Authors: Leslie North
The Botros Brothers Series
By Leslie North
Sara walked outside to join the others at the table. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and Sara's mum, Tariq, Amir and Fiddah were having lunch by the pool. Little Leylah was asleep upstairs and the nanny was with her. It had been a few days since Sara had returned from the hospital with her and she was still feeling tired and sore. Tariq helped Sara sit down and pushed the chair in for her.
“My grandson is so smitten by a female,” Fiddah said as she smiled. For the first time ever, she was seeing her grandson with a woman. Only a few months ago, he was determined not to wed, yet here he was with a new baby and getting married.
“It's still so new to me too,” Amir said. He turned to look at Sara. “How are you?” he asked her.
“Hungry,” Sara replied with a smile as she picked up her fork. “Hospital food was so horrible,” she added as Tariq laughed.
“When we returned from the hospital, the kitchen was the first room she went to,” Tariq said. Everyone laughed. They were all very aware of how much Sara loved food. She didn't even bother to defend herself but carried on eating.
“Who would have thought my baby girl would be getting married so soon,” Mrs Mathews said. “She still can't even walk without tripping over herself,” she added. Amir burst out laughing. He had witnessed many of Sara's clumsy moments and was often the one to catch her. Sara looked up and narrowed her gaze at her mother.
Amir's phone vibrated. He took it out of his pocket and quickly read the message before slipping it back into his pocket. Sara moved closer to him and whispered, “No reply?”
“It's nothing important,” Amir said to Sara and gestured for her to eat. Sara turned back to her plate. She knew she was going to grill him about it later. The message must have been from his secret lover. She was intrigued to find out about her.
“Is there a date set for the wedding?” Fiddah asked.
“Hopefully, after the baby fat is gone,” Sara said. Her mother and Fiddah both laughed.
“Baby fat is always an issue,” her mother said.
“Indeed,” Fiddah commented and rolled her eyes. Both women knew the troubles of shedding pregnancy weight.
They all continued eating together and conversing. Amir teased Sara and Tariq about their relationship. It was still surprising to everyone, but Amir approved of the unintended match. He really liked Sara. She had grown on him quickly and it was clear that she was the only one who could keep Tariq grounded.
Right after lunch, Sara went to check on Leylah who was still sleeping soundly. Sara stroked her rosy cheeks. She had Tariq's nose. Her eyelashes were long. Sara smiled at her little blessing.
* * * *
Sara woke and turned to find the bed empty. She got up to brush her teeth and get dressed before heading downstairs. Her mother was making breakfast and Tariq was sitting at the kitchen table with Leylah. “What's for breakfast?” Sara asked.
“Morning to you, too,” her mother replied. Sara chuckled. She had missed her mother’s cooking. She ran over to Leylah and kissed her. “Hi sweetie,” she whispered. She kissed Tariq on the lips and sat on his lap. He stroked her face.
“All right you two,” Mrs. Mathews said as she put food on the table, “That's how you got that one,” she said as she stroked Leylah's cheeks. “It’s too soon to work on another.” Sara laughed as she slid off Tariq's lap to sit across from him. She poured herself a glass of orange juice.
Her mother talked to Tariq as they ate. She took every opportunity to speak with him, as she wanted to get to know him before the wedding. She was very interested in the kind of man her daughter was going to marry. Sara ignored the conversation and carried on eating and rocking Leylah.
* * * * *
“Here comes the family man
,” Amir joked when Tariq walked into his office. Tariq walked in silently with his hands in his pockets. He pulled up a chair and joined Amir who sat at his desk with Malik. He kept his face expressionless as usual.
“I hear El-Sultari is doing well,” Tariq went straight into business. Adiva walked in with a tray of refreshments.
“In the last week, we have experienced more oil in the one field than in all the others combined,” Malik replied with relish.
“Thank you,” Amir said to Adiva, as she poured him some tea. He reached for a namora, a delicate pastry made with farina, flour and coconut baked to golden brown and topped with syrup, and bit into it, he couldn’t help thinking of Sara, as he knew this was one of her favourites. Tariq and Malik carried on discussing business. The drilling on El-Sultari had produced more oil than anticipated and they needed to arrange for more barrels. Amir carried on eating the pastries. The two were all about business. They were too serious.
