Claimed For The Sheikh's Shock Son. Carol Marinelli

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Claimed For The Sheikh's Shock Son - Carol Marinelli

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       About the Publisher


      ‘WILL YOU BE speaking at the funeral, Your Highness?’

      The questions from the paparazzi started even before Sheikh Prince Khalid of Al-Zahan had stepped out of the luxury vehicle.

      Jobe Devereux’s funeral was tomorrow. The press and television crews were gathered outside the late, great man’s Fifth Avenue home, capturing images of visitors arriving to pay their condolences.

      Some visitors walked slowly, keen to be photographed and seen, others put their heads down and hurried from their cars to the residence.

      Others opted to use the trade entrance.

      Khalid did neither.

      He had flown to New York from Al-Zahan and at the family’s request had come directly from the royal jet to Jobe’s home. Tomorrow Khalid would be clean-shaven with his thick, black hair freshly cut and he would be wearing a suit. Tonight, though, having come from a retreat in the desert, he was bearded and his tall frame was dressed in dark robes. Khalid was a striking man—tall and slim yet muscular too. Despite his impressive physique he moved in an elegant, unhurried fashion towards the home that he knew well, ignoring the paparazzi’s questions. For Khalid, the presence of the press had barely registered and certainly he didn’t deign to respond. His mind was elsewhere, for he had lost not just a business partner but someone he both valued and respected.

      Yet they persisted.

       ‘Will Chantelle be seated with the family?’

       ‘Might there be some unexpected guests?’

       ‘Your Highness, is it true that the King of Al-Zahan is soon to announce your marriage?’

      The last question jarred, not that Khalid showed it. But at home the pressure on him to marry was immense. That it was now being aired here in New York, the place he considered his bolthole, now rendered the pressure inescapable.

      The door was opened by the housekeeper and as he stepped inside it was clear that even prior to the funeral, Jobe had pulled in quite a crowd. People were mingling and spilling out from the reception room where groups stood talking. Drinks were being served as if the funeral had already taken place.

      Khalid was not here to socialise, though, and was taken straight through to Jobe’s study.

      ‘I’ll let Ethan know that you’re here,’ the housekeeper said. ‘He’s just speaking with the senator.’

      ‘Tell him there is no rush,’ Khalid said.

      ‘Is there anything I can get for you?’ she checked, ‘He shouldn’t be long.’

      ‘I’ll be fine,’ Khalid said, but as the housekeeper headed out the door he called to her. ‘Barb,’ Khalid said. ‘I am sorry for your loss.’

      She gave him a watery smile. ‘Thank you, Khalid.’

      It was a relief to be here in the study and away from the hordes. Khalid could, of course, be polite and make small-talk—his royal status demanded it. He was in no mood to, though.

      How odd that one room in a house so far from home could hold so many memories. Jobe’s globe had always been a draw for Khalid. It had been an antique when Jobe had purchased it and Khalid would look at all the old countries now gone, while his island country, independent from the mainland, remained.

      And it was from this very decanter that Khalid had first tasted alcohol. On that desk that the first tentative sketch of the Royal Al-Zahan Hotel had been drafted.

      It was just a year off completion now.

      An impossible dream, first born in this study.

      Khalid picked up a heavy paperweight and recalled Jobe, for once awkward, tossing it between his hands as a far younger Khalid had opened the study door.

      ‘You wanted to see me, sir?’

      ‘How many times do I have to tell you to call me Jobe? Even my own kids do.’

      But Khalid called his own father by his royal title and bowed to him on arriving and leaving, so he struggled to accept the informal greetings in the Devereux household.

      ‘Sit down, son.’

      Khalid took a seat when he would have preferred to stay standing, for he was certain he was about to be disciplined. At sixteen he had been in New York City for close to a year and he and Ethan had discovered fake IDs and girls.

      Yes, there were plenty of reasons Ethan’s father might want to have words with him.

      ‘There’s no easy way to say this.’ Jobe cleared his throat. ‘Khalid, you need to call home.’

      ‘Is something wrong with the twins?’ Khalid asked, for he knew his mother was due to give birth any day now.

      ‘No. Your mother gave birth to twins this morning, but there were complications. Your mom took a turn for the worse and could not be revived. I’m very sorry to tell you this, Khalid, but your mom is dead.’

      It felt as if the air had been sucked out of the study and though Khalid determinedly didn’t show it, he felt as if he could not breathe. It simply could not be, for his mother was so alive and, unlike his stern father, she smiled and laughed and loved life. Queen Dalila was the very reason that Khalid was here in NYC.

      ‘Call home,’ Jobe said. ‘Tell your father we can head straight to the airport and that I will accompany you back to Al-Zahan.’

      ‘No.’ Khalid shook his head, for Jobe did not understand that Khalid had to arrive aboard the royal plane. ‘But thank you for the kind offer.’

      ‘Khalid.’ Jobe spoke with exasperation. ‘You are allowed to be upset.’

      ‘With respect, sir, I know what is allowed. I shall call the King now.’

      Khalid awaited privacy, but Jobe remained in his seat and then, to Khalid’s mind, did the oddest thing. Jobe Devereux put his elbows on the mahogany desk and buried his face in his hands.

      Jobe, Khalid realised with both bemusement and strange gratitude, had found telling him hard. It had hurt Jobe to break the news, and he hurt for their mother, and his two-year-old brother, Hussain, and for the twins just born.

      Then he heard the voice of the King.

      ‘Alab,’ Khalid said, calling him Father.

      A mistake.


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