Marrying the sheikh, p.12
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       Marrying The Sheikh, p.12

         Part #1 of The Sheikh Wants A Wife series by Holly Rayner
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Aurora hurried into the flurry of staff coming and going on the dock, looking straight ahead and trying to appear as if she belonged. Her work uniform was at least a close enough match that anyone just watching casually wouldn’t notice her at all.

  Making sure to keep her head down, she found the boarding ramp. She tried not to look around too much as she stepped onto it, her skin crawling as she anticipated that at any moment, someone would tap her on the shoulder, asking who she was and what she thought she was doing getting onto a private vessel.

  No one stopped her, though, and Aurora made her way onto the boat in as few steps as she possibly could, holding her breath until she was on board. She sighed with relief and followed one of the other crew members across the deck, finally taking a moment to look around her. The yacht had looked enormous even from a distance, but up close, Aurora’s eyes picked up seemingly impossible details: a huge, sparkling pool on the deck, gleaming wood tables and lounge chairs with pristine white cushions, a decorative monogram, “KA”, on the wood flooring of the top deck.

  Aurora ducked into the body of the ship and drank in still more luxurious details: a lounge with a crystal chandelier, all of the floors either polished hardwood or thick carpet, everything shined and gleaming.

  Members of the crew walked past her, on one errand or another, and Aurora tried to look as if she knew where she was going, as if she had something important to do. As she passed by a supply closet—open, but abandoned—she slipped her bag off of her shoulder and stuffed it at the back of the uppermost shelf, under some linens, where she hoped it wouldn’t be noticed by anyone.

  Moving away from the closet, Aurora’s eyes widened at the sight of gold decorating the handles and fixtures. Everything was beautiful, ornate, dripping with wealth. Aurora was torn between wonder and disgust at her opulent surroundings, trying to wrap her mind around the incredible vessel. Who has the kind of money to afford this?

  She felt a tap on her shoulder and Aurora bit back a yelp, turning quickly on her heel. She found herself face to face with a crew member—a woman with dishwater blond hair tied back in a sleek bun, minimal makeup, and the same white shirt and black skirt that Aurora was wearing.

  “Steph—what are you doing wandering around?” Aurora’s heart pounded in her chest as the woman shook her head at her. “You’re late.”

  “S-sorry,” Aurora said, feeling her cheeks burn. She stepped back slightly, hoping that the woman’s mistake on her identity would hold up at least for a few minutes more; enough time for her to get away, maybe slip deeper into the yacht. Find somewhere you won’t be noticed. There’s got to be unused rooms somewhere.

  “Yeah, well, the Sheikh is waiting for his breakfast, and you know how he gets when his meals aren’t on time,” the woman said, starting to turn away. She frowned, and Aurora’s heart stuttered again in her chest. “What are you wearing that for?” The woman pointed to the flower that Aurora had tucked into the pocket of her blouse, secured with a safety pin. “You know personal jewelry is against the dress code.”

  “I—uh—someone gave it to me earlier, and…”

  “Get rid of it when you get the chance; you don’t want demerits for breaking policy,” the woman said blandly. “Go grab the Sheikh’s breakfast from the kitchen and take it to his room; he’s waiting.” The woman pointed down the hall to an open entryway and then turned away again, hurrying towards the sundeck. Aurora stared after her for a moment, amazed that she had somehow managed to get through the situation.

  She took a quick, deep breath and started down the hall, following the instructions the woman had given her. Aurora shook her head, thinking that what she was doing was insanity. The Sheikh? Aurora considered the other woman's comment as she stepped through the entryway into the kitchen.

  The staff in the galley were all busy, putting supplies away and prepping food for the next meal. She spotted a big tray set aside, laden with plates and cutlery: obviously a breakfast. There was a small, stainless steel carafe that Aurora reasoned must be coffee, a hot, covered bowl which she assumed must be porridge, an almost-overflowing bowl of fruit, a jar of honey, a ramekin filled with chopped walnuts and almonds, gleaming silver and two folded white napkins. Aurora’s stomach lurched and she wished longingly that she could grab something of her own to eat; she’d been so upset by Jorge’s news that she hadn’t even had a breakfast of her own.

  What do I do now? Aurora picked up the tray—it would at least give her something to do, a purpose that would distract anyone from noticing that she wasn't supposed to be there. But as she left the kitchen, she realized she had no idea where the Sheikh’s chambers were.

  Shit, shit, shit. Aurora moved briskly along the corridor, looking straight ahead just as she had on the quay. She couldn’t ask anyone where she was supposed to be going, that would blow her cover straight away. God. This was a mistake. A huge, enormous mistake.

  Aurora debated the possibilities as she kept moving forward. She could drop the tray somewhere, sneak off of the ship, and maybe find a less heavily crewed yacht to stow away on. Or she could sneak onto one of the cruise ships she'd passed by—surely one of them would have similarly nondescript uniforms? Aurora bit her bottom lip and began to slow down, looking for a place that she could drop her burden off without it being noticed immediately.

  Just as she began to formulate a plan, however, Aurora felt the floor lurch underneath her feet and her stomach fell to her knees. The sound of the ship’s horn blared out, and she realized it was setting sail.

  “Well, shit,” she murmured. There would be no way to escape now. Even if jumping off the deck was a realistic way to get off the yacht, it would be far too conspicuous—both to the people on the ship and to anyone watching from the docks. She could only hope to brazen through the task she’d been given and then maybe—if she was lucky—find an unused compartment to hide out in until the vessel reached its destination.

  Aurora began walking again, trying to avoid the other members of the crew as she searched for the Sheikh’s quarters. One corridor led into another, and gradually, through the process of elimination, Aurora found the room she was looking for. She breathed a sigh of relief as the huge double doors of an enormous suite loomed in front of her at the end of a hallway; it was the second-largest entryway of any of the rooms on the yacht, and the only bigger one had led into what looked like some kind of ballroom.

  Aurora took another quick, deep breath and opened one of the doors, slipping through it with the tray balanced on one hand. She would go in, drop the tray off, and then get out. With any luck, the Sheikh—whoever he was—would be somewhere else on board. Otherwise, she hoped that the man she was there to serve would mistake her for “Steph” just as the woman who’d given her the assignment had.

  Well, there's only one way to find out, Aurora thought, closing the door behind her and stepping into the room to face her fate.


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