The sheikhs secret love.., p.30
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       The Sheikh's Secret Love Child, p.30

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

  Nicole stared out her apartment window at the rising sun, cradling a mug of sweet mint tea. It was a Middle-Eastern delicacy she’d grown quite fond of, and the local tea was some of the best she’d ever had. She’d spent the rest of the previous afternoon at her computer, putting out fires and sending out important documentation. It was the perfect thing to keep her mind off the way her hand had fit perfectly into Bahir’s, and the way his eyes had danced in a rare moment of carefree fun.

  She stretched her arms up into the air, her black tank top and comfortable pajama bottoms hanging loosely from her body. Before getting home she had had the presence of mind to grab some groceries, and had been able to bake some delicious-smelling blueberry muffins in her apartment’s small oven. The scent was wafting throughout the room, and she sought comfort in it as she began processing what she needed to do that day.

  Her first task would be heading to the US Embassy to attempt to sort out Bahir’s visa issue. It was not a trip Nicole was looking forward to. Government bureaucracy took hours upon hours of waiting and dealing with incompetence. Bahir hadn’t been wrong when he’d ranted about it the other night; the thing was, he wasn’t going to be the one dealing with it.

  The oven beeped, signaling that the muffins were ready to be devoured. Nicole pulled a container of spreadable butter from the fridge and set it on the counter, pulling the tray of perfectly baked little muffins out of the oven and breathing them in. Baking was something Nicole loved to do, but rarely found the time. She was placing a couple of them on a plate, ready to eat, when there was a knock at the door.

  Nicole licked butter off her fingers as she walked over to the door and peeked through the hole to see who on earth was paying her a visit so early in the morning. Her eyes widened when she saw who it was. Pulling the chain from the lock, she opened the door to find Bahir standing in front of her, looking disheveled.

  “Bahir?” she asked, glancing down at his well-built form. He was still wearing his slacks and shirt from the day before, and his hair was in disarray.

  “Yes, I know, I look like a hobo. Can I come in? I’ve got something I need to discuss with you.”

  “Um, sure?” she said as he whisked by her and into her apartment.

  Nicole crossed her arms self-consciously over her chest. Her boss was in her apartment while she was in nothing but her pajamas. The week just couldn’t get any weirder, could it?

  Bahir took a deep breath. “What is that amazing smell?” he asked, and Nicole grinned.

  “I made blueberry muffins. Would you like one?”

  “One? I’ll take two!” he said, taking a seat on the living room sofa and watching intently as she unwrapped two more muffins and placed them on a plate for him.

  “Butter?” she asked, holding up the knife, and Bahir nodded.

  “Slather away.”

  “I wonder how you stay in such good shape with your eating and work habits,” she mused aloud, bringing the plates over and sitting across from him before taking a bite of the hot, fluffy dough. She repressed a groan of delight, and was proud of herself for keeping her embarrassment to a minimum.

  “I work out at night. I find it’s the best time to collect my thoughts for the next day,” he said before taking a bite and closing his eyes. “Mmm,” he said. “These are outstanding, Nicole. You never told me you could bake.”

  “I don’t normally get the time,” she said.

  “We’ll have to add this to your job description, so we can make the time.”

  Nicole sighed inwardly. Oh good, another thing I love ruined by work, she thought flatly.

  She put her plate down and looked at Bahir. “Was there a reason you needed to come to my apartment just after dawn, before I could meet you at the office?” she asked, her tone sharp. It was one thing to have to see Bahir at pretty much all hours of the day or night, but sometimes she just wanted one moment to herself to think. Not to mention that his day-old scruff and tousled hair made him look even sexier than usual—something Nicole was trying desperately not to think about.

  “There is!” Bahir said, sitting up a little straighter. “You remember our little chat yesterday, when you mentioned that I was rich enough to solve this little visa issue? You said I just needed to think a little creatively.”

  “Yes, I do remember, as that wasn’t even twelve hours ago,” Nicole said, impatiently waiting for him to get to his point.

  Bahir lifted a finger in an aha gesture. “Well, I’ve managed to come up with the perfect solution to this problem, hopefully for good.”

  He paused for dramatic effect, and Nicole crossed her arms again and waited.

  “I’m getting married.”

  Nicole stared. After a moment she realized her mouth was hanging open, and she closed it.

  “You’re…you’re what?” she sputtered.

  “Do you have tea? I see there’s a mug on this table. Is there any fresh?” Bahir asked casually, like he hadn’t just dropped a huge bombshell.

  “Uh, yeah. The kettle’s on the stove and there are tea bags on the counter.” She stared at his back in bewilderment as he jumped off the sofa and found a tea cup in her cupboard before pouring himself a mug and carefully walking back to face her again. He dipped his tea bag delicately, watching the fluid change color.

