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       His Indecent Proposal, p.1

         Part #1 of Sold To The Sheikh series by Holly Rayner  
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Sold To The Sheikh: His Indecent Proposal (Book One)
Sold To The Sheikh

  His Indecent Proposal

  By Holly Rayner

 

  Copyright 2015 by Holly Rayner

  All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part by any means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the explicit written permission of the author.

  All characters depicted in this fictional work are consenting adults, of at least eighteen years of age. Any resemblance to persons living or deceased, particular businesses, events, or exact locations are entirely coincidental.

  Table Of Contents:

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  CHAPTER THREE

  CHAPTER FOUR

  CHAPTER FIVE

  CHAPTER SIX

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  CHAPTER NINE

  CHAPTER TEN

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  ONE

  "Mom. Mom, I'm driving, so I need to call you back," Mia said, looking around as she navigated the right turn out of the high school parking lot.

  "You should have said something," her mother said, before erupting in a spasm of coughs.

  "I know," Mia said, trying to keep her voice level and patient. "I'll call you as soon as I get back home, Mama." She took a deep breath and waited while her mother said goodbye before ending the call. Mia set her phone down on the seat next to her and turned the stereo up. She could feel fatigue in every muscle of her body. "I wouldn't be surprised if there was some kind of time anomaly that only exists at that damn school," she said to herself, coming to a stop at a red light. It seemed like every day was just a little bit longer, every weekend just a little bit shorter.

  Mia yawned, blinking her eyes a few times rapidly to clear the slight blur at the edges of her vision. It seemed as though there was always something that she had to do next; if she wasn't rushing to get papers graded during her lunch break, she was hurrying to the store to pick something up for her mom, or to the pharmacy, or just dropping by the old house to make sure everything was okay there. She barely even spent time in the apartment she was paying through the teeth for.

  "Just a few more hours," Mia said to herself with a sigh. She needed to get home, get laundry in the washer, and call her mom back. Then she would park herself on the couch, unload the papers she had stuffed into her backpack to grade, and catch up on the series she was following. If she was lucky, she might be able to make it into bed by midnight. Mia yawned, longing for the coffee she had left behind at her desk.

  As she slipped into the routine drive home, Mia's mind started to wander; she paid enough attention to the world around her to make sure she wasn't going to run into anyone, but she couldn't help going over the list of things she had to get done that week-especially those she had to do over the weekend. Three years before, when she had graduated college, Mia had thought that the best possible use of her talent would be to work at an underprivileged school; there was a program that would allow her to have her student loans forgiven if she taught for five years at a school that was registered on the program, and at the time she had been convinced that it would be the best way for her to put her degree to use.

  At first, her decision seemed vindicated. The students responded to her, and she had won an award at the end of her first year for bringing up the test scores for her classes over the course of the school term. Her mother had come to the ceremony, and Mia had believed-truly believed-that she was doing good work. Knowing that in four more years her student loans would be paid off, Mia had enjoyed her summer and had taken her continuing development classes happily.

  But as she started into her second year, Mia's responsibilities had piled up. She had moved out of her mother's house over the summer, and found that her paychecks never seemed to go quite as far as she needed them to; there was always some surcharge, or some extra cost on her bills. No matter how she tried to save on her electricity, it went up inexorably. Mia had taken refuge in her work, but had quickly discovered that anyone who had performed well in their first year as a teacher was invariably asked and pressured into doing as much as possible.

  She started spending longer days at school, taking part in committees, finding herself being volunteered for this or that task, this or that group. Her students in her second year were not as easy as her first; so many of them had no interest at all in learning the material, and Mia had had to keep a sharp eye on the papers they turned in-more than half of the first-week papers had been completely plagiarized. If they're going to copy-paste an essay about how they spent their summer, what on earth are they going to do when it comes to writing about the books they're supposed to be reading?

  Late in the year, her mother had fallen ill. At first, it had just been flu-like symptoms. She had been tired all the time, with headaches that came and went with little rhyme or reason. One appointment after another with one doctor after another resulted in nothing; and Mia had found herself sucked into her mother's problems, spending almost as much time at her parents' old home as she did in her own apartment. Mia had barely managed to keep up with her work as the spring semester dragged on; instead of taking her break, she had been with her mother, going to the doctors' offices, taking care of her, cooking for her.

  Finally, as summer break had started, Mia's mother had gotten a diagnosis. The disease wasn't in and of itself deadly, but it was progressing unusually fast, and Mia's mother was coping with it poorly. More than once, Mia had wished-more fervently than she had wished anything else before in her life-that her dad could somehow still be around, still be alive for her mom. If her dad were there, the burden wouldn't be so much on Mia-and she thought that if Dad were around, Mom might be able to bear her deteriorating health better.

  Now in her third year of teaching, Mia had begun to feel hopeless. She felt as though she was always rushing, as if her work consumed more and more of her time; but her pay wasn't slated to increase until after her five-year anniversary had come. For two more years she would have to keep at it. The job that had seemed so worthy, and such a solution to the problem of her debt was actually-as strange as it had seemed when she first realized it-sending her into greater debt; because she couldn't quite afford to keep herself afloat, Mia found herself charging things more and more onto her credit card, and making smaller and smaller payments on it. As the balance increased, the finance charges were getting larger-sending the balance higher and higher.

