Banished to the Harem

By: Carol Marinelli

PROLOGUE


‘I SHALL return on Monday.’ Crown Prince Sheikh Rakhal Alzirz would not be swayed. ‘Now, onto other matters.’

‘But the King has requested that you leave London immediately.’

Rakhal’s jaw tightened as Abdul pressed on. It was rare indeed for Abdul to persist when Rakhal had made his feelings clear on a subject, for Rakhal was not a man who changed his mind often—nor did he take orders from an aide—even his most senior one. But in this case Abdul was relaying orders that came directly from the King, which forced him to be bold.

‘The King is most insistent that you return to Alzirz by tomorrow. He will not hear otherwise.’

‘I shall speak with my father myself,’ Rakhal said. ‘I am not simply going to walk away at his bidding.’

‘The King is unwell, though….’ Abdul closed his eyes for a moment, grief and worry evident on his face.

‘Which is why I shall be married before the month’s end,’ Rakhal interrupted. ‘I accept that it is important for our people to have the security of knowing the Crown Prince is married, especially with the King now ill, however …’

Rakhal did not finish his sentence. He did not need to explain himself to Abdul, so again he changed the subject, his black eyes daring Abdul not join him this time.

‘Now, onto other matters.’ He did not wait for his aide’s nod. ‘We need to discuss a suitable gift to celebrate this morning’s news from Alzan. I want to express my delight to Sheikh King Emir Alzan.’ A dark smile twisted at the edge of Rakhal’s full lips, for despite the news about his father’s health, despite the summons for him to return to Alzirz and choose a bride, the week had at least brought one piece of good news.

In fact two pieces of good news!

‘Something very pink,’ Rakhal said, and for the first time that morning Abdul smiled too, for it was good news indeed. The birth of female twins in Alzan gave the Kingdom of Alzirz some much-needed breathing space. Not much, for undoubtedly Emir and his wife would soon produce a son, but for now there was reason to smile.

Long ago Alzirz and Alzan had been one country—Alzanirz—but there had been much unrest and the Sultan at the time had sought a solution. A mix-up at the birth of his identical twin sons had provided him with one, and on his death the Kingdom of Alzanirz had been divided between his sons.

It was a temporary solution—at least temporary in desert terms—for the mathematicians and predictors of the time had all agreed that in years, or even hundreds of years, the two countries would again become one. It could be no other way, because a special law had been designed for each country that meant one day they would be reunited. Each country had been given one law by which they must abide, and only the opposing ruler could revoke it.

In Alzirz, where Rakhal would soon be King, the ruler could take but one wedded partner in their lifetime, and his firstborn, whether boy or girl, would be heir.

Rakhal’s mother, Layla, weak and thin and grieving her Bedouin life, had died birthing Rakhal, her only child, and the country had held its breath as the tiny, premature infant struggled to hold on to life. For a while it had seemed that the predictions of old were coming true, and that the Kingdom of Alzirz would be handed over to Alzan’s rule—for how could a baby born so early, a baby so tiny, possibly survive?

But Rakhal had not only survived. Out of the starvation of his mother’s womb he had thrived.

In Alzan the one rule was different—there the King could marry again on the death of his wife, but the ruler of Alzan must always be male. And now, as of this morning, Emir was the father of two little girls. Oh, there would be much celebrating and dancing in Alzirz tonight—their country was safe.

For now.

Having entered his third decade, Rakhal could no longer put it off. He had rowed frequently about this with his father, but now accepted that it was time for him to choose his bride. A wife he would bed at her fertile times only, for she would be rested at other times. A wife he would see only for copulation and at formal functions or special occasions. She would live a luxurious, pampered life in her own area of the palace, and guide the raising of children he would barely see.

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