Marrying the Sheikh

By: Holly Rayner

The Sheikh removed his sunglasses and placed them on the table next to his coffee cup. Ella noticed the richness of his eyes and how they complemented his olive skin and thick, dark hair. His eyes were not just brown and warm, they were the eyes of a sensitive man.

Ella had learned a lot about the couple in preparation for the wedding. The Sheikh was a distant heir to the monarchy in the principality of Al-Ibran. Although Ella didn’t know how distant, she did know that meant that the Sheikh had enough money that he never had to worry about working a day in his life. And yet, despite that, he worked hard.

Karim had been sent to America at the age of twelve, when his parents sent him to an exclusive private school on the Connecticut shore. Upon graduation, he attended university and had received a degree in business. He had insisted on opening an office in New York so that he could work between the States and his homeland, and grow his family’s already vast fortune. He dealt mostly with investments and loved his work.

Karim had met Nadia while he was at school. They were both from the same country and their families knew each other. As the heiress to her family's oil empire, Nadia never had any need to worry about her financial future either. But unlike Karim, when Nadia graduated, she took up residency in New York and began living the high life of an international socialite.

Nadia and Karim had been friendly in school, but they had never dated. In fact, Karim had told Ella, they didn’t even really like each other that much back then. When they ran into each other again years later at a New York society ball, however, they reconnected. Weeks later, they were engaged, and found Ella through the recommendation of a friend. Even though Ella’s calendar had been full, the wedding was to take place in only a few months and the bride and groom were willing to pay top dollar for her services. It was a job that Ella just couldn’t refuse.

“You too,” Karim replied. “I feel like we know each other already, having talked so much on the phone.”

Ella blushed a little. She wasn’t used to dealing with the grooms. And such a handsome groom at that. Stop it, she said to herself. He isn’t your groom, he is your client. Whew, you really need to get a love life, girl.

Ella laughed at the thoughts swirling in her head and then smiled back at Karim. “And I assume we’re still waiting on Nadia?” she asked.

Karim sat back in his chair uncomfortably, playing with his fork. “Um, no,” he said, avoiding Ella’s eyes. “She won’t be joining us today.”

Ella looked at Karim suspiciously. “Oh, so….” She wasn’t sure how to continue.

“She prefers if I handle the details of the wedding,” Karim said sternly. “For the most part. I mean, there might be things she wants to know more about, like the venue.”

Ella took the hint. Enough chit chat about the private details of their relationship. On to the wedding.

How odd, she thought. She had seen a lot of couples get married in the past few years. And she had seen a lot of strange relationships. Many were relationships of convenience, and many were loveless. But this was something she had never seen: an absent bride.

“Okay, so before we talk about the venue in more detail, I’ve got some sketches for you to look at.”

Ella took out her drawings and began going over them while their breakfast was served. When they were done, Karim went over the details of their upcoming trip to the Bahamian island of Eleuthera, the location he and Nadia had chosen for their wedding.

“Wow,” she said, looking at the pictures Karim had on his tablet. “It’s beautiful!”

“Yes,” Karim said, leaning in close to Ella so that she could get a better view. “And the weather is perfect. The average temperature is 72 degrees and the water temperature is 76.”

“Oh my goodness. That sounds fantastic,” Ella said, trying not to notice how good Karim smelled. He must have been wearing some exotic cologne because it was something she was sure she had never smelled before.

“That’s a lot better than here!”

“And a lot better than back home,” Karim said, referring to the desert heat of his home country.

“So, as I mentioned before, I will take the morning flight to Eleuthera from Miami,” Ella said. “I have an appointment with some clients there the day before.”

Ella knew that leaving New York for a whole day was a suck on her time, despite how much she was being paid. She had decided she would get a visit in with a famous football player and his fiancée who had a winter home in Miami, before heading over to Eleuthera for a few hours.

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