Shackled to the Sheikh

By: Trish Morey


 RASHID AL KHARIM was done with pacing.

 He needed something stronger.

 He needed to lose himself. To dull the pain of each and every one of today’s revelations, if only for a few precious hours.

 To forget about a father who hadn’t died thirty years back as he’d always believed, but a scant four weeks ago.

 And to forget about a tiny child—a sister—who apparently was now his responsibility...

 His head full of anger and torment, he let the door of his Sydney hotel suite slam hard behind him as he strode towards the lifts, stabbing the call button with intent, because he knew exactly what he needed right now.

 A woman.

                       CHAPTER TWO

 GOD, SHE HATED dingy bars. Outside this one had looked like an escape from her anger and despair, but inside it was dark and noisy and there were far too many leering men who looked way too old to be hanging out in a place where the average age of women was probably somewhere around nineteen. Tora upped the demographic just by being there, she figured, not to mention lowered the average heel height by a matter of inches, but it didn’t stop the old guys leering at her just the same.

 But the bar was only a few steps from her cousin’s office and after an hour remonstrating fruitlessly with him, an hour where nothing—neither her arguments nor her tears—had made a shred of difference, she’d needed to go somewhere where she could drink something strong and fume a while.

 One of the old guys across the bar winked at her. Ugh!

 She crossed her legs and pulled her skirt down as she ordered another cocktail.

 God, she hated bars.

 But right now she hated her financial adviser cousin more.

 Financial adviser cheating scumbag of a cousin, she revised as she waited for her drink, wondering how long it would be before the damned alcohol was going to kick in so she might stop feeling so angry.

 She really needed to forget about the curl of her cousin’s lips when she’d refused to be put off any longer with his excuses and insisted he tell her when she’d be able to access the money she’d been due from her parents’ estate.

 She needed to forget the pitying look in his cold eyes when he’d finally stopped beating about the bush and told her that it was gone, and that the release she’d signed thinking it was the last formality before receiving a pay-out had actually been a release signing the money over to him—only now there would be no pay-out because he’d ‘invested’ it all on her behalf, only the investment had turned sour and there was nothing left. Nothing at all left of the two hundred and fifty thousand dollars she’d been counting on. Nothing at all left of the money she’d promised to loan to Sally and Steve.

 ‘You should have read the small print,’ he’d said ever so smugly, and she’d never had violent tendencies before but right then she’d really fancied doing someone some serious bodily damage.

 ‘Blood is thicker than water,’ her parents had insisted, when they’d chosen their nephew Matthew over the financial planner she’d nominated, the father of a woman she’d known and trusted since primary school. And Tora had shrugged and conceded it was their choice, even if her cousin had been the kind of person who’d rubbed her up the wrong way all her life and never someone she’d choose as a friend, let alone her financial adviser.

 For damned fine reason, as it had turned out.

 Her cocktail arrived and her fingers curled around the stem of the glass as she studied it.

 Now she had to work out a way to tell Sally she wouldn’t be getting the promised funds, after assuring her—because Matt had promised—that settlement was all on track and that the funds would be coming any day. She felt ill just thinking about it. They’d been counting on her—counting on this money. She shook her head. She would have to find another way, go back to the banks and try again. Try harder.

 She lifted the glass to her lips and it was all she could do not to swallow the drink down in a rush, wanting the buzz, hoping for the oblivion it promised.

 ‘Hi there, sweet lips. You look like you needed that. Fancy another?’

 She blinked against a sudden flash of strobe and opened her eyes to see one of the leery old guys shouldering his way alongside her at the bar, this one with a decent paunch and a skinny ponytail and with a possessive arm curling its way around the back of her seat. Across the bar his friends were watching and grinning as if this was some kind of spectator sport, and their ponytailed friend might have been right about her needing another drink but not if it meant waking up next to this guy. Suddenly getting a taxi home where there was a half-empty bottle of Riesling in the fridge seemed a far better option than staying here and seeking oblivion amongst this lot. She reached for her bag.

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