Although I'm still busy editing my new sheikh romance, A BRIDE FOR THE SHEIKH, I'm giving everyone a sneak peak of the first chapter.
“Rashid, you have no choice,” declared His Royal Highness, the Sultan of Bezira.
Sheikh Rashid, the Sultan’s youngest son, bowed his head. “I will agree to marry a foreigner, as you wish.”
Bezira, the small Arab country that his father ruled over, was far too small for Sheikh Rashid to marry a local woman. It would only encourage factions and rivalries, and even worse, it would mean marrying someone who was probably related to him, even if it was only distantly. Bezira might have a fortune in oil, but it seriously lacked a large local population. The barren desert country was so inhospitable that it was traditionally home to only a few hardy Bedouin tribes who tended to intermarry. However, the local custom of marrying second or third cousins resulted in a series of medical issues. Therefore, the Sultan was adamant to break this local custom, starting with his own children.
“Good. I’m glad you agree. I knew you’d see sense.” The Sultan stepped forward and placed his hand on his son’s shoulder. “You’ll be please to know that I’ve already found you a bride.”
Sheikh Rashid looked up. His father might be breaking with some of the local traditions, but an arranged marriage obviously wasn’t one of them. “Who is she?” he asked.
“Chrystal Longhorn, the daughter of my dear friend, Jack Longhorn.” The Sultan beamed at his son.
“Chrystal?” Sheikh Rashid couldn’t believe that his father was proposing that he marry her.
“She might be a little spirited, but she’s a beauty and her father’s a fine man.”
Chrystal was certainly beautiful, if you liked women that looked like Barbie dolls. She had long blonde hair, large blue eyes and a figure that most people knew had been cosmetically enhanced in various different ways. Also, to say that Chrystal was ‘a little spirited’ was a huge understatement. She was the meanest, nastiest, most unpleasant woman Rashid had ever met. Her father, Jack, might be a fine man, and his intellect and honesty made him the Sultan’s most trusted financial advisor, but these qualities had not been passed down to his daughter.
“Father, thank you for your concern,” Rashid began. He knew he would have to be careful with how he treated the issue; his father had a legendary temper. “But may I ask if Miss Longhorn has been consulted about this? I wouldn’t want her to marry someone against her will.”
“You’ve always been the kindest of all my sons,” the Sultan replied. “I’ve talked to Jack and he says his daughter would be delighted, so you needn’t worry about that.”
Rashid knew that Chrystal disliked him almost as must as he disliked her, but he could just imagine her agreeing to such a match just to spite him if nothing else. Also, a woman like her would love the royal status it would confer on her as well as the access that she would have to the royal family’s legendary oil wealth.
“Father, there is something I must tell you,” Rashid tried again. “I don’t feel that Chrystal and I are compatible.”
“Compatible?” The Sultan laughed. “Of course you aren’t! Men and woman never are. That’s what makes marriage such a challenge.”
Rashid’s parents had a very stormy relationship. When they were together, their arguments could be heard resonating across the palace, though most of the year they lived in separate palaces, or even in separate countries. Rashid’s mother, the Sultana, was currently in California living in a sprawling mansion in Beverley Hills.
“I would hope that maybe one day I could have a wife that would be a companion to me. Maybe someone I could love,” Rashid continued.
“Love?” the Sultan looked incredulous. “Do you think that life is like some kind of romance novel? Marriage is a contract between two people and like any business contract there are several things that need to be considered, such as the bride’s age, family and general background. As far as I can see, Chrystal meets all the necessary requirements. To say that love should be a consideration, would be like saying I should buy a business just because I like its logo, or a car because it’s a nice colour. If I did everything on the basis of love, Bezira wouldn’t be the country it is today.”
“Maybe marriage is more than just a business contract?” Rashid suggested.
“My son, I don’t regret sending you to college in England,” the Sultan replied, referring to the three years that his son had spent doing Media Studies at Oxford Brookes University. “However, sometimes I wonder if you picked up a few rather silly notions while you were there.”
“If marriage is a business contract, then perhaps it’s open to negotiation?” Rashid said, trying a different approach. He knew that if he argued with his father and opposed him too strongly, the Sultan would have him married off to the dreadful Crystal the very next morning.
“What type of negotiation?” the Sultan asked, looking more amused than angry.
“What if I agree to marry a foreign woman, but I get to choose who it is?”
“You want to choose?”
“I would only choose someone who would be a suitable bride for a member of the royal family.”
“Naturally,” the Sultan replied.
Rashid waited while his father thought about the idea. When his father began to smile at him, he knew he was in with a chance.
“If you can find a foreign woman, from a decent family, a woman who would be an asset to our own, then I agree,” his father said at last.
“Thank you!” Rashid was thrilled that he no longer had to marry the vile Chrystal. He bowed low to his father in gratitude.
“However, you must find her and present her to me within two weeks. If you don’t, I’ll start the arrangements for your wedding to Jack’s daughter.”
“Two weeks? How can I find someone in just two weeks?”
“Those are my conditions. You either agree to them or I announce your engagement to Miss Longhorn today.”
“I agree,” Rashid replied, bowing again, but this time it was as if a weight was on his shoulders forcing him down. How could he find someone in just two weeks? How could he find a suitable foreign bride in so short a time?
“You can go.” The Sultan waved his hand to dismiss his son.
“Go now, before I change my mind and make it just a week,” the Sultan commanded.