  Mia shook her thoughts aside as she realized she was coming to an intersection. The car in front of her sped up so as to make it through the yellow light and onto the other side. Mia, jittery and exhausted, slowed down and came to a stop, just as the light changed. "Come on, Mia, you can do this. In a few more hours you'll go to bed and get some sleep." Only to do it all again tomorrow. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. It had to all come to an end eventually, didn't it?

  The light changed to green and Mia moved her foot from the brake to the accelerator, apparently not quickly enough for the person behind her, whose horn cut through the air in a loud blast. Gritting her teeth, she stifled the urge to flip the rude driver off and instead moved smoothly through the intersection, keeping her eyes on her mirrors. The car behind her waited until it had cleared the light and then swerved around her, blaring the horn again; in the corner of her eye, Mia thought she saw the driver make an obscene gesture in her direction as he or she passed her and jerked into the lane ahead of her, but she wasn't completely sure. "Asshole," she muttered under her breath, taking another breath to steady her frazzled nerves again.

  Her mind began to wander again as the normal flow of traffic around Mia soothed her. Her mother's diagnosis had been only the tip of the iceberg; more recently, thanks to the immune-suppressing drugs that helped to keep the worst of the symptoms under control, her mother had fallen ill with what had initially been nothing worse than a bout of flu. What started out as a nasty bug blew up almost overnight, and Mia had found herself in the hospital with her mother in the middle of the night, waiting to be seen by a doctor while her mother struggled to breathe with the fluids building up in her lungs. It had taken days of medication, IVs, a tube in her mother's lungs to drain them, and dozens of other costly procedures before the hospital was able to discharge the older woman. And Mia had seen the bill they had given her mother; she knew that Amie would never, ever be able to pay it on her own.

  Mia took one hand off of the wheel to smooth her hair back away from her face, sighing at the memory of all of the bills that had come before even the most recent one. Her mother would never be able to deal with everything-never again. Mia cringed, remembering the capable, determined woman her mother had been before the illness had started creeping up on her, sapping her of strength and making everything harder and harder. It's not fair! Mia's mind parroted the refrain at least once a day, and each time she told herself firmly what she had learned long ago: life wasn't fair, and focusing on how unfair it all was wouldn't fix anything. Work-that was what fixed things. But how could she fix her mother's situation, when the woman was suffering with a chronic disease?

  Mia felt a little tingle of relief when she realized she was almost home. The turnoff for her neighborhood was less than a mile up ahead, and after that it would only be another few blocks until she came to the little house she had rented. The neighborhood wasn't the best, but she had managed to get a deal from the homeowner in exchange for agreeing to oversee some improvements to help him leave town faster. The house was tiny-one bedroom, one-and-a-half bathrooms, sparsely furnished with the secondhand items from the local charity thrift store-but it was her home, a little piece of refuge.

  Mia made the turn, beginning to smile to herself. Catching her reflection in the mirror, she began to give herself a little pep talk. "You're not doing as bad as you think," she said, her voice barely louder than the stereo playing in the car. "You're still holding onto your job, your last performance review was pretty good, and you'll qualify for a pay increase in a couple of years. Not too bad at all!" She looked through the windshield and spotted the stop sign where the cops usually hid out on the main street of the suburban development; Mia was always careful to make sure she came to a complete stop at that one-she couldn't afford to deal with a ticket on top of everything else.

  She slowed down and pressed the brake, grimacing a little at the slight squeal she heard from the back of her car; the old sedan was gradually getting to the point when it would take more money than the car was actually worth to keep fixing it, and the sometimes noisy brakes meant another expense that she couldn't really afford. Mia was grateful when the car obediently came to a stop right at the line, and told herself that the brakes would probably last at least another couple of months before she absolutely had to replace them or risk getting into an accident.

  Right when she would have pulled through the four-way stop, Mia heard a squeal behind her-far louder than her brakes-and looked in her rear-view mirror in time to see a hulking, neon yellow sports car bearing down on her. Before she could even think of taking evasive action, the car lurched, and Mia jolted forward, the seatbelt slamming into her chest, reeling her back hard enough to make her teeth snap together in her head. Mia let out an involuntary yelp, her hands tightening on the wheel as the car shook from the force of the impact and her heart pounded in her chest, adrenaline flooding through her body.

  She shook as the movement of the car stopped, her blood roaring in her ears, her breaths coming fast and short. "What the hell?" she said to no one at all. Shaken, Mia quickly took an inventory of herself; she couldn't see blood anywhere, so at least she hadn't been seriously injured. Her neck felt strange, but she didn't exactly hurt. She was lightheaded, a little disoriented, but otherwise she thought she was okay.

  "Stupid bitch! You ruined my car!" The words cut through her shock and Mia realized that the driver that had slammed into her from behind was already out of his car. The impact had driven her car through the four-point stop, but just barely. With shaking hands, Mia unbuckled her seat belt and turned the key in her ignition to shut the car off. Looking in her rear-view mirror, she saw someone-presumably the other driver-stalking back and forth, throwing his hands up in the air every so often. The adrenaline surged in her system once more as she reluctantly opened the door. She swallowed against the tightness in her throat and stepped out of her car.

