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Never Seduce a Sheikh

By:Jackie Ashenden

Chapter One

Outside the tinted windows of the limo, the sun had turned the tarmac of the private airstrip into a molten silver river, glinting off the sleek Lear jet that had only just touched down. Mid-morning in Dahar and already the heat was intense.

Sheikh Isma’il ibn Khalid al Zahar stared at the aircraft, trying to concentrate on the meeting ahead and not the thick musty scent that still seemed to fill his nostrils. Or the tainted feeling that had crept right into the very marrow of his bones.

Returning to Dahar and all the memories that lurked in the corridors of the palace had been bad enough, but spending all morning in his father’s office, going through his papers, had been worse. Yet Isma’il couldn’t put aside what needed to be done, purely because of some personal distaste. A month had passed already since the old man’s death and Isma’il’s investiture as sheikh, and the task of rebuilding Dahar couldn’t wait.

A strange feeling lingered on his fingertips. Turning his hands palm up into the sun, for a second, he thought he saw something. A red stain. Blood maybe?

He frowned, but when he looked again, there was nothing there.

Still frowning, Isma’il brushed his hands off with a careful, fastidious movement, wiping the strange feeling away.

Out on the tarmac, his personal bodyguards had arranged themselves to form a corridor between the limo and the jet. One, held a brightly colored silk parasol in his hand. A courtesy for his guest.

Isma’il stared at the bright splash of color and in the dark glass of the limo window saw his reflection. Saw the smile on his face. It looked almost savage. Too savage.

Definitely, he’d been spending far too much time in his father’s office. He was here to greet a potential buyer for Dahar’s oil, not an enemy he intended fight.

With the ease of long practice, he adjusted his expression, making sure nothing remained but the cool, easy charm that was by now effortless to him. Then, he opened the limo door and stepped out into the blinding heat of the airstrip. His bodyguards snapped to attention, his chief advisor Umar coming immediately to his side.

The jet’s doorway, however, remained empty.

“Where is she?” Isma’il was not accustomed to waiting for people and he found he didn’t much like it.

“I’ll check, your Highness,” Umar assured him, starting towards the plane.

The man was halfway there, when abruptly a tall figure exited the aircraft. A woman. The woman. Lily Harkness, CEO of Harkness Oil and Petroleum.

There had been many companies frantic for the rights to Dahar’s lucrative oil reserves and Isma’il had gradually narrowed the field down to three possibilities. He’d already met with the CEOs of two of those possibilities. Harkness Oil was the third. It had been the lead contender, at least until Philip Harkness had retired as CEO and his daughter had taken over.

His young, unproven and no doubt inexperienced daughter. An appointment that had nepotism written all over it.

Isma’il leaned back against the hot metal of the car and folded his arms, taking her in.

He’d been expecting a Daddy’s girl, a pretty little princess stepping into the shoes her father had lovingly prepared for her. But the woman currently descending the metal stairs from the jet’s door to the tarmac below did not look like any princess he’d ever seen.

Oh, she was blonde, her features precise and lovely. But no princess was ever, surely, that tall. At least six foot. And certainly they didn’t wear blue pant suits that appeared to be tailored to hide every feminine curve. Nor did they stride around on the tarmac in a masculine fashion with a phone glued to their ear, while various flunkeys fluttered around them like butterflies.

Oh no. Princes did that. Not princesses.

Isma’il found himself unwillingly intrigued. She was unexpected, he’d give her that. Especially when, she hadn’t even looked his way. Not once. And when was the last time anyone had ignored him so completely? He couldn’t remember. It was difficult, after all, to remain unnoticed when you were six foot five and a sheikh.

Pushing away from the limo, he straightened, standing at his full height. The bodyguards, several of whom were slightly less at attention than they should have been, instantly did the same.

Ms. Lily Harkness didn’t seem to notice. She was still barking into her phone like a share trader on a Wall Street trading floor. The hot sun had turned her pale blonde hair, worn in a no-nonsense chignon, almost silver, while her light golden skin had begun to flush in the heat.

Isma’il gestured to the bodyguard with the parasol. She may not have been a princess, but it had been his experience that women did not like to sweat.

As the man stepped forward, Lily disconnected the call with a precise stab of her finger. She gestured to the flunkeys, who promptly went back up the stairs and into the jet. Then, and only then, did she finally deign to turn in his direction.