Dana, Amir's new assistant, came into the office with some paperwork. She bowed to Amir before handing him the file. Amir studied her briefly before he dismissed her. He opened the file and glanced through it.
“She's so stiff,” he said.
“Who?” Malik asked.
“Dana, she's so boring. I need a new assistant.”
“She hasn’t been here that long. Give her a chance,” Malik replied.
“When will Sara come back to work?” Amir looked up at Tariq who frowned at him.
“My wife will not be your assistant,” Tariq said and took a sip of his tea. Malik laughed.
“Oh, why not? She was good at her job and she loved it,” Amir replied with a grin plastered to his face.
“Those days are long gone, brother,” Tariq replied in a not so friendly tone. Amir laughed at Tariq. He couldn’t believe how overprotective he was of Sara.
“On a serious note, she needs a position in the company. She already has an office,” Amir said. Even though he missed Sara's company, he actually wanted her in the business for the company's benefit. She would be a great asset. He also knew that she'd love to return to work there. She was always so cheerful and Amir wasn’t afraid to admit how much he missed seeing her at the office every day.
“That is true,” Malik agreed. He had the pleasure of working with Sara and he knew of her capabilities. Having a position was something he thought Sara should be granted. If it weren’t for her, they would not have drilled at El-Sultari. It was because of her that they discussing more barrels.
As the three men discussed potential positions for Sara; Tariq readily admitted that Sara would never agree to be a stay at home mom. And with her academic qualifications and intelligence, she was definitely an asset to the company.
weeks, Sara had been watching Tariq go to work while she stayed home with the baby. She loved little Leylah, but she was bored and wanted to get out. She decided to visit the office on the pretence of showing Leylah off. When Sara got out of the car, she stared at the building and smiled. She had missed the place a lot more than she thought she would. She put Leylah in her stroller and wheeled her into the building. Security was quick to greet her with smiles as she walked in. Adiva was surprised to see her exit the lift. She smiled and greeted her. She was still the same girl. Sara was wearing denim shorts and an oversized t-shirt. After stopping to chat briefly, she headed towards Amir's office. An unfamiliar woman tried to stop her from entering his office.
“I'm sorry, miss, did you have an appointment to see the sheik?” the woman asked.
“You must be the new assistant. I'm Sara,” Sara said and smiled. “It's okay, he'll see me,” she added as she continued to his office.
“Miss, I'm not sure that is a good idea. Miss, I will call security,” she warned.
Sara opened Amir's office door with a huge grin on her face. Amir was sitting at his desk on a call. He looked up and saw Sara standing in the doorway. He cut his conversation short and hung up the phone.
“I tried to stop her,” the woman said.
“It's okay, Dana,” Amir said to the woman. He stood up from his desk and quickly approached Sara. He hugged her and kissed both cheeks. Dana stood there in confusion. This was the first time she had ever seen the sheik this welcoming to someone. Lover, maybe? She thought. After all, he was known as a ladies man, but this woman had a baby.
“This is Tariq's fiancé and baby,” Amir cleared up the confusion. Dana's eyes widened. She had experienced Tariq’s tough exterior. It surprised her to find out that he was not only engaged, but had a baby.
“And, Amir's best friend,” Sara teased. Amir laughed with her.
“I am so sorry, miss,” Dana apologised to Sara. There was a hint of panic in her voice. She was afraid of Tariq. Even though she hadn't been working here for long, she was already quite afraid of him and did everything she could to stay on his good side. At the same time, she had hoped to catch his attention but he never paid attention to her.
“Ah, it's okay.”
Amir softly flicked Leylah's nose. She cooed in response. He smiled and picked her up from the stroller. He began rocking her as he spoke gibberish to her. Sara smiled and turned to Dana. She asked her to bring in snacks. Sara sat down on the sofa and Amir followed with the baby in his arms.
“It's funny how the toughest men become so tender with babies,” Sara said. Amir sat down opposite her.
“She's so cute,” Amir said and kissed Leylah on the cheek.
Dana returned with a selection of treats and placed it on the table. Sara thanked her as she picked up a pastry and bit into it. She had quickly fallen in love with Arabic snacks. She licked her fingers and looked at Amir.
“So, how is she?” Sara asked.
“Who is she?”
Amir replied with a question.
