wake up!'

She rose through clouds of sleep, the voice jarring with the image in  her head. It was wrong. His voice was rich, deep and everything male.  This voice was female and amused. 'Mmm?'

The delicious aroma of fresh coffee teased her and she lifted her head  and stared at the mug that had been placed next to her on the table.  With a groan, she sat up and reached for it, half blind from sleep.  'What time is it?'

'Seven. You were moaning. That must have been some dream.'

Avery pushed her hand through her hair and tried to wake herself up. She  had the same dream every night. Thankfully when she woke it was to find  herself in London, not the desert. The discordant blare of taxi horns  announced the start of the morning rush hour. No mountains and no shaded  oasis-just Jenny, her best friend and business partner, pressing the  button on her desk to raise the blinds.

Sunshine poured into the spectacular glass-clad office from all  directions and Avery felt a sudden rush of relief to be awake and  realise that the ground hadn't crumbled beneath her feet. She hadn't  lost everything. This was hers and she'd built it from sheer hard work.

'I need to take a quick shower before our meeting.'

'When you ordered this couch for your office, I didn't realise the  intention was to sleep on it.' Jenny put her coffee down on Avery's desk  and slipped off her shoes. 'Just in case you don't actually know this, I  feel it's my duty to point out that normal human beings go home at the  end of the working day.'

The disturbing dream clung to Avery's mind like a cobweb and she tried  to brush it off, irritated by how much it could affect her. That wasn't  her life. This was.

Barefoot, she strolled across her office and took a look at her reality.

Through the floor to ceiling windows, the city sparkled in the early  morning sunshine, mist wrapping the River Thames in an ethereal cloak as  delicate as a bride's veil. Familiar landmarks rose through the milky  haze and down on the streets below tiny figures hurried along pavements  and cars were already jammed together on the web of roads that  criss-crossed beneath her office. Her eyes stung from lack of sleep but  she was used to the feeling by now. It had been her close companion for  months, along with the empty feeling in her chest that nothing could  fill.

Jenny was looking at her. 'Do you want to talk about it?'

'Nothing to talk about.' Avery turned away from the window and sat down  at her desk. Work, she thought. Work had been everything until her world  had been disturbed. She needed to get that feeling back. 'The good news  is that in my extended insomnia moment last night I finished the  proposal for the launch in Hong Kong. I've emailed it to you. I think  I've excelled myself this time. Everyone is going to be talking about  this party.'

'Everyone always talks about your parties.'

The phone she'd left charging overnight buzzed. Back in business mode,  Avery reached for it and then saw the name on the screen. Her hand froze  in mid-air. Again? It was at least the fifth time he'd called.

She couldn't do this now. Not so close to the dream.

Her hand diverted and she switched on her computer instead, her heart  thundering like a stampeding herd of wild horses. And layered under the  panic was pain. Pain that he could intentionally hurt her like this.

'That's your private number. Why aren't you answering it?' Jenny peered  at the screen of the phone and her head jerked up. 'Mal? The Prince is  calling you?'

'Apparently.' Avery opened the spreadsheet she'd been working on and  noticed with a flash of irritation that her hand wasn't quite steady. 'I  should have changed my number.' He had no right to call her private  line. She should have cut all ties. Should have made sure he wasn't able  to call her except through the office.

'Over' should have meant just that except that he'd made sure that couldn't happen.

'All right, enough. I've ignored what's going on for too long.' Jenny  plonked herself down in the chair opposite. 'I'm officially worried  about you.'                       


'Don't be. I'm fine.' The words had been repeated so often they fell out  of her mouth on their own. But they didn't convince Jenny.

'The man you loved is marrying another woman. How can you be fine? In  your position I'd be screaming, sobbing, eating too much and drinking  too much. You're not doing any of those things.'

'Because I didn't love him. We had an affair, that's all. An affair that  ended. It happens to people all the time. Shall we get to work now?'

'It was so much more than an affair, Avery. You were in love.'

'Good sex doesn't have to mean love; I don't know why people always  think that.' Did she sound calm? Did she sound as if she didn't care?  Would anyone guess that the numbers on her screen were nonsense? She  knew that people were watching her, wondering how she was reacting as  the wedding of the Crown Prince drew closer. There were times when she  felt like an exhibit in a zoo. It seemed that the whole world was  waiting for her to drop to her knees and start sobbing.

And that, she thought, was a shame for them because they were going to  be waiting a long time. She'd throw out her stilettos before she'd sob  over a man. Especially a man like Mal, who would take such a display of  weakness as a sign of another successful conquest. His ego didn't need  the boost.

The ringing stopped and then immediately the phone on her desk rang.

Jenny looked at the phone as if it were an enraged scorpion. 'Do you want me to-?'


'He's very insistent.'

'He's a Prince-' Avery muted her phone '-he can't help insisting. Mal  only has two settings, Prince and General. Either way, he's commanding  someone.' No wonder they'd clashed, she thought numbly. No relationship  could have two bosses.

There was an urgent tap on the door and Chloe, the new receptionist,  virtually fell into the room in her excitement. 'Avery, you'll never  guess who is on the phone!' She paused for dramatic effect. 'The Crown  Prince of Zubran.' Clearly she expected her announcement to have more  impact than it did and when neither of them reacted she repeated  herself. 'Did you hear me? The Crown Prince of Zubran! I tried to put  him through but you weren't picking up.'

'Insistent and persistent,' Jenny murmured. 'You're going to have to answer it.'

'Not right now. Chloe, please tell him I'm unavailable.'

'But it's the Prince himself. Not his assistant or his adviser or  anything, but him. In person. Complete with melting dark voice and a  very cultured accent.'

'Give him my sincere apologies. Tell him I'll call back as soon as I  can.' As soon as she'd worked out her strategy. As soon as she was  confident she wasn't going to say, or do, something she'd later regret. A  conversation like that had to be carefully planned.

Chloe gaped at her. 'You sound so relaxed, like it's normal to have  someone like him just calling on the phone. I can't believe you know  him. I'd be dropping his name into every conversation. He is so  gorgeous,' she confessed in a breathy voice. 'Not just in the obvious  way, although I wouldn't object if he wanted to take his shirt off and  chop wood in front of me or something, but because he's just such a man  if you know what I mean. He's tough in a way men aren't allowed to be  any more because it's not considered politically correct. You just know  he is not the sort to ask permission before he kisses you.'

Avery looked at their newly appointed receptionist and realised with  surprise that the girl didn't know. Chloe was one of the few people not  to know that Avery Scott had once had a wild and very public affair with  Crown Prince Malik of Zubran.

She thought about the first time he'd kissed her. No, he hadn't asked  permission. The Prince didn't ask permission for anything. For a while  she'd found it exhilarating to be with a man who wasn't intimidated by  her confidence and success. Then she'd realised that two such strong  people in a relationship was a recipe for disaster. The Prince thought  he knew what was best for everyone. Including her.

Jenny tapped her foot impatiently. 'Chloe, go to the bathroom and stick  your head under cold running water. If that doesn't work, try your whole  body. Whatever it takes because the Prince is not going to be kissing  you any time soon, with or without permission, so you can forget that.  Now go and talk to him before he assumes you've passed out or died.'

Chloe looked confused. 'But what if it's something really urgent that can't wait? You are arranging his wedding.'