Crown Prince Malek of Sumaira needs a wife. Fast. Or at least his country does. Malek was happy living the life of an international lawyer, but when his brother disappears he has no choice but to become ruler of one of the Middle East’s most wealthy and turbulent countries. He needs respect, he needs stability, he needs a wife—preferably with no history—fast.
And Sophie, his new PA, is more than happy to help him find one. She’s landed the dream job—well paid, lots of travel and no time for love. Computer-whizz Sophie has hardly left the house for the past few years while she’s cared for her mother. And now, with her mother gone, she’s determined never to be tied down again.
But will working day in, day out, with this Michael Fassbender clone make Sophie change her mind? Will the idea of being tied down by him become something she thinks about obsessively, something she needs to get out of her system before it’s too late for either of them…
Book one of the Desert Kings six-book series
Publisher : Bay Books (June 3, 2016)
Paperback : 196 pages
Item Weight : 2 ounces
Dimensions : 5 x 0.45 x 8 inches
Wanted: A Wife for the Sheikh
The Sheikh's Bargain Bride
The Sheikh's Lost Lover
Awakened by the Sheikh
Claimed by the Sheikh
Wanted: A Baby by the Sheikh
The Sheikhs of Havilah
The Sheikh’s Secret Baby
Bought by the Sheikh
The Sheikh’s Forbidden Lover
Surrender to the Sheikh
Taken for the Sheikh's Harem
Secrets of the Sheikhs
The Sheikh's Revenge by Seduction
The Sheikh's Secret Love Child
The Sheikh's Marriage Trap
At the Sheikh’s Command
At the Sheikh’s Bidding
At the Sheikh’s Pleasure
The Billionaire's Contract Marriage
The Billionaire's Impossible CEO
The Billionaire's Secret Baby
The Italian’s Perfect Lover
Seduced by the Italian
The Passionate Italian
An Accidental Christmas
Medieval Romance Written as Saskia Knight
Claiming His Lady
Seducing His Lady
Awakening His Lady
Defending His Lady
Honoring His Lady
READ A SAMPLE
Paris in spring—it was so romantic, so beautiful. Sophie Brown sighed and gazed through the floor to ceiling windows at the fashionable people walking leisurely along the Champs-Élysées, bathed in spring sunshine. The sidewalks were lined with freshly leaved plane trees and, if she pressed her nose to the glass, she could see the Arc de Triomphe, a pale gray against the bright blue sky.
Sophie jumped away from the window and found herself face to face with her boss—Monsieur Claude, the hotel manager. He came closer and looked around with a supercilious smile, making sure no guest were close by. “I don’t employ you to gaze out the window.”
“No, sorry, I—“
“I don’t want to hear any excuses. What is it with you lot today? My senior technician has gone AWOL and my kitchen staff spends more time looking out the window than working.” Exasperated, he sighed. “Finish clearing away these cups and then stay in the kitchens for the rest of the day.”
She gave the table a quick wipe and was about to follow Monsieur Claude into the kitchens when he stopped suddenly. The hotel doors swept open and all eyes turned to a tall, dark man wearing an expensively cut black designer suit, who walked with purpose across the hotel foyer, looking neither right nor left. A phalanx of officials followed him, their white robes gleaming under the brilliant light cast by the gold and crystal chandeliers.
“Who is that?” Sophie muttered.
Claude glanced at her. “No one, to you. Get that tray into the kitchen, right away.”
“Yes, sir.” But she continued to gaze after the stranger. Whoever he was, with his athletic physique, perfect, spare bone structure, and piercing blue eyes, he exuded power.
“Sophie!” She turned to see Monsieur Claude, red-faced with anger. “If you spent as much time doing your job as you do gaping at our guests or out the windows, I’d be pleased with your progress. But, guess what? I’m not. If I catch you again, you’re out. Now get back to work!”
