Marrying the Sheikh

By: Holly Rayner

Ella blinked as the driver signaled that it was time for her to step outside.

“Oh,” she said, rather confused. She had met several dignitaries and famous people in her few years as a wedding planner, but she had never been in the presence of royalty of this kind.

The driver escorted her to a spot at the bottom of the stairs, where a small red carpet had been laid out. Ella stood perfectly still, not sure whether she should salute or shake hands. She decided to stand at ease with her hands behind her back. Once the other staff members were at their designated areas, Karim and Nadia appeared at the top of the stairs, arm in arm.

Ella inhaled sharply when she saw them. Karim was as handsome as ever, maybe even more so in his regal attire. The image of him standing there looking royal and powerful made Ella’s skin tingle. Maybe it was the afternoon sun, she thought. At least, that’s what she hoped, reminding herself that Karim was a client. And a client that was about to be married to…

Nadia Al Jalal stood poised next to her husband-to-be. She was exquisite in every way. Her jet-black hair was tied in a loose braid that revealed a graceful neck and trim figure. She wore a thousand-dollar Vera Wang dress and held a simple clutch in her perfectly manicured hands. Her eyes were as black as coal and her sharp features looked as if they might have been sculpted by Michelangelo himself.

“Announcing His Royal Highness, Sheikh Karim al-Qadir bin Zayed and his betrothed, Miss Nadia Al Jalal,” one of the guards said.

Ella got it now. She realized the lady in pink must be Nadia’s assistant, or attendant or something. Different cultures called them different things. In any case, she was Nadia’s right hand girl.

The guards and the woman in pink raised their hands to their foreheads and saluted the Sheikh again as he saluted curtly back. Karim then let Nadia’s arm out of his and held her delicate hand as he escorted her down the stairs and onto the red carpet below.

Ella felt her heart pound in her chest. Okay, she thought. Don’t get excited, now. You’ve already met Karim. And this is just another client. Maybe a royal client, but another client just the same.

Karim led Nadia over to where Ella stood and removed his hand from hers. He waved his arm out in front of Ella as if she were some sort of prize Nadia had to decide if she wanted to accept.

“My darling, this is Ella Jones,” he said, smiling brightly at Nadia. Nadia stood perfectly still, not batting even one thick eyelash.

Ella cleared her throat, still unsure how to greet her, but decided to go traditional. She held out her hand to shake Nadia’s and hesitated while she waited with no response.

Nadia looked blankly at Ella and after several seconds, placed her hand limply in Ella’s, smiling almost imperceptibly.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Ella said politely, wondering if she should curtsy or not.

Karim jumped in to break the awkwardness between the two women. “Ella, so glad you could meet us! I can’t wait to show you the resort! We just have to go through a quick customs check and we’ll be on our way.”

A staff member led them back into the boarding area and to a clerk waiting behind a desk. Once their passports were checked, they were given the all-clear to board the jet now bound for Eleuthera.

“Okay, so…” Karim said, turning to Nadia. “I guess we’ll see you in a few hours.”

Ella stood at the end of the counter, confused. She watched as Karim smiled at Nadia and Nadia turned on her heels and exited the room with the lady in pink in tow.

“Okay, let's go,” Karim said, waving his hand out in front of him to let Ella pass.

She smiled, still confused at what was happening, but not wanting to press the issue. Maybe it was something to do with their culture. Ella felt like she had a lot to learn with this couple in a very short amount of time.

She walked past Karim and got another whiff of his musky cologne. The sun hit the goosebumps on her arm as she emerged from the cool room into the warm Miami air. They walked back to the jet and Karim stood back on the red carpet, waiting for Ella to pass.

“Me first?” she said, placing her hand on her chest. She had been on private jets before, but never with royalty.

Karim laughed, showing his brilliant white smile and the kindness of his eyes. “Yes, you first.”

Ella blushed and placed her hand on the railing. She climbed the steep staircase slowly with Karim just steps behind her. When she got to the top, she paused and sucked in her breath, blinking at the opulent sight in front of her.

The interior of the jet had been designed in the most elegant fashion; the doorway opened into a large living area complete with wooden floors, white and black leather furniture and a marble-faced fireplace. A glass bar flanked one wall while a seating area with an ivory chess board and mirrored bookshelves lined the others, surrounded by the windows that ran the length of the cabin on both sides.

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