Sold to the sheikh his i.., p.2
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       His Indecent Proposal, p.2

         Part #1 of Sold To The Sheikh series by Holly Rayner
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  The next afternoon, just as she was getting ready to leave the school again, Mia's phone vibrated in her purse. She pulled it out furtively, glancing around to make sure none of her students were hanging around outside the classroom; if one of them saw her talking on the phone they'd no doubt give her a hard time about it, since she constantly had to confiscate phones because of the school's policy about using them in class. The number that flashed on the screen was completely unfamiliar and Mia felt a low dread, thinking that it was probably one of her mother's debt collectors, calling to follow up on one of the medical bills. I thought we had them at least current-not more than a little late. Didn't we work out a payment plan? Mia took a deep breath, preparing herself for an aggressive and angry threat about what would happen to her and to her mother if she didn't arrange for a payment.

  "Hello?" Mia closed her eyes, half-cringing already.

  "Is this Mia Campbell?" The voice was strangely familiar, in a surprisingly polite tone. Well, if it's a bill collector, at least they're going with a polite and friendly opening.

  "It is," Mia said cautiously.

  "I'm so glad to hear your voice," the person on the other end of the line said. "This is Rami-the idiot who ran into you yesterday." Mia sank down into her chair, relieved. "Are you still there, Mia?"

  "Y-yes, I'm still here," she said quickly. "Sorry, I just?it's been kind of a long day. Did you need some information from me, something for the claim?" Mia frowned, reaching into her purse for her wallet; she was sure she had her insurance ID in there.

  "No, no," Rami said. "I wanted to let you know that I've made arrangements to have your car repaired."

  "Really? That was fast," Mia said, staring down at her desk in surprise. "You must have great insurance." On the other end of the line, Rami laughed.

  "Not my insurance," he said, and Mia thought she could hear him smiling. "I've got a mechanic downtown who said he would be able to take care of your car. It'll be on me-no need for either of us to deal with insurance companies." Mia felt a flicker of doubt; her father had cautioned her, before he passed away, against ever letting someone talk her into not going through insurance companies.

  "Are you sure that's a good idea? Isn't that illegal?"

  "No, not at all, just expensive" Rami said. "But I can afford it, and it makes my life easier. I've already made arrangements for the bills to come to me-you can call the mechanic to confirm it." Mia caught her bottom lip between her teeth and worried it, considering.

  "Well, if you're willing to pay for it," she said finally. "I guess I can call the mechanic." Rami gave her a phone number and Mia wrote it down on the inside cover of her notebook.

  "I was thinking," Rami said, as soon as Mia confirmed that she had the number and would call the mechanic after they finished talking. "It might take him a few hours to get your car sorted out. I'd hate for you to be bored."

  "Oh, don't worry about me. I can bring a book," said Mia hurriedly. "Or-or I'm sure I'll have work to do while I wait, it's no big deal."

  "Or?" Rami said, his voice wheedling, "I could pick you up, take you out for coffee?" Mia frowned. That wasn't what she had expected to hear from the man who had yelled at her for being an idiot just the day before.

  "I wouldn't want to put you out," Mia said, looking around the classroom as she felt her cheeks beginning to burn with a blush. "I mean, I'm sure I can entertain myself fine."

  "It wouldn't put me out, not at all," Rami said. "I've a window in my schedule, and I feel so terrible about berating you yesterday. It would be a pleasure to buy you a coffee." Mia swallowed, pressing her lips together.

  "You know," she said finally, "I-I think I'll probably spend the time with my mom. I'll have her pick me up at the shop. I'm sure she probably needs me to help her with errands anyway. But I appreciate the offer, and I'm so grateful you're willing to pay for the repairs."

  "Well, if you change your mind, you have my number now," Rami said, and Mia was taken aback at how confident he sounded, despite having just been turned down.

  "I do, and I'm sure that if I do get bored, I'll-I'll call you. Thank you again, Rami, for taking care of this so quickly."

  "You aren't in pain, are you? No sign of injuries? I can speak with a physician, if you think you need one."

