Cinderella and the Sheikh

Cinderella and the Sheikh

Teresa Morgan

For Joyce, who held the sheikh's hand.

Chapter One

The happiness of one woman was a small sacrifice compared to the fate of a country.

Sheikh Rasyn ibn Bakr ibn Rahman al Jabar watched her tuck a stray strand of auburn hair behind her ear. Even from across the crowded lobby of Hotel Scheherazade, even separated from her by the glass wall that divided the café from the hotel, she drew his awareness to every move of her lush body. The busy porters and smartly dressed guests bustling around him faded like smoke as he watched her.

Even from here, Rasyn could see the gray-haired gentleman sitting at her table was dazzled by her too-wide smile. He snuck a glance down her generous cleavage when she set his meal in front of him, as Rasyn wished to do.

Rasyn folded the paper he'd been pretending to read across his knee, taking care not to smudge the ink onto his Alexander McQueen suit. She was lovely, he had to admit, even to his critical gaze. Lovely enough to tempt any man into making a fool of himself. No doubt she thought herself too fat, but who could explain Western standards of beauty, with their skeletal models and anorexic actresses? Her breasts would spill over his hands as he ran his thumbs over her nipples. Her lush backside would press against him as he gathered her to his hardened body.

A ripple of guilt threatened his resolve. Of course she had done nothing to deserve what he would do to her. However, for the good of all Abbas, he had to act. His cousin Imaran belonged on the throne, despite Uncle Anwar’s inclinations.

And it had to be soon. His uncle's illness loomed over Abbas like a shroud. The threat of the country devolving into tribal factions fighting over the succession was very real. Securing Imaran's rise to power meant proving his own unworthiness. If that meant seducing an uninvolved woman, so be it. The alternative meant people would die.

He would ensure her pleasure, at least. And when they divorced, enough material compensation to ensure she never had to wait tables again. Perhaps even a degree of celebrity.

Across the lobby, she laughed at something the old man said. Her smile transformed her face from mere beauty to that of an exotic houri.

She was perfect for his needs. He'd come to Manhattan intending to find an ordinary woman to seduce. But as soon as he'd seen this one, with shining ruby glints in her hair and eyes as green as an oasis, he'd forgotten all thoughts of plain women. He knew that she wasn't immune to him, either. The second they'd locked eyes, nearly a week ago, she'd dropped a tray of drinks, scattering liquid and shards of glass across the floor.

That's when he'd chosen her. She was beautiful, tempting, and vulnerable to him. No one would wonder why he fell for her. Perhaps her clumsiness would become an asset.

And she resisted him. It had been too long since he'd had a challenge. By avoiding him and hiding behind her veil of politeness, she sharpened his appetite for her. He'd never had a problem convincing people of the rightness of his own point of view or convincing women to share his bed. If she'd fallen into his arms like other women had, he wouldn't have minded, of course. And he would have treated her with the same respect he'd treated them. But her refusal to acknowledge his charm showed strength of character he admired.

Yes. He smiled inwardly. She was perfect. Beautiful.

And oh-so common.

***

Libby Fay winced when she