The Sheikh's Accidental Heir(7)

By: Leslie North

The sheik’s suite put the penthouse where they’d held the business gathering to shame. A small foyer opened into a large sitting room with tall, two-story windows looking out onto a terrace that overlooked the Manhattan skyline. Stairs led up to a loft-style second floor with a hint of a giant bed.

The dining room boasted a long, shiny ebony table surrounded by straight-backed chairs, formally set with china, chilling wine and candles that had just been lit. The room still smelled of spices and something else—but the award-winning chef who had prepared whatever meal was not to be served was nowhere to be seen. She hoped he hadn’t left in a huff. But the lights of the city distracted her, and she headed to the windows.

“Wow. You can see everything worth seeing—even the Empire State Building. At street level, it’s too easy to forget the light show that stretches across the skyscrapers as soon as the sun goes down.”

“A commanding view, yes?” He sounded proud of the fact, as if somehow he’d arranged this just for her. In a way, he had.

Pulling out a chair, he gave a small bow. “Please, have a seat.”

Turning, Melanie glanced at the table and came over to it. She could smell vanilla and a hint of spice clung to the air—cinnamon and clove. She sat down, and Ahmed pulled a bottle of wine from the table to fill two glasses.

He handed one glass of the golden liquid to her.

“Here’s to a wonderful night,” he said, holding up his glass.

She raised her glass. “Cheers,” she answered. She sniffed and sipped the wine. Dry but with an oaky aroma and a smooth finish. She gave a low hum of appreciation.

“You are familiar with Montrachet?” Ahmed asked.

“I worked a diamond wedding anniversary and the husband not only could afford the world’s best chardonnay, he was liberal with servings. It’s fantastic. I only tasted it that once, but I swore I’d be able to afford a bottle someday.”

He smiled and sat.

Dessert turned out to be custard that had been left on ice at the table. That’s where the smells were coming from. A bowl of fresh raspberries sat beside the custard, revealed only when Ahmed whisked away the silver covers that had been hiding the delicacies. Each bowl of custard sat it its own small ice bucket. He served her and she dove in—she’d never been one to pass up a dessert.

Closing her eyes, she let the mix of vanilla and spices roll around her mouth—she caught a faint hint not just of clove but a touch of brandy in the custard. Just a faint taste. It was perfect. She instantly wanted the recipe.

“Good?” Ahmed asked.

She nodded, a hand over her mouth. She swallowed and said, “Perfect. I almost hate to spoil the custard with fruit, but I need to try it that way, too.”

“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself.” He couldn’t have sounded more satisfied with himself if he’d cooked it himself.

They ate and sipped the wine, which worked perfectly to clear the palate and add complexity to the dessert. She asked him what he’d seen of New York, and she was shocked that he’d seen nothing. “How long have you been here?”

He shrugged. “Two days of meeting after meeting after meeting. My brothers drag me from one office tower to another. I don’t even get glimpses, since I’m usually in the middle of our limo.”

She stared at her empty bowl and wrapped a hand around the stem of her wine glass. He’d given her a lovely evening—and it had been fun. She had precious little of that in her life. Looking up at him, she gave a nod. “Okay, you get two days. I’m not booked, and I’ll have to make a few calls, but we can do the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial tomorrow. And a play—you have to take in a play if you’re in New York. The day after, we’ll stroll Central Park, eat hot dogs and hit the Met.”

He stared at her, eyes dark and wide. He didn’t say anything. She turned her wine glass a few times. “That is, I mean…if you want and you can get the time—”

He put his hand over hers. “I will make the time.”

“Your brothers—your business? It’ll be okay?”

He gave a nod. “If you can make the time to show me your New York, I can make the time to be a gracious guest. But only if, in turn, you will allow me to pamper you as you never have been before—the best food, the finest clothes…you have but to ask for anything and I will grant it to you. For two days.” He lifted her hand to his lips and pressed a kiss onto her palm. “For two days, we will belong to each other. We will enjoy life, yes?”

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