Read Society Weddings Online

Authors: Sharon Kendrick,Kate Walker

Tags: #Romance

Society Weddings

BOOK: Society Weddings
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They’re gorgeous, they’re glamorous…and they’re getting married!

Be our VIP guest at two of the most talked about weddings of the decade—lavish ceremonies where the cream of society gather to celebrate these marriages in dazzling international settings.

Welcome to the sensuous, scandalous world of the rich, royal and renowned.

SHARON KENDRICK
started storytelling at the age of eleven and has never really stopped. She likes to write fast-paced, feel-good romances with heroes who are so sexy they’ll make your toes curl! Born in west London, England, she now lives in the beautiful city of Winchester—where she can see the cathedral from her window (but only if she stands on tiptoe). She is married to a medical professor—which might explain why her family gets more colds than anyone else on the street—and they have two children, Celia and Patrick. Her passions include music, books, cooking and eating—and drifting off into wonderful daydreams while she works out new plots!

KATE WALKER
was born in Nottinghamshire, England, but as she grew up in Yorkshire she has always felt that her roots are there. She met her husband at university and originally worked as a children’s librarian, but after the birth of her son she returned to her old childhood love of writing. When she’s not working she divides her time between her family, their three cats and her interests of embroidery, antiques, film and theater, and, of course, reading.

Sharon Kendrick
Kate Walker

Sharon Kendrick

PROMISED TO THE SHEIKH

CHAPTER ONE

T
HE
man silhouetted against the shuttered window was not known as the Lion of the Desert for nothing. His skin glowed with tawny good health and his black hair was as thick as an ebony mane. The magnificence of his honed, muscular body had left countless women sighing with wistful longing and he carried about him an air of leonine grace and stealth.

Sheikh Rashid of Quador was a man few would have the folly to cross, and consequently his mood was usually as lazily unperturbed as a lion who was master and king of all he surveyed.

But for now his eyes glittered with icy displeasure.

‘Repeat yourself, Abdullah,’ he commanded, his deep voice as tightly controlled as a coiled whip.

His manservant swallowed nervously. ‘Forgive me, Excellence—’

‘Repeat yourself!’ rang out the cold instruction.

Abdullah cleared his throat. ‘There are…er…rumours sweeping the city, Sheikh.’

A pair of jet eyebrows were raised in silent yet imperious question. ‘You dare to speak to me of rumours?’

‘When they concern you, Excellency, then, yes—it is necessary that I should do so.’

‘And?’ he clipped out.

‘Your people are growing restless, Sheikh.’

The black eyebrows were knitted together and fierce possessiveness gleamed like steel from the narrowed eyes. ‘There is more rebellion underfoot? Insurrection that I must quash?’

‘No, no—nothing like that, Sheikh. Your people accept that you rule them with an iron fist. The people of Quador live happily. They have food in their bellies and the security of
knowing that our profile in the modern world is a shining one—’

‘Enough of compliments!’ snapped Rashid. ‘I have no need of them!’

‘Indeed.’ Abdullah sighed, the expression on his face not unlike that of a person who was anticipating a particularly painful visit to the dentist. ‘The people of Quador wish to know why you have not yet taken a…wife,’ he finished, with a weak smile.

‘A
wife
?’ The set of Rashid’s lean body became dangerously tense and the hard, proud profile became stony. ‘My people have no right to concern themselves in such matters! I shall take my bride when the time is right—and I alone will decide when that time is!’ He thought fleetingly of Jenna and the black eyes gleamed anew, his voice transforming itself into a deceptively silky snare. ‘But there is something else you are not telling me, is there not, Abdullah?’

‘Indeed.’ Abdullah swallowed. ‘Reports from foreign newspapers have begun to infiltrate the internet—’

‘The
internet
!’ spat out Rashid. ‘This internet is nothing but the work of the devil! It should be forbidden!’

‘Yes, Exalted One,’ agreed Abdullah placatingly. ‘But if we are a member of the modern world, then it is impossible to halt progress!’

‘And what
exactly
has infiltrated the internet?’ demanded Rashid, his lush mouth flattening into a line of undisguised anger.

‘Your…er…your relationship with a certain woman in Paris is causing some disquiet.’

‘With Chantal?’ Rashid felt the instinctive heavy pull of desire as he allowed his mind to linger briefly on the physical attributes of his most long-standing mistress. ‘My friendship with Chantal is nothing new.’

‘Precisely!’ agreed Abdullah triumphantly. ‘And its very endurance has provoked concern that you are perhaps planning to make
her
your wife!’

Rashid swore in French—one of the seven languages he was
fluent in. ‘Are my people mad?’ he questioned incredulously. ‘You know which woman is promised to me!’

