Seven days without her crown!
Princess Layla of Ishla craves just one week outside the gilded cage of her palace. A chance to try absolutely everything that is forbidden!
1. Sharing a romantic dinner
2. Dancing the night away
3. Kissing a gorgeous man
The only exception? She must remain pure for her future husband! When she arrives in Australia, she finds there's only one man who can help her fulfill this dream .
Revered yet feared, Mikael Romanov has earned his ruthless legal reputation, yet spirited Layla quickly gets beneath his skin. Mikael's sworn to protect her, but can he protect Layla from himself?
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'Princess Layla, are you excited to be
Layla patiently waited as the little girl on her computer screen faltered while choosing her words. By video link Layla was being beamed into the classrooms of the girls and young women of Ishla. Each class took an hour and, by working hard, Layla managed to get to each classroom once a month. Here she encouraged the children to converse in English and to work harder on their schoolwork, and it was proving a huge success.
'Princess Layla.' The little girl tried again. 'Are you excited that you will travel to Australia with Prince Zahid and Princess Trinity on their honeymoon?'
At the word 'honeymoon' the class exploded into a fit of giggles and Layla did her best not to join in with them. This class consisted of ten-year-old girls and they were all terribly excited that the handsome Prince Zahid had married the English lady Trinity, and they were all only too happy to talk about weddings.
'Well done,' Layla said to the little girl when the laughter had died down. 'You asked your question beautifully. Yes, I am very excited that I shall be joining my brother and his bride in Sydney, Australia. Did you know that you are my final class before we leave on the royal plane tonight?'
Zahid and Trinity's wedding had been beautiful, and the whole of Ishla had joined in the celebrations, even though the shocking news had hit, just before the wedding, that Trinity was already pregnant.
Layla's rule was that so long as questions were politely asked she would answer as best she could. Some of the questions, though, about Trinity's pregnancy, had been more than awkwardand not just because the subject in Ishla was sensitive. Layla simply hadn't known the answers, and had begun to understand just how naive she was.
Layla craved knowledge.
She had long dreamt of a world outside the palace walls.
Before Zahid had even known who his bride was he had agreed to allow Layla to accompany him on his honeymoon. As a future king Zahid could not be expected to entertain his wife all day, and of course it had been assumed that his bride would need a companion.
They were so deeply in love, though, that perhaps they would prefer to be holidaying alonebut there was no way Layla was going to give up her first and only trip out of Ishla.
Guilt gripped her.
Not because she might prove a bit of an imposition for a couple in loveinstead the guilt was for what Layla was secretly planning to do when she got to Australia.
'Princess Layla, are you scared?' another little girl asked.
'A little.' Layla spoke a guarded version of her truth. 'After all, I have never been out of Ishla, and so I don't really know what to expect, but I am also very excited. It is going to be a huge adventure for me and I have been looking forward to it for a very long time.' 'Princess Layla '
All hands were raised. Her students adored her. They always did their homework now, just for the chance to speak with their princess each month. There were a lot of questions, but Layla's father, King Fahid, wanted to speak with Layla before she left and so she brought things to a close.
'Now,' Layla said to the students, 'there is no more time for questions. Instead it is time for you all to wish me a safe journey.'
She smiled at their voices as they did just that.
'Will you miss us?' they asked.
Layla held up her finger and thumb and held them a small distance apart. 'This much,' she said. As they all moaned their protests Layla stretched out her arms as wide as she could reach. 'Or perhaps this much! All of you know that I will miss you to the moon and back.'
She would miss them very much, Layla thought a little while later, as she lay on her bed on her stomach, going through her computer and checking and rechecking details for the very last time.
Would her father even let her teach them again, after she?
Layla halted her thought processes; she could not allow herself to think like that now. Whatever the consequences to her actions, Layla had long ago decided that she was prepared to bear them.
One week of freedom would be worth whatever punishment her father would serve out for her.
Layla was petrified about taking a taxi alone in Australia, but she had watched little clips on her computer over and over and was as certain as she could be that she knew what to do.
How she loved her computer!
King Fahid was getting older and, though no one in Ishla must know, he was seriously ill, so perhaps had not investigated Layla's teaching aid quite as thoroughly as he once would have. Fahid did not really understand the access to the world that the computer gave his daughter. Layla lived a very protected life and wasn't even allowed a phoneshe had never seen a television.
