The Sheikh's Stolen Bride-To-Be

By: Holly Rayner

“Oh, probably for some time. Several months at least,” Steph said, trying to avoid giving a real answer.

She hadn’t told anyone about the circumstances of her trip. It just seemed so…unacceptable. Americans had a difficult time with the concept of arranged marriages. Steph herself had struggled with it, and for some reason she felt ashamed to admit that that was the purpose of her journey. She didn’t want to hear the comments—the judgement. So she had told people she and her parents were going on a long trip and left it at that.

“Well we’ll certainly miss you around here. You enjoy that ice cream, and make sure to take lots of pictures for us, okay?”

“I will,” Steph said, paying for her ice cream and stepping out of the shop just as a swarm of school kids swept past her to get their own summertime treats.

With the amount of snowfall they got in Vermont, the number of snow days usually meant that school didn’t end until close to July. Steph listened to a couple of kids talking about summer break plans with longing in their eyes as they made their way to get their own ice creams.

The town was settled on a large freshwater lake. Steph’s next destination was a bench that sat facing the mountains, and when she got there she plopped her bag on the ground and crossed her legs as she enjoyed every ounce of the best ice cream in the world. The mountains were reflected perfectly on the water. The caps were still coated with snow, as early into the season as it was.

Steph would miss the snow, of course, though she loved warm weather. She had often stared at the backdrop on her work computer and gone into a daydream about spending a day with a handsome stranger on silky white sands, sipping punch from a coconut. Maybe El Farah had a beach like that. Maybe that was where her future husband would take her on their honeymoon.

Steph’s stomach clenched with nerves. All day she had been alternating between excitement and complete and total terror. There was no way she could just marry some random guy, was there? But he wasn’t random, she reminded herself. Her parents had gone through an extensive vetting process, her father deferring to her mother, who had been raised with such traditions and knew what needed to be done.

Steph had always been a bit of a romantic. It kind of came with the territory when one had an artistic soul. She had often daydreamed of finding a man herself and falling deeply in love, running off together to live the life of their dreams. Living in Vermont had effectively squashed that dream, really. There were few men around to begin with, and Steph had never had a connection with anyone that remotely resembled love. There was simply no future for her here, and she had to trust her parents enough to obey their wishes.

After all, this was the twenty-first century. Divorce would always be an option if things didn’t work out.

Finishing her ice cream, Steph pulled out her notepad and scribbled some designs for a ball gown she’d been thinking about, listening peacefully to the sounds of nature and getting lost in her art. After some time, the sun began sending blinding rays directly at her, so Steph packed up her bag and started walking home.

While her house had once been settled on a hilltop overlooking the whole town, she now lived in a small, wooden-cabin-style home with her parents. Despite having lost his wealth, her father had maintained his connections, and he made a living as an accountant.

When she arrived at the cabin, Steph opened the door and called out.

“I’m home!”

Her mother, Elora, came out of the small kitchen holding her hands up in the air. Smelling the scent of nail polish, Steph leaned over to see what color her mother had chosen.

“Royal blue. That’s fitting, right?” Steph said with a grin.

Her mother nodded. “It is. Royal blue is the wedding color of El Farah. That is why it is so incorporated into your gown. Did you give your notice to your employer?”

“Um, not yet,” Steph said, and her mother gave her a stern look. “I’ve got an email going out to him tomorrow. It will be fine.”

“Stephanie, a written letter as you sneak out the door is not a professional way to end a working relationship. You should go back right now and give proper notice.”

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