Sophie pushed open the door to the kitchen, and began unloading her tray. Damn! She wanted this job. She needed a change from her former career in IT and this casual work suited her down to the ground—no ties, no responsibilities—just a few months work here, a few there, and move on again. After six years of being virtually housebound, caring for her sick mother, now gone, she was determined to see the world. The best way to deal with grief was to keep busy. Keep moving. And she would. She’d do whatever it took, she thought grimly, as she loaded the dishwasher with the dirty crockery.
Crown Prince Malek ibn al-Abdullah of Sumaira checked his watch—half an hour until showtime. Half an hour until the meeting began and he had to give the performance of his life. The future of his country depended on him gaining the support of the other Desert Kings—the leaders of four kingdoms bound by geography and culture. But that was where the similarities ended. His own country, Sumaira, was by far the largest and the most vulnerable.
The meeting was an attempt to forge closer links between their countries. There would be strength in that unity—strength to withstand the relentless political, economic, and military threat from the great countries that bordered them.
They had a long agenda to get through but there was one item which wasn’t on the agenda, one item that, he knew, was on everyone’s minds—would he, after he was crowned King of Sumaira, be able to retain control of his once-great country, keep it strong against the ever-present external threat from the east?
He checked his watch again and walked up behind his executive assistant, Maryam, who looked up anxiously at his approach. The woman had been his father’s EA for which only basic computer skills had been required, and those skills were being tested at this very moment.
Efficiency had not mattered to his father who was a suitable emblem for his country—large, charismatic, argumentative, and totally dysfunctional. Computer systems, diplomacy, strategy—none of it meant anything to his father. He’d ruled by sheer force of personality, leaving an unholy mess when he died. A mess which his EA certainly wasn’t capable of sorting out.
She’d been able to hide her inexperience while at home, with help from colleagues, and a smooth, confident approach. But now, as she was forced to handle problems herself, her lack of skills was apparent. And, it appeared, his other advisers had limited computer skills. He was the most knowledgeable of the group—and that wasn’t saying much.
She looked up at him now with terrified eyes. But they didn’t soften him, only angered him. She was a symptom of everything that was wrong with his life. Flustered, she jiggled the mouse around, peered at the blank screen, and returned to tapping the keyboard.
With hands on hips, Malek stood looking expectantly at the empty screen. But it continued to be blank. “Maryam! Bring the presentation up. I wish to check it once more before we begin.”
“Your Highness…” She furrowed her lovely brow. “I’m trying. But…”
“But?” he roared. “There must be no ‘buts’. What’s the problem?”
“I can’t seem to find it.”
“What?” He looked over her shoulder. “We updated it last night.”
“I know… It’s just…”
“It’s not there.”
“Ridiculous! Let me look!” But after he made a basic search he could see that there was no version of his presentation dated the previous day. He stood and paced across the room, trying to contain the livid anger that suddenly filled him at his EA’s incompetence. “You!” He pointed to one of his staff who was unsuccessfully trying to make himself invisible. “Get the hotel IT technician. Get someone. Anyone who can sort this out.” The man appeared frozen to the spot. “Now!” Then he turned to his EA who had returned to her seat at the computer and was tentatively pressing random keys.
“What the hell has happened to it?”
“I think, I think… I must have deleted it.”
Maryam was close to tears. “You kept saying I should keep things tidier on my computer, be more efficient so…”
“So you decided to delete the presentation I’m going to give in, let’s see”—he glanced at his watch—“twenty minutes?”
“It was an accident.”
Blood roared in his veins. He thrust his fingers through his closely cropped hair and twisted away. It wouldn’t do any good to vent his anger on this woman. She was out of her depth: he knew it, she knew it, and his father would have known it if he hadn’t been sleeping with her. “Out the way. Let me look.”
While some of his staff ran around the hotel trying to find a technician, and yet others hovered close by, silently nervous, Malek sat at the computer and tried to fathom where the document had gone. But it was nowhere to be found. He grunted with frustration. It seemed his EA was good at something—and that was making the most important document of his life disappear without trace.
