Read Marrying the Sheikh Online

Authors: Holly Rayner

Tags: #Romance, #Multicultural, #Romantic Suspense, #Multicultural & Interracial, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense

Marrying the Sheikh (10 page)

BOOK: Marrying the Sheikh
3.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Ella spent the next few days walking along the beach, collecting sea shells and visiting museums in the small shoreline town. Most of her high school friends had moved away and so she spent the bulk of her time by herself, reading, doing yoga and watching old movies with her parents.


The plans for Hannah’s shower were all tied up and she felt pretty confident that it would be a success. She tried not to think that this was not only a big event for her best friend, but also the launch of her new career. Corinne had checked in to let Ella know that her dress was finished and the bridesmaids’ dresses were being delivered imminently. It appeared that everything was moving along nicely and Ella had little to worry about. Corinne and Hannah both were glad to hear that Ella was finally taking some time to unwind and clear her head.


After visiting Newport for the day with her parents, Ella fell quickly into a deep, undisturbed sleep. She awoke the next morning to the sound of the gulls on the water. Hopping out of bed, she wrapped herself in a fluffy robe and made her way down the old stairs to the kitchen.


“Good morning,” her dad said as he slid a fresh cup of coffee over to her. “It might not be espresso, but it’s the best on the beach.”


“Good morning, Dad,” she said, wiping the sleep out of her eyes. “Thanks,” she said, wrapping her hands around the warm cup.


The temperature had dropped to the fifties and Ella felt a chill run up her spine. She walked over to her father, planted a big kiss on his cheek and walked out the front door to enjoy her morning coffee.


Sipping on the fresh brew, Ella let the drink warm her from the inside out. She wrapped the robe around her more tightly to protect her from the crisp sea air. Lines of gulls flew effortlessly just feet above the ocean and the water reflected the sun like freshly polished glass.


This was just what she needed. Ella had felt herself ratchet down several notches in the short time she had been away from the city. She was enjoying spending time with her family. But also was enjoying spending time alone, getting back to her roots. She took another sip of coffee and then placed the large ceramic mug on the wicker table, moving the paper aside.


Her eyes came to rest on a headline above a grainy photo

“Two Influential Families to Become One.” Ella leaned in closer and saw the phony smile of one Nadia Al Jalal and a straight-faced Karim.


Ella gasped, sucking in the cool morning air as her hand rose to her mouth. She felt her lip tremble and within seconds, fresh tears warmed the corners of her eyes. She grabbed the paper and jumped to her feet, nearly knocking her father over as she ran past him into the house and up the stairs.


“Was it something I said?” her father joked, shaking his head as he turned and walked outside.


Ella fell onto her bed and flipped open the paper to read the article in its entirety. The photo was the same one that had been taken weeks before, the day that Nadia had treated Ella like a servant. It was the same day Karim and Ella had gone to the Plaza, and then… later at his apartment…


She didn’t want to think about it but still the memories came flooding back. Ella began crying as she thought of him holding her close in the Grand Ballroom. She felt his strong embrace and wrapped her own arms around her sadness, shaking with each sob.


Her mind filled with memories of Karim’s scent, their trip to Eleuthera, his laugh and then the kiss in his apartment. She buried her face into the pillows and let the tears flow. Ella had tried to ignore her feelings and play them down, but there was no denying it; she was desperately, hopelessly in love with a man wh

according to the paper

was getting married in exactly one week.


“Can I come in, honey?” Maggie called from outside the door. “El?”


Ella mumbled something through the pillow and her mother opened the door slowly and slipped inside. She walked over and sat down on the bed next to her daughter, slowly running her hand across her back like she had when Ella was a little girl. Maggie didn’t say anything, but glanced at the paper on the bed and thought she had a pretty good idea what had happened.


After several minutes, Ella rolled over, her face sticky with tears and her hair matted to her cheeks. She sniffled loudly as she looked at her mother, speaking the sadness of her heart without saying a word.


“I know,” Maggie said, brushing the wet hair off Ella’s face. “It hurts.”


Ella nodded as fresh tears welled up in her eyes.


“So,” Maggie said, knowing better than to tell Ella that the feeling would pass. She never liked hearing that when she was hurting and she that it wouldn’t make Ella feel any better either.


Her daughter was independent. She was smart, self-sufficient, and accomplished. She knew she had to deal with this and she would figure out how. Maggie knew that Ella had run away to hide from her problems, but now she had to face them.


“What are you going to do?” she asked gently, looking out the window, allowing Ella the dignity of her tears.


Ella let out a long, scratchy breath. “I have to go back,” she said in a whisper.


Maggie nodded and reached over and grabbed her daughter’s hand, squeezing it as she spoke. “Yes, you do.” She smiled slightly, leaned in and kissed her daughter’s wet cheek.


Ella pressed her lips together as she felt her mother’s skin on hers. She smiled and squeezed her mother’s hand back and then let it go. Maggie turned and left the room without another word. For the next hour, Ella sat quietly, thinking about her future, her past and what lay ahead for her, back in New York.


