Sold To The Sheikh Bidder

By: Holly Rayner

She watched him talk to Stan Franklin, another one of her account managers. Lauren almost felt bad for the guy; Stan was known for his terrible jokes and Lauren could tell he was winding one up.

But the dark-haired man threw his head back and laughed like he’d never heard anything funnier. Lauren thought it was a nice laugh, and a kind reaction. He slapped Stan’s back and pointed toward the bar. The two men moved in that direction, and as they turned, Lauren’s eyes connected with his.

Lauren knew she was blushing. There was no way that blunt gaze wasn’t causing her to turn all shades of pink. She smiled; he smiled back and winked at her.

She ducked her head, blushing even more, but was saved from having to think about what her face looked like when she felt her phone buzz with an incoming text. She fished her phone out of the small pocket in her skirt and unlocked the screen.

Immediately, she sighed and said under her breath, “Really, Patricia?”

The text read: I’m sorry, darling. Something’s come up at work and I won’t be able to make it tonight. Thanks for understanding. I know the party will be a huge success. I’m proud of you. xoxo, Mom

Lauren wanted to text her mother back and tell her that signing her texts with hugs and kisses didn’t make up for not being there, that she’d rather have a hug in person than a text from her mother saying she was proud. Lauren knew that already—Patricia hadn’t really given Lauren a choice but to make her proud by starting her own company and making it successful. That was baseline for Patricia’s approval.

Lauren had hoped that her mother would put aside her own work for one night and help Lauren celebrate her own achievement. But with Patricia, the company came first, and that was that.

Of course, Lauren admired her mother’s dedication to her work. It took guts to start a business, and some serious skill and perseverance to make it one of the top advertising agencies in the country. But all her life, the company had felt like a treasured older sibling to Lauren; the one always getting the love and attention. Lauren felt like she had to live up to it, and she had. She just wished her mother had made an exception to her “business first” rule this one time.

Instead of sending the message she wanted to write, Lauren simply responded: Thanks, Mom.

Then she squared her shoulders and put a smile back on, and resolved to have the best time possible. If anyone could act the part, it was her.

Chapter 2


He had to admit, it was a good party. The music, being played by a DJ on a stage along one edge of the room, was lively and fun. The plentiful food came from one of the best caterers in the city. Set up in different stations around the room, the guests could easily grab a plate and chat with others at the party. There were two large bars, with genial bartenders, liberal pours, and more than enough champagne.

It wasn’t just the champagne; there was a buzz in the room that you only got when people were genuinely pleased to be somewhere. Hakim had spent the entire time talking to as many BingeWatch employees as he could, and he was surprised. They all had nothing but good things to say about their boss.

Of course, Lauren Sanders would know how to run a company—she’d probably been taught how to do profit and loss statements before she’d started on solid food. Patricia Sanders would stand for nothing less than a daughter who could manage a staff of dozens.

Hakim wasn’t interested in Lauren’s company, though. He wanted to know what Lauren was like, because tonight he intended to get one over on her mother, once and for all.

Patricia Sanders was his arch nemesis, always bidding on the same clients and subverting his influence in the advertising industry. Although his business outside the U.S. was second to none, the Khalif Group couldn’t seem to break past Sanders & Company stateside.

Hakim was tired of it. He knew that his reputation as a partying playboy hadn’t helped, but he’d been trying to make up for that. His move to the States, even buying a house in Anaheim, had been a signal that he was serious about expanding his business in the U.S. He was attending all the right events and parties, meeting the right people, staying out of trouble.

He’d always been brilliant at the business side of things, so even when he was partying with models and rock stars, he’d been building a successful company. The fact that he started with money to burn had helped, but it was his talent for getting and managing clients that kept them coming back.

The last few years, he’d built another reputation—one for being cold and unfeeling. He still dated models and actresses, but those relationships never lasted, because the past three years he’d focused on building his company and nothing else.

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