‘Indeed,’ murmured Abdullah.

‘Do they not know that a man has many needs?’ continued Rashid. ‘What Chantal brings to me has nothing to do with marriage!’ His mouth curved. ‘It is not my destiny to marry a woman ten years my senior who will be unable to provide me with the many offspring I will one day desire!’

‘That is as I thought, Exalted One.’ Abdullah breathed a barely perceptible sigh of relief. He hesitated. ‘Would you not make that message clear to the world? Has the time for offspring not now arrived?’

Rashid gave a heavy sigh and turned his face towards the window once more. Through the shutters, shafts of sunlight from the bright heat of the midday sun filtered through and illuminated his dark and golden beauty. In his tense, angry silence he was unmoving, as still as some hawk-nosed statue of a predatory conqueror.

Was the time now come? Was he indeed—ready?

He was known and feared for his resolute nature, for his steely intelligence and his decisiveness. It took him no more than a second or two to consider what had been plotted out for him since childhood, and then he nodded his dark head in answer to the silent question he asked himself.

Abdullah was his most trusted advisor, and the rumours must be gathering apace if he had summoned up the courage to alert his ruler to their existence.

And a man about whom uncertainty prevailed surely ran the risk of weakening his indomitable position…

He turned and surveyed the emotionless face of his envoy. ‘So be it,’ he said slowly. ‘Destiny must at last prevail.’ His eyes glittered with a cool acceptance and only the most lingering flash of regret, which was quickly replaced by the heat of sensual expectation. ‘I will send for Jenna,’ he stated softly. ‘And the wedding will take place as soon as it can be arranged.’

 

Inside the wild and wonderful interior of her New York apartment the telephone began to shrill, and Jenna jumped.

‘Can you answer that for me, Brad?’ she called.

‘Got it!’

Still damp from the shower, Jenna walked into the sitting room, a towel wrapped around her slim, glistening body and another draped in an elaborate turban around her head, just as Brad picked the receiver up.

The moment she saw the look on his face tiny little shivers of apprehension began to prickle at her skin. It was him; she knew it. She wasn’t sure how, but she did.

Him.

Tiny beads of sweat broke out on her forehead, until she reminded herself that life had changed. That promises once made could be broken. The bond which had once existed between them had been silently yet inextricably severed. Surely it was inconceivable that he should demand what she had once most desired and now most feared. ‘Jenna?’ Brad was drawling in his soft American accent. ‘Yeah, sure! She’s right here. Hold on. I’ll get her for you.’ And he pulled a face as he handed her the phone.

Still trembling, Jenna took the receiver from him silently. ‘Hello?’

There was a pause. ‘Jenna?’

It
was
him. She would have known that voice anywhere, but then maybe that was because no other man in the world spoke like him. Steely-soft and velvet-hard. Sexy, predatory and distinctly unsettling. She swallowed, the modern woman she had become sorely tempted to say, Who’s that? But she thought better of it. To affect not to know him would be to cast a slur on his character as well as denting his ego—and everyone knew that Sheikh Rashid of Quador had an ego the size of the United States itself!

‘Rashid,’ she said cautiously. She heard his terse exclamation in response, and knew that she had somehow angered him. ‘How are you?’ she asked in English.

‘Who answered the phone?’ he shot back—rather unexpectedly in the same language.

She considered telling him that it was none of his business, but again thought better of it. Rashid assumed that everything was his business, and that he had an inalienable right to have absolutely everything he wanted. But then he had been denied nothing from the moment of his birth—so maybe that was not so surprising.

‘He’s a friend of mine,’ she informed him lightly. ‘Brad.’

There was a moment of silence, and when he began to speak again there was not a trace of velvet—the voice was pure steel. And anger.
‘Brad?’
he repeated on an incredulous note. ‘A
man
? You have a
man
in your apartment?’

The irony wasn’t lost on her: one rule for Rashid and another entirely different one for her. But much better to take the heat out of the situation with humour—for hadn’t she once been able to make him laugh, a lifetime ago, before all her foolish girlhood dreams had been crushed underfoot, vanquished by the knowledge of just what kind of man he was? And what he did.

‘I think so!’ she joked rather nervously. ‘Unless he’s a master of disguise!’

In his stately study in the Quador palace, Rashid felt the slow burn of anger sizzle into rampant life. ‘And how long has this
Brad
—’ he spat the word out as if it was poison ‘—been your
friend
?’

Jenna clenched her fist around the receiver, so that her knuckles grew pale, but the instinctive movement brought with it a return of her resolve. Enough was enough! She was no longer his subject—not really. Hadn’t her years in America and her new life here freed her from his influence?

