The Sheikh's Accidental Heir(4)

By: Leslie North

Turning, she dropped her hands and started to walk away. Reaching out, Ahmed touched her arm. She stopped and glanced back. “I live with the idea that what my father does not know does not hurt anyone close to him. Please—take pity on a stranger in your land. One dinner. I’ll buy. Your favorite place.”

She licked her lips. His heart gave a hard thud. With that teasing smile curving her lips, she said, “It’s going to take about an hour to clean up after the party ends.”

“I’ll wait for you.”

Her smile grew. The world had darkened around them. Lights were fluttering on below them and around them on other buildings. Ahmed stood still, his breath held. He could no longer see Melanie clearly now, but when she spoke again, her voice had thickened with what he thought was the same hunger in his veins. “I’d like that.” She turned and strolled back to the party.

Ahmed smiled. The evening was suddenly interesting.

Back inside the suite, the noise from too many voices talking was like walking into a wall. He hesitated and then dove in, determined to get through this ordeal. At least he had something to look forward to. He grabbed a bottle of San Pellegrino from the bar and glanced around, looking for his brothers.

Zaid was the only one really engaging the suits gathered—Zaid had always been the most dutiful of them. Ahmed headed over to where Khalid sat on a couch, thumbing through his phone, checking messages, no doubt—his eldest brother had always been the responsible one. Sitting down, Ahmed draped one arm over the back of the couch and asked, “What vital conversation did I miss?” Khalid opened his mouth to answer, but Ahmed waved a hand. “That was a sarcastic, rhetorical question, brother. I wasn’t paying attention to any of them to begin with.”

Staring at him, eyes slightly narrowed, Khalid said, “You really don’t like all of this, do you?”

Ahmed shrugged. “Business is always there, is it not? So why not take the opportunity here for a little fun?”

Khalid shook his head. “It is time to start taking some of this seriously. Someday soon, Father will lose patience with you. You’re no longer the baby of the family, Ahmed. Father expects you to become a man.”

Raising his hand, Ahmed held it in front of him. “Now you sound too much like him.”

Khalid’s mouth pulled down. He was starting to look too much like their father, too. His figure had thickened slightly—married life was turning Khalid into a dull husband. They all shared the same heritage of their father’s dark hair and eyes—but Khalid seemed… happy.

Ahmed frowned at that thought. Happy was not a concept he courted—he wanted excitement, he wanted to live before their father tied all of them to the lives he had planned for them. Ahmed squirmed in his seat. He was growing impatient with being the youngest—the last one Father ever thought about, the one who had nothing to do other than let his older brothers learn the business like Zaid or start having grandchildren as Khalid seemed intent on doing.

He was here in America, far from his father’s disapproval, and he had a lovely woman willing to dine with him. And perhaps more—American woman were wonderful in how they went after their own pleasure like a man. He glanced around and saw Melanie, back at work again, supervising a new tray of some tiny treats that were to be passed around. He watched as she worked her way around the room. She did not look his way, and he knew she was trying hard not to.

Ahmed sipped his water and waited for Khalid to take up his lecture again. But his brother surprised him by slapping a hand on Ahmed’s shoulder and standing. “You should find yourself a wife.”

Ahmed gave a snort. “So says the married man, who only wishes to see others chained. I am satisfied with my life as it is.”

Khalid shook his head. “Choose on your own, brother, before Father chooses for you.”

“Oh, he will have to marry Zaid off first, and then he will pay attention to me—perhaps. Until then…well, until then I will live life to the fullest.”

“Meaning you will find trouble for yourself and the family.” Khalid shook his head. “Father’s patience is not endless. And neither is your life. Find something you want, Ahmed. And go after it. Father will never respect you until you learn first to respect yourself.”

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