Sold To The Sheikh Bidder

By: Holly Rayner

Lauren tilted her head and stared at him, a terrible thought growing in her mind. His grin spread over his face, confirming her fears.

It made sense now why she hadn’t recognized him at the party, but why he looked familiar. Her mother criticized this man so frequently that Lauren could perfectly repeat her mother’s speeches from memory.

His pictures appeared in the media, yes, but mostly because of whichever starlet the Sheikh was dating at the time. He was a member of a royal family—some tiny nation in the Middle East, Lauren remembered—and there was nothing the press loved more than a prince dating a movie star.

In spite of his playboy ways, his company had grown rapidly over the past few years and was now rivaling Patricia’s. Lauren could guess now why this man had wrangled his way into her party and paid so much money to buy her.

Lauren started to shake her head, which only prompted a cold laugh from the man on the other side of the desk.

“Lauren Sanders, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” he said.

“Oh, I doubt that,” Lauren said. “This is all about business; there’s no pleasure involved.”

He nodded. “True.”

“You can’t touch my company, you know. The contract says I’m not allowed to make any changes or initiate any contract actions under this arrangement.”

That got her an uncaring shrug. “I don’t want your company.”

“Then why in the world am I here?”

“Just because I don’t want your company doesn’t mean there isn’t something I want. You’re going to help me get it.”

He steepled his fingers together, and Lauren would have laughed if the whole situation weren’t so absurd. She felt like she was trapped in a play that couldn’t decide if it was a comedy, a mystery, or a suspenseful drama.

Lauren leaned back in the chair, thinking hard. Then the realization set in. “You want my mother’s company.”

Another shrug. “Not exactly, but I would be pleased to have her company out of my way.”

“You can’t do that.”

He laughed once. “I believe a hundred thousand dollars says I can.”

“I don’t have anything to do with Sanders & Company. I’m not on the board, I don’t have a financial stake in it—there’s literally nothing I can do to affect it.”

Hakim leaned forward. “I doubt that. Even without direct influence, you can still affect her business. You’re going to work for me for the next week, and we’ll see how your mother feels about that.”

“No,” Lauren shook her head. “I’m not working for you. That’s the same thing as hurting my own company.”

There was that cold smile again. “You’re not going to be working for my company. I’ve given the staff at my house the week off, so you’ll be taking their place. We’ll see how your mother feels about her precious CEO daughter scrubbing kitchens and bathrooms.”

Lauren stood abruptly. “Not going to happen. The auction wasn’t meant for this kind of power play; it was a fun thing for my employees, you arrogant jerk.”

“Now, Lauren, is that any way to talk to your master?”

Her face twisted at the word. “No. We’re not doing that.”

“Again, I believe the money I paid begs to differ.” He reached for a folder on his desk, and opened it up. He picked up his copy of the contract from the auction, and flipped to the page with her signature on it. He tapped a well-manicured finger on the page.

“Fine. I’ll buy myself out,” Lauren huffed.

He studied her. “Really? I didn’t think you had those kinds of funds just lying around. But I guess you could always ask your dear mother.”

Lauren thought of about fifteen different things she could call him, most of them insults she’d learned backstage at the theater. It didn’t matter what she did here—either way, he won. Asking her mother for the money would be worse than getting through the week. She didn’t want Patricia to know about this debacle; Lauren would never hear the end of it.

Finally, she nodded. “I don’t have that kind of money, and I won’t take it from my company. I also won’t ask my mother for it, because unlike you, I have integrity. I signed that contract; it’s my responsibility, and I’ll honor it.”

His expression became impassive, but Lauren was almost certain she’d seen a tiny flinch from her words. Hakim tossed the contract back in a desk drawer.

“Well, then, I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Bright and early, please. My secretary will give you the address on your way out.”

It was a clear dismissal, and Lauren hated it. But there was no way she was going to give him the satisfaction of seeing her rattled. She pushed her shoulders back and lifted her chin, giving him her brightest smile.

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