  "No, no," Mia said, feeling more than a little uncomfortable. "I'm fine, just a little bit sore. Nothing a hot bath won't cure." She took a breath. "Thank you again, but I really should call that mechanic to book in before they close for the day."

  "Of course, of course," Rami replied. "I'll leave you to it. Remember, if you change your mind?"

  "I will remember! Have a good night, Rami-and thank you again." Mia tapped the 'end call' icon on her screen before the man could press his suit any further. She set the phone down and sighed, shaking her head in amazement. Did he really just ask me out on a date? It had been so long since Mia had considered going on a date-so long, in fact, since anyone had asked her out on one-that the very possibility left her bemused.

  Mia gathered up the rest of her things, smiling bashfully at the fact that Rami had been so intent on taking her out for coffee. Thinking about the man, she couldn't deny that he was attractive; he was taller than her by a good couple of inches, which was rare enough, and even without the tailored suit, he had had what she sensed would probably be a nice body under the clothes, lean and slightly muscled. His skin had been flawless, his hair healthy and full, his face downright gorgeous.

  But even if he hadn't made a disastrous first impression on her by screaming at her, calling her a bitch and insulting her intelligence, Mia couldn't imagine adding dating to her already-full schedule. One of her coworkers, an art teacher, had asked her out for coffee several weeks before and Mia had been forced to turn him down; she spent basically all her free time with her mother, who needed so much help around the house, in addition to being unable to drive herself to all of her appointments with the various doctors she saw.

  Mia had given up on the idea of seeing anyone months-maybe even years-before. When she'd been in college, she had managed to find time to date occasionally, but as her mother's condition had worsened, she had had to spend more and more time taking care of her. Eventually the invitations had slowed down, and she had ceased to look for them.

  Her drive home was less eventful than the previous day's, and Mia walked through her door relieved that the damage to her car hadn't been worse. "At least," she said to herself, locking the door behind her and walking the few steps to the beat-up couch she considered almost as an old friend, "It can't take them more than a few hours to get it done." She took out her phone and called the number Rami had given her. After two rings, someone picked up.

  "A-A Auto-Body, Lenny speaking."

  "Hi, Lenny," Mia said, clearing her throat as quietly as possible. "I think-I hope-someone I know called you earlier to make arrangements for a repair."

  "Who is this?" Mia imagined Lenny in her head; the voice suggested a middle-aged man, and Mia felt oddly at ease. She thought he might look a lot like her dad had, years before he'd passed.

  "My name is Mia Campbell," she said, feeling her heart beat a little faster. If Rami had been playing her? "I was-ah-involved in a collision with a man by the name of Rami al-Hassan yesterday?" She wasn't quite sure how to phrase her question so as to find out what she wanted to know-had Rami actually made arrangements to pay for her repairs, or had he merely given her the contact information? If he hadn't made arrangements, she was going to contact her insurance and try and get them to cover the repair, whether Rami wanted her to or not.

  "Ahh, yeah, Rami called me earlier today. Mentioned he'd been in another crash." The man on the other end of the line laughed. "He told me to take care of everything for you-he already has payment info on file. Can I ask you for the year, make, and model? I want to order any parts I might need before I leave for the day." Mia sighed with relief; Rami hadn't been playing her for a fool, and had actually made the arrangements.


  "Uh, sure," Mia said, trying to recall the details in question. "It's-ah-a '99 Volvo sedan. I think it's an S70?"

  "That sounds about right," Lenny said. "Color?"

  "Dark green?hunter green, I think you'd call it." On the other end of the line, Mia heard papers rustling, and Lenny muttering notes to himself.

  "You can go ahead and bring it in first thing tomorrow morning," he said. "It's still drivable, right?"

  "Oh-yeah, I don't think anything under the hood is messed up, just the back end." She swallowed. "And you're sure that Rami is set to pay for this, right?"

  "Absolutely," Lenny said, and Mia heard the reassurance in the older man's voice. "Rami gets into scrapes like this from time to time. I've told him he should trade in that Tesla thing for something more practical-or at least something with front-end collision control! But you know how some guys are."

