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The Sheik's Son

By´╝ÜNicola Italia

Chapter 1

Paris, France, 1788

Sophie dipped the goose-quill pen into the ink and her cursive writing flowed over the linen paper. She had recently cut the nib of the quill pen with a sharp penknife and it now worked nicely—her previous pen had become worn and had not been of much use. Now she moved quickly over the cream-colored paper, filling it up with her thoughts.

She felt a fierce headache building in her temples but continued to write. She was furious with her grandmother, who treated her like a wayward child, and her father, whom she knew loved her but spent much of his day working. As her mother had died in childbirth, she had been raised by her grand-mère, a traditional woman who expected the same of her granddaughter.

However, Sophie was anything but traditional. She saw the world as a fluid, moving thing and she wanted very much to be a part of it. She wanted the world to change. She wanted to be judged less by her gender and more by her brain, her thoughts and her intelligence. Sophie knew her grandmother wanted her to marry Alphonse and though she had grown up with him, she had no desire for him. He was very quiet and subdued and not interested in the world around them. She wanted an equality of mind and spirit with the man she would eventually marry.

Dipping her pen into the ink well, she marked her words line after line as her thoughts became words and the words would change those who read them. She smiled. Yes. These words would change those around her.

***

Eugenie watched her son move around his desk and shuffle several papers before sitting down to face her. She knew that he detested this sort of discussion but she could put it off no longer.

“Jean Pierre,” she began.

“Yes, Mother?” he returned.

She could hear that his voice was strained and she winced. She did not want to cause him pain or undue harm, but his daughter must be dealt with.

“Son,” she began again, and this time he looked up.

This time, he leaned back slightly in his chair and returned her gaze. “What is it, Mother?”

Eugenie knew that she owed much to her son. Her husband had died shortly before Sophie was born and she had joined his household to help him raise his infant daughter. Danielle had died during a very difficult childbirth and it had been too much for Jean Pierre. As a lawyer in Paris, he did well for himself and was able to provide a comfortable home for his mother and daughter.

She had relished the role of grandmother and surrogate mother as she had given birth to three sons and saw only one survive childhood. But Sophie had been a gifted girl who had enjoyed an education as well as the arts her grandmother made certain she excelled at. Sophie had blossomed into a beauty with dark auburn hair and hazel eyes that reminded Jean Pierre of his lost wife, Danielle.

As the only child, Sophie had a certain amount of freedom but Eugenie had made it known from a very young age that while she would let Sophie indulge in books and reading, when the time came, she would marry and be a proper Parisian wife.

Sophie had been introduced at all the proper parties and caught the eye of many eligible men, but none had captured her heart. So at 24 years old, Sophie Gauvreau remained unmarried. To Eugenie, it was shocking and unacceptable.

“We must speak about Sophie.” Eugenie spoke quietly.

Jean Pierre sighed. “Must we? Well, if we must.”

“Yes, Jean Pierre, we must. I have been lenient with her and you have been as well. She runs wild!” Eugenie said, exaggerating a little.

“Wild?” He raised an eyebrow at his mother.

“Well, not exactly wild. But very free,” she conceded.

Jean Pierre looked over the paperwork that covered his desk and sighed inwardly. He felt he should be taking care of business and France, not worrying about his daughter. Sophie was a dear sweet girl and his mother was merely traditional. They had been butting heads, he knew, for the past two years—ever since Sophie had turned down another marriage proposal.

“I see,” he allowed.

“And you will agree it is more than time for her to marry,” Eugenie countered.

“If Sophie wishes to marry then she will marry. If she doesn’t, I will not force her,” Jean Pierre concluded.

Eugenie sank into her chair a little before regaining herself. “But, my dear, what would you have her be—an old maid?”

Jean Pierre eyed his mother, sitting before him. She was short and had put on weight, but she still retained the charm and sophistication Parisian women seemed to exude. At 70, her eyes were quick and keen and her dark hair was now grey, but she had been a loving mother and he cared deeply for her.

“What has brought this on?” he probed.

Eugenie looked away from her son and then returned his gaze. “Alphonse. We have spoken.”

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