The Sheikh's Stolen Bride-To-Be(9)

By: Holly Rayner

Being in first class, the O’Hanlons were among the first off the plane. They quickly made their way through customs before stepping out into the hot, desert air.

Steph lost her breath in the dry heat, which was scorching compared to Vermont. She instantly longed to be sitting by her town’s lake, basking in the gentle Northeastern sun, not being beaten down by this harsh desert one. Her father hailed a cab, and before she knew it, Steph was speeding along toward their hotel, staring out the window at this foreign land that shouldn’t have been foreign.

Steph should have traveled more. Her father had certainly had the money for it when she was younger, but what he’d lacked was the time. He was always working, sometimes day and night, and there was never a good time for a family vacation. By the time she was old enough to take one, all she could afford was a road trip with some high school friends down the East Coast, which wasn’t exactly as exciting as she’d thought it would be.

As they drove, Steph watched her mother’s face. Elora’s expression was wistful as she laid eyes once again on the land of her birth.

Steph placed a gentle hand on her mother’s knee. “Please tell me. Just one thing.”

Elora looked down at her daughter, then, laying a reassuring hand on top of hers. “He is kind hearted, good looking, and wealthy. That is all you need to know for now. The rest you will find out on your own.”

Steph bit back a frustrated sigh as they drove on in silence, her mother lost in memories, her father lightly snoring with his head drooping onto his chest, and the driver listening to music she had never heard before. When they arrived at the hotel, her father jolted awake before paying the man and getting their bags. They stopped at the concierge to check into their room.

“O’Hanlon,” her father told the man, who typed their name into the system.

The clerk’s eyebrows lifted, and he looked back up at her father. “It would seem you’ve had a change of rooms, sir. Instead of a single with two queens, you have been upgraded to the lounge suite on the top floor.”

Jerry looked down at his daughter with a glance of approval. “He’s really trying to impress you, wouldn’t you say?”

“How do you know it’s him?” Steph countered.

The further in she got, the more she felt like she couldn’t go through with the wedding. It was made all the worse by the fact that whoever the groom was, he was obviously kind enough to shower her and her parents with upgrades and gifts before the big day. Could she really walk out on someone like that? On the other hand, could she really go through with marrying someone she didn’t know? What if this was all just a show, a way to win her parents’ trust so that he could do what he pleased to her and they would take his side? If her parents had been willing to give her even a small hint, maybe she could have relaxed, but Steph felt her panic rising with the elevator as they rode to the highest floor of the hotel.

When her father opened the door, the view they were met with was absolutely magnificent. The whole room was surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows, so they had a sweeping view of the majestic El Farah desert as winds whipped curls of sand off the tops of towering dunes. The living room was spacious yet comfortable, with colorful furniture that still managed to be chic. There were three bedrooms, and Steph picked the one across from the suite her parents took.

They settled in comfortably, resting after their long journey before meeting back in the living room.

“Steph, we’re planning on checking out that landmark I was telling you about before. Would you like to come?” Jerry asked.

Steph let loose a huge yawn, stretching her arms to make a big show of being tired. “I think I’m going to rest here for a while. I don’t quite feel like walking around yet.”

Elora lifted one dark eyebrow. “But you always feel like walking.”

Steph shrugged. “Okay, well maybe I just want some time to prepare myself for tomorrow. It’s kind of the biggest day of my life.”

Her tone brooked no argument, and her parents, wanting to be understanding, relented. Once Steph was sure they had made it to the elevator, she sank to the floor, taking deep breaths as she tried to steady her nerves.

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