But Rashid had the cunning of a fox—simple rebellion would not work with him. She did not yet know what he wanted, and until she did it was better to play the game. To slip into the role he would expect of her.

‘Oh, ages,’ she said vaguely, and then injected a note of docile interest into her voice. ‘Did you just ring up for a chat, Rashid? Or was there something in particular you wanted?’

The ‘something in particular’ he wanted right now would have been to burst into her apartment and tear this Brad from
limb to limb, demanding to know just who he was and what he had been doing… But Rashid drew himself back from expressing an emotion as wasted as jealousy, and instead allowed himself an arrogant smile. The one thing he
could
count on was that Jenna was as pure as the snows which topped the Quador mountains. Jenna…

His.

His.

Only ever
his
.

‘I am displeased,’ he said, with a silky and dangerous menace. ‘Would you care to explain what he is doing there? Or do you make a habit of entertaining young men in your apartment?’

No, she would not care to explain herself, but she knew him well enough to realise that prevarication would be pointless. If any other man had spoken to her in that tone of voice she would have slammed the phone down. But this was a man like no other.

She thought about the dreams she had once cherished. Dreams about him which had taken on the quality of nightmares when she had learned the truth about him. At least living in America had allowed her to pretend that she was a different person from that foolish dreamer—and after a while it had became second nature to her and the pretence had become real. She
was
a different person.

And she would not let him spoil it now!

‘What do you want, Rashid?’ she sighed.

‘I think that perhaps it was a mistake to allow you to study in America,’ he observed in a hard voice.

‘I disagree.’

‘You
dare
to disagree with your sheikh?’ he questioned mockingly, but Jenna realised that there was a hard ring of truth to his imperious question.

I dare to defy you!
she wanted to shout, but if she did that then it would be all-out war—and there would only be one winner. She forced herself to put the sound of pleasure into her voice. Once it would have been genuine—there would
have been delight there, too—but no more. ‘At the time you put up few objections,’ she pointed out.

‘Because you twisted your father around your little finger!’ he retorted. ‘Convinced him that you should be allowed to travel. How persuasive you were, Jenna.’

‘What is done is done, and the past is past,’ she murmured in true Quador fashion. ‘Now, come on, Rashid—do tell me to what pleasure I owe this phone call.
Such
a surprise,’ she finished truthfully.

Rashid frowned. A surprise indeed, and several things had still not yet been explained. ‘And where is your sister?’ he questioned. ‘Does she approve of this friend of yours, with whom you are so intimate that he sees fit to answer your phone for you?’

‘Oh, don’t be so old-fashioned!’

‘But I am old-fashioned,’ he told her silkily. ‘Extremely old-fashioned. And you still haven’t answered my question. Does your sister approve of this friend of yours?’

‘Nadia approves of Brad,’ said Jenna woodenly, but her eyes widened with an expression of fear as she stared into Brad’s frowning face. If only Rashid knew that her sister was in love with Brad—that they were virtually living in the flat as man and wife. How his old-fashioned sensibilities would be outraged! ‘He’s a nice man,’ she finished, and hoped that the fear had not crept into her voice.


Was
a nice man,’ Rashid corrected coldly.

Now the fear was out in the open and she made no attempt to hide it. ‘What do you mean by that?’ she whispered hoarsely.

He gave a short, almost cruel laugh. ‘Oh, I mean nothing more sinister than stating a fact, my sweet Jenna—simply that Brad and your life in New York will now become things of the past.’

‘I think it’s
your
turn to explain yourself,’ said Jenna steadily, even though her heart was bashing madly against her ribcage.

‘Can’t you guess?’ His voice had deepened into a beguiling caress. He remembered with a sudden deep ache the silken
golden-brown of her hair and her deep amber eyes—so at variance with the other women of Quador. But she owed more than her looks to the inheritance of her American mother, he realised, a pulse beginning to beat at his temple. He wondered just how independent her life in New York actually
was
. And he wondered how many men ‘friends’ she had over there.

He should have put a stop to it long ago!

‘The time has come, Jenna,’ he said softly, and a sense of the inevitable began to heat his blood. He had embraced his destiny with a passion for all his life, and this particular destiny was no hardship.

Now she didn’t care—she
would
affect to misunderstand him. Surely he could not mean what she suspected he was about to say next. ‘Time for what?’

Rashid’s mouth tightened. There had been little contact between them over the past four years, other than the formal and highly chaperoned meetings when she’d flown home to see her family, but that had been necessary for all concerned. Sensibilities had had to be preserved. And when he had gazed on the gleaming gold of her hair, and the lush, almost sinful curves of her body which even the traditional flowing Quador clothes could not disguise, he had been almost glad of the company of the chaperon. Had understood completely the need for their presence.

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