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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a gentleman stepped back and he saw her.

      From the way she had been painted, from the photos he had seen, Khalid had rather expected a less demure figure.

      She was tiny.

      A mere wisp.

      Her blonde head was bowed down and around her slender shoulders there was a lace shawl that she clutched with one hand.

      Khalid made his way over to the line-up. ‘Excuse me,’ he said to the people who stood behind her, and promptly stepped in. They didn’t argue, and not just because it was a funeral. Despite the fact he was today clean-shaven and wearing a black suit, there was still a commanding air to Khalid that had people instinctively defer to him.

      In his country they would, of course, have knelt.

      Aubrey was far too worked up to notice the movement in the queue behind her.

      It was his scent that reached her first.

      Khalid always smelled divine—al-lubān, or frankincense as it was known here, had been subtly blended with oil of guaiac wood from a palo santo tree that had been gifted to the palace. To that there was added a note of bergamot, cardamom and saffron, all blended in the Al-Zahan desert by a mystic, exclusively for Khalid.

      It was subtle yet captivating.

      So much so that when it reached Aubrey her head rose like a meerkat’s and she turned to its source. A man towered over her, so she had to look up from the black tie she first glimpsed. Up to the thick white collar of his shirt and to his throat and strong jaw.

      And when Aubrey first met his burning gaze, everything she knew she forgot.

      She forgot not to make eye contact.

      And she forgot that she generally did not trust men.

      In the moment that their eyes met, she simply forgot.

      Khalid’s features remained impassive, yet despite his calm demeanour he instantly felt her allure. From the china blue of her unblinking eyes to lush, full lips, she was captivating. She wore far less make-up than she had in the tasteless photos. Well, a touch too much blusher perhaps, but Aubrey really was exceptionally beautiful; there was no doubting that. Khalid could see how a man could be beguiled.

      He refused to be.

      ‘I believe,’ Khalid said, ‘that it is your turn to sign.’

      His voice was rich, deep and accented, and to Aubrey, for a second, his words made no sense, but then she remembered. Oh, yes, the condolence book. She turned from the assault to her senses and picked up a heavy silver pen. Her hand was shaking as she wrote her name.

       Aubrey Johnson.

      For her address... Well, she left out the trailer park and just put Las Vegas, then she forgot the beautiful stranger behind her and pondered over her message.

      What could she say?

       Thank you for making Mom feel like a queen and for the trips and the fun times...

      Of course she could not put that; his long affair with her mom had been a faithfully kept secret.

       Thank you for believing in me...

      Aubrey would have liked to write that, but knew she could not. Or...?

       Sorry I lied.

      Jobe had insisted that she take this chance, and not follow a more familiar, familial career path, for her mother and Aunt Carmel had both made their living on the game. Would Jobe have forgiven her if he’d found out that she’d used her scholarship money for her mom’s medical care?

      Aubrey would never know now.

      And so she wrote a short line and then put down the pen, and Khalid watched as she moved on before reading her words.

       Dearest Jobe, thank you for everything. You were wonderful. Xxx

      The thought of her with Jobe revolted him.

      Khalid picked up the pen she had just held and wrote exactly what he would have before his eyes had held Aubrey’s.

       Allah yerhamo.

      May God have mercy on him.

      Those words felt more pertinent now.

      ‘Your Highness.’ One of Khalid’s security detail was at his side and discreetly told him that another guest on the watch-list had arrived. And then more news must have come into his earpiece, for he added, ‘And another.’

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