Sold To The Sheikh Bidder

By: Holly Rayner

He’d missed so much back home, but it had been worth it to make the Khalif Group successful. He knew his family was proud of him. And Hakim was actually enjoying the new serious side of himself that he presented to the world. Five years ago, he was courted at parties, but ignored in board rooms. For a while, that had been fun, but it got old. He had chipped away at much of that old reputation, and replaced it with someone who was taken seriously in the industry.

Most of the time, anyway. There were still people, like Patricia Sanders, who held no respect for him or his company. They couldn’t see past his former lifestyle. And so, he worked harder at building a reputation as someone who only cared about his business.

There were still stories in the tabloids, but now they told of a billionaire with a heart of ice. The chronicles of his dating life were more like polished advertisements: if you were this brilliant and this ruthless, you too could have beautiful women, hot cars, and a mansion in southern California.

Hakim was tired of that, too. The publicity was nice, but he wanted something more. An actual connection with someone, maybe. Or at least someone who understood what his life was like.

But finding a connection wasn’t why he was at the BingeWatch party. Not that kind of connection, anyway. One of his clients had mentioned the charity auction Ms. Sanders planned to host, and had laughed about the top prize being offered.

Hakim knew winning that prize was his opportunity. Having Lauren Sanders do his bidding for a whole week would not only embarrass her famously proud mother, it would give him an invaluable opportunity to learn more about his greatest business opponent.

He already had a plan for Lauren. He was certain she’d never cleaned a bathroom in her life, or cooked a meal. A day of that and she’d ask her mother to bail her out. And Hakim intended to use that as a negotiating opportunity.

After he’d learned of the auction, Hakim had gone through his contacts until he found someone who owed him a favor, someone who just happened to work at BingeWatch Media. After a little gentle twisting of his contact’s arm, he’d gotten an invitation to the party.

Hakim was pretty certain that Lauren Sanders didn’t know who he was. To be honest, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to pick her out of a room, either. She would be an ice queen, like her mother—of that he was sure. She kept to herself outside of work and her social media profiles were locked down tightly, only her work accounts being public, and those were carefully curated.

Still, he could imagine the type. Cool blond hair always twisted up tightly, dressed in expensive suits that never wrinkled—even at her own party, she wouldn’t be able to cut loose.

He knew that he would win the auction; he planned to bid whatever it took to do so. And until then, he intended to enjoy the party.

After listening to a truly bad joke from one of BingeWatch’s account managers, Hakim dragged him to the bar. The guy was obviously nice, even if he couldn’t tell a joke to save his life, and they both deserved a drink for surviving his comedy attempt.

Hakim’s eye was caught by a lovely woman across the room. She was by herself, but Hakim couldn’t imagine she wasn’t here with someone. Even from the distance, he saw that her hazel eyes sparkled with life and her purple dress hugged her hips in just the right way. She was watching him, a look of curiosity on her face. He was used to women staring at him, but something about this woman piqued his curiosity.

He smiled, and the woman blushed, and Hakim couldn’t resist winking at her too. She ducked her head, and then her attention was pulled away by her phone. Hakim smiled to himself. Maybe after the auction was over, he’d seek her out and ask for her number.

A few people were talking about the auction, and Hakim asked if they were looking forward to the big prize. One of the women laughed, and said that she wasn’t sure if she was rooting for the accounting team or if she hoped that the interns banded together so that the CEO would have to get coffee and deliver mail for everyone.

They were so nice about it, Hakim actually started to feel bad. It was obvious that BingeWatch’s employees were looking forward to having the CEO be one of them for a week, in the best way possible. They talked as if they knew Lauren Sanders would have fun toiling away for whoever “bought” her.

He got another drink, then continued to move around the room, chatting with people. He found himself talking some business, but also asking genuine questions to learn more about the television production field. Of course, there was some overlap with advertising, but he always liked learning more about an adjacent industry.

He’d almost forgotten about his quest when BingeWatch’s vice president announced the auction. The DJ switched from playing music to calling the auction, and Hakim waited patiently as the first few lots were auctioned off. They went through a number of items—a weekend getaway outside the city, season tickets for the local professional football team, a luxury spa package—but the closer they got to the end of the auction, the more Hakim could feel the anticipation build.

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