“The woman you're keeping in hiding.”
Amir looked up. Sara was indeed persistent. Just when he thought she had forgotten all about it, here she was asking again. Sara grinned at him.
“There is no one in hiding,” Amir said.
“Yeah, right. All those secret dates. The text during lunch last week.” Sara pouted at him and narrowed her eyes. Amir laughed. There was no winning with her. He sighed deeply before he said anything.
“She's different from anyone I've ever been with before.”
“Ehh. So, how are you?”
“Don't change the subject.” Sara wasn’t going to let him off that easily. Amir laughed as Tariq walked into the office. He sighed with relief when he saw his brother, as he had saved him from having to answer Sara. Tariq was surprised to see Sara. He kissed her on the forehead and sat down next to her. She looked at Amir as if to say,
this is not over.
“What brings you to the office?” Tariq asked Sara.
“It's boring staying home all day,” Sara replied. “And exhausting,” she added and yawned. Her sleeping pattern was messed up. Leylah would wake her up at the most odd times. She still hadn’t gotten used to all the diaper changes not to mention the breast-feeding. She was lucky that her mother and Fiddah were there to help along with the nanny.
“You should be home resting,” Tariq told her gently.
“I need a change of environment,” Sara replied with a pout.
Tariq shook his head. He was not even going to get into it. Sara was a stubborn one. It had only been a month since she gave birth and the doctor warned her to take it easy, but Sara refused to sit still. Tariq wanted her fully recovered before she was out and about, especially because of the surgery. Tariq studied Sara as he frowned.
“Interesting attire you have on,” Tariq said.
“Leave her alone,” Amir jumped in to defend her.
“I love my shorts,” Sara shot back. Besides, it’s hot.”
“And the unflattering top?” Tariq asked.
“To hide the baby fat,” Sara replied as she narrowed her gaze at him. “You put me in this mess after all,” she added. Tariq did not offer a response. He simply kept his face expressionless and grunted. While he loved his fiancé and new baby, if he had known that she was a virgin, he would have taken precautions. He had assumed that a woman of her age would be managing her birth control. He gestured for Amir to give him the baby. His face immediately softened when he held Leylah, as he smiled at her and kissed her face.
“My genes bettered this baby,” Sara said cheekily. Tariq looked at her as if she was crazy.
“Has she met me?” Tariq asked Amir.
“I have to admit, she's adorable like her mother,” Amir replied and winked at Sara.
“Thank you,” Sara said and smirked at Tariq.
“Whatever,” Tariq said. Amir and Sara laughed at Tariq’s uncharacteristic response. Sara finished her snacks, leaned back into the sofa and fell asleep during the conversation. Tariq was in the middle of saying something; he turned to Sara and saw her sleeping. She had her hands on her belly and her legs were open. He shook his head. Even in her sleep, she was unladylike but she looked so peaceful when she slept. She was adorable. He put Leylah in the stroller. Then he picked up Sara's legs and put them up on the sofa. He made sure she was sleeping comfortably before he left the office.
Amir and Tariq left Sara sleeping, as Tariq did not want to wake her. She needed her rest. They took Leylah with them in case she woke up and started to cry. Dana was at reception with Adiva. She watched the two men walking down the corridor.
“Sara and Tariq are engaged?” Dana asked Adiva.
“WHAT?” Adiva spat out and turned to face Dana. She had no idea about the engagement. “I knew they had a baby together, but marriage?” she couldn’t believe it.
“Yeah, Sheik Amir introduced her to me as Sheik Tariq's wife to be.”
“Oh, my,” Adiva was in shock. For as long as she worked there, Tariq did not entertain females. Sara was definitely different from everything the sheik knew. She was not that ladylike, for goodness sake, she carried a backpack to work. Adiva had gotten the shock of her life when she found out that Sara was carrying his baby.
“How did they meet?” Dana asked. “Sheik Amir seemed quite pleased to see her,” she added.
“She was his assistant. He is quite fond of her.”
Dana shrugged. Neither Sheik Amir nor Sheik Tariq seemed fond of her. They must have been comparing her to Sara. Quite often, Sheik Tariq would dismiss her or not pay attention to what she was saying. She knew that little crush on him had to end now that she knew he was engaged, he was definitely off limits to her.