Authors: Teresa Morgan
This edition of Valentine Vegas
GigoloSheikh includes a one chapter preview of
Cinderella and the Sheikh
GigoloSheikh is dedicated to Sharon Page, who writes better stories than I ever will. You should go buy
Escape With A Rogue
right now, everyone!
Thanks to my awesome critiquers Sheryl, Lucy, Ellen, and to my Beta Reader, Shelley.
"Buddy, I've changed my mind," said the blonde framed in the hotel room doorway. "I don't need your services, but thanks for coming all the way down here. Here's the full payment anyway."
Prince Zaqwan el Behar, caught off-guard for once in his life, glanced down at the white envelope she'd shoved into his hand, unable to comprehend the situation. She had mistaken him for another, he realized. He raised his hand to silence and correct her.
She ignored the gesture."We're square here," she announced, in a tone that could only be described as 'pushy'.
He paused a moment, stunned by her belligerence. But if he was frozen, she was not.
"Now leave," the woman ordered, with a toss of her knife-edge straight golden hair. And shut the door in his face.
Zaqwan's world tilted on its axis. He stared at the brass numbers on the door until 913 was burned into his vision.
The tone of her voice had been what bothered him the most. It was not the sort of tone anyone used with His Royal Highness, heir to the throne of a small, but incredibly rich, island in the Persian Gulf.
After a moment, he recovered his composure and decided to return to the task of introducing himself to the maid of honor in the morning. It was so unlike him to hesitate in a second of crisis—even one so small.
As he strode down the corridor of the three-star Las Vegas hotel where tomorrow's wedding would take place, he took a moment to assess the situation. All he had done was knock on the door of the maid of honor's room, intending to introduce himself. She had rewarded him with irritation, abuse, and this envelope.
She did not know who he was, of course. That had been purposeful on the part of his nearly invisible security team, as had been his late arrival for the wedding preparations. His security chief had been against him attending the wedding at all, but he'd judged the risk for himself, and decided it was low. He'd assured his team that even the groom himself, an old schoolmate of his, did not know that Zaqwan was first in line for the throne of Ittar. He would reveal it to Rick in the morning, before the ceremony.
For safety reasons, his existence had been kept secret, even from himself. After his mother had died in childbirth, he had been raised as a foster child in the house of a businessman who was loyal to the throne. It was only when he reached the age of majority that he had been summoned to the palace for a private audience with the king—and discovered his true identity.
That had been the last unpredictable event in his life. Now, eight years later, his father's over-caution and respect for his station meant that each moment of his day was scheduled and he could easily predict the sycophantic reactions of everyone in his life.
Except for this stranger who shut a door in his face and gave him... He thumbed open the flap of the envelope. And stopped in his tracks.
Five hundred American dollars.
He counted the bills again, trying to make sense out of what he saw. He had been right the first time. Three crisp hundred-dollar bills, two worn fifties, and the rest in twenties that had seen better days. Why would anyone give a stranger who came to her door an envelope of cash? Not a large amount for him, but her simple pale blue dress had not come from a designer, and the sparkling red 'jewels' in her dangling earrings had not been rubies. Her only other jewelry had been a silver-toned watch on her left wrist. As for herself, she had been pretty enough, but nothing special when compared to the beauties of the court of Ittar.
Nor had anything else about her been special. She had sharp features, brown eyes, a pert nose, and a grating attitude. The standard curves in the standard places. The only thing setting her apart from other women was her height. She could nearly stand nose to nose with him, unusual for a woman. With so many lovely women in Las Vegas, there was no reason to glance in her direction twice.
Except for the money.
Five hundred dollars in a plain envelope. A stranger at the door. Clarity dawned on him. There could only be one solution to this puzzle.
. The maid of honor at his old schoolmate's wedding had attempted to purchase drugs. Yes, she had changed her mind, but still, she planned to buy them in the first place. His anger was a hard cold thing in the pit of his stomach.
In part, he had seen the invitation to Las Vegas as a relaxing break from the endless problems he dealt with on a daily basis. Now he faced yet another problem. The maid of honor—she hardly deserved the title—and her drugs. He could walk away from this, allowing the scenario to play out on its own. That was how he should approach this. He should return to his penthouse suite and enjoy his weekend of freedom.
He sighed, unable to control himself. His time of relaxation was at an end before it started. Despite what he knew he
do for his own well-being, he would not. He would tackle the problem so it did not become an issue for the friend he had not seen for eight years.
He would go back, speak to the woman, and make it clear that her behavior would not be tolerated. If he found she was addicted, he would arrange the counseling she required.
As he turned to return to the room, the elevator door opened. A man in a fine suit shrugged his jacket into a more comfortable position and straightened his scarlet satin tie. He had a false air of expense and luxury about him, from his gelled hair to the perfume he wore just a little too much of. He had American features and a deep tan, as if he spent his days by the pool.
Zaqwan's rage hissed. The
who would have sold her those drugs. He did not doubt it. His vision went cold, narrowing to the man's disgusting face.
Instinct took over, and in seconds, he had the drug dealer by the throat, pushing him up against the back wall of the elevator onto his tiptoes—the only way the shorter man could meet his gaze. The dealer made no move to resist, completely caught off-guard. Not the reaction Zaqwan had expected, yet the
whimpers were oh-so satisfying to his ears. As the doors of the elevator slid shut behind them, he knew exactly what the man would do next. Beg for his life.
