This Sheikh plays to win!
The crown of Kyr holds no appeal for pleasure-seeking Sheikh Kadir al-Hassan—his memories of the kingdom are as dark as a desert's night. But neither will he shirk his duty.... Instead, Kadir returns home with a bride so unsuitable, no one will want him to be king!
Long-suffering assistant Emily Bryant is the most important person in Kadir's high-octane life, and the most invisible—until she's promoted to royal bride! Sealing their marriage bargain with a scorching kiss leaves Kadir craving more....
Now Kadir must decide what's really at stake in his royal game—his desert duty, or Emily!
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
USA Today bestselling author Lynn Raye Harris burst onto the scene when she won a writing contest held by Harlequin. The prize was an editor for a year -- but only six months later, Lynn sold her first novel. A former finalist for the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart Award, Lynn lives in Alabama with her handsome husband and two crazy cats. Her stories have been called "exceptional and emotional," "intense," and "sizzling."Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Emily Bryant straightened the severe black skirt she wore, patted the French twist she'd wedged her hair into and steadied the coffee in her hand as she faced the double doors that led to the bedroom of His Most Exalted Highness, Prince Kadir bin Zaid al-Hassan.
Outside, the sky was that special blend of salmon and purple that indicated dawn's approach. Despite the early hour, Paris was awake and rumbling on the city streets below. Soon, Kadir would be awake, too.
Just as soon as Emily knocked on the carved wooden door. She frowned and dragged in a fortifying breath. The man was impossible-and probably not alone. If this morning was anything like other mornings, she'd be stepping over lacy underwear, rumpled stockings and a couture dress lying in a heap on the floor. On one memorable occasion, a bra had dangled from the priceless Venetian glass chandelier. What city was that in?
Ah, yes, Milan.
Emily firmed her lips in what she knew was a distasteful frown-she couldn't abide messes, especially from people who should know better-and lifted her hand. Then she rapped three times.
"Prince Kadir? It's time to get up."
No matter the hour he came in the night before, Kadir always wanted to be awakened before the sun rose in the sky. Sometimes he went back to sleep, but not before peppering her with orders and instructions about the day. And not before he drank the coffee she always brought.
More often than not, he got up. Emily had learned to relax her expression into an impassive and unimpressed mask of cool professionalism when the covers whipped back to reveal sleek tanned skin and acres of lean muscle. She'd also learned to turn her head discreetly to the side on the rare occasions when he'd failed to add clothing to his lower half before he leaped up and shrugged into his robe.
If he were any other man-if this were any other job-she'd probably be horrified. But this was Prince Kadir, and she knew what the job entailed. He'd warned her as much when he'd hired her. When he'd expressed that a man might be better suited for the job of his personal assistant, she'd assured him she was up for the task.
Therefore, she endured his quirks and his single-mindedness. If he weren't brilliant, if he didn't pay her extremely well-extremely-she might not have stayed as long as she had. Not to mention that getting this job straight out of college had been a coup. She still believed that if Kadir hadn't been so desperate to find someone who could put up with his shenanigans, he would never have agreed to interview her, no matter how impeccable her references.
"Come." His voice was dark and raspy with sleep on the other side of the door.
Emily opened it up and walked across the darkened room in her sensible heels. There was a time when she'd loved platforms and flash as much as the next girl, but these shoes were a whole lot more comfortable. She opened the thick damask curtains to let in the light and took his coffee over and set it on the antique bedside table.
A quick perusal of the room indicated he was alone. She breathed a sigh of relief. She did not like the woman he'd been dating recently. Lenore Bradford, fashion's latest runway darling, was not nice in general and evil to Emily in particular.
It was as if the woman was jealous, which was insane, since Kadir had never once looked at Emily as anything more than the person who ran his life and kept his calendar up-to-date. But that did not stop Lenore from shooting Emily angry looks or demanding outrageous things from her.
Like the morning Lenore had wanted chocolate croissants from a boulangerie halfway across Paris. Croissants she knew damn well she would barely sniff before turning to the egg-white omelet instead. Emily had fumed the whole way. Fortunately, she'd not had to do that again, because Kadir had been rather angry when he found out.
Yet another thing Lenore blamed her for. But Kadir wasn't a stupid man and he could read the address on the bag, which apparently Lenore did not try to hide when she tossed them aside as predicted.
