The sheikhs triplet baby.., p.1
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       The Sheikh's Triplet Baby Surprise, p.1

         Part #3 of The Sheikh's Baby Surprise series by Holly Rayner  



  ONE

  Amity Winters was bored with the sun. It was a strange sensation, given that she’d grown up craving summer with those treacherous and grey Minnesotan winters. But after eight years in Los Angeles, the sun had grown dull for her. Or maybe it was just that L.A., itself, had.

  She stood outside the Santa Monica offices of Able & Abelson, on the corner, in her black heels, catching the rays on her face. She’d just exited a meeting that had gone on an hour too long. Her client, a pop singer with a too-big nose ring, was unhappy once again—this time with the image portrayed in a recent interview she’d given with Glamour. Amity was having trouble explaining to this client that when you answered every question with the words “like” and “you know,” people tended to perceive you as a little “ditzy.” This was a given.

  But Amity waved and flashed a big smile to the client, who jumped into her Mustang and revved out of the parking lot. If it wasn’t for that client—and countless other, more obnoxious ones—her career wouldn’t have skyrocketed quite so quickly in what was, perhaps, one of the most difficult industries in the world. Public relations.

  Resisting the urge to cross the road and snag a celebratory, mid-afternoon donut (something to tide her over till her after-work gym session), Amity clambered up the steps and passed through her humming office, catching glimpses of workers texting, scrolling through Twitter, and updating their Facebook statuses. She rolled her eyes at these early-twentysomethings, most without the drive and know-how she’d exuded five years before, when she’d begun as a bright-eyed college graduate, ready to march her way to the top.

  “Afternoon, Amity!” The crisp voice of her intern interrupted Amity’s reverie.

  “Oh, um—” Amity blinked several times, trying to remember the name of the blonde, busty 21-year-old wringing her hands before her. “Hey, Flora.”

  “It went on a bit long, didn’t it? The meeting?” Flora had begun to follow Amity to her office, her kitten heels clattering.

  “I suppose they usually do,” Amity sighed, giving the girl a wan smile. All the interns tended to look the same in the beginning—before they lost interest and skipped out of the office on their last day, eager to find any other career but PR. “Could you grab me a coffee, Flora? I’m dying here.”

  “Right away.”

  Flora darted to the break room then, and Amity watched as she paused briefly at Mark-with-the-hipster-beard’s desk, flashing him that Crest smile.

  Amity shook her head as she collapsed into her office chair. She knew her office was just a sea of raving hormones. And she didn’t blame them for flirting, for dating. God, of course she didn’t. She hadn’t dated in something like years, but that was because her career was essential to her very life. Making time for men—for romance—had long fallen by the wayside. It was just easier that way.

  She opened her laptop, ready to get back to the email she’d been drafting prior to her meeting. In it, she’d begun elaborating to the director of her firm the potential benefits of setting up a New York office—with her at the helm. New York—the East Coast, a grand mystery! Amity had visited the city, of course; she’d wined and dined clients and strolled through the streets, gazing at the stunning architecture and soaking up the feel of the traffic, of the people, of the dramatic history of the place. It couldn’t have been more different than L.A., and that was precisely what she needed. At 27 years old, with far too much L.A. history under her belt, she was ready for a change.

  It wasn’t the first time she’d requested a change of scenery. A few months ago, she’d suggested that she set up house in Seattle, a place with an incredible music scene—one where she could work alongside musicians to hone, to enliven. A few months before that, she’d requested that she set up in Washington D.C., thinking that she could work with politicians, brighten their images for the public, and become a part of a very different scene.

  But so far, the directors hadn’t approved any of her requests for change. It was never “the right time,” and it really “didn’t make sense financially,” they’d told her so often in the past.

  Amity finished the email then, and read it over—altering a few words and changing some phrasing, hoping she didn’t come across as another pushy employee. She knew they needed her in L.A.; she was one of the executives who brought in the biggest clients.