  Mia chuckled. "Yeah," she said. "I know. So what time do you open tomorrow morning?"

  "Since it's a weekend, we'll be open from nine," Lenny said. "I've got a spot in reserve for you, so if you can't make it in right then, you've still got priority. Rami insisted. I can't make any guarantees, of course, but based on what he said about the damage, I should be able to get it done in a few hours."

  "Thank you," Mia said, smiling to herself. "I'll get it there right when you open. I don't want to put you out."

  "No trouble there," Lenny said. Mia heard the squeak of a desk chair tilting back. "If you need someone to pick you up?"

  "I think I should be fine," Mia said, waving her hand to brush the idea aside, even though she knew Lenny couldn't see her. "Thank you so much for being so accommodating."

  Lenny laughed again, a rich, hearty chuckle. "No problem," he said. "I'll expect you at nine. If you'll excuse me, I should get these parts ordered for you before I leave the shop."

  "Thank you again," Mia said. "I hope you have a great night!" She ended the call feeling much more comfortable than she had when she started it. Mia plugged her phone into its charger and kicked off her shoes, striding through the small living room of her little house and into her bedroom. She flipped the light switch on and yawned, stretching and twisting against the soreness in her body, a mixture of the aches from the accident the night before and the stress of standing up and walking around in circles for most of the day.

  She decided to make good on what she had said to Rami-a nice, long bath would do her a lot of good. She stripped her clothes off quickly, tossing them into the hamper in front of her closet on the way to the bathroom. She turned on the water and waited a moment or two for it to heat up before she pushed the plug into the drain and let the tub begin to fill. One of the few luxuries she allowed herself was a small collection of bath salts and bubbles: it was a cheap way to give herself something nice, and Mia had justified the occasional three or five dollars based on the fact that she was buying a luxury at less than a dollar per use. She picked a jar of pink salts perfumed with sandalwood and neroli and poured about half a cup of the potent, fragrant granules into the hot water.

  As she waited for the bath to fill, Mia thought about the strange man who'd collided with her the evening before. Rami al-Hassan was handsome, there was no doubt about it; and obviously he was wealthy. But he seemed-at least on her first impression-like kind of a spoiled brat. He had been more concerned with the damage to his expensive car than he was with the fact that he had slammed into someone else. "Did he say it was a Tesla?" Mia shook her head in wonder; she knew in passing that that particular model of car started out at around $100,000-and with customizations was often much, much more. Her entire salary for three or more years might not be enough to buy one. And the mechanic had mentioned that Rami had gotten into more than one accident in the past. Not that that's surprising, Mia thought, considering he had slammed into her at a stop sign and then had the audacity to yell at her for, of all things, having stopped.

  Mia turned off the faucet and sank down into the water, breathing in the fragrant steam and letting the tension flow out of her muscles. For a few moments, at least, she would avoid thinking about the stresses she had to deal with: her mother's poor health and mounting bills; her unruly, unwilling students; the enormous student loans she still had to repay. She would float in the water and think about nothing at all. Mia yawned again and told herself firmly that she was not going to let herself fall asleep in the hot, soft-feeling water.

  Despite her resolution, Mia was so exhausted that within fifteen minutes, she had drifted out of her lazy doze and into actual sleep, the lip of the tub holding her head up and out of the water. She was never sure how long she slept, but when she awoke with a jolt-coming out of a dream that ended with a replay of the accident she'd had the day before-the water was cold around her, and her stomach was growling with hunger. She climbed out and wrapped a robe around herself, checking her phone to see that her mother had called while she'd been napping. She told herself that, since the message didn't sound like an emergency, she would have dinner before returning her mother's call. Mia rummaged in her fridge, freezer, and cabinets until she was able to put together a reasonable meal of rice, peas and a fried egg, liberally seasoned with hot sauce. She yawned, still tired in spite of her nap, and devoured her somewhat bland dinner, psyching herself up to tackle all of the things she needed to do over the weekend. First things first: call Mom and tell her about the car. Maybe she'll be well enough to come and get you at the shop.

  THREE

 
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