Sold to the sheikh his i.., p.4
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       His Indecent Proposal, p.4

         Part #1 of Sold To The Sheikh series by Holly Rayner
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  Mia managed to get her groceries home before the frozen goods had melted. While the much-anticipated carton of ice cream was a little soft on the sides, she thought it would be okay after a few hours in the freezer.

  She went about her chores, loading the washer with the clothes she would need for the work week and cleaning up the dishes from her breakfast that morning. She wasn't in the mood to face more chores, but getting them finished would give her at least a little peace of mind. As she wandered around her house, going from task to task, she began, almost involuntarily, to think about Rami.

  It was bizarre that someone like him, with all the money anyone could ever dream of, would ask someone like her-a broke, struggling English teacher-out for coffee; more so that he wanted to see her again sometime. Rami could ask out literally any woman he wanted and probably get a 'yes', Mia thought, as she finally sat down to look over the pile of papers she had still to grade. "He was just being nice. He probably felt guilty for going off on me, or whatever." That made more sense. Figuring that she would probably never hear from Rami again, Mia went about the rest of her afternoon focused on her regular routine.

  She was beginning to consider what to make for dinner when she heard her phone ringing. Assuming that it must be her mother, Mia dashed through the living room and into her bedroom where her phone was charging. "Shit, shit, shit," she muttered as it rang a fifth time before she got to it. "Please don't let it be a heart thing. Or a lung thing." When she picked up the phone, however, the screen lit up with Rami's phone number. What could he want to call her about so soon after their semi-date? Mia considered letting it roll over to voice mail, then decided against it; maybe she had left something behind at the caf?-her ID for school, maybe. "Hello?" Mia sank down onto her bed, attempting to cover the breathlessness in her voice.

  "Mia! I'm glad you picked up."

  "Sorry," she said, with a flash of guilt. "I was on the other side of the house, my phone was charging in my room."

  "It's all good," Rami said. For some reason she couldn't quite understand, Mia pictured the well-dressed man leaning back in a chair somewhere, lounging, completely at ease. She shook her head, clearing the mental image away. "I actually wanted to ask you for a favor."

  "A favor?" Mia felt irritated. Of course, the only reason Rami had asked her out for coffee, or paid any attention to her at all, was because he had a favor in mind.

  "Yeah, I know-I probably should have mentioned it back at the caf?, but it didn't really cross my mind until about an hour ago. Listen, promise me you won't just hang up when you hear what I have to say." Mia pressed her lips together, glancing at her phone in instinctive distrust.

  "I'm listening," she said finally, sinking back onto her bed.

  "It's kind of a weird favor, so please-just hear me out, okay?"

  "I will hear you out," Mia replied. She felt a low stirring of dread at what Rami might be about to ask her. She did owe him, in a certain respect; he had paid for her car repairs-and for more than the damage he had actually done-out of his own pocket. But the accident was his fault. If he hadn't paid out of pocket he would have had to go through insurance. That wasn't a favor-it was for his convenience.

  "Okay," Rami said, and for the first time since she'd met him, he actually sounded a little uncertain. "I want you to be the mother of my child."

  "What?" The word left Mia's mouth in a near-shriek. "I barely know you!"

  "Not-it's okay, Mia. I don't mean like, a baby-mama or anything like that." Mia's mouth opened and closed without any words leaving it. She stared up at her ceiling in shock.

  "Maybe you should explain to me what exactly it is that you mean," she said.

  "I want to pay you to carry a child for me," Rami told her, speaking slowly. "I'll pay for the doctors, the treatments, everything."

  "And why, exactly, do you need a child?" Mia couldn't get over the initial shock of what he had proposed.

  "I want to raise a child the right way, and there's no better time than now." Mia reflected in silence for a long moment, remembering their conversation about children during their "date." She would never have imagined that the outcome of that conversation would be Rami asking her to carry his child. "In addition to paying for all of the medical costs, I would of course pay you."

  "Wait-wait, you mean?" Mia felt her indignation rising again.

  "No, not that-no. I would want you to conceive through IVF. But I would be paying you a monthly allowance, so that you wouldn't have to work. I want you to be completely healthy and stress-free right from the start. I was thinking maybe a hundred thousand a month, plus the medical bills and maybe extra for your groceries?" Mia's eyes widened and she stared at her phone in amazement at the figure he mentioned.

  "One hundred thousand a month?" A voice in the back of her mind suggested that with that kind of money, she could close out all of her mother's bills and pay for years of medication.

  "Of course, I'd pay you a larger sum once the baby is delivered," Rami continued, as if he hadn't quite heard her question. "I was thinking an even million, but if you think that you'd need more to give up a child you'd borne?" Mia could barely even think, much less speak. A million dollars, after earning a hundred thousand a month for nine months or more.

  "This is crazy," Mia said, shaking her head. "Why do you want to pay me to carry a baby for you?"

  "It seemed like a pretty good deal," Rami replied. "You get money that you need, I get the kid that I want. If it's not enough money I can talk to my accountant?"