He rose and paced to the window. The last thing he wanted was his country, already the weakest link in the Desert Kings alliance since the death of his father, to be seen as an unprofessional, inefficient laughing stock.
He turned once more to his EA who had resumed tapping the keys as if it would conjure up something. “If you can’t fix this problem, get someone who can. Immediately!” He glanced around. “And get someone to clear up these cups. Do I have to oversee everything around here?”
He flung open the windows. The roar of Paris traffic filled the air but did nothing to stem his rising impatience. Was he surrounded by idiots?
Another look made him he realize he was. The number of people had doubled as they scratched their heads, and talked volubly and irritably on their phones.
“Where’s the computer technician for the hotel?”
They shrugged. He turned to the young woman who was tidying up the coffee cups. “You! Where’s the computer technician?”
The woman glanced behind her before clearing her throat. “He’s not here, sir. I mean… Your Royal Highness… sir.” She blushed with confusion.
He narrowed his gaze and she looked away and continued to tidy the cups. Odd. Someone as beautiful as this young woman, who could have been a model, was a servant.
“Your Royal Highness!” one of his men called.
Forgetting the woman, he turned to his man and walked over. “Have you fixed it?”
“Yes, I think so.”
All eyes were on the screen when a document appeared. There was a general sigh of relief from everyone… except Malek.
“That’s not it. That’s an earlier version. There’s no time to re-write it. If it’s deleted, it’ll still be on the hard drive. Find it!”
There was a pause followed by an uncomfortable clearing of a throat as the bravest of his assistants prepared to break the news. “I don’t think we can, Your Royal Highness. It’s impossible.”
“It’s not impossible,” said a voice from behind. “I can find it for you.”
The voice, with its strong English accent, was so soft he wouldn’t have noticed it if it weren’t for the look of derision from his staff as they looked over to the servant clearing the table. He followed their combined, disbelieving gaze.
“If you like, I can have a look,” she said tentatively.
One of his men waved a dismissive hand at her. But there was something in her quiet composure which made Malek pause.
He nodded to her. “See what you can do.”
Her cheeks were suffused with color, making her brown eyes appear redder, almost tawny, he noted as she walked over to the computer.
She sat on the vacated chair and peered at the screen for a few moments.
“What’s the document called?”
She swiftly entered a series of commands as she received the answer from one of his assistants. She flicked between screens quickly. “And... was it updated last night?” She addressed her question to him, rather than one of his assistants, as if she understood what dolts they were.
“That’s right. Last night,” he confirmed.
She double-clicked on an icon, and stood, as his missing document appeared on the screen. There was a collective gasp and grumbling as his staff came to terms with the fact that a servant had done something they couldn’t do.
He barked orders at his men who scattered, returning to their positions, as the doors opened and the other kings and their entourages entered.
Malek looked at the woman who was working quickly to finish wiping the table and clear the used cups, her long, dark ponytail swinging as she moved.
His eyes lingered before he made sure the rest of the afternoon’s presentations were in order. By the time he looked up again, she’d gone.
He turned to Maryam, who was now reseated in the AV booth. “I want her on my staff immediately.”
Her beautiful brow furrowed. “But we don’t need another cleaner.”
“As my new executive assistant. Consider yourself dismissed.”
Sophie hadn’t even had time to put the dirty cups into the dishwasher when Monsieur Claude appeared, looking more harassed than before, if that were possible.
“I’m sorry. But they wanted the room cleared, and there wasn’t anyone else here so—”
“Sophie. Be quiet. Leave that. And get back into the boardroom. You’re wanted in there.”
“But… But… Why?”
“You tell me,” he said grimly, eyeing her up and down. “Apparently you impressed the crown prince, and he now wants you… in some capacity or other.”
Sophie sat as if a hand had pushed her down.
“But… I don’t understand.”
“And nor do I. We’re not paid to understand. We just do as we’re told. I don’t know why you’re wanted, I didn’t ask. Whatever the Crown Prince of Sumaira wants, he gets.”
