The sheikhs secret love.., p.28
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       The Sheikh's Secret Love Child, p.28

         Part #2 of The Sheikh's Baby Surprise series by Holly Rayner
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  THREE

  Bahir’s apartment was modern and sleek, with minimalist décor throughout. He had a freshly made bed, a desk with a laptop, and a sparsely stocked kitchen. Usually he ordered food in and ate on the fly while he worked—sitting down to eat was too much of a time suck.

  As he opened the door, he felt a wave of weariness hit him. It had been a long and bitter battle with the visa office before he had finally thrown his hands up in the air in frustration and stormed out. No one said no to Bahir Al-Jabbar. It simply didn’t happen. It was why he was such an exceptional businessman. He knew how to negotiate anything. He’d tried bribery, and had been threatened with arrest! Him! The son of a sheikh!

  Bahir had been beside himself by the time he’d got to the office, and never had he been more grateful to see Nicole.

  As ever, she’d looked stunning, even though she’d clearly been expecting to be alone at the office; her long blond hair had been tossed on top of her head and she’d been wearing flats. Bahir had never seen her wearing flats before.

  When he’d seen her, her face so forlorn in the reflecting computer screen light, he’d wanted to ask her what was wrong, but couldn’t. He was too enraged at what had just happened to him. Being told no. Did they have any idea who he was?

  But she’d been able to calm him down, like she always could. There was something about Nicole that was different than her predecessors. She had a combination of inner drive, intelligence and resiliency that Bahir rarely came across, and he knew a lot of very successful people. Still, Nicole didn’t wear her strength on her sleeve, ensuring everyone could see it. She bore it quietly, ensuring that all was taken care of without a complaint. When she spoke, it was true and honest, and Bahir loved that about her.

  He was trying not to think about what it might have been like to kiss her worries away, when he realized he was not alone.

  Stepping back, he glanced at the chaise longue in the corner of the apartment, by a window overlooking the sea. A scantily clad woman was stretched out on it, looking at him expectantly.

  “Bahir. You didn’t tell me you were back,” the woman purred, and Bahir groaned inwardly. For once in his life he was tired of negotiating. Couldn’t he just go to sleep?

  “Cassandra. I don’t remember giving you a key to this place,” he said, his voice tight with annoyance.

  “You have a new doorman,” she purred, rising and strolling closer, attempting to seduce him.

  At that moment Bahir had a hard time remembering what he had seen in this woman in the first place. Her long brown hair was draped over thin shoulders, her blue eyes sparkling in the reflected city light. She was beautiful, yes, but what did she have going for her beyond that? Besides the ability to break and enter, of course.

  “I’ll have a word with the management,” he replied, taking a step back.

  Cassandra frowned, trying to make even that gesture erotic, and it took everything in Bahir not to roll his eyes at her. He was not a man who had time for childish games.

  “What’s the matter, Bahir?” she murmured. She reached out for him, running her hands up his shoulders until her fingers laced at the back of his neck. “You don’t want to play?” she asked, her voice husky.

  Bahir grinned down at her as he placed a kiss on her lips, and felt nothing. Whatever passion he had tried to find with Casandra had burned out, and now all he wanted was for her to leave so he could get some much needed rest.

  He lifted his head from hers and pulled her away. “I’ve got work to do,” he said, his tone flat.

  Cassandra continued to pout, crossing her arms. “You’ve always got work to do. Why don’t you take a break and live a little?” she demanded.

  The longer she stayed, the more Bahir saw her as a toddler demanding a toy. If that’s how she wanted to act, he could be a parent, no problem.

  “Cassandra, I don’t have time for this. You are invading my space, and I’d like you to leave,” he said sternly.

  Cassandra stared at him in disbelief for a moment before storming over to a Louis Vuitton bag by the chaise longue and scooping it up.

  “You’re going to regret this, Bahir. You’ll die a lonely old man with no one by your side. You know you can’t take money to the grave, right?”

  “But you can take a legacy, Cassandra, and isn’t that just as good?”

  “Screw you!”

  “Goodnight to you, too,” he replied, watching as she trotted out of the apartment. How had she seemed like such a good idea a month ago, he wondered.