  Amity clacked her nails against her wooden desk, her eyes glazing away from her computer. Flora hadn’t yet returned with her coffee—she’d instead hastened away to the break room with Mark. Amity leaned forward, sighing, tempted to take the rest of the day off. Her brain felt rattled, her body exhausted. She didn’t know if she had it in her to send this New York inquiry—not today. Another “no” could kill her once-bursting sense of ambition.

  Amity hovered her cursor over the Send button, her brain buzzing. A life in New York—a whole new scene, an escape from the self she’d built in L.A. over the previous eight years. She didn’t dislike her life or the person she’d become, but God, the change would be delicious.

  All at once, Flora tapped the coffee cup on her desk, interrupting her train of thought. Amity blinked up at her, a weak smile spreading across her face. “Thank you,” she said, her gaze landing on Mark, who was now sneaking back to his desk.

  “No problem, Miss Winters. You know, you should really think about taking a lunch break. I read in a magazine—oh, I don’t remember which one—that taking a lunch break can decrease stress and help you lose weight in the long run.”

  Amity raised a single eyebrow. She was slim, strong—gorgeous. She hadn’t needed to “lose weight” a day in her life.

  “I don’t suppose you want to explain what you mean by that?”

  Flora swallowed. Her eyes looked lost, out the window. “Um. Just that you work really hard, Amity. That’s all I meant.”

  Amity paused and tilted her head. “I work hard for what I want,” she said, her voice suddenly stern. “If that means I skip lunch, I skip lunch.”

  Flora spun slowly from Amity’s desk and walked back to her desk, her shoulders slumped. Amity felt a small rush of sadness. She hadn’t meant to be cruel. But all that she’d given up in her life—including hundreds of lunches—had made her incredibly proud of what she had built.

  And she deserved more than what she had, in the long run.

  Amity reached for the mouse once again, ready to click the Send button once and for all. But as she brought the mouse to the button, an email suddenly erupted into her inbox. She paused for a moment, frowning at the sender’s name. Charlie Campbell.

  Charlie Campbell, one of the firm’s directors, rarely emailed her unless he wanted something. In fact, he’d been the very one she’d been emailing, appealing to send her to New York, to Seattle, to D.C.—and she had received a single personal reply from him. Most recently, his secretary had written a brief apology, along with a smiley face that seemed to smirk: “Get back to work.”

  Amity clicked on the email, curiosity throttling through her. Had he sensed she was about to appeal to him once more? Had he sensed that his rather “pushy” PR executive was about to push him again?

  But no. The email had been penned by Charlie Campbell himself.

  Amity,

  Darling girl, how are you? It’s been far too long since we had a face-to-face. I request that you come to my office immediately—absolutely ASAP—for I have quite a big offer for you to consider.

  See you soon,

  Charlie

  Amity drew her head back from the monitor, blinking madly. Her first thoughts were fearful. This almost certainly had to do with all the emails she’d been sending him, begging him for reassignment. She brought her palms to her face, igniting curiosity from Flora.

  “You don’t need another coffee, do you?” she asked, her voice bright.

  “I’m caffeinated enough, thanks.”

  Amity sighed, tugging her skin down with her fingers. Did she have more skin than she used to? Was she aging? Was she getting fat in her cheeks—and was that why Flora had suggested weight loss?

  She needed to calm down, to order her thoughts. She would apologize to Flora later. She inhaled and exhaled, concentrating on the way her heart beat in her ribcage. She needed to go upstairs immediately, Charlie had said. But she hadn’t been upstairs in months, and the thought of getting in that elevator chilled her to the bone. She could imagine Charlie’s words already. “You’re too much, Amity. You’ve pushed it too far. We need you to pack up your things. There’s no New York for you, and now—there’s no L.A., either.”

  Finally, Amity rose from her desk and brushed her fingers through her long brown hair. She readjusted her blazer. Her gaze was steady, strong. She marched from her office, under the watchful gaze of each and every intern and employee who worked beneath her. To them, she was a queen, a goddess. They couldn’t understand why she’d sacrificed so much for her career, but they respected her for it. And they hushed as she waited for the elevator, eyeing her as the elevator doors cinched closed.