Ella smiled broadly when Princess jumped into her arms, the moment she arrived home. Hannah had stopped by earlier that morning and dropped the cat off to save Ella making the trip to her place.


“Hello, Princess,” Ella said, glad to see that someone had missed her. “Yes, I missed you, too.” She pet the cat furiously and rubbed noses with her. Princess jumped down a moment later and ran to her favorite spot to bask in the sun under the wall of windows.


“Tough life,” Ella said sarcastically. She rolled her luggage into her bedroom and returned carrying her laptop. She set it on her desk, plugged it in and turned it on. While she was waiting for it to start up, she went to the kitchen and fixed a plate of fruit salad that she had brought back from the farmer’s market in Rhode Island.


“Mmm,” she said, popping a forkful of juicy strawberries and pineapple into her mouth. The laptop whizzed as it started up and Ella munched on the ripe fruit as her programs opened. First her email popped up, followed by her spreadsheet with all of the vendors' and venues' names and addresses. Finally, her electronic calendar opened. Ella preferred using her old-fashioned paper planner, but she was trying to convert everything over to her electronic calendar so that she could operate from her smart phone more efficiently.


“Well, what have we got here…” she said slowly as she chewed on a large piece of papaya. Several small pop-up boxes appeared on her computer screen, each reminding her of upcoming appointments. She had one for the final fitting of Corinne’s bridesmaids’ dresses. There was another to confirm the music selection for the wedding, an appointment to confirm Hannah’s cake, and a reminder for an upcoming vet appointment for Princess. Ella looked over at her cat and frowned.


“You’re not gonna like that one,” she said, knowing that Princess would be getting shots.


She cleared all of the boxes one-by-one, stopping when she got to the last one. It was a reminder for an appointment with Nadia and Karim: a final confirmation of their menu choices, a week before their wedding.


Ella’s hand froze on the mouse, the cursor hovering above the X. She felt her breath heavy in her throat. She had forgotten to remove all of their wedding items from her calendar and now here it was, reminding her of the inevitable. She closed her eyes and clicked the box, making it disappear from her screen.


Without hesitating, Ella opened her email and began filling her electronic calendar with appointments for potential baby shower clients. She scoured her old client list and scribbled down some ideas for a host of new marketing projects so that she could drum up new business fast. It wasn’t that Ella needed the money; she needed the distraction.


An hour or so later, Ella sat back and looked at her computer. She had successfully managed to completely fill her calendar with projects and appointments, focusing specifically on two Saturdays awa

the day of Karim and Nadia’s wedding. She made sure she wouldn't have a moment to spare that day, not a moment to think about what would be going on in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel.


When she was satisfied that she would be completely distracted on that day, she sat back and read through her emails. She felt a dull pang of sadness when she realized that she hadn’t received any emails from Karim or any vendors related to his wedding. Apparently, the new wedding planner had already gotten all of the correspondence switched over. That was good as it meant that the new planner was on top of things, but it still felt like a small slap in the face to Ella.


She exhaled and sat back, letting her eyes wander to the expansive view from the windows. She walked over to them and cracked the top half open, letting in a nice warm breeze and the sounds of the city below. Ella looked down at Princess and shook her head, wishing she too could be back in a state of pure laziness, as she had been in Rhode Island. But the paper had snapped her out of that. In fact, Ella realized that even though she had been gone for nearly two weeks, it felt as if she had never left.


She carried her plate back to the kitchen and set it on the counter when she heard her phone buzz. It buzzed again and Ella picked it up, swiping it open. She saw that she had three new text messages and two voicemails.


Ella tapped on the messages and read them. Her mother had texted her to say she was glad Ella had come to visit, then there were two texts from Hannah, one telling Ella that Princess had been a dream and she was waiting for her in her apartment, the second simply said 'Call me. NOW!'


Ella put the phone down on the counter and hit a button, allowing the messages to play on speaker phone.


“Hi dear,” Maggie’s voice came through the phone. “I just wanted to tell you that it was so good to see you. Really, your dad and I miss you so much and we're so happy you came to visit. I know I sent you a text message, but this is a new cellphone and I'm not sure if I did it right. Anyhow, I’m here if you need anything honey, really. I love you. Oh, and you left those cute flats here, the ones with the little bows on the toes. You know the ones I’m talking about? Well, they’re here. I can mail them if you want. Just let me know. Okay then… I love you. Bye.”


Ella smiled to herself. Her mother was stuck in the era of answering machines and didn’t understand much about smartphones. She waited while the message ended and then listened to the next one.


“Ella! It’s time! Where are you?! The baby is coming… NOW!”


Ella swung around from the sink and grabbed the phone up from the counter.


“Han?! Hannah?!” she yelled into the phone, before remembering that it was a voicemail. She looked at the call log and realized Hannah had called just a half an hour before. The baby was coming? Already? But Hannah wasn’t due for another six weeks!


Ella threw her phone into her purse, grabbed her keys and flew out the door, hailing wildly for a cab. She arrived at the hospital in no time and minutes later was arguing with a nurse on the maternity ward.