  Gathering up the tatters of her courage, Mia stepped cautiously towards the rear of her car. The driver of the car behind her was still striding around in almost-circles, muttering and occasionally shouting in anger at no one in particular. He was tall and slim, his black hair brushed back from his forehead, and in at a glance, Mia thought the man had had at least one parent from an Asian country. He was dressed in a sharply tailored suit that was probably worth more than her monthly pay, and up close the car he had slammed into hers-barely dented-was even more obviously expensive than she had originally thought. "Are you okay?" she asked, her voice cracking slightly.

  The man wheeled around. "Am I okay? You destroyed my car you fucking idiot. Do you have any idea how much it will cost to fix this?" The man gestured at the barely tended front end of his car. Mia cringed, glancing at the much more damaged back bumper of her own car. The turn signal had shattered, and her trunk would never be the same again.

  "You're the one who hit me!" she said, anger stirring up inside of her.

  "I hit you? What were you, asleep at the wheel?" the man was moving around in fast, agitated circles, pacing in front of his car, shaking his head. "It wasn't a light, it was a damned stop sign, all you had to do was look and then go!"

  "For your information," Mia said, her anger increasing as the man's tirade became more and more irrational, "there are almost always cops at this intersection and they ticket anyone who doesn't come to a complete stop!" She looked around, wishing that those very same cops had taken the opportunity to be there to witness this particular incident. "It's not like I can afford a freaking ticket!"

  "Can you afford to fix my car?" the man glanced at Mia's sedan, scowling. "Your maximum probably won't even cover the deductible on getting this fixed."

  "You. Hit. Me," Mia countered. "If anyone is going to pay for this, it's going to be you." She was shaking, adrenaline surging through her veins, making her heart thunder in her chest. She could feel tears prickling in her eyes and willed them to stay where they were at least until she had gotten out of the unpleasant man's presence; the last thing she wanted was for him to see her crying.

  "I'm going to pay? Bitch, I have more lawyers than you probably have cats at your house?" Mia was still looking forlornly at the incredible damage to the back end of her car when the man's voice came to a stop.

  "I don't have any cats," Mia said absently.

  "No, no of course not." Mia glanced at the man; where just moments before he'd been yelling, stomping along the side of the road, explosive in his anger, now he was watching her with a strange look in his eyes. "Look, I overreacted, I'm sorry." Mia stared at the man in unabashed amazement at the sudden change in his demeanor-and the apology that came with it.

  "It's-I mean, I can understand you're probably shaken up," Mia said, shrugging.

  "No, no, it's unforgiveable," the man insisted. "It was all my fault; I wasn't paying attention, and you're right about that stop sign." Mia blinked.

  "I just?" she cleared her throat. "I've seen a lot of people pulled over right here." Mia swallowed. "So I try to make sure not to give them an excuse."

  "That's smart of you," the man said. "How rude of me, I didn't even get your name." Mia shook her head, trying to jolt herself out of the multiple shocks she'd sustained in the last several minutes.

  "Mia," she said, extending her hand cautiously towards the man. "Mia Campbell." The man shook it.

  "Rami al-Hassan," the man replied, bowing over her hand and giving it a gentle, barely-there kiss. "I want to apologize again for ruining your evening with my stupidity." Mia extracted her hand from his grip, smiling nervously.

  "It happens," she said as graciously as she could. She couldn't understand what had come over the man. Maybe he's just one of those moody kind of guys. Maybe he's having a bad day and this is what he's usually like, not the way he was before.

  "I insist that you let me take care of this," Rami said, gesturing from his car to Mia's. "It was my fault, and I should take responsibility for it." Mia's eyes widened as she felt a little wave of relief wash through her.

  "I think that would be okay," Mia said, blinking in surprise.

  "Please give me your phone number so I can make the necessary arrangements," Rami said, smiling down at her. Mia frowned, trying, in her addled state, to remember her number. After a moment it came to her and she recited it, smoothing her hair and clothes nervously. "Do you think you can make it the rest of the way home?" Mia looked at the damage to her car; it was all in the hind end, away from the machinery that made the car run.

  "I should be able to make it," Mia told him, giving herself a little shake.

  "I'll call you once I'm able to get some details about having your car fixed," Rami said, smiling at her again. "Please let me know if you have any pain or injuries. I'm so sorry, again." He took a few steps back and Mia took her cue to get back into her car. Mia shook her head again as she walked to the driver's side door.

  She got in and put the key back into the ignition, still marveling at the sudden change that had come over the man who'd hit her. "This has been some day," Mia muttered to herself as she started the car. Rami's tires squealed on the pavement and she watched as his sleek, hulking sports car darted around her and moved off down the road. Mia shook her head again, unable to quite believe the whole situation that had just unfolded, and pulled onto the road proper, making sure she didn't end up getting hit a second time as she turned the car-a little shaky, but still operational-towards her block, and her home.

  TWO

 
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