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The Sheikh's Bidding
By Kristi Gold
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Now, who's going to bid first on this fine little lady?"
Andrea Hamilton shifted nervously on the platform situated in the middle of Winwood Farm's impressive arena, wearing the only dress she owned and a self-conscious smile. Resentful of being called "a fine little lady," she reminded herself that the benefit auction was for a good cause, the reason why she had agreed to donate two months' worth of horse-training services. In turn, she was throwing herself onto the block at the risk of being passed over for someone with more experience.
"Come on, ladies and gentlemen," the auctioneer pleaded. "Give her a chance. She's good."
"At what?" a stumbling drunk in a disheveled tuxedo called from the corner.
Andi shot him a scathing look that he didn't seem to heed, evident from his sickening leer. Now nearing the end of the event, the remaining patrons continued to mill around, paying little attention when the auctioneer called her name again. What if no one even bothered to offer the minimum?
"Five hundred dollars," the drunk called out.
So much for that theory.
"Fifty thousand dollars."
The murmuring crowd was suddenly silenced at the sound of the booming voice delivering the astronomical bid from the back of the arena. Andifroze with her mouth agape, unable to fathom who would make such an offer.
"Fifty-thousand. Going once, going twice! Sold to the gentleman near the door!"
Andi craned her neck to try to see the mystery bidder, but because of her small stature, she only caught a glimpse of the back of a man in traditional Arab dress leaving the building. Royalty, she assumed. Not at all uncommon in racing circles.
Perhaps he had more money than sense. Or it could be that he had questionable intentions. She certainly hoped he understood that he was buying only her training expertise. If he counted on another kind of assistance, he would be sorely disappointed. She had no intention of letting him near her, even if he'd offered fifty million dollars.
With a muttered thank-you directed at the auctioneer, Andi sprinted down the steps as fast as the silly high heels would let her, passed her drink off to a roving waiter and shoved her way through the crowd to the exit at the side of the building. She escaped into the warm Kentucky night, grateful to leave behind the well-heeled racing society, not to mention the drunk. Now she could be on her way home and worry about the phantom bidder tomorrow.
Once she made it to the walkway leading to the front parking lot, an imposing dark-skinned man wearing an equally dark suit blocked her path.
"Miss Hamilton, the sheikh would like to speak with you."
"He is the one who bought your services and he wishes to have a word with you." The man gestured toward a black limousine that spanned a good deal of the nearby curb.
No way, no how, would Andi get into a limo with a stranger even if he was some prince who'd invested a great deal of money to benefit a children's clinic. She rummaged through her purse and pulled out her card. "Here. Have him call me on Monday. We can discuss the terms then."
"He insists that he see you tonight."
Andi's patience scattered in the breeze. "Look, mister, I insist I'm not interested in doing that right now. Please tell your boss that I appreciate the gesture and I look forward to meeting him soon." Very far from the truth.
The man looked totally composed, unmovable. "He said that if you give me trouble, I am to present a question."
How weird was this going to get? "What question?"
He averted his gaze for a moment, the only hint of discomfort in his staid expression. "He asks do you still hang your dreams on the stars?"
Andi's heart vaulted into her throat and rapidly fluttered in a frightening rhythm. Haunting memories whirled her back to a time seven years before. Memories of lying in a field of grass beneath a predawn sky, alone, immersed in tears until he had come to her. Memories of a sensual awakening that had begun with tragedy and ended with bittersweet bliss. One special moment, one unforgettable man.
One true love.
Why hang your dreams on the stars, Andrea? Why not something more tangible?
His voice came back to her then, mellow and deep and seductively dangerous. That night in her grief she had turned to him, only to be left behind, left alone except for one precious gift that served to remind her every day what she could never have.
Andi trembled and chafed her palms down her arms, suddenly chilled. "And this man's name?" she asked, although she feared she already knew the answer.
"Sheikh Samir Yaman."
Andi had known him only as Sam, known only of his family's wealth, not his title. He'd been her big brother's best friend who'd spent the better part of his college days at their home as an adopted member of the family. She'd been a teenager smitten by an "older" exotic man who had teased her mercilessly, saw her only as Paul's kid sister, until that night a few weeks after she'd turned eighteen when unforeseen tragedy had created new life. Ironically, only hours before, another life had been taken away.
But that was ages ago, water under the proverbial bridge, and she didn't want to unearth the pain or face him again, knowing she ran a great risk by doing so, both to her heart and the secret she had hidden from him for years.
The man walked to the limo's door and opened it wide. "Miss Hamilton?"
"I don't -"
"Get in, Andrea."
The deep timbre of the magnetic voice drew her forward against her will. She suddenly found herself sliding into the limo as if she had no control over her body or mind. How familiar that concept. From the moment she'd met him, he'd held her captive with his charms, his easy manner, his air of mystery, eventually his touch.
Excerpted from The Sheikh's Bidding by Kristi Gold Copyright © 2003 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.