Kadir sat up against the headboard and picked up the coffee. His dark hair was tousled and he needed to shave, but he was still one of the most attractive men she'd ever seen. Not that she was attracted to him. Of course not. He was an arrogant, entitled, brilliant jackass and she did not like men like that.
Heck, she probably wouldn't like him at all if he didn't pay her so much.
Except, dammit, that wasn't quite true. He drove her crazy with his cool confidence and certainty he was always right, but he remembered her birthday and the anniversary of the date she'd started working for him. She liked to think that meant he cared about people in his own fashion, though it was probably just that mind of his, which never forgot a fact.
But she chose to believe the former; therefore, she couldn't dislike him.
Emily flipped open the notebook she'd tucked under one arm and steadfastly ignored the sheet as it slipped down and revealed a hard, muscled chest and that damn arrow of dark hair that marched down the center of his abdomen and disappeared beneath the fabric.
"You have a seven-thirty meeting with the chairman of RAC Steel, and a phone call after that with Andra-kos Shipping. There is also the real estate agent to meet with on the specs for the property and a site inspection this afternoon."
Kadir sipped the coffee and peered up at her from beneath those impossibly long lashes of his. His eyes were a clear, dark gray that snapped with intelligence.
Really, did a man so beautiful also have to be so smart?
"You are a model of efficiency as always, Miss Bryant. Shukran jazeelan."
She glanced at her watch and tried to ignore the flush of pleasure rolling over her. "Breakfast is on the way up, Your Highness. And I have told the driver to be here at seven sharp."
Kadir's gaze slid over her. He was assessing her, the way he assessed everyone, but she always felt that strange little prickle that started at the back of her neck and continued down her spine like electricity dripping through a conduit.
She didn't like it. She licked her suddenly dry lips and closed the notebook. Kadir's eyes narrowed.
"If that is all, Your Highness?"
She turned to go when a racket sounded outside the doors to the bedroom. She wasn't particularly alarmed, as Kadir traveled nowhere without armed guards, but it was unusual in the extreme. She started toward the door when Lenore Bradford burst in.
Emily drew up short. When she realized she clutched the notebook to her chest, she lowered it. Her heart thudded alarmingly. Behind Lenore, a man in a dark suit stood there like a mountain. An angry mountain, she realized.
He would have let Lenore into the suite, because she'd been here before, but he would have expected her to wait while he announced her.
Clearly, she had not done so.
"Lenore." Kadir's voice would have sounded lazy to anyone listening. But to someone who knew him, who'd worked beside him for four years, the note of danger was distinct.
Oh, Lenore. You've done it now.
Emily closed her eyes briefly and waited for the coming storm. Behind her, the blankets stirred and she knew that Kadir had risen and put on his robe. He must have flicked a hand in dismissal because the guard melted away.
"You walked out on me last night," Lenore shrilled. "It was my party, and you walked out."
"Perhaps I would not have done so had you not invited six reporters and a camera crew. I am not bait for your ambition, Lenore."
Lenore's pretty hands fluttered and her eyes widened. She was blonde, tall and thin, perfectly coiffed from head to foot, even at this early hour. A real looker, as Emily's dad would have said. But she wasn't very bright where Kadir was concerned. He was not the sort of man to be handled or manipulated.
Emily started for the door again, intent on getting out of the room before the fight blew into the stratosphere. Not that Kadir would tolerate much of that, but Emily didn't need to be here for it. It was personal, and while she might like to snatch Lenore bald-headed for being such a bitch, it was none of her concern.
"Stay where you are, Miss Bryant." Kadir's voice was commanding, as always, and Emily froze. "Lenore was just leaving."
The other woman's skin flushed pink. "I won't leave without discussing this, Kadir. If we are to have a relationship, we have to talk about these things. Perhaps I was wrong, but-"
"It is Prince Kadir or Your Highness," he said coolly. "And there is no relationship. There will be no relationship. Now, get out."
Every word was measured and mild, as if he could hardly be bothered to get angry. Emily almost felt a pinprick of sympathy for the other woman. Almost, but not quite.
Kadir moved past Emily until he was between her and the door. Facing Lenore. He was clad in a navy silk robe and his hair was still tousled, but he looked every inch a prince. It was hard not to admire him in these moments. Her heart swelled with a strange kind of pride that confused her.
Lenore had gone purple. "That's it? You are not even going to talk about it with me?" Kadir didn't answer as he stood there with his arms folded and gave her his best imperious stare. Emily couldn't see his face, but she knew the look. And she could see its effect on Le-nore's expression.