There was something in the snide, suggestive way Monsieur Claude said this that made her look up, suddenly indignant. “I helped him with a computer problem he had. That’s all.”
“Well, whatever it was, he was impressed and his staff told me that he wants you in the boardroom immediately.” He held out a state-of-the-art cell phone. “Apparently it’s all in here.”
“What’s all in here?”
“How the hell should I know?” He thrust the cell phone into her hands. “Take that apron off and go. Now! One of his officials is waiting for you in the royal suite.”
Sophie untied the apron, and Monsieur Claude snatched it from her and pushed her out the door. She walked quickly toward the royal suite but once outside the double doors emblazoned with the gold crown motif, she hesitated. She took a deep breath, smoothed her dress and knocked.
An official wearing traditional robes and a deep frown opened the door. “Sit there”—he indicated a seat in front of a computer—“and complete these checks and tests.”
She began reading through the screen. “Just for one afternoon’s work?”
The official ignored her question. “Once you’ve completed the formalities, check the cell phone. Your duties are spelled out there. I’ll be back shortly and I’ll take you to the meeting room. His Royal Highness wishes you to prepare a presentation from some of his notes.” He glanced at his watch. “I’ll return in ten minutes.”
Before she could ask any other questions, he’d disappeared. She shrugged and began completing the forms. What was it to her? She had nothing to hide and this was better than washing dirty crockery and scrubbing grimy surfaces.
For the rest of the afternoon she worked alone in a small room off the main meeting room. Every now and then someone would enter and hand her a memory stick, and she’d hear the drone of voices as the meeting continued. Then the door would click closed and she was alone once more to work on what had been given her, and to check the phone for further instructions on what to do with it.
It was late in the evening by the time she stood and rolled her shoulders, automatically doing the exercises that she’d learned were vital when she’d worked from home on computers. She walked over to the window and pushed it open, needing to feel the fresh night air on her face.
The door clicked open again. “Just leave it on the desk,” she said with a sigh. She propped her elbows on the windowsill and stretched her back, rested her chin on her hands and breathed deeply, waiting for the nameless man to depart, as usual without speaking to her.
But the click didn’t come. “Leave what? Do you think I’ve brought refreshments?”
She jumped up, stumbling away from the window, nearly tripping as she realized it was the voice of the crown prince himself.
“I’m sorry, sir—“
“Your Royal Highness.”
“But…” she said, suddenly confused.
“That is what you may address me as.” He strode into the room and up to the window. “And what is it that is so absorbing out the window?”
“Nothing sir… Your Royal Highness. Just fresh air.”
He stood at the open window, and she could have sworn that some of the tension in his face relaxed a little. Then he looked at her. “My prime vizier tells me that, as well as working on the tasks I’ve given you, you’ve offered suggestions for the redesign of the workflow systems.”
“They were a bit clunky before.”
“In any case, I tweaked them a little. They’ll work better now.”
“You… tweaked them? And how were you able to get past our security systems?”
“It wasn’t hard. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any harm.” She shrugged. “It’s just that I can’t bear seeing inelegant programming.”
“Do you know how much my father paid for this ‘clunky’ design?”
“No, but I can guess.”
He didn’t say anything for a moment, just looked at her in that inscrutable way of his. “I don’t need you to guess. What I need is your help. If you have plans for the next few months, Miss…”
“Brown.” She suddenly realized that he didn’t even know her name.
“Miss Brown, cancel them. The coming months are critical for my country. I can have nothing go wrong. Nothing. I need the best. And when it comes to IT, apparently you’re it. You are to work for me.”
Crown prince or not, his peremptory command irked her. “I am?”
“Yes. My staff will work out the details of your contract.”
“I have a job here. I’ll have to give notice.”
“No, you won’t.”
“No. My family owns the hotel.”
She suddenly realized how out of her depth she was. This man was more powerful than she’d imagined. The thought sent a shiver along her spine. “My duties… what will they be?”
“Whatever I require.”