The computer was to assist with her teaching. Fahid was pleased that his daughter was helping the young women of Ishla and that finally his rebel daughter seemed to be staying out of mischief's way.
Layla pulled up the page that she had been studying carefully for weeks nowever since she had found out where the honeymoon was taking place.
There he was!
Layla smiled at his scowling, haughty face.
Mikael Romanov, Senior Counsel, was, according to everything she had read, an extremely successful barrister. According to the translation of his website, he was considered amongst the best criminal defence lawyers in Australia. Originally from Russia, he had studied law in Australia. Tough and ruthless, he attacked the prosecution on every point and all too often won.
Good, Layla thought. He would need to be tough and ruthless to deal with Zahid, and possibly even the King.
Layla typed in his name and read a translation of the latest news. Although Layla could speak and understand English, she could not read or write it.
Mikael was in the news a lot at the moment, defending a man accused of murder and other heinous crimes against his late partner. Layla had been closely following the case from her computer after she went to bed at night.
How she loved the news clips of Mikael walking out of court in his black robe and wig. He offered no comment or apology to the questions that were hurled at him. He seemed not to care that everyone was demanding to know how he could even consider defending such a vile man.
Perhaps Mikael would be glad to turn his focus to a family matter, Layla thought. Maybe he would welcome the break from his horrible client, because Mi-kael did not look happy.
Not once had she seen him smile.
Layla felt a small shiver as she enlarged an image and looked at his full mouth. It was the only soft feature in his face, and it had her tongue rolling over her lips. His hair was as dark as his skin was pale, and always his attire was immaculate. Oh, and his voicehis voice!
She clicked on a rare interview from a couple of years ago that she had recently found. It was Layla's very favourite one, and she listened to his deep, heavily accented voice scolding a reporter.
'Tread carefully!' He pointed his finger at the reporter though for Layla it was if he was scolding her and Layla made a biting noise with her teeth. Her smile was wide as she started at the screen. 'May I remind you of the unanimous verdict?'
She had not chosen Mikael for his beauty, and yet the more she looked at him, and the more she found out about him, the more Layla wanted to know. She looked into his serious grey eyescold eyes that made her feel warm.
Some of the pictures of Mikael Layla was not so keen onfor there were a few of him with very beautiful women by his side.
Many beautiful women.
There he was on a yacht, with a blonde beauty lying topless on a daybedor Layla assumed she was topless, because where her nipples should be the picture was all blurry.
Layla found her lips were pursed, but then she shrugged.
Her brother Zahid had been wild in his day.
She did not want wildshe wanted fun and romance and dancing.
Of course she would return to Ishla intact.
There were simply some things that Layla wanted to experience before she married a man she did not love. She closed the computer and lay on her back, imagining a whole day spent in bed without having to dress or speak to another person. She thought of other things too, like a romantic dinner, sitting holding hands, and afterwards dancingwhich was forbidden in Ishla. She imagined the brush of lips on her mouth But then her eyes snapped open, for it was Mikael's mouth that she was imagining.
Layla dismissed that thought. Mikael was merely a means to an end. And a commoner too!
She clicked on her laptop again, to see if any other foreign royals were visiting Australia, and sighed at the lack of news for there were a couple of foreign princes who looked as if they could be fun!
Jamila, Layla's handmaiden, knocked on the door, and Layla clicked onto a game of chess she was playing and then called for Jamila to come in and prepare her bath.
When it was ready Layla went through and stood by the sunken bath as Jamila undressed her and then held Layla's hand as she lowered herself in.
'The water is lovely,' she said as Jamila started to wash her. 'Jamila?' Layla's voice was just a little too high as she attempted to sound casual. 'Are you nervous about coming to Australia?' When Jamila didn't answer straight away, Layla jumped in. 'Because if you are I can speak with father. I am sure I would manage on my own.'
'I would be more nervous if you were in a foreign country without me to take care of you,' Jamila said.
Jamila adored Layla. She had held her the moment she was borna few moments before Layla's mother had died.
Layla was the baby Jamila had never hadnot that she could ever let Layla know that she loved her like a daughter.
Neither could Jamila tell a single soul that she secretly loved Fahidthe Kingand no one must ever know about the occasional love they shared.