Lenore suddenly pointed a manicured finger at Emily. "You think I don't know what's going on here? You think I don't know about your assistant-" she somehow made the word sound dirty, as if she'd said whore instead "-about how she's tried to come between us from the beginning? She wants you for herself!"
Emily opened her mouth to utter a protest, but Kadir was there first. "I don't particularly care what Miss Bryant thinks of you. It is what I think that matters. And I am finished."
He strode to her side, took her by the elbow and marched her toward the front door of his suite while she screamed at him. Then she was thrust through the door, and it closed again with a thud. Kadir turned, his face black with fury. Emily dropped her gaze and studied her shoes while her heart thrummed hard.
She had never witnessed the breakup scene before, but she knew it had played out again and again over the past four years she'd worked for him. She could almost feel sorry for the women who committed the mistake of thinking there was a future with him. He was rich, titled, wealthy and successful in his own right. Every woman he dated wanted to tame him. None of them had managed it yet.
"I am sorry you had to hear that."
Emily's head snapped up to meet his hot gaze. He'd moved closer to her and her pulse skidded with unwelcome heat. "I don't want you for myself," she blurted. Her cheeks blazed.
Kadir quirked an eyebrow. "Really? I am told I am quite delightful. How stunning to encounter a woman who does not want me."
For a moment she didn't know what to say. And then she realized he was teasing her. Emily dropped her gaze again. She needed this job and she wasn't going to do anything to jeopardize it. He might be humored this time, but she could not let it pass. "Forgive my outburst, Your Highness."
"There is nothing to forgive. Lenore was incredibly rude to you."
"It won't happen again, I assure you."
He laughed. "Oh, I think it will."
Emily could only stare at him, her pulse a drumbeat in her throat, her fingers. And then she realized he meant the scene with Lenore.
"Don't look so worried, Miss Bryant," he continued, his voice smooth as silk, hard as steel. "Lenore will not be back. But there will no doubt be others."
Emily wanted to roll her eyes. She resisted the urge. Kadir's eyebrow quirked again.
"You wish to say something?"
"Your breakfast will be here any moment."
"That is not it." His voice was a knowing murmur as his gaze dropped to her lips, back up again. Shockingly, she felt as if he'd touched her. As if he'd taken one of his golden fingers and slid it across the pad of her lips. He grinned, and her insides turned to liquid. She was not happy about it either. "Come, Emily. We've known each other for nearly four years now. You know more about my life than anyone besides me."
He'd called her Emily a handful of times. It always rattled her the way his accent slid over the syllables of her name. Like a caress. Like the touch of a lover.
As if she would know what that was like these days. It had been so long since she'd last had sex she couldn't even remember when it was. She traveled too much, moving with Kadir as he trotted the globe and built his skyscrapers. It left little time for a personal life.
Except for when they were in Chicago. Then she took time to go see her dad, to make sure he had everything he needed. Dating was hardly a blip on her radar compared to that.
"You pay me to keep your life in order, not to advise you on it."
"And yet you wanted to say something. I could see it in your expression. The way your lips pursed ever so slightly. The downward tilt of your eyebrows, the flare of your nostrils. The green fire in your eyes. I would like to know what it was."
"I prefer to keep my job." Her voice contained an edge of tartness that she couldn't quite control. The green fire in her eyes?
"And you shall. I give you leave to say what you wish. I'd rather not have you pop from holding it in, Miss Bryant."
Emily sighed. He wasn't going to give up until she'd spoken. If she knew anything about this man, she knew that. She'd watched him in negotiations, watched the way he closed in on his prey like a hawk, circling ever closer, until the moment he snatched them up and got precisely what he wanted, whether it was a bargain on steel, a commitment to sell only to him, incentives on a piece of land or a premium from someone who desperately wanted his company to build their new skyscraper.
"I was going to say that it was ridiculous to expect more of the same. That perhaps if you conducted your, er, affairs a little differently, they might not get to this stage."
He looked amused. Heat flared in her belly.
"And how should I conduct my affairs? I would imagine that swearing off women for good would do it. But so far as I like women-and I certainly do- there will always be some who think I am going to make them my princess. They never take it kindly when they find out it is not going to happen."
"Then perhaps you should choose women based on their intellect and not their bra size."
He burst out laughing and a prickle of something ran up her spine. It wasn't fear. It wasn't even embarrassment. Perhaps it was relief. Relief that she'd said the words after all.
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