The Sheikh's Accidental Heir(7)

By: Leslie North

She waved her fork at the plate. “And if you don’t eat, Sybil is going to come over here and make sure you do. A growing man like you needs good food.”

He gave a laugh but picked up half the pastrami sandwich, with its meat dripping out the sides. Melanie waited. Ahmed took a bite as if it was just food—then he stopped and his eyes widened. He chewed, and Melanie knew he was discovering the miracle of Katz’s. It wasn’t just that the meat was cooked to falling apart perfection or that the rye bread came to the table soft and warm. It was the mustard and spices and how everything balanced.

Ahmed let out a breath. “I see why everyone must come to New York at some time in their life.”

They ate everything, washed the meal down with hot coffee that Sybil kept steaming. She beamed at them to see them eating like teamsters. Ahmed paid the bill and left a more-than-generous tip that left Sybil calling after them to come back soon.

Strolling out into the muggy, evening air, Melanie pulled in a breath and put a hand on her stomach. “I’m going to have to do an extra lap at the pool this week to make up for that.”

Ahmed laughed. “Ah, but the evening is not done. Come, we’ll walk.” He took her hand and they strolled down the street. The sedan dutifully followed, slowing traffic behind them, gaining angry horn honks.

Unable to stand that, Melanie said, “I should be getting back.”

“To work?” Ahmed turned to face her. “Really?”

She bit her lower lip. “Hey, bills to pay.”

He glanced up at the sky and then at her. “You must come with me for a nightcap, yes? And I texted Stubon. He should leave dessert for us. You cannot let that go to waste.”

“Well, if you put it like that.”

With a hand on the small of her back, he guided her to the sedan and Ahmed gave the name of a newer, smaller boutique hotel. Melanie had been curious about the place—she hadn’t been inside. The lobby impressed with small alcoves and seating areas, all of them perfect for intimate business meetings. The bar had been tucked to one side, and the check-in counter seemed more like a desk. The elevator smoothly took them to an upper story, and Ahmed let himself into his room. She was even more impressed that he hadn’t bothered with bodyguards—but with his build, he probably knew how to look after himself.

The sheik’s suite put the penthouse where they’d held the business gathering to shame. A small foyer opened into a large sitting room with tall, two-story windows looking out onto a terrace that overlooked the Manhattan skyline. Stairs led up to a loft-style second floor with a hint of a giant bed.

The dining room boasted a long, shiny ebony table surrounded by straight-backed chairs, formally set with china, chilling wine and candles that had just been lit. The room still smelled of spices and something else—but the award-winning chef who had prepared whatever meal was not to be served was nowhere to be seen. She hoped he hadn’t left in a huff. But the lights of the city distracted her, and she headed to the windows.

“Wow. You can see everything worth seeing—even the Empire State Building. At street level, it’s too easy to forget the light show that stretches across the skyscrapers as soon as the sun goes down.”

“A commanding view, yes?” He sounded proud of the fact, as if somehow he’d arranged this just for her. In a way, he had.

Pulling out a chair, he gave a small bow. “Please, have a seat.”

Turning, Melanie glanced at the table and came over to it. She could smell vanilla and a hint of spice clung to the air—cinnamon and clove. She sat down, and Ahmed pulled a bottle of wine from the table to fill two glasses.

He handed one glass of the golden liquid to her.

“Here’s to a wonderful night,” he said, holding up his glass.

She raised her glass. “Cheers,” she answered. She sniffed and sipped the wine. Dry but with an oaky aroma and a smooth finish. She gave a low hum of appreciation.

“You are familiar with Montrachet?” Ahmed asked.

“I worked a diamond wedding anniversary and the husband not only could afford the world’s best chardonnay, he was liberal with servings. It’s fantastic. I only tasted it that once, but I swore I’d be able to afford a bottle someday.”

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