“No, I’m not family, really,” Ella said, trying to get in to see Hannah. “But I’m like family… really!”


“Are you a blood relative?” the nurse asked coldly without looking up from her paperwork.


Ella pounded her fist on the counter. “No! I’m not, but she doesn’t have any blood relatives. I’m it!”


The nurse continued to shuffle her paperwork, her eyes down. “Are you a blood relative?”


Ella rolled her eyes and turned away from the counter, frustrated that she couldn’t get in to see her best friend give birth to her first child.


“I told you already. No, she doesn’t


The nurse cut her off. “I’ll ask you one more time…” she said slowly, looking up at Ella as she slid a form across the desk to her. The nurse took a pen and tapped a box that authorized visitors to attest that they were blood relatives. She held it out to Ella. “Now, are you a blood relative?”


The nurse raised her eyebrows and Ella got the message. “Yes,” she said, nodding her head slowly as she grabbed the pen. “I am a blood relative.”


The nurse smiled. “Fine, just initial here. She’s in room 305.”


Ella initialed the box and mouthed the words ‘thank you’ to the nurse before she ran down the hall to find Hannah’s room.


Room 305 was just around the corner. The door was ajar and Ella could hear Trent’s reassuring voice trying to calm Hannah. Ella stuck her fingers through the door in a small wave. She didn’t want to just enter and interrupt their intimate moment.


“Hi,” Ella said softly, peeking in further so they could tell she was there.


“El! I’m so glad you

aaaaaahhhhh!” Hannah screamed in pain.


“It’s okay, babe, breathe, just breathe. Remember, in through the nose and out through the,”


“I’ll tell you what you can breathe out of!” Hannah hissed at Trent.


Ella ran over to Hannah’s bedside and grabbed her free hand. Hannah squeezed it hard as she screamed through her contraction. When it was over, she collapsed on the bed in a pool of sweat.


“You’re doing great,” Ella said, wiping Hannah’s head with a cold cloth.


Trent looked at Ella from the other side of the bed and nodded in relief. She could tell he was glad reinforcements were there.


They stayed with Hannah for another hour until the doctor came in and after examining Hannah, told her it was time to push. The nurses outfitted Trent and Ella with surgical masks, gowns and gloves and prepared them for what was about to happen.


Within minutes, Hannah was sitting up and pushing hard. After a few piercing screams, Hannah fell back onto the bed with tears rolling down her face as the doctor held up her little baby girl.


“It’s a girl! And she’s perfect!”


“Oh my gosh!” Trent cried when he saw his daughter. He kissed Hannah and held onto her hand, tears forming in his eyes as he gazed at his new baby.


Ella stood perfectly still, shaking at the enormity of what had just taken place. “She’s, she’s amazing…” she said softly, unable to put words to the miracle that she saw in front of her.


“I want to hold her,” Hannah said, pulling her hand out of Trent’s and reaching for her baby. The doctor clamped the umbilical cord and the nurses cleaned and swaddled the little girl. A few seconds later, a clean and fresh baby was nestled snugly in her mother’s arms.


“She’s so beautiful,” Hannah said through her tears.


“She is, she's just perfect,” said Ella, unable to control her emotions as her own eyes filled with tears of joy for her friend. They sat in silence, just looking at the child as she wriggled in Hannah’s arms.


Trent reached down and picked her up, holding her close as he spoke. “Well hello, Jessica, my beautiful little girl!” He kissed her rosy skin and smiled down at her.


Ella wasn't sure how much time passed as she stood gazing at the new family, then Trent looked up at her.


“Do you want to hold her?” he asked.


Ella looked at Trent and then at Hannah. Of course she wanted to hold her! She nodded through her tears and held her arms out.


Trent placed the little bundle in Ella’s arms and she wrapped her hands around the child. Her heart filled with emotions she couldn’t describe as she stared down at Jessica, unable to take her eyes off of the beautiful little girl in her arms. Ella instinctively rocked back and forth and began cooing to the baby. A few moments later she handed Jessica back to her parents.


Ella hugged Trent and then leaned in and kissed Hannah on the cheek. “I’ll leave you guys alone,” she said, smiling. She walked over to the door and turned back for one more look. She saw Trent, sitting on the edge of the bed with his arm wrapped around Hannah. His eyes moved from Hannah to Jessica and were glistening with joy.


“I love you,” he said to Hannah, leaning down to kiss her on the lips.


She turned her tear stained face to meet his. “I love you so much,” she said, reaching up to take his face in her hands. They pressed their foreheads together and smiled, looking down at the new life they had created.


Ella felt her heart tumble over with joy. She walked out of the room, closed the door behind her and then leaned against it, letting the whole experience sink in. She felt her body shiver with happiness for her friends, gratitude that their baby had come out okay. She closed her eyes and felt so much joy for what they had. They had real, true love, the kind of love that fairy tales are made of, the kind of love in the old movies that she loved to watch. They had the love that she wanted, that she longed for with Karim.


BOOK: Marrying the Sheikh
3.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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