  The silence dragged on until Nicole couldn’t take it anymore.

  “Is that it? You’re really just going to tell me that you’ve decided to get married and leave it at that? You can’t hold down a relationship for longer than a month, if that!”

  Bahir took another bite of muffin, then smiled at her again. What was going on?

  “That’s true, but I think the solution I’ve found will be the perfect one. You see, it all depends on marrying the right person, doesn’t it?”

  “And who, exactly, do you intend to marry?” she asked, a cold shiver running down her spine.

  Bahir’s stare bore right into her soul. “You.”

  They stared at each other for what seemed like eternity, the word floating in the air between them.

  “You can’t be serious.”

  Bahir tilted his head like a confused puppy. An extremely handsome confused puppy. Why did he have to be so handsome?

  “Why wouldn’t I be? You know me better than anyone, Nicole. Besides, I can make it worth your while, and you know it. I’ve spent the night thinking it through. I can offer you a million-dollar stipend each year, as well as anything else you want. Name your price, Nicole, and I’ll give it to you.”

  Nicole was dumbfounded. Did Bahir really just propose to her in the worst possible way—like she was some kind of business deal he wanted to close?

  “There’s no way I’m your closest friend. You have lots of friends.”

  Bahir shook his head. “We both know that’s not true. Come on, Nicole. Think about it! You can enjoy the lap of luxury and set yourself up for life, financially. In exchange, all I’m asking is for you to marry me for a few years so I can get the secured visa I need as a spouse, and then we can go back to the way things are now, friends as usual.”

  “I’m not your friend, Bahir. I’m your subordinate.”

  “Details! Come on, Nicole. There has to be something you want, other than a million dollars a year. What is it?”

  Nicole sat back against the sofa and ran a hand over her eyes, trying to think. Bahir wanted to entice her into a green card marriage. It wasn’t something to take lightly. If they were caught, they could both end up in jail, and Nicole had some doubts that even his money could get him out of that. So what was the one thing that was worth taking that risk, and tying herself in matrimony to her wayward boss?

  Ryan.

  This was her chance. Her brother was sitting at home without a hope in this world…and now she could give him one.

  She looked back at Bahir, determined. “If I decide to do this, I want you to offer my brother a job. He’s graduated from Stanford with a business degree, a
nd he would make a valuable asset to your company.”

  “Consider it done,” he said, flippant. Would it really be that easy?

  “I want you to know that he is legally blind. It doesn’t detract from his ability to work, but it would seem other employers have a difficult time accepting that when they meet him,” she said, her tone defensive.

  Bahir shrugged. “Why should I care about that? If the man can conduct business, who cares if his eyes work or not?”

  Nicole nearly cried at that comment. Her brother had struggled so hard to prove himself worthy in a cruel world, and now he might actually have a chance to succeed. But still, marrying Bahir? Her expression faltered.

  “Look,” Bahir said, leaning over and taking her hands in his.

  She stared at their joined hands, fighting to ignore that tingling sensation that made itself present once again.

  Bahir released one hand and gently lifted her chin, forcing her to look him in the eye. “I know this is a lot to ask, I do. Take some time to have a think about it, and maybe we can chat later about your answer, OK?”

  He stared deeply into her eyes, then, and she looked back at him. The man she had once thought of as a human machine, incapable of holding down a relationship, wanted to marry her. After their day of fun and relaxation together, she couldn’t help but feel tempted.

  “I’ll think about it,” she whispered.

  Bahir grinned, his dimple popping up, quickly melting her traitorous heart. He removed his other hand and stood, heading for the door.

  “Good. I’ll look forward to your response later. And I’ll look into a position for your brother, just in case.”

  “Thanks, Bahir, for considering that,” she said.

  Bahir stood at the door, his expression pensive. “There’s a lot I’ll need to learn about you, if we’re going to pull this off,” he said thoughtfully.

  “Yes,” she agreed, her tone distant as she still considered what could really happen if she agreed to such a wild proposal.

  Bahir smiled one more time. “Well, I really ought to get going. Let me know how it goes at the Embassy.”

  And just like that, he was gone.

  Nicole stayed seated on her couch, staring into space for quite some time. She had never been an overly romantic person, but she’d hoped for something a little better than a green card marriage arranged by her boss. Still, it wouldn’t have to be forever, would it? There was a time limit that would free her in a few years. It would be like an investment, of sorts. And she could help her brother without him even knowing she was behind it. Stubborn Ryan wouldn’t accept the job any other way, she knew.

  It could actually work.

  To be continued…

  The Sheikh’s Green Card Bride can be bought from digital retailers now.

  The Prince’s Scandalous Baby, by Holly Rayner:

  ONE

 
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