The Sheikh's Purchased Bride

By: Holly Rayner

“She’s sick?” Amie repeated, her heart doing backflips.

“Yes!” Michael said, finally taking on a normal tone. Oftentimes his theatrical nature would overwhelm even the most mundane conversation—he could make asking for a cup of coffee sound apocalyptic.

“I blame you,” he said absent-mindedly. “You must have put a hex on her just to get on stage. Now come on, to wardrobe!”

“Uh, yeah! Okay!” Amie said, ripping her ponytail from her hair and tossing the want ads to the green room floor. She quickly followed behind as Michael marched into hair and makeup, with a stylist at the ready to turn her into a perfect piece of stage art.

“It’s so funny because I’m always telling Katie that it drives me crazy how I’m getting sick like every week, yet no one else ever gets sick around here. I even told her we should start cranking up the AC,” Amie laughed, but Michael merely continued forward. “You know, so people get cold and maybe—”

“—develop a debilitating illness?” he interrupted, dragging her by the arm into a makeup chair and instructing the stylists without a word. “I get the joke, Amie, it’s just a little morbid.”

“Right…” she pursed her lips awkwardly. “I mean, I didn’t really do it, so…”

“Just, be ready in 30! You do know the lines, yes?”

“Yes, of course!” she said quickly, watching as he disappeared out of the dressing room. Her heart wouldn’t stop flipping as the women behind her fussed and fawned over her makeup and curls; deep down, beneath her sarcastic veneer, she was relishing every moment of her big debut and silently taking back every jealous thing she’d ever uttered about this play.

She practiced her lines in a whisper for the next half hour, reminding herself that she’d spent the last eight weeks rehearsing these lines alongside the play as she watched from the wings, and that she had nothing to worry about.

While Carolina and the Bridge wasn’t exactly critically acclaimed in the media, the play’s director was still renowned for throwing some of the biggest, wildest after-parties on the Chicago theater scene. It didn’t go beyond Amie’s notice when a stage hand swooped into her ear with an excited whisper announcing: “You’re so invited to the after-party.”

Amie squeezed into her first costume and was quickly shuffled about from stagehand to stagehand. She could hear the assistant director ushering her to the curtain with a wild energy as all the actors took their places.

Breathe Amie, just breathe. If she could just get out her first line, she’d be golden for the rest of the performance.

She stepped onto the stage and quickly took her place at a faux-antique writing desk. She stared at the velvet red curtains and then down at the leather-bound book before her. She could see where Sharon had scribbled on the pages, either while pretending to write, or accidentally, out of nerves. She smiled at the penmanship and took it as an unspoken sign of Sharon’s blessing on her stepping into her shoes that evening.

Suddenly, Amie realized the background music had faded and the billowing red curtains had been drawn; the bright stage lights blinding her vision of the vast audience before her.

She stared wide-eyed at the hot lights above and then back down at the book in front of her.

Say, your, line!

“Endlessly, endless dull…” she said in her best Sharon impression, sweeping the papers off the table with an over-exaggerated swing of her hand. A chuckle ran through the audience at the gesture, which Amie could only take as sign of good things to come.


Amie’s instinct was right. The next two hours went off without a hitch. In fact, she dared think that the audience seemed to react even better than they normally did. She took in every sensation and every tingle of nervous excitement she felt while on stage and could barely believe it when she found herself saying her last line of the night.

Moments later, Amie found herself taking the stage alone to do her final bow. She couldn’t believe it when the audience rose to their feet and roared with thunderous applause. She took a brief look around the stage to make sure there was no one else accompanying her, to which the audience caught on and began to laugh. She felt a small sense of shock to discover that yes, they were clapping for her. Just her! A tall, well-dressed man stood in the front row, applauding slowly as he regarded her intently; the look on his face silently telling her he thought she was absolutely brilliant.

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