  "No, no it's not-it's not the amount," Mia said quickly. "It's more that it just seems so bizarre to be paid to do something like that."

  "People do it every day," Rami said. Mia could just picture him shrugging at the other end of the line, as if offering someone two million dollars-maybe even more-was the most casual thing in the world. "Plenty of wealthy women don't want to carry their children, or can't, so they hire a surrogate and pay them. I'd want you to keep quiet about it, of course."

  "It's just that?it seems so weird," Mia finished, bringing her hand up to her forehead. "I really need to think about something like that, Rami. It's a kind of a big favor you're asking."

  "Like I said, if you think you need more money to be able to do it, I can work something out."

  Mia shook her head. "I just-it would mean changing everything in my life, and-and I'm not sure if I'm even ready to be pregnant. Or to give up a kid that I'm carrying. Just?let me have some time to think about it, okay?"

  "Take all the time you need," Rami told her. "It is kind of a big favor, I know. But I hope you'll agree to it." Mia barely remembered what she said to end the call; she was fairly certain she agreed to get back to him when she had made up her mind, but her brain seemed so thoroughly frozen by the magnitude of what Rami was asking-and the staggering amount of money he was offering her in exchange-that she couldn't be sure of the words that came out of her mouth.

  The rest of her chores, everything she intended to do that evening, fell by the wayside. Mia simply lay in her bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to digest the incredible phone call. Part of her cringed at the idea of carrying a child that she would give up once it was born. Even if she wasn't being paid to have sex with someone-and Rami had managed to make it clear that he wanted her to undergo IVF-the notion of being pregnant, giving birth and then never seeing her child again, was unthinkable to Mia. I would be no better than my birth parents, she thought, bitterly.

  But then-she wouldn't just be giving the child up. The child's life wouldn't be like hers at all. Mia thought back to the bleak, institutional orphanage-the group home-the location of her earliest memories. If she did agree to carry Rami's child, that baby wouldn't be housed in a sterile, featureless crib, wouldn't eat the same bland, if nutritional, meals three times a day, wouldn't play with an ever-changing bunch of kids she barely knew-some of whom were badly beaten, still bearing scars of abusive parents, both mental and physical. Any child that Mia carried for Rami w
ould be guaranteed all of the luxuries that wealth had to offer. Hadn't she told Rami that she wanted that for her own children, or at least as many of the finer things as she was capable of providing for them?

  Mia couldn't deny that the money Rami was offering for carrying his child was almost absurd in its generosity. A hundred thousand dollars a month, with her medical bills taken care of, would allow her to clear her mother's debts in record time. She could take a sabbatical and get away from the school that had become more like a prison to her. "With the million at the end, I could go back to college, get another degree in something else." Even more than that-she could pay off her own debts. She could buy a house, something modest, but something that was hers outright. With a better job, no debt to hold her down, and her mother's care covered for at least for a few years, Mia could actually consider finding her own partner, having her own child.

  But then, her mind countered, she didn't know how pregnancy would treat her. She had no idea what kinds of genetic diseases her birth parents had bequeathed her, no clue of how her birth mother had weathered her pregnancy. There were countless ways that a pregnancy could go wrong. She knew she was lingering on the worst-case scenario, but there was a small chance she could die if there were severe complications. Mia thought grimly that if Rami came up with some kind of contract, she would insist that on a clause stating that if Mia were to die in the process of carrying the child or giving birth to it, the remainder of the money would be paid to her mother.

  It was full dark outside, and Mia realized she must have been deliberating Rami's offer for at least a couple of hours. She told herself to keep thinking it over, even though she was already halfway convinced that it was the best option open to her. To appease her growling stomach, she went into the kitchen and began to make up a plain but healthy meal of garbanzo beans, curry, and rice. She considered the benefits, risks and negatives of Rami's offer. "If I was getting a hundred thousand a month, I could certainly afford to eat half decently," Mia said, thinking out loud as she stirred the little pot of curry. "I wouldn't have to wake up at the crack of dawn every day, and I could spend more time with mom." Rami had said he wouldn't want her telling anyone about their arrangement, but she would have to tell her mother something. She couldn't just start paying off hospital bills without giving any hint of where she had gotten the money.

  As she ate, Mia began to lean more and more towards accepting Rami's offer. It answered every last thing that she needed in her life at the moment, and while the idea of being pregnant was more than a little frightening, Mia couldn't deny that she would be in the best possible situation to deal with anything that came up in a pregnancy. She knew Rami wouldn't skimp on medical care for his unborn child-and by extension, the mother of said child-when he was paying so dearly for the baby he wanted. She was realistic enough to know there were some complications even modern medicine couldn't prevent, but she liked her odds much more than if she had somehow managed to get pregnant in her current situation, with no outside support.

  After she had eaten and washed her dishes, Mia picked up her phone and took a deep breath before dialing Rami's number. The call connected on the second ring. "Mia! I wasn't expecting to hear from you for a day or two. Is everything okay?" Mia smiled as she heard the genuine worry in his voice.

