Owned by the SheikhBy: Sophia Lynn
The first time that Anna had seen the library at the palace in Jebel Hafeet, she thought that this must be what heaven looked like. Forget the fluffy clouds and angels with harps, and instead give her a room that was a full two stories tall, with a broad balcony all the way around the sides that gave access to the books on the higher shelves. There was a sweeping staircase at either end that would allow her to run up and down all day, and an enormous bank of windows that let in the cool mountain light.
“I am certainly glad that you like the place,” said the solicitor drily. “This is now your mess to deal with.”
Anna could have said that this was a job she might have done for free, let alone the generous salary that the sheikh was paying for her services. Fresh out of her library and archival services program, she had been desperate to find employment when the solicitor had arrived with his job offer. It had seemed like a dream come true, and standing in one of the most beautiful private libraries she had ever seen, it felt like a real-life fairy tale.
Of course, the job stranded her at the royal palace, a distant holding of the sheikh of Abu Dhabi. There was a small town on the slope of the mountain, where a bus stopped once a day, but in the mountains, the lights of the busy capital were remote and distant. She lived in a small community of people who cooked, cleaned and maintained the palace, and she supposed that that would have bothered her if she had ever cared much for the company of others.
All that she needed was the library, and for two weeks, it was all she cared about. She settled in to her little apartment tucked next to the library, spent her days cataloging and organizing, and spent her nights reading.
There was a kind of stillness to her work at the library and a sense that she could do it forever, but of course that was an illusion. It was lovely but fragile, and one morning, some two weeks after she had laid eyes on the library for the first time, it was utterly shattered.
It was midmorning, and Anna was busy on the second floor, sorting through manuscripts that she thought dated back to the twelfth century, when the door opened and a man walked in. She jumped a little, because no one ever came into the library, but as she stood to greet the person, she scowled.
The man had strode into the library as if he owned it, and now, he was gazing around the room, his hands on his narrow hips. He was a startlingly good-looking man, with a muscular frame and thick dark hair, but his clothes were shabby, stained with dirt and grease. No matter how handsome he was, Anna couldn't tolerate the idea of that dirt and grease transferring over to books that were well over two hundred years old, and she scowled more as she walked down the staircase.
“Excuse me?” she called. “Excuse me, but can I help you?”
He didn't seem to hear her, but glanced at one of the piles of books she had placed carefully on one of the long side tables.
Anna repeated the words in her rudimentary Arabic, but when she saw him reach for the books with unwashed hands, she practically flew across the library.
“No!” she cried, and she pulled the book away from him. Anna looked it over for damage, achingly aware that she might have damaged it when taking it away from the man, but to her relief, found none. With a soft sigh, she set it down again before turning to the man, who was gazing at her with speculative eyes.
His eyes, she was startled to discover, were a bright sky blue, a bold contrast against his bronzed skin. Up close, she saw that he was even handsomer than she had originally thought, with sensual features that might have been called beautiful if it weren't for their relentless masculinity.
Something about his looks took her breath away, but she found it soon enough when she thought of her books.
“This is not a public library...” she started, but he didn't even flinch at her sharp tone.
“I know that,” he said casually. “You must be the new librarian.”
She bristled a little at his tone. From the way he was dressed, Anna assumed that he must be one of the groundskeepers who worked on the estate. She had met a few of them, and to a man, they were polite and reserved, eager to do their work and completely uninterested in hers. This man apparently thought he was some kind of exception.