Forbidden: The Sheikh's Virgin

By: Trish Morey

PROLOGUE




IT SHOULD have been something to celebrate. Business was booming, the Aussie dollar soaring, and people were buying imports like never before. Combined with a sharp recovery in property prices, Rafiq Al’Ramiz’s import business and property investments were doing better than ever.

It should have been something to celebrate…

With a growl, he turned his back on the reports and swivelled his leather high-backed chair through one hundred and eighty degrees, preferring the floor-to-ceiling views of Sydney Harbour afforded by his prime fortieth-floor office suite to the spreadsheets full of black numbers on his desk.

He didn’t feel like celebrating.

What would be the point?

Because it was no fun when it was too easy.

He sighed and knotted his hands behind his head. Challenge had been the thing that had driven him over the last ten-plus years, adversity the force that had shaped him, and for a man who had built himself up from nothing into a business phenomenon, conflict had always been a driving force. Making money when everyone else was, even if he made ten times more than they did, was no achievement. Succeeding when times were tough was his challenge and his success.

Beyond the glass windows of his office the waters of Sydney Harbour sparkled like jewels, passenger ferries jostling with pleasure craft for the perfect view of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. For the first time he could remember he felt the insane urge to abandon the office during business hours and take his yacht out and join the pleasure craft taking advantage of the spectacular harbour while the weather was so perfect.

And why not? Business couldn’t be better. Why shouldn’t he cut himself some slack? He tugged at the knot in his tie, already warming to the notion. He could have Elaine call up that society princess he’d met at last week’s charity do. He couldn’t remember the cause, or her name for that matter—he was invited to so many of those things and he met so many women—but he could remember the way the blonde had sashayed up to him, so hot in her liquid red dress that she’d all but melted the ice in his glass. His PA would know who she was. That was Elaine’s job. And maybe by the time he’d finished with the blonde the economy would have taken a tumble and life might be more interesting again.

He could only hope.

He’d already swivelled his chair back, ready to pick up the receiver and hit the button that would connect him to his PA, when his phone buzzed.

He raised one eyebrow. Elaine had a sixth sense for his requirements, almost uncanny at times, but if she already had the blonde bombshell on line one, her bonus this year would be an all-expenses-paid holiday to the Bahamas.

He picked up the receiver and listened. It wasn’t the blonde, and there would be no all-expenses-paid holiday to the Bahamas for his PA, but life was already one hell of a lot more interesting.





CHAPTER ONE




THE sun belted down on the tarmac of Qusay International Airport, the combination turning the air oppressive as Rafiq stepped from the Gulfstream V. He took a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dazzling light, and even over the smell of avgas he breathed it in: the unmistakable scent of his homeland, the salt-tinged air fragrant with a thousand heady spices and dusted with the desert sands that swept so much of the island kingdom.

‘Rafiq!’

He smiled as his brother emerged, his robes stark white and cool-looking, from the first of two limousines waiting near the foot of the stairs. At their front, flags bearing the royal insignia fluttered, and four uniformed motorcyclists sat ready nearby, bringing home to him the reality of the bombshell his brother had dropped during his phone call. King Xavian had abdicated after learning that he was really the missing Prince Zafir of Calistan, which meant that his brother, Kareef, would soon be crowned King of Qusay.

Which made him, Rafiq, a prince.

A fleeting hint of bitterness infused his thoughts and senses—if he’d been a prince back then—but just as quickly he fought it down. That was history.

Ancient history.

There were far better things to celebrate now, even if the bad taste in his mouth would not disappear completely. He jogged down the stairs, ignoring the heat that seemed to suck the very oxygen from the air, and took his brother by the arm, pulling him close and slapping him on the back. ‘It is good to see you, big brother. Or should I call you Sire?’

Kareef waved his jest aside as he ushered his brother into the cool interior of the waiting limousine, the chauffer snicking the door softly closed behind them before sliding into the driver’s seat. ‘It’s good you could come at such short notice,’ Kareef acknowledged as the cavalcade pulled away.

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