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The Sheik & the Princess In Waiting
By Susan Mallery
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAfter a long day of working in the delivery room, Emma Kennedy was ready to spend her evening with her feet propped up, the TV on and a bowl of ice cream in her hand. Okay, yes, she would probably eat something decent for dinner first but the ice cream was a must. It had been that kind of day.
Nothing had happened all morning, then right at noon, four women had decided to deliver. One had been a terrified teenager, and Emma had stayed with her as much as possible. At twenty-four, Emma had been closest in age of all the nurses, although a lifetime of experiences away from the street-wise, body pierced and tattooed patient.
Emma opened her mailbox, pulled out the cable bill and a flyer for a sale at Dillard's, then walked toward her apartment.
She was tired, but content. It had been a good day. A happy day. One of the things she loved about her job was the joy new mothers experienced when their babies were born. Being part of the process, even on the periphery, was all the thanks she needed. When she thought about all the -
Emma suddenly stopped in the hallway. Two men in dark suits stood by her front door. They looked respectable enough - clean, short haircuts, polished shoes - but they were definitely lurking.
She'd taken several self-defense courses over the years, but she wasn't sure how helpful the information she'd learned would be against two large men.
Glancing first left, then right, she calculated the distance to her nearest neighbor. How long would it take her to run to her car, and what kind of reaction she would get if she screamed?
One of the men looked up and saw her. "Ms. Kennedy? I'm Alex Dunnard from the State Department. This is my associate, Jack Sanders. May we have a moment of your time?"
As the man spoke, he pulled out an ID card complete with picture. His companion did the same. Emma abandoned the idea of bolting and approached her front door.
The pictures matched the men and the cards looked official enough, but it wasn't as if she'd seen a State Department ID before and would know the difference.
Alex Dunnard slipped the ID back into his jacket pocket and smiled. "We have some official business to discuss with you. May we come inside, or would you be more comfortable if we met at the coffee shop on the corner?"
Emma noticed that neither option allowed her to get out of talking with them. Which was crazy. What would the State Department want with her?
She gave them the once-over and decided to let them in. Her Dallas suburb was safe, quiet and ordinary. No doubt these men had the wrong person. Once they straightened that out, they would be on their way.
"Come on in," she said, inserting her key in the lock.
They followed her into the smallish living room. It was already dusk, so she turned on both floor lamps and the light in the hall, then motioned to her sofa.
"Have a seat," she said as she plopped down in the club chair opposite.
As she set her purse on the floor, she noticed several stains on the front of her brightly patterned scrub shirt. The pale green pants were also dotted and streaked. Occupational hazard, she reminded herself.
Alex perched on the edge of her sofa, while the other gentleman stood by the sliding glass door.
"Ms. Kennedy, we're here at the behest of the king of Bahania."
Alex kept on talking, but Emma was too caught up in the word behest. She wasn't sure she'd ever heard someone say it in normal speech. It was more of a book word. Then the rest of the sentence sunk in.
"Wait a minute," she said, holding up her hand.
"Did you say the king of Bahania?"
"Yes, ma'am. He contacted the State Department and asked that we locate you and then offer you an official invitation to visit his country."
Emma laughed. Oh, sure. Because that sort of thing happened all the time. "Are you guys selling something? Because if you are, you're wasting your time."
"No, ma'am. We're from the State Department, and we're here -"
She cut him off with a wave. "I know. At the behest. I got that part. You have the wrong person. I'm sure there's another Emma Kennedy floating around who has lots of personal contact with His Royal Highness, but it's not me."
She looked at her modest apartment. If only, she thought humorously. Maybe a small money grant or two could have taken care of her student loans. And she desperately needed new tires for her ten-year-old import. Oh, well. In her next life she would be rich. In this one she was just a single woman struggling to pay the bills.
Alex pulled a piece of paper out of his outer jacket pocket. "Emma Kennedy," he read, then went on to list her birth date, place of birth, her parents' names and the number on her passport. A passport she'd had since she was eighteen, young, innocent and foolish and had thought ... Well, she'd thought a lot of things.
"Just a second," she said, and rose to walk into her bedroom.
Her passport was tucked in the back of her sock drawer. She pulled it out and returned to the living room where she had Alex read the number again. It matched.
"This is creepy," she said. "Look, I don't know the king of Bahania. I'm not sure I could find Bahania on the map. There really has to be some kind of mistake. What would he want with me?"
"You are to be his guest for the next two weeks." Alex stood and smiled. "There's a private jet standing by to take you to his country. Ms. Kennedy, Bahania is a valuable ally in the Middle East. Like their neighbor, El Bahar, they are considered the Switzerland of that region. These progressive countries offer a haven of peace and economic stability in a troubled part of the world. They also provide a significant percentage of our country's oil."
Emma might have only taken one political science class at college, but she wasn't stupid. She got the message. When the king of Bahania invited a young Texas nurse to vacation in his country for a couple of weeks, the United States government expected her to go.
Excerpted from The Sheik & the Princess In Waiting by Susan Mallery Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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