'Here.' Jamila handed Layla a cloth, which she took, and she washed her private parts as Jamila washed her hair.
Still Layla carried on speaking.
'Well, you should rest while we are in Australia,' Layla said. 'You deserve to have a holiday too.'
'Layla!' Jamila's shrewd eyes narrowed as she rubbed oil into Layla's long black mane of hair. 'What are you up to?'
'Nothing.' Layla shrugged her bony shoulders. 'I just think that it would be nice for you to have a chance to rest and relax.'
Layla said no more, but she was worried about how her plans might affect Jamila, who was old and very set in her ways.
Trinity and Zahid, Layla had decided, would just have to bear the chaos of her actions. After all, they had had their funbut poor Jamila.
Layla swallowed and dismissed the gnaw of discontent. She certainly wasn't going to change her plans to spare a servant's feelings.
'You are too thin,' Jamila said as she looked at Layla's skinny knees jutting up out of the water, her slender arms wrapped around them.
'Jamila,' Layla said, 'I could fill this bath and you would still say that I was too thin. Do you remember when I was a baby and always hungry and you said that I was too fat?'
Jamila's hand paused as she went to rinse Layla's hairLayla should not remember those times. Jamila thought of those little fat legs and arms and her round belly. Layla had been such an angry, demanding baby and toddler. She had begged for attention from her father and it had been denied her as he'd grieved deeply for Annan, the late Queen. Jamila had tried to comfort the little princess with food, feeding her cream, honey, anything that might stop the relentless sobs that filled the palace.
Such sad, sad times.
'Let us get you dressed,' Jamila said, quickly finishing Layla's hair. 'Your father wishes to speak with you before you leave.'
Layla had chosen a simple burnt orange cotton tunic for the journey, but Jamila prepared a silver robe and silver jewelled slippers for her to wear on her arrival as there would be some dignitaries to greet them. Her fingers, toes and ears were dressed in pretty jewels, and her long black hair was tied in a low bun which was worn at the side of her head.
'Dismissed,' Layla said to Jamila, and then frowned when still she stood there.
'You will listen to what your father has to say, won't you?' Jamila asked, for she too was worried at the thought of Layla beyond the palace walls.
'Dismissed, Jamila,' Layla said.
Alone, Layla stepped out onto the balcony. The sun was starting to set and the sky was a fiery orange. The desert was like molten gold and it was a sight to behold, a view that she loved, and yet she knew there was more. She looked up to the sky, through which she would soon be being carried to her long-awaited adventure.
She knew she was being bad, and yet she had tried so hard to be good.
Once this was over she would be good for ever, Layla vowed.
This was her last chance.
Four years ago, when she was twenty, Layla had been dressed in white and gold and led down the stairs to walk into a room and select her husband from the men who knelt there.
Hussain had been and still was considered the right choice. They had played as children, and her father had told her that marrying Hussain would bring many benefits to the people of Ishla. Yet as Layla had walked down the stairs she had remembered what a mean little boy Hussain had been, and she had collapsed and started to shout and scream.
The kind palace doctor had smoothed out the offence caused by explaining that anxiety had caused the young princess to have a seizure.
Layla smiled to the sky. She had not selected her husband that day.
It had not been a seizure, just her temper exploding as she had looked at her wrist and recalled one time with Hussain.
'How do you make a match burn twice?' he had asked when Layla was nine.
Wide-eyed, Layla had watched as he had lit the match and blown it out and then dug the burning sulphur into her wrist.
Immediately Layla had slapped him.
Now she looked down to the small scar on her otherwise unblemished skin and wondered about Hussain's reaction if his wife were to slap him.
He had no doubt moved on from matches now!
Layla headed back inside and opened the drawer in her dresser. Feeling far into the back, she removed the wrapped parcel she had been hiding.
Opening it, she held in her palm the black ruby named Opium. It had been gifted to her at birth by the King of Bishram and must surely be worth quite a lot.
Layla hoped that it was.
She had read that Mikael was expensive, and perhaps he would want to be paid.
Layla slipped the ruby into her tunic, worrying about something she had read on the internet about Australian Customs. She tried to tell herself that it would all be okay.
She made her way through the palace to her father's study, where Abdul, the King's chief aide, let her in. But Fahid dismissed Abdul so that he could speak to his daughter alone.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good story. Very enjoyable.