He was not disappointed.
"Don't hurt me," he pleaded, in a voice higher than Zaqwan had anticipated. "I've got money."
"I imagine that you do," he hissed. He had precious few seconds before his ghost security team intercepted the elevator. "You are going to room 913?"
"Yeah," the man confirmed.
Zaqwan thrust the heel of one hand against the elevator's emergency stop button. The car's descent ground to a halt.
"You will not go anywhere near room 913 tonight." He punctuated his words by slamming the drug dealer up against the wall. "Or ever."
"No, no, of course not. You're right, man. Whatever you want. Just say it and I'll do that. Is she your girlfriend? I didn't touch her. She called us. But I didn't touch her."
"Now," he suggested, in a growl. "Offer me drugs."
"I don't have any, man. I'm serious."
Zaqwan squeezed a little harder.
"Okay, okay." The dealer made to reach into his inside pocket. For the drugs? Or a gun?
"Stop," he ordered.
raised his hands in surrender, though Zaqwan hadn't told him to. The man shook with fear, he noted. He'd imagined a criminal would have more courage. Perhaps he was new at this.
"I don't need it. It's just for emergencies. I've only used it once," the man pled.
Zaqwan narrowed his eyes at him. The scum folded immediately. "Okay, maybe once a week, but you don't know what this job takes out of a guy."
Working quickly, he searched the man's pockets. Finally, his fingers closed on a plastic bag. He drew it out, but it was far too light to be any substantial amount of any illegal substance. Without taking his eyes from the dealer, he raised the bag so he could examine its contents.
Inside was a single distinctively shaped blue pill, a diamond with the points cut off. It could not possibly be what it resembled. Was that a joke? Or was it a covering for something more sinister? Had he stumbled onto the next drug epidemic, disguised as a common prescription medication for erectile dysfunction?
"What is this?” he demanded. “Why was she going to pay you five hundred dollars for this? What kind of drug dealer are you?"
"Drug dealer? You think I'm a drug dealer?"
The man's confusion appeared genuine. Perhaps he had not assessed the situation quite correctly. There might be more to this than he understood. More to that woman than he knew.
"No, no, you've got me wrong. I'm no pusher."
The man told the truth, his instincts warned. But he had yet to explain the large amount of cash. "The money."
"Let me talk, dude. I deal in ecstasy, but not like that."
He let go of the not-pusher's throat. But he remained looming over the shorter man, intentionally invading his personal space.
"You've got me wrong. The money's not for that." The man swiped the plastic bag out of Zaqwan's hand and made it disappear back into his pocket. In the same motion, he brought out a business card. "It's for
Zaqwan took the card with caution. A shiny black rectangle, professionally designed. Scarlet script announced "Top Elite Male Escorts Deluxe" and then, in smaller letters, "Alessandro." Next to that was a photo of a man with abs sculpted with the help of photo editing software. The model's head was cropped off. His only covering was a strategic scrap of crimson silk.
Male escort? He paused, staring at the card, willing the words to make some kind of sense. "Explain."
"Well," said Alessandro, "When a woman, or man and a woman, or another man, or a man and a woman and a man, or a man and two women, love each other very much, and one of them has a lot of money, they make a phone call—"
He cut the man off. "She is your client? You have sex with her for money? For five hundred dollars? How many times have you done this?"
"None.” Alessandro raised his hands in defense. “I was going to see her for the first time when a guy grabbed me by the throat in an elevator. But I know her type. She's a tourist. It's a one-off. And I will get her off, if you know what I mean."
"You are quite thoroughly gay," he told Alessandro. "And your name is not 'Alessandro'. Alexander, perhaps. Or Alex."
"No shit, you can tell I'm gay? Most people can't," said the gigolo. "I don't supposed
"Not in the least, thank you." His words emerged with more than his intended aggravation. He wasn't threatened by being propositioned by a homosexual. He had been anticipating it. His irritation stemmed from the fact that he
been expecting it. For the last few years of his life, he hadn't met anyone whose actions he couldn't predict. Every woman in an haute couture gown pressed her hand to his arm and laughed as if he were the wittiest man on earth. Every tuxedoed man attempted to be overly familiar and offered him business propositions.
The Las Vegas gigolo had at least been interesting, until he turned into a cliché.
"So now that you know I don't sell drugs, can I go to my client?" The escort examined his reflection in the elevator's mirrored wall and smoothed the wrinkles in the lapel of his suit. "I want to get this done."
That woman in room 913. He reassessed the picture of her supplied by his mind and still found nothing to intrigue him. Her mid-brown eyes had been nothing special. Her high-necked dress didn't seem to hide anything out of the ordinary.
And yet, he found himself intrigued. She had, on the night before her best friend's wedding in Las Vegas, suddenly hired a male prostitute and just as quickly changed her mind. He knew little about her, but from their encounter, she appeared decisive, not whimsical. Confident and assured. So why contact this man, pay him, then insist he leave without doing what she hired him to do?
She was suddenly more interesting than any person he had met in the last eight years of his life.
He caught his reflection in the mirrored wall of the elevator. His own suit outshone the escort's by several thousand dollars. Like the smaller man, Zaqwan wore a thick gold ring on the smallest finger of his left hand. Of course his jewelry was not mere 'bling,' but a centuries-old signet ring passed to him by his father when he was acknowledged as Ittar's heir. The escort exuded confidence, despite his short stature, but there was a shadow of desperation to it.