The sheikhs triplet baby.., p.23
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       The Sheikh's Triplet Baby Surprise, p.23

         Part #3 of The Sheikh's Baby Surprise series by Holly Rayner
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  was figuring we could go through more of your back catalogue, if you’d like.”

  I was flattered and appreciative of how much Zane loved my work. But I had something else in mind. “Actually, would you mind showing me something from Al-Dali?”

  Zane started, surprised. “You want to see one of our movies?”

  “Sure. I don’t know anything about the art that comes from your country, and you know all about mine. I’d like to even that out a little bit, and learn a thing or two.”

  He seemed a little reluctant, rubbing a hand on the back of his neck. “You know, they are nothing like American films. The style is very different, and we pull a lot of stories from the ancient and religious tales that come from our past. You might be bored by them.”

  “I highly doubt that. American stories do the same thing, we just try to hide it,” I laughed. “Do you know how many blockbuster movies are just the story of Jesus, but with robots or zombies or Communists instead?”

  His smile glittered. “That’s a fair point. In that case, yes—I would be delighted to introduce you to my country’s cinema.” He winked at me and quickly spoke to the staff member manning the projectors.

  We waited for our lunch to arrive, made our plates, and then sat back to enjoy the film, which Zane promised was one of Al-Dali’s most treasured movies.

  Zane was right—cinema from Al-Dali was very different from American films. Whereas we seemed to be in an era where using bright color was out of style, every scene in this movie was bold and jumping right out of the screen to demand your attention. Unlike American cinema, the use of music and dance was integral to the understanding of the plot, which Zane explained was an ancient story about a young woman who fell in love with a demigod and began a war between him and his brother, who had already planned on marrying her.

  “I had no idea dating a god was a possibility in Al-Dali,” I joked to Zane.

  “Oh yes, it’s a popular theme in the old stories,” he nodded. “Apparently my ancestors took a much different approach to the lives of deities than modern believers do.”

  “I don’t know about that; don’t Catholic nuns talk about being married to Christ?”

  “Good point,” he laughed.

  As I watched the movie, I was struck by something. “Your culture has so much life to it. Is it hard to be the leader of people with this much passion?”

  The question seemed to hit home with Zane. He took a deep breath, and I could sense his mind whirring as he thought about how to answer me. “Sometimes, yes, it is. I love my country and my people more than anything else in the world. I want to make sure they all have the opportunity to live the best lives they can, and sometimes figuring out how to make that happen is deceivingly difficult.”

  “What do you mean by that?”

  He shrugged slightly, sinking into his chair, his face next to mine. “The answers are never as clear-cut as you would hope. I don’t know that it’s possible for any leader to fully relieve the suffering of his people.”

  I blinked a few times and studied Zane’s face. Judging by the slight look of surprise in his eyes, I guessed that this might be the first time he had ever admitted such a thing to anyone out loud.

  “That must be incredibly difficult to carry around,” I said softly. “That’s a lot of weight.”

  “And, as you said—it’s never comfortable to have millions of people watching you screw up at your job,” he replied with a half-hearted laugh.

  “I think your country is beautiful, Zane. I don’t think you’d have such a successful and prosperous nation if you weren’t doing your job well.”

  He grinned, and then with only the slightest hesitation, lifted up my hand and pressed it to his lips for a quick, innocent kiss. “Thank you. It’s nice to talk to someone about it and not feel guilty.”

  “You don’t have some court advisors or someone who talks to you about things like that? Or is that just a Hollywood thing?”

  He shrugged. “I could hire one. But then I would always be concerned about their true intentions. If they ever began feeling resentful or power-hungry, they could easily use anything I told them against me. I’ve gotten quite used to not having many people to talk to, so holding it inside comes naturally. I prefer it over being paranoid all the time.”

  “Why can’t you talk to anyone?” I asked, curious. “What about your parents?” I thought about my mom back home in Montana, and how even though we didn’t talk as much as we used to, I could always call her for any reason and know she was there for me—even if I was the one who screwed up.

  Zane’s eyes dropped, and he cleared his throat uncomfortably. “My, uh, my parents were killed in a car accident ten years ago. Their driver lost control after the car swerved around a broken-down truck on the highway.”

  “Oh, Zane, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up such a painful memory.”

  He shook his head. “It’s easy to find on an internet search, it’s not a secret, and it’s been a long time. But that’s why I’ve gotten used to keeping things to myself. The two people I would talk to haven’t been around to listen. I was only able to learn so much from my father before he was gone; most of this I’m figuring out for myself as I go along.”

  “That must be so hard,” I said quietly. “To carry all this by yourself.”

  “Some days, yes,” he agreed. “Some days the weight is so heavy that it’s difficult to get out of bed and face it.”

  Before I could stop myself, I replied, “I know that feeling all too well.”

  Zane met my eyes with sadness in his own. “I don’t want you to feel that way.”

  I smiled. “Well, I don’t want you to feel that way.”

  He didn’t reply. He only smiled softly and ran his gaze over my face.

  The movie ending interrupted us and broke the moment. Zane cleared his throat and got up to arrange the next screening, insisting we return to a film from my back catalogue, and I didn’t argue with him.

