The sheikhs tempted prot.., p.16
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       The Sheikh's Tempted Protectress, p.16

         Part #4 of The Sheikh's Every Wish series by Holly Rayner
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  “Well I should think so,” she agreed.

  Osman laughed. “Because I think I’d like to someday marry this one instead.”

  Silence.

  He’d shocked her again. Osman was nothing to his mother if not scandalous.

  “Well, let her meet your mother first, and we’ll see if she passes the test.”

  “She will, Mamma. She’s amazing. I love her.”

  “I’ve never heard you use that word in reference to a girl before. Ever,” she said, and Osman realized that she was absolutely correct.

  “No, I don’t believe I have,” he agreed.

  “Perhaps I like her more already, then,” Osman’s mother laughed, and he laughed too. For someone who had had everything, this was the first time he truly felt as though he had it all.

  “I’ll take care of things up here then, and I’ll rejoin you soon, my son,” she said, and Osman bid her a fond farewell before hanging up the phone.

  He reached for his remote and called for Adil to enter.

  “Sir?” Adil said, appearing a moment later at the door.

  Osman was stripping out of his dirty clothing, preparing for the most well-deserved shower of his life. He winced at the burn on his arm, though it was properly covered and slathered with cooling medicine. That burn would haunt him for a long time, he thought.

  He turned to Adil. “Thank you for coming so quickly, Adil. Tonight Miss Coolidge and I will be taking dinner in my rooms. Can you please make sure that the most delicious meal we can make is prepared? And have lots of candles brought in,” he said, grinning.

  Adil repressed his own grin, but it was clear to Osman that his right-hand man was more than happy at this turn of events. From what he could see, everyone in the house loved Beth, too.

  “Of course, Your Highness. With pleasure,” Adil said, bowing out as Osman headed for his shower.

  He would clean up well tonight. Now it was time to celebrate.

  SIXTEEN

  Beth

  Beth had enjoyed a peaceful afternoon in her rooms, watching trashy TV and lounging in the enormous bath tub. For once in her life, she took the time to enjoy the present. She didn’t think about where she would be going next, nor about the life she had left behind. She just…was. And it was glorious.

  Time passed quickly, and before she knew it, it was time to join Osman for dinner. She hoped he’d managed to get some rest, too, but she’d be lying to herself if she didn’t admit she was wildly excited to see him again.

  Taking time to style her hair and put on some makeup, she reached into the back of her closet and slid into one of the floor-length designer gowns he had ordered for her. If anyone had asked just days before if she’d be caught dead in that thing, the answer would have been a resounding no, but tonight she felt like dressing up.

  There was a knock at the door, and when Beth bid the person to enter, she was happy to see Adil appear.

  “Dinner is ready, miss,” he said with a bow.

  Beth smiled. “Do you think you’ll ever be able to call me Beth, Adil?”

  “No, miss. It wouldn’t be proper at all.”

  “Can’t blame a girl for trying,” she said with a grin, and to her surprise, Adil grinned back.

  “No, miss. Right this way.”

  When Adil opened the door to Osman’s rooms, at first all Beth could see was glowing light. The room was bursting with dozens of white candles, a warm glow washing over everything the light touched. Osman was standing on his balcony, looking out at the city, but when he heard the door open, he turned and looked back at her.

  God, he was stunning.

  His smile was warm as his eyes took her in, which she might have noticed if she wasn’t busy doing the same thing to him. He was clean-shaven and wearing a suit that perfectly framed his strong body.

  He approached her and took her hand, planting a light kiss just above her knuckles.

  “Beth, what can I say? You look phenomenal,” he said, his gaze warm.

  She didn’t attempt to hide her blush. “Thank you,” she said, glancing around to avoid buckling beneath his gaze.

  Osman gestured at their surroundings. “Do you like it? I thought I’d recreate our last date, only I wanted to show you that I can do much better than pasta and a few paltry candles.”

  Beth’s gaze landed on the dinner table, which was loaded with a huge variety of food. It looked delicious, and her stomach growled in agreement.