  Shrugging, he turned on his computer and sent out a few last-minute emails. It was midday in Seattle, and he was able to reach some folks easily before shutting back down and stripping for bed. He laid still, waiting to sleep to come, but, to his annoyance, Cassandra’s words flew across his mind.

  You are going to die a lonely old man.

  Bahir took a breath. It wasn’t a fear of his, per se. He knew deep down that everyone died alone. Still, it made him think about his parents, which was something he never liked to do.

  Bahir’s father was born into wealth, his family name holding a legacy that went back generations. It was a legacy that Bahir had admired and feared as he grew into an adult with the very strong expectation that he would be an asset to the family name. Bahir would be shunned if he was the one to smear the Al-Jabbar empire.

  Still, he had watched as his father worked his own life away as a sheikh, dealing with landowner issues and holding the welfare of thousands of people in his hands. He had been forced to make difficult decisions that had real consequences on people’s lives, and yet he maintained a stoic demeanor through it all. There was a time when he had to choose whether to build a new office building in a downtown neighborhood, which would displace hundreds of families. Bahir was twelve at the time.

  “Papa, you can’t do this! People will be homeless because of you!”

  Raji Al-Jabbar stared into the golden eyes of his naïve young son, and crossed his arms. “You are an expert then, on what is best for our stakeholders as a whole?”

  “No, Papa. I know I’m just a child, but I have played with the children of those families. They are scared for their parents, and for themselves. You can’t take away their homes!”

  Raji knelt down, to look Bahir in the eye at his level. He placed a sturdy hand on the boy’s shoulder.

  “Bahir, sometimes people have to suffer for the greater good of the community at large. This building will provide jobs for many more people than we would displace, and besides, they can afford to find housing elsewhere. You will see that this is the best decision for everyone, in the end.”

  Bahir frowned, unconvinced, but knowing better than to question his father.

  Raji had a reputation for being a stern, sometimes cruel man, but in his heart he always believed he was doing what was best for the most people. In the end, he tore that neighborhood down to make way for a skyscraper, and Bahir watched as his friends were relocated, never to be seen again.

  Bahir’s father died a few years later. Bahir and his mother had been eating breakfast together in their elaborate dining room, and Bahir was planning on heading back to university that morning.

  When Raji was noticeably absent from the breakfast table, the two of them decided to go see what the holdup was, expecting to find him on the phone somewhere, conducting business. When he entered his parents’ bedroom, his mother following behind, Bahir’s blood turned to ice.

  His father was lying facedown on the floor, his limbs bent at awkward angles, as though he had collapsed. When Bahir rushed to his father’s side, he found that the man on the ground was lifeless. Bahir’s mother let out a strangled sob, and what she said next burned into her son’s memory.

  “How will we be able to live now?”

  Bahir looked back at his mother in disbelief. There he knelt by the body of his dead father, and all his mother could think about were their finances. In that moment a part of him died, too.

&
nbsp; He rose and left the room, placing the necessary calls to wrap up Raji’s affairs cleanly and without fuss. The funeral was arranged in short order, held at the end of the week, before Bahir jumped on a plane back to college.

  From that day on he buried himself in his work. He was the head of the family, and would be expected to provide for his mother, who wrote to him regularly expressing her concern over their finances and the loss of his father. Bahir had never cared about the money, really. He’d never needed to. He didn’t want to be a part of what his parents had going on, even if he was bound by his family history to make a good name for himself.

  Bahir made his fortune because he wanted to do it his way, and he promised himself that he would always treat the people under his care with a respect his father had rarely showed. His mother would die not long after of a prescription drug overdose, leaving him completely alone in the world.

  In a strange way, Bahir liked being alone with his business; it kept him so busy that he rarely thought of the loss of his parents. The fact that Cassandra had had the power to bring up such emotions again annoyed him, and he turned his thoughts elsewhere.

  Nicole’s glowing blond hair was the first thing that came to mind after suppressing those memories again. There was a part of her that spoke to Bahir—the part that wanted to think about life outside of work.

  He was so grateful for the day, all those months ago, when he’d run into her in the hallway, and he wanted her to know that she was a big part of what kept him going. Her presence was soothing in a way he hadn’t experienced before. As he stretched out on his comfortable mattress, his thoughts remained fixed on Nicole.

  How excited he was to spend a day with his assistant. He couldn’t wait to thank her in some small way for all the endless ways she’d helped him.

 
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