  This visit was nothing like I’d expected. I was still shocked by the fact that Zane didn’t seem to have any interest in trying to seduce me, even though he was clearly attracted to me. The attraction was mutual, and I’m sure he could tell. It was hard to keep my eyes off him, especially whenever he gave me that charming smile that made his whole face light up.

  I’d met a few members of royalty over the years, but none of them had been anything like Zane. Most of them were so out-of-touch that being able to connect on a human level seemed impossible. There was none of that in Zane, and no difference between the way he interacted with me, his staff, or the gaggle of children that had been in the kitchen. He gave everyone his full attention when they spoke to him, and he treated them with cordial respect in return. It was easy to see why he was popular not only with his staff, but with the people in his country. He was charming, gracious, generous and sweet.

  He had never intended to fly me out to Al-Dali with hopes of having me in his bed. He really was just looking for connection, for someone to share an appreciation for the things he did, and understand what it was like to be lonely and successful. I hadn’t expected to have anything in common with the monarch of a country half a world from home, but I was dead wrong. The more time I spent with Zane, the more I wanted to spend with him. I was more comfortable with him than I had been with anyone in a very long time.

  Zane returned to sit next to me after arranging the next few movies with the projectionist, this time carrying a bottle of wine and two glasses with him. He introduced the vintage as being from Al-Dali, something from his own vineyards. The wine was sweet and succulent, an unexpected treat, and a far cry from the dry Italian wines everyone in LA seemed to enjoy so much.

  Hours flew by, liberated by wine, conversation, and the constant rolling of movies for us to enjoy together. Zane told me stories about growing up in the palace as the rambunctious only child of the royal family, and I shared my experiences of moving from middle-of-nowhere Montana to the big city in o
rder to become a movie star before I was even old enough to drive.

  Pretty soon, we got too tired and tipsy to keep talking, and instead sat back in our comfortable chairs to enjoy the movies playing in front of us. The last thing I remembered was my head resting on Zane’s shoulder as we fell asleep in front of the screen.

  Bought For One Night: The Sheikh’s Offer can be found on Amazon by clicking here.

  And now, please enjoy my previously released book, Hassan: The Bad Boy Sheikh’s Baby, for absolutely FREE!

  ONE

  “Another round for the pretty lady?”

  Morgan glanced up from her Diet Coke and into the twinkling eyes of the bartender. He was trying to be funny, she knew, but she graced him with a small smile anyway.

  “Why not?” she replied, taking one last pull from her straw and allowing the soda to slurp loudly against the ice in her glass before sliding it across the wooden bar.

  The bartender snatched it up and went to pull the soda hose from the back, tipping the glass slightly to prevent too much fizz forming at the top. Morgan thanked him as he slid the full glass back to her with a wink, shaking her head with a bemused expression.

  Men were idiots.

  Morgan’s mind reeled back to a particularly rainy day, a few years back, when she had been pulled over by a cop, and her life had changed forever.

  Cursing, she shielded her eyes from the blinding light glaring through her back window as she reached for her license and registration. She rolled down her window to find a pudgy man in a blue suit and lopsided hat glaring down at her.

  “Do you know why I pulled you over, miss?” he asked.

  Morgan quirked an eyebrow at him. “Because I was going five over the speed limit, sir?” She tried to keep her tone pleasant, but her annoyance leaked through anyway.

  “Left tail light’s out,” he replied, reaching a hand out for her documents, which she duly handed over. “Not safe in this kind of weather.”

  “It’s Houston. The rain will be over in five minutes,” she said, curt. She knew this behavior wasn’t going to save her from a ticket, but she wasn’t the type of person to cry just to get out of a violation. She liked to meet people straight on, with honesty. If they didn’t like it, that was their problem.

  To her surprise, the cop chuckled. “I suppose that’s true.”

  “Hey, can I ask you something?’ Morgan said. “What’s it like, being a cop?”

  The officer hesitated, thinking for a moment before he replied. “Oh, it’s not so bad. On slow days we’re pulling people over for minor traffic violations, but there are times when we get to save people’s lives—make the community a better place. It’s nice to feel like you’re making a difference in the world, even when people don’t thank you all the time for it.”

  Morgan thought about that for a moment.

  The officer leaned in a little closer. “Are you thinking of joining?” he asked, and Morgan laughed.

  “I don’t know what I’m thinking. I’ve got a job—I just hate it.”

  “What are you, Army?”

  “No, corporate. You know, the cube farm; small talk, meddling middle management. Not my bag at all.”

  “Sounds like you need to get out of there. There’s a preliminary entrance exam coming up in a few weeks. You look like you’re in good shape—why don’t you come try out the physical exam and see if it’s something you want to do?”

  “Maybe I will,” she replied, her gaze darting to the man’s paunch and wondering how he got into the force if you really did have to be in “good shape.”

  With that, the cop handed back her license and registration. “On good faith,” he said simply. “Come to the exam, Miss Springfield. You strike me as a good fit for our force.”

  Morgan had had some time to think about it, sitting in her cold, gray
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