  Embarrassed, she flicked a glance at Osman, but he didn’t seem to hear, or he was good enough to pretend he didn’t.

  “Shall we sit?” he said.

  “Yes, please,” Beth agreed, and Osman held out her chair for her before sitting down across the table from her.

  Together they proceeded to stuff themselves with food, sharing forkfuls of roast lamb, curried meats, feta cheese and raw oysters on the half shell.

  “This is all very tasty,” Beth said, after swallowing another oyster. “But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy our pasta dish, too.”

  Osman laughed. “Yeah, right. There’s no need to lie, Beth. It was bad.”

  “It wasn’t!”

  “It was crunchy!”

  “Well, that’s true…” Beth giggled. “But the wine was good.”

  “That reminds me. I brought champagne for the evening. Thought we could celebrate taking care of the bad guys. Care to join me?”

  Beth didn’t hesitate. “Fill her up!” she said cheerfully as Osman popped the cork and poured the fizzing amber liquid into two crystal glasses.

  She reached for her glass, and held it up. “To a life of safety, good memories, and good wine,” she said, waiting for him to clink his glass against hers.

  Osman held onto his champagne, and made his own toast. “To love,” he said, looking at her in that way that only he could.

  Beth paused, then touched her glass to his, not breaking eye contact for a moment.

  “To love,” she agreed.

  They finished their meal, and Osman helped Beth from her seat. As she placed her hand in his, she felt the distinct sensation of being home, and it made her happier than she ever thought possible.

  Osman guided her to his terrace, where he stood behind her, wrapping his arms around her as they watched the sun setting in the distance. The sky was a magnificent mix of burnt oranges and pastel pinks, with a touch of indigo along the horizon.

  “Beth?” he said, brushing his lips against her temple.

  Beth shivered, nestling deeper into the comfort of his strong arms. “Mm?” she said, not able to say anything else in that moment; the sensation of being held was just too enjoyable.

  “Did you know, in the short time I’ve known you, you have become my closest friend?”

  Beth turned in the circle of his arms to look up at him. Gently, she pressed a palm to his chin, enjoying the light stubble already growing there.

  “Really?”

  Osman ran his hands along her back. “Really. I’ve never felt like this before, not about anyone. With you, I see someone I can confide in, someone I can talk to, who will really hear me. Someone I feel truly safe with,” he said with a grin.

  Beth gazed up at him, waiting for him to go on. There was clearly something else he wanted to say.

  Osman took a breath. “I was hoping you would accept a new position. I was hoping you’d consider being my girlfriend,” he said, looking at her with earnest eyes.

  Beth thought about that for a minute, feeling his muscled chest tense with nervousness beneath her fingers. She looked out at the last embers of the sun for a moment, and then back at him.

  “On one condition,” she said.

  Osman raised an eyebrow.

  “The condition being that you hire yourself a new bodyguard. I don’t think I can handle being both,” Beth said, a huge grin spreading across her face.

  Osman looked relieved. “I think that can be arranged,” he said, tightening his arms around her once more.

  Beth hugged him
tight. “Your Highness, I’m afraid I must tender my resignation as your bodyguard, effective immediately.”

  Osman pulled back gently, cradling her face once again in his hands as he gazed adoringly into her eyes.

  “I accept your resignation. Now, as my girlfriend, can you tell me you love me?”

  Beth beamed. “Oh, Osman. You know I love you,” she said.

  He kissed her then, deeply, passionately, as the sun sank behind them in the glowing western sky.

  The End

  Holly Rayner

  With an original story by Lara Hunter

  Have you signed up to Holly Rayner’s subscriber club yet? For news of my upcoming releases, discounted and absolutely FREE new books, and advance review copies, sign up today!

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  Thank you so much for reading. As promised, here are the first few chapters of my previous book, The Sheikh’s Purchased Bride

  ONE

  It seemed like every Broadway actress had a ritual before her curtain
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