must find a bride for his brother—and who
better than Englishwoman Sadie Murray, who
is stranded and jobless in the desert.
But Drax must make sure that Sadie is as
virginal as she seems. While he has her in his
power she's his to command, and he'll test her
wife-worthiness at every opportunity.
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˜You are uselesstotally and completely useless. I cannot imagine why I ever thought you were up to the demands of this job.You claim to have a degree, and an MBA, and yet you cannot do the simplest thing you are told."
On and on went the harsh, critical voice of her Lebanese employer, while Sadie dutifully bowed her head beneath the weight of the venom being directed towards her, all too aware that if she looked directly at Madame al Sawar now the other woman would see all too clearly the angry hostility in her own eyes. And Sadie could not afford to give madame the opportunity to threaten, as she had done many times already in the two months that Sadie had worked there, to withhold the wages still owing to her.
To be accused so unfairly and so vindictively was bad enough, but to have to stand here and be berated in a voice loud enough to carry to the rest of the al Sawar householda traditional Arab household, where loss of face was something to be dreaded and avoided at all costsmade it even worse. It was typical of her employer, Sadie recognised, that she should choose to accost and accuse her while she was enjoying her legitimate lunch-break in the peace of the pretty courtyard garden of the al Sawars traditional Moorish-style Zuran home. Sadie knew perfectly well that, although she could not see them, most of household staff would be lingering in the shadows of the building, listening to their employer hectoring her assistant.
Not that they could avoid hearing what was going on, with madame screaming and shouting so loudly. The whole street could probably hear, Sadie reflected mis- erably. She wasn't the only recipient of her employer's vile temper. Scarcely a day went by without madame losing her temper with someone.
Sadie could have defended herself against her employer's unfair accusations, of course, and told her that she did indeed possess both a First Class Honours degree and an MBA. And she could have told her, too, that as much as Madame al Sawar regretted employing her it couldn't come close to her own regret at having taken the job. But the truth was that she simply couldn't afford to lose this jobnot with madame having con- sistently refused to pay her since she came here.
"I have no use for such a deadweight as you in my business. You are dismissed."
"You can't do that!" Sadie burst out, panicked out of her determination not to be forced into a verbal battle.
"You think not? I assure you that I can. And don't think that you can walk out of here and get another job," madame screeched. "Because you can't. The Zurani au- thorities impose very harsh measures on illegals who try to take work from the locals."
Illegals! Now Sadie had to stand up for herself. "I am not an illegal," she protested. "You know that. You assured me yourself when I took this job that all the nec- essary formalities would be completed on my behalf. I remember signing the necessary forms'sadie was be- ginning to feel slightly sick with panic now, as well as from the heat burning down on her exposed head. She was being made to wait and listen to madame ranting in the full burn of the sunlight, whereas madame herself remained in the shade.
Sadie could see a smug look of satisfaction in the older woman's eyes as she affected nonchalance with a dismissive shrug.
"I do not remember saying any such thing. And if you try to claim as much now, it will be the worse for you."
Sadie could hardly believe what she was hearing. She had thought her situation bad enough, but that was nothing to what she was facing now.
With no job, no money, and no legal status here in Zuran her situation was dire indeed. And it had all seemed so promising at the time
Six months into her first job as an MBA graduate with one of London's premier hedge funds, she had been made redundant to make way for the son of a very senior member of the bank's latest lover. Or that was what she had been told via the office grapevine. It had certainly been easier to swallow that explanation than it had been to accept the jeering comment from one par- ticularly unpleasant male colleague that she was being dumped because she couldn't hack the testosterone- loaded male environment in which she worked.
A top-flight, good, money-earning job in the finan- cial sectorone which would make her completely fi- nancially independenthad been her goal all the way through university, and she had initially been devastated by this unwelcome setback to her career plans.
Her parents had divorced when she was in her early teens. Her mother had then married againa very wealthy man, with children of his own from his first marriage, and with whom she now had a second and younger family. When her mother had first become involved with the man who would become Sadie's step- father he had lavished time and attention on Sadie, forever telling her now much he wanted her as a daughter. But as soon as her mother had married him he had changed completely towards Sadie, instilling in her the belief that male love, both sexual and paternal, was something that some men could assume to suit themselves.
After her mother's marriage to him Sadie had grown up enduring her stepfather's unkind comments about her father's inability to provide for her as well as he provided for his new children. She had been torn between anger against her parents for divorcing and a protective love for her father, who had remarried as well, and had a young wife and a very young family, and had looked far older and more careworn than his age the last time she had seen him. Unlike her stepfa- ther, her father was not a wealthy man.
It had been pride that had made her refuse to ask for financial help from her stepfather to get through univer- sity, and that pride had left her weighed down with a very large student loan. The loss of her first job had meant that she would have to crawl back to her stepfa- ther and ask for his helphelp which he had given willingly to his own sons, both of whom had been given a car and an apartment apiece when they had started workand that was the last thing she had wanted to do.