  "I'm fine," she said. "I've just been giving a lot of thought about what you asked me."

  "If you've come to a decision this fast? Mia, if you need time to really consider it, please, by all means, don't rush."

  "I want to do it." The words were out of Mia's mouth before she could stop or change them in any way. "I mean-I have some?concerns, and there are some things that I want to make sure of, but?it's the best offer I've ever had and probably the best I'll ever get."

  "You could always find a rich man to marry you," Rami suggested playfully.

  "When am I likely to do that?" Mia laughed. "I only ever leave my house to work or run errands. You're the first rich guy I've ever run into at the supermarket." Rami laughed with her.

  "Do you really think you want to do this? I don't want you to feel like you have to."

  Mia hesitated before replying. "It'll give me a chance to pay off my mom's debts and take care of her; to really give her the care she needs. It's enough money to do that and take time away from work. It's the best option I have." Mia took a deep breath. "There are a few things I want to make sure we're clear on, but it's really generous of you."

  "Like I said-if you need more than I originally stated, I'm willing to pay." Mia shook her head; she wasn't sure Rami would ever understand the value of the money he was throwing around.

  "It's just?there are a few conditions," Mia said slowly, sitting back on the couch. "I would want to make sure that if-if something happens to me?"

  "Nothing will happen to you," Rami said confidently. "You'll have the best medical care in the world."

  "Even with the best medical care, women do sometimes?die?having children," Mia said, pushing aside her own worry on that subject. "And if that did happen to me, I'd hope you would agree to pay my mom for the cost of-of burying me."

  "Of course, I will make sure she receives the full amount of whatever is left," Rami said. "I don't think we'll have to worry about that, but you're right to put your own mind at ease." Mia smiled, relieved that agreed with her condition.

  "Also, my mom will have to know what I'm doing. She won't tell anyone else, and I won't, but if I suddenly get pregnant and come into a ton of money?" Mia shrugged, looking at herself in the mirror over her entertainment center.

  "Right-right, I understand. We wouldn't want your mother thinking you've turned to a life of crime."

  Mia chuckled. "I was going to say prostitution, but that's technically a crime." Rami laughed. "Also, you-you're clear that we'll be doing this through IVF. You're not?you don't expect me to?"

  "Oh? No, no, I don't expect you to suddenly start having sex with me. I have a doctor in mind, one of the best in the field. She will take care of everything for both of us." Mia let out a breath she hadn't been aware she was holding.

  "Well, in that case? I think that covers everything," she said, smiling brightly. "When did you want to start? I'll need some time to take care of things at work?but then, that doesn't really affect you does it. Oh God, I'm babbling, sorry." Rami chuckled at the other end of the line.

  "You just made a huge decision, Mia, I'd be surprised if you weren't babbling," he said, his voice full of warmth.

  "Oh-there was one other thing," Mia said. Her cheeks warmed with a blush as the thought occurred to her. "Why did you ask me to do this?"

  "What do you mean?"

  "I mean, why me in particular? I'm sure there are lots of other women who would be completely willing, and who wouldn't have any of the conditions I have-who are probably prettier than I am?" Mia frowned at her reflection.

  "I know we don't know each other very well, but there's something special about you, Mia. You have this?warmth about you," Rami said, speaking slowly, thoughtfully. "I noticed it the first time we met. You're so-open, and kind, and sweet. And you're much prettier than you seem to think." Mia's blush deepened and she felt relieved that Rami couldn't see her. "I wanted someone who would be?nurturing, I guess. I didn't want someone who would just take my money and "turn up", as it were. I thought with you, you would make the baby the top priority; that you'd care about it, and take care of yourself for his or her sake. That's the kind of start I want for my child." Mia felt her eyes stinging with tears and bit her bottom lip, taking a slow breath to push the reaction down.

  "That's-thank you. That's one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me."

  "I'm honored that you're willing to do this for me, Mia. You're a generous, big-hearted person, and I will owe you a debt for the rest of my life." Mia smiled, taking another breath and exhaling slowly.

  "So?" she said, "how exactly are we going to do this?"

  "First, I will need you to meet with my accountant t
o arrange the first transfer to your account," Rami said. "Then, when you're ready, we can book a consultation." Rami paused for a moment. "How much notice will you need to give the school that you're planning to go on leave?" Mia considered the question.

  "I think I need to give them a month," she said. "But I can go to appointments and things during that time-especially if you can find someone who's willing to see me on a weekend."

  "That can definitely be arranged," Rami said. "Oh I'm so excited! Mia, you have no idea. You're an angel, really. Thank you so much. I'll contact my accountant to let him know he needs to meet with you. I'll tell him to call you, and he should be able to see you after work one day soon." Mia nodded. She couldn't quite believe she had made such a momentous decision in such a short time-but now that she had made the choice, she was glad that Rami wasn't going to put her on hold to wait for a long negotiation or anything else. She wanted to get down to the business of carrying his child as quickly as possible.

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