She took a deep, shuddering breath, trying to ignore her quickening heartbeat, the fizzing of attraction low in her gut, and, most disconcertingly, an instinctive lowering of her gaze to his lips. They weren’t full lips, but sensuous, even so. Then they quirked slightly. She raised her eyes to his, suddenly aware of what she was doing.
“I take it you don’t have a problem with that?” he continued.
He knew. He’d seen her instinctive reaction to him. No doubt he could run roughshod over everyone, using his looks and power. “Actually, I do. The job description is a little too broad for me.”
“Is it indeed? And why is that?” Gone was any sign of amusement. His voice was as hard, cold, and unyielding as steel. As were his eyes.
She shook her head, desperately trying to think clearly and speak diplomatically. “Because we’re living in the twenty-first century where people have job descriptions… and the like.”
“And the like,” he repeated, his chill tone sending shivers through her. “Do you fear that I will make you do something unpleasant?” He stepped closer and Sophie immediately wished he hadn’t. She was of average height but he was tall… She looked up as he approached… Very tall. And the way he looked her up and down… it did something very strange to her stomach, and lower.
She shrugged as nonchalantly as a rapidly beating heart and surging adrenaline would allow. “Probably not. But I think it’s only right that I know, only right that I’m told all my duties in advance.”
He was so close now that she could see a muscle twitch in his jaw as if there was some inner tension, as if he weren’t as cold as he appeared. His gaze briefly ranged over her face. “And what, I wonder, is it that makes you so different from others on my staff?”
She swallowed under his scrutiny. “I doubt I am. Surely they want to know what they’re agreeing to.”
He shook his head, once. “No. Not if money is involved. It seems, Miss…”
“Brown,” she said once more.
“That you are different. And I certainly don’t object to that.” His vivid blue eyes glittered in the light from a multitude of table lamps. “For the next six months, you will work on my personal IT systems and other projects as required. You will not discuss your work with anyone. You will report directly to me. What I want, Miss Brown, is for you to ensure my life runs smoothly. To do whatever is required to make this happen.”
“Whatever is required?” she repeated.
“I think you misunderstand me. I want you for your computer skills, your organizational efficiency, and your research skills.”
“Be one step ahead so I’m never in a situation like I was today. Are these terms suitable for you?”
She didn’t miss the sarcasm in his tone but nodded, her heart still racing at his proximity, and at the intensity in his gaze.
“Excellent. And you will also be available at a moment’s notice. You will reside in the palace. And you won’t take any leave of absence during this time. Except if you’re sick of course.”
“You can take as much leave as you like after your work has concluded. I’ll have the papers prepared for your signature.”
“No?” He frowned, as if unused to that response.
She cleared her throat. “No. I’m traveling. I’m not staying in place more than a few months.”
He sighed. “Six months working for me and you’ll have earned enough money to go to wherever you wish, to do whatever you like.”
She chewed her lip as her mind raced. She’d had to source her work through an agency so she could work from home, and the agency had cheated her. She needed money. And she didn’t exactly have many options. He was right. “Okay. I agree.”
“Good. I want you to complete what you’re working on and come to the bar at ten o’clock this evening to meet my prime vizier. He has a few things to go over with you.”
“Yes, of course.”
He opened the door, paused, and turned to her. “And… thank you.”
She looked up and couldn’t prevent a smile. He didn’t look the type of man to recognize service, more the type to expect it.
“You look surprised, Miss Brown.”
“Well, a bit.”
“I’m pleased with your work. I’m pleased with the way you saved my face. I’m pleased with the fact I’ll not have to concern myself with ‘clunky’ systems anymore.”
“Oh… I’m, I’m pleased… that you’re pleased…” she stammered.
His eyes narrowed. “You’re blushing, Miss Brown. Do you receive compliments so rarely?”
She shrugged awkwardly. “From royalty, anyway.”
For a brief moment she thought she saw his lips twist slightly before he went out the room. She was left looking at the closed door, wondering if what she’d seen was a smile… wondering if she’d done the right thing… wondering if she’d just traded her freedom for imprisonment.