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Promised To A Sheik
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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Chapter One"Sheik Al Abdar, could you tell us if this impromptu visit to Texas is for business or pleasure?"
Sheik Omar Al Abdar flashed a slightly cool smile at the female reporter whose voice had risen above the others. He'd only just stepped out of the private jet that had flown him from his small, Middle East country of Gaspar to a private airstrip just outside Mission Creek, Texas.
"I was unaware that the press had been alerted to my presence here in Texas," he replied.
"When one of the most eligible bachelors in the world comes to Texas, Texas sits up and takes notice," the reporter responded with a dazzling smile.
Omar paid her no attention. His mind was focused on his mission.
What if she says no? The question came unbidden to Omar's mind and he shoved it away, refusing to consider the possibility.
Rashad Aziz held up his hands to halt the volley of questions. "Please, please, His Royal Highness has traveled a long distance today and is eager to get to his destination. He will answer no questions at this time."
As if on an unspoken cue, several guards moved into position, shielding Sheik Omar from the small crowd of reporters as they ushered him toward an awaiting car.
"Thank you, Rashad." Omar smiled at his personal assistantonce they were all settled in the car and pulling away from the circle of reporters. "It would appear the owner of the airstrip leaked the information about our arrival here."
Rashad Aziz, a petite man in his fifties with skin the color of a coconut shell and a cynicism Omar often found amusing, grimaced. "I'm sure he was paid handsomely for giving the information to those vultures."
Rashad withdrew a small pad from his breast pocket. "We have made arrangements for you at the Brighton Hotel in Mission Creek. The Ashbury Suite will be yours for as long as you like. I spoke to the owner of the hotel myself, and he has assured me that his entire staff is eager to see that your every wish is granted."
"I'm sure it will be just fine," Omar said absently. "And now you will tell the driver that we will go to the Carson Ranch before checking into the hotel."
Rashad didn't blink an eye even though the plan had been for Omar to go immediately to his hotel. Rashad moved to the seat directly behind the limo driver and quickly relayed the change in plans. He remained seated there, as if instinctively recognizing that the sheik wanted a few moments with his own thoughts.
Omar stared out the window at the passing landscape. It irritated him that the press knew he was here. He'd hoped to fly into Mission Creek, accomplish his goal, then return to Gaspar without the glare of the media upon him.
He did not want the press to be privy to his personal business, and this trip to Texas was strictly personal. When he succeeded, he'd be more than happy for the world to know what he'd done.
What if she says no? Again the question came from nowhere to plague him with the disturbing possibility. He reached into his breast pocket and withdrew a photograph.
The picture was of a young woman in a shimmering silver ball gown. The dark brown wavy hair that framed her heart-shaped face complemented her peaches-and-cream complexion. He remembered her eyes had been like emeralds, flirting and dancing and surrounded by thick, long lashes. A beauty mark at the corner of her mouth drew attention to the lush, thoroughly kissable-looking lips.
Elizabeth Fiona Carson. She'd been twenty-one years old when the photo was taken at a cotillion Omar had attended in this very town. That had been six years ago - and now he had come to claim her as his bride.
What if she says no? He tucked the photo back in his pocket and straightened up in the seat. Of course she would not say no. He was Sheik Omar Al Abdar, King of Gaspar. Any woman would be proud to be chosen by him as his wife.
As the driver turned onto the Carson property, Omar once again turned his attention out the window. The Carson ranch was known throughout Texas for the quality of its cattle, but he was more interested in the fact that this was Elizabeth's home, the place of her birth and her upbringing.
In the letters they had exchanged over the past year, she had spoken of this place and of her parents with great affection.
Although not nearly as big as his palace back in Gaspar, the main house was certainly impressive. A large porch ran the length of the front of the massive house, along with dozens of large windows.
The grounds were well kept, manicured to perfection and with aesthetically pleasing flower gardens and an abundance of trees.
As the car began to turn into the half-moon driveway in front of the house, Omar leaned forward. "No," he said. "Not the main house. There should be a caretaker's cottage somewhere on the premises." He pointed to an offshoot drive that led past a fourcar garage. "There. Go there."
The driver did his bidding, passing the garage and other outbuildings. In the distance Omar spied the small cottage where he knew Elizabeth lived.
He knew it not only from the letters she'd written him, but by the baskets of flowers that hung from the small porch. She'd told him she loved flowers.
As the car came to a halt before the little cottage, Omar felt a curious fluttering in the pit of his stomach. It couldn't be nerves, he thought. He was a sheik, the king of his country. He didn't get nervous, he made other people nervous.
Hunger. Surely that was what made his stomach roll. They had traveled all day to arrive in Texas, and their last meal had been far too long ago.
Rashad opened the door to allow him to step out. With a head full of thoughts about the woman inside the cottage, Omar absently smoothed a hand down the front of his Armani suit, hoping he didn't appear too travel rumpled.
As Omar walked up to the front door, his two bodyguards stationed themselves on either side of the porch and Rashad returned to the back of the limo.
Omar drew a deep breath, aware that this would be one of the defining moments of his life. At thirty-eight years old, it was far past time he claimed a bride, and even though he hadn't seen Elizabeth Fiona Carson for six years, she was the woman he had chosen to make his wife.
He knocked on the door, at the same time aware of the sweet scent of the nearby flower baskets. He made a mental note to ensure there were always freshcut flowers in her rooms at the palace.
The door opened, and Omar gazed at his bride-to-be. "Elizabeth," he said. In an instant he drank in the sight of her, pleased that she looked just as he remembered.
Excerpted from Promised To A Sheik by Cassidy Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.