  As she moved upward, toward the sky and the directors, she prayed with earnest, inner words that she wouldn’t be fired. She’d given her entire adult life to this industry. And if they couldn’t see that, she didn’t know what she would do with herself.

  TWO

  The top floor of the Able & Abelson offices offered a glorious view of the city, over a large, glowing green park. Amity blinked into the sunlight and took tentative steps through the atrium, toward Charlie Campbell’s secretary, who sat typing swiftly, peering through her glasses.

  “Hi, Emery,” Amity said, standing before her. “I believe I have an appointment with Charlie?”

  But the secretary didn’t budge. She continued typing. A man in a gray suit coughed in the corner, reading a magazine. Beside him was an empty chair, glowing in the sunlight. Should she take the hint and sit and wait?

  The door to her left was the door to Charlie Campbell’s office. She’d entered it exactly twice, once when she’d accepted the position as one of the senior executives, and another time when she’d hoisted the pop star client into the spotlight, elevating her career and allowing the firm to demand much, much more money from their clients. She’d been in awe of Charlie then, but now her skin buzzed with fear.

  “He’ll see you now,” the secretary suddenly spoke.

  Amity bowed her head and righted her blazer once more, directing her heels toward the door. Charlie Campbell had been where she was, once upon a time. Surely he’d understand that she’d wanted to move to New York to advance her career? Surely he wouldn’t think she was too greedy? And, in PR, wasn’t greed technically an appropriate thing?

  She placed her hand over the doorknob and spun it, pulling the heavy door open and revealing the stunning office, with its floor-to-ceiling windows. In the center of the room there was a massive desk, behind which sat not just Charlie Campbell, but his two partners, Martin and Craig Taylor—brothers—on either side of him. The men were all over sixty, their sideburns singed with black and gray hair. Charlie wore eccentric, round glasses.

  “Miss Amity Winters. Why, it is quite a pleasure to see you again,” Charlie said, his classic, Old Hollywood voice bouncing. Amity had heard that a long time ago, he’d been a contender in ‘60s and ‘70s movies and television, but he’d snuck off and found the real money in PR.

  “It’s my pleasure,” Amity replied. She felt the stern gaze of the Taylor brothers. “How can I help you all today?”

  “Please, sit down,” Charlie said, waving a wrinkled hand. “Shut the door, would you? My secretary doesn’t like the noise.”

  Amity did as she was told and tapped to the only chair on one side of the desk. She sat in it demurely, crossing one leg over another. The awkward silence had begun to gnaw at her.

  She felt her lips part, the words fly out of her mouth: “Mr. Campbell, I wanted first to apologize for the emails I’ve been sending regarding opening an office in New York. It’s been my pleasure to work here, and I would never want to put that in danger. If you wish me to remain here, in California, then I am more than happy to do it.” She bowed her head as she spoke, her heart pattering like a rabbit’s. She felt her volume trail off.

  “Sure, sure,” Charlie said, waving his hand once more. “I’ve received your inquiries and appeals, Miss Winters, and I must say the prospect is not without its merits. But I have to inform you that, unfortunately, we’ve come to a decision not to open a New York office at this time.”

  Amity looked at her hands. Her left fingernails were bitten to the quick. She wondered if she’d nibbled them in her sleep, when thoughts and fears of the future most riddled her.

  “That being said, Miss Winters, we do have another proposition for you,” Charlie continued. His voice grew gruff and he sipped at his water, swishing it left, then right, moving his bearded cheeks. “This is a last-minute opportunity, one brought to us most exclusively. And the Taylor brothers and I have realized it is quite perfect for you.”

  Amity raised her left eyebrow, tilting her head. “Perfect for me?”

  “For your particular aspirations, certainly,’” Charlie said, his tone cryptic.

  Amity wondered if the man could possibly understand the depths of her aspirations. “I’m listening.”

 
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