She could still remember how he had sneered at her when she had announced that she was going to study for her MBA, suggesting that she"d be better off looking for a rich husband to support her instead.
"After all," had been his comment, "it isn't as though you haven't got the looksand the body."
Yes, she had those. But Sadie had sworn when she had seen the way her obviously highly-sexed stepfather behaved towards her mother, making it plain that he expected her to repay his financial support in bed, that she would never, ever let any man think he had the power to demand her sexual compliance just because he paid the bills. Either inside marriage or outside it. And she had stuck to that voweven though its by- product had been an unexpected and unlooked-for celibacy that had left her partnerless. For Sadie, her fi- nancial and sexual independence were strongly inter- linked. Thirteen was a very vulnerable age for a girl to witness the kind of relationship Sadie had witnessed between her mother and her stepfather.
When she had seen her current job advertised, in the columns of a national broadsheet newspaper, she had been so excited that she had had to warn herself that there would be hundreds of applicants and that she probably wouldn't stand a chance.
But then, when Monika al Sawar had interviewed her and told her that she specifically wanted to employ a female MBA"Because my husband is very much the Arab male, and will not tolerate me working one to one with another man"her hopes had started to rise.
The job Monika had described to her had sounded perfectchallenging and exciting, with plenty of room to grow. Monika's business, she had told Sadie, involved advising new residents to Zuran in the wake of the tourist boom on investment, the buying of Zurani property, and arranging finances for property purchases. Monika had further told Sadie that she wanted a keen young assistant she could train up to work as a finan- cial adviser in her own right.
Sadie had been in seventh heaven when she had got the jobeven when the promised business-class flight to Zuran had somehow turned out to be an economy- class flight, and the promised advance of funds to pay a lump sum off her student loan had not materialised.
But then had come the discovery that the accommo- dation she had been promised was the not the apartment in a modern executive block she had somehow imagined, but instead a very small and basic room in the al Sawar houseand, more disturbingly, that Monika was deducting what seemed to be an overly large sum of money from Sadie's wages to cover her "bed and board". Sadie's awkward attempt to discuss her dissatisfaction with this situation had led to the first of the now regular and familiar outbursts of Monika's temper, and with it the withholding of Sadie's wages.
Now, with only a very small sum of money left from the funds she had brought with her, Sadie was getting desperate. Very desperate. But she was not going to let Monika see that.
"Very well, then. I"ll go," Sadie said quietly. "But not until you have paid me the wages owing to me."
The scream of fury that erupted from the other woman made Sadie wince, and it could be heard all over the house.
And also outside in the street, where Drax, having parked the hire car he preferred to the Ruler's offer of a chauffeur-driven limousinemainly because of the privacy it afforded him was walking towards the house. He slowed his pace to match that of Amar al Sawar. The kindly older man had been a close friend of the twins" father, and neither of them ever visited Zuran without calling to see him. Drax had found him on this occasion at the Royal Palace, and had reluctantly accepted his invitation to return to his home with him. Neither Drax nor Vere liked their father's elderly friend's younger second wife.
"Oh, dear me. I"m afraid it sounds as though Monika is a little upset,"Amar apologised. "And I had so hoped that this time she would take to the new assistant she hired. Such a delightful young woman. English, and well-educateda good, kind girl too, modest and sweet-natured."
If she was all of those things then she was certainly no match for Monika, Drax reflected.
"I cannot understand why it is that such an attractive young woman should choose to work instead of marry.
If I had a son she is just exactly the kind of girl I would want for him as a wife."
Now Amar had surprised Drax. The older man was very much of the generation and outlook that followed the old ways and looked for the kind of virtues in a young woman that very few now possessed. Drax sus- pected that the older man, who was no match for his ag- gressive wife, deeply regretted having allowed Monika to bully him into marrying her.
From inside the courtyard, the piercing sound of her wrath could still be heard quite plainly by the two men as she berated her young assistant.
"Wages? You expect me to pay you for practically ruining my business? Hah!"Monika screeched at Sadie. "You are the one who should be paying me. Be glad that I am letting you go without demanding any recompense from you. If you are wise you will leave now, this minute, before I change my mind and set my lawyers to work on you."
Before Sadie could object Monika had turned round and begun walking away from her, leaving her standing in the courtyard.
"My clothes" she began, too stunned and battered by Monika's loud ranting and merciless tactics for logic or argument. "My passport?"
"Zuwaina has packed them for you. Take them and go," Monika said triumphantly, as a young maid appeared in the courtyard, pulling Sadie's case on wheels with one hand and holding her handbag and passport in the other.
It gave Sadie a sharp sense of revulsion to know that Monika had been through her personal belongings, but the real cause of the sickness making her feel so clammy and light-headed was the reality of what she was now facing. No job, no money, no plane ticket home. All she could think of to do was throw herself on the mercy of the British Consulate although it would mean a long walk in to town to get there.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Love this series. Looking forward to Vere's story. Twins i take two please.