Woman in a Sheikh's World

By: Sarah Morgan

CHAPTER ONE


SHE dreamed of the desert.

She dreamed of dunes turning red gold under the burning fire of the sun and of the clear blue waters of the Persian Gulf lapping beaches of soft white sand. She dreamed of savage mountains and palm-shaded pools. And she dreamed of a Prince—a Prince with eyes all shades of the night and the power to command armies.

‘Avery!’ He was calling her name but she carried on walking without looking back. The ground crumbled beneath her feet and she was falling, falling …

‘Avery, wake up!’

She rose through clouds of sleep, the voice jarring with the image in her head. It was wrong. His voice was rich, deep and everything male. This voice was female and amused. ‘Mmm?’

The delicious aroma of fresh coffee teased her and she lifted her head and stared at the mug that had been placed next to her on the table. With a groan, she sat up and reached for it, half blind from sleep. ‘What time is it?’

‘Seven. You were moaning. That must have been some dream.’

Avery pushed her hand through her hair and tried to wake herself up. She had the same dream every night. Thankfully when she woke it was to find herself in London, not the desert. The discordant blare of taxi horns announced the start of the morning rush hour. No mountains and no shaded oasis—just Jenny, her best friend and business partner, pressing the button on her desk to raise the blinds.

Sunshine poured into the spectacular glass-clad office from all directions and Avery felt a sudden rush of relief to be awake and realise that the ground hadn’t crumbled beneath her feet. She hadn’t lost everything. This was hers and she’d built it from sheer hard work.

‘I need to take a quick shower before our meeting.’

‘When you ordered this couch for your office, I didn’t realise the intention was to sleep on it.’ Jenny put her coffee down on Avery’s desk and slipped off her shoes. ‘Just in case you don’t actually know this, I feel it’s my duty to point out that normal human beings go home at the end of the working day.’

The disturbing dream clung to Avery’s mind like a cobweb and she tried to brush it off, irritated by how much it could affect her. That wasn’t her life. This was.

Barefoot, she strolled across her office and took a look at her reality.

Through the floor to ceiling windows, the city sparkled in the early morning sunshine, mist wrapping the River Thames in an ethereal cloak as delicate as a bride’s veil. Familiar landmarks rose through the milky haze and down on the streets below tiny figures hurried along pavements and cars were already jammed together on the web of roads that criss-crossed beneath her office. Her eyes stung from lack of sleep but she was used to the feeling by now. It had been her close companion for months, along with the empty feeling in her chest that nothing could fill.

Jenny was looking at her. ‘Do you want to talk about it?’

‘Nothing to talk about.’ Avery turned away from the window and sat down at her desk. Work, she thought. Work had been everything until her world had been disturbed. She needed to get that feeling back. ‘The good news is that in my extended insomnia moment last night I finished the proposal for the launch in Hong Kong. I’ve emailed it to you. I think I’ve excelled myself this time. Everyone is going to be talking about this party.’

‘Everyone always talks about your parties.’

The phone she’d left charging overnight buzzed. Back in business mode, Avery reached for it and then saw the name on the screen. Her hand froze in mid-air. Again? It was at least the fifth time he’d called.

She couldn’t do this now. Not so close to the dream.

Her hand diverted and she switched on her computer instead, her heart thundering like a stampeding herd of wild horses. And layered under the panic was pain. Pain that he could intentionally hurt her like this.

‘That’s your private number. Why aren’t you answering it?’ Jenny peered at the screen of the phone and her head jerked up. ‘Mal? The Prince is calling you?’

‘Apparently.’ Avery opened the spreadsheet she’d been working on and noticed with a flash of irritation that her hand wasn’t quite steady. ‘I should have changed my number.’ He had no right to call her private line. She should have cut all ties. Should have made sure he wasn’t able to call her except through the office.

‘Over’ should have meant just that except that he’d made sure that couldn’t happen.

‘All right, enough. I’ve ignored what’s going on for too long.’ Jenny plonked herself down in the chair opposite. ‘I’m officially worried about you.’

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