Marrying the Sheikh

By: Holly Rayner

A week later, Ella gave her notice at E.J. Munford and set up her own website and menu of services for couples in the tri-state area.

At first, business was slow. But Ella wasn’t worried. She had always been frugal, she had a tiny apartment and took the subway everywhere. In her year and a half at the firm, she had managed to save enough money to support herself during her first year or so as a wedding planner.

She started out with only Hannah’s wedding in her portfolio. But within months, Ella had amassed a handful of happy clients who began referring her to their friends. At the end of her second year in business, Ella was so busy that she had stopped advertising and only took clients by personal referral, and only if they could afford her.

One of Ella’s selling points was her particular attention to light. She used natural and indoor lighting in the most unique ways, drawing on her design skills. This allowed her to create weddings that were both stunning and completely unique. In fact, her talent with light became her signature and soon Ella was sought after by New York’s elite. As the supply of her time went down, the demand for her services went up and her rates increased.

In time, Ella became the wedding planner all of the New York socialites wanted. She was mingling with stars and being flown all over the world to help plan some of the most extravagant weddings. She was making five times what she was making as a first year designer and was loving spending time helping people make their dreams come true.

Her success afforded her the opportunity to move into a luxury New York City apartment. Her new home was on the Upper West Side and had six rooms and a doorman. Just four years out of college and barely 25 years old, Ella had everything a girl could want. Except love.

“Okay, okay,” Ella said, lifting the kitty off her pillow. “I’m up.”

Ella stretched her arms out wide, letting her dark brown hair tumble loosely over her smooth shoulders. She stood up and rubbed her emerald green eyes as she walked to the windows. She reached up and pulled the sheers back and looked down at the city below as it woke up for another day.

“Good morning NYC,” she said, wrapping her body in a fine cotton robe. She smiled, grabbed Princess, and headed to the kitchen to turn on the espresso maker she had received as a gift from a wealthy family in Sicily.

She walked through the French doors and into her sun-splashed office that overlooked Central Park. Ella glanced at her messy desk and let her eyes rest on the planner she had open on top of a stack of swatches from a fabric vendor in the garment district. She walked around the desk and looked at her schedule, running her finger over the writing on the page.

“Oh yeah,” she said to nobody in particular. “The Sheikh.”

Ella was referring to her latest client, Sheikh Karim al-Qadir bin Zayed. She had spoken with him over the phone several times, but hadn’t met him in person yet. She hadn’t spoken to his fiancée, oil heiress and socialite, Nadia al Jalal, at all. At first Ella thought that was kind of weird, dealing with the groom and not the bride. But Ella reasoned that she knew very little about the customs of Al Ibran, the country in the Middle East that they were from.

She decided to get a quick run in before she met the couple at 10:00 at the café uptown. She grabbed a quick cup of espresso, threw on her running clothes and ran out the door, headed for Central Park.


Ella arrived at the café a few minutes before 10:00, looking refreshed, polished and professional. She swept her hair up in a loose bun and wore minimal make-up to accentuate her natural good looks. The dark gray blazer and pencil skirt hugged her womanly frame perfectly, showing off just enough without being too revealing.

The maître d' greeted Ella and escorted her to a table on the sidewalk that was bathed in the warm April sun. A tall, dark and very handsome man stood up as Ella approached.

Sheikh Karim al-Qadir bin Zayed stood tall, a good six inches above Ella’s five-foot-eight stature. He wore a pinstripe navy blue suit with gold cuff links and brown brogues that looked like they might have cost more than Ella’s apartment.

Ella reached out and shook his offered hand, smiling slightly as the maître d' pulled her chair out for her and handed them each a menu.

“Coffee?” the maître d' asked, while pouring her white ceramic mug full of steaming hot coffee.

“Sure,” Ella said, laughing at the fact that it was too late to refuse now. She set her black attaché case down on the empty chair next to her and looked over at the Sheikh.

“Well,” Ella said slowly, looking around for signs of his fiancée, Nadia. “It’s so nice to finally meet you.”

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