Home > Servant To The Sheikh

Servant To The Sheikh
Author: Holly Rayner

Chapter One



Audrey Parker zipped a black jacket over her taut torso and slipped the hood over her long, brunette curls, protecting herself from an onslaught of San Francisco rain. It was April, which meant the rain was either continuous or flirtatious, masquerading as a heavy fog before pummeling into the Bay Area with a flurry of moisture.

Having lived in San Francisco since graduating from college nearly five years before, the now 27-year-old Audrey had learned her lesson one too many times, and thus she always kept a rain jacket on hand. It was in the nature of being prepared—something she had to be as a public relations representative. If she looked ragged, so did her client.

Standing in line at a nearby coffee shop, she scrolled through her social media feed and then did another read-through of the Wikipedia page of the stunning April Brevet, an actress she was preparing to meet around the corner.

The woman was tall, blond, and had a tight waist and a near-electric smile. April had starred in several sitcoms over the previous five years—many of which had been canceled halfway through their seasons. She had also been seen publicly volunteering at several soup kitchens and homeless shelters in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, making her a top-notch “philanthropist” A-lister, and someone Audrey needed to know—for work reasons, of course. Audrey had never been starstruck in her life. It was part of the reason she was so good at her job.

“A latte, skinny,” she said to the barista, sliding to the side to wait for the hot brew.

She’d long stuck to a fairly strict diet, allowing herself a single “fancy” coffee about once a week when the stress of her public relations position called for extra caffeine. In the past three months, since taking over as the PR head for Sheikh Jibril Rahal, she’d consumed a few too many lattes, if she was honest, given that drawing him away from his party-boy reputation was a difficult feat.

The Sheikh was the devilishly handsome CEO of Green Pastures Inc., a real-estate company worth billions that had headquarters in both San Francisco and the Sheikh’s home country of Ash-Kahlbi. Due to his origins, along with his status as one of the richest men in the world, he opted for the luxurious lifestyle, with fast cars, boats, and partying models.

He had thus become a mockery in countless tabloids, making his Green Pastures stocks fall. As a result, he’d hired Audrey, the hotshot PR whizz of San Francisco herself, and expected her to make miracles happen.

But Audrey was no miracle worker. Anxiety at how little ground she’d covered in the previous few months haunted her, along with several emails she’d received from her hunky boss throughout the past few weeks, which featured links to several tabloid articles, all of them speaking of his “luxurious lifestyle” and “Playboy mentality.”

“Please, take care of this,” he’d written, in no uncertain terms.

Sipping her latte, Audrey meandered across the Mission District toward the small yet incredibly upscale wine bar, where she planned to meet with April Brevet and implore her to go on a date or two with the Sheikh. The pure actress—with ties to things like the soup kitchen!—would boost the image of the Sheikh incredibly. Perhaps she could even convince the Sheikh to go to a soup kitchen bi-monthly, and thus bolster his image.

But given that the Sheikh had shown very little interest in such things, she couldn’t imagine it.

She arrived at the wine bar just before five in the evening. She was always conscious of time and schedules, knowing that it looked ill for both her and for the Sheikh if she arrived anywhere late. After being seated at a small corner table, she ordered a single glass of house white, which cost more than her nicest bottle of wine at home, and sipped it evenly. Audrey typed out several emails on her cell phone while she waited, her shoulders back and confident, her eyes flicking toward the door when she detected any movement from outside.

After precisely thirteen minutes, April Brevet appeared from the sidewalk, swiped a baseball hat from her perfect blond hair, and allowed it to dribble rainwater onto the hardwood floor of the establishment. Audrey rose and eyed her, giving her a small smile and gesturing at their table—the only one occupied at the early hour.

“April,” she said, her voice confident and professional. “So good to see you.”

April walked across the wine bar and slipped into her seat, giving Audrey a smile that seemed much more false than it did in the tabloids.

“Disgusting weather,” April said, her voice haughty. “I should know better than to come to San Francisco during the spring. I’ll ruin all my shoes this way.”

“It’s rather depressing, isn’t it?” Audrey said, trying to agree on all counts, although in the back of her mind she thought that April Brevet could certainly afford high-end rain boots if she’d wanted them. “Thanks for meeting me out, regardless. It means the world to both me and my client.”

“Ah yes, the Sheikh. I’ve heard grand tales about him,” April said. In a swift motion, she lifted her hand and snapped at the waiter to get his attention. “Sir, I’d like to order a Merlot. French, please. And a big pour. Actually, I’ll just order a half liter.”

She didn’t say thank you or please. She looked back at Audrey, expectant. “I have a horribly long flight back to New York this evening. Might as well get drunk for it.”

“Absolutely,” Audrey said. “It’s always good to find ways to sleep for long-hauls.”

The waiter came with a half-liter glass vase, holding the Merlot, and then poured April a hefty glass, not speaking with her or making eye contact. Audrey sensed this was how he was supposed to be with celebrities—invisible, kept out of the way.

“Anyway, April,” Audrey said, wanting to get to the point, as she was always focused on how much time she was wasting. “I wanted to reach out to you regarding your marvelous celebrity persona. In comparison to my client, you are well-loved. You help the poor and sick. You smile and say hello to your fans.”

April rolled her eyes slightly, tossing her head back to sip her wine. “You know, people always want to talk about that BS, how I’m always at soup kitchens and all that. And you know what? I think it might be the most boring thing to talk about in the world. You know what it’s like? It’s like walking into a closet that smells like shoes and having to feed a bunch of trolls who don’t even know who you are. It’s, like, I want to tell them to shower, but I know they won’t do it. So, I plant a stupid smile on my face, and then tabloid writers write about it. I was even featured on a few talk shows recently. I had to pretend to cry when on camera, talking about the wage gap in America or whatever.”

She paused, although it was clear to Audrey that she didn’t think she’d gone too far or said anything off-putting. “It’s just disgusting, really, what you have to do when you’re an artist, you know? Especially a well-known one.”

“Yes, sure. I’m guessing Pablo Picasso didn’t do anything like that,” Audrey said, trying to make a joke.

“Ew. I saw a few of his paintings in—where was it—maybe Vienna? I told my boyfriend at the time that they were baseless and stupid. Then he tried to buy the entire collection from the museum just to prove a point. But…” She shook her head. “They said they were essentially priceless, if you can believe that. I dumped him the next week anyway. He really tried too hard, you know?”

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