Jewel in His Crown

By: Lynne Graham

‘The name of Anwar’s daughter?’

‘The princess’s name is Ruby. As her mother chose to leave Ashur, the royal family took no further interest in either mother or daughter. Unfortunately Princess Ruby has had no training or preparation for a royal role.’

Raja frowned. ‘In which case she would find the lifestyle and the expectations very challenging.’

‘The princess is young enough to learn quickly.’ The court advisor rubbed his hands together with unfeigned enthusiasm. ‘Our advisors believe she can be easily moulded.’

‘Have you a photograph to show my brother?’ Haroun questioned eagerly.

Wajid leafed through the file and extracted a small photo. ‘I’m afraid this is several years old but the most recent photograph we have.’

Raja studied the slender blonde in the miniskirt and tee shirt, captured outside the Ashuri cathedral in their capital city. It was a tourist snap and the girl still had the legginess and slightly chubby and unformed features of adolescence. Her pale colouring was very unusual in his culture and that long blonde hair was exceptionally attractive and he immediately felt guilty for that shallow reflection with his former fiancée, Bariah, so recently laid to rest. But in truth he had only met Bariah briefly on one formal occasion and she had remained a stranger to him.

Less guarded than his elder brother, Haroun studied Princess Ruby and loosed a long low whistle of boyish approval.

‘That is enough,’ Raja rebuked the younger man in exasperation. ‘When can I hope to meet her?’

‘As soon as we can arrange it, Your Royal Highness.’ Not displeased by the compliment entailed in Haroun’s whistle of admiration, Wajid beamed, relieved by Raja’s practical response to the offer of another bride. Not for the first time, Wajid felt that Prince Raja would be a king he could do business with. The Najari regent accepted his responsibilities without fuss and if there was one thing he knew inside out, it was how to be royal. A young woman blessed with his support and guidance would soon learn the ropes.

‘Please, Ruby,’ Steve pleaded, gripping Ruby’s small waist with possessive hands.

‘No!’ Ruby told her boyfriend without hesitation. She pushed his hands from below her sweater. Although it didn’t appear to bother him she felt foolish grappling with him in broad daylight in a car parked in the shadiest corner of the pub car park.

Steve dealt her a sulky look of resentment before finally retreating back into the driver’s seat. Ruby, with her big brown eyes, blonde hair and fabulous figure, was a trophy and he was the envy of all his friends, but when she dug her heels in, she was as immovable as a granite rock. ‘Can I come over tonight?’

‘I’m tired,’ Ruby lied. ‘I should get back to work. I don’t want to be late.’

Steve dropped her back at the busy legal practice where she was a receptionist. They lived in the same Yorkshire market town. A salesman in an estate agency, Steve worked across the street from her and he was fighting a last-ditch battle to persuade Ruby that sex was a desirable activity. She had wondered if Steve might be the one to change her mind on that score for she had initially thought him very attractive. He had the blond hair and blue eyes she had always admired in men, but his kisses were wet and his roving hands squeezed her as if she were a piece of ripening fruit for sale on a stall. Steve had taught her that a man could be good-looking without being sexy.

‘You’re ten minutes late, Ruby,’ the office manager, a thin, bespectacled woman in her thirties, remarked sourly. ‘You need to watch your timekeeping.’

Ruby apologised and got back to work, letting her mind drift to escape the boredom of the routine tasks that made up her working day. When she had first started working at Collins, Jones & Fowler, she had been eighteen years old, her mother had just died and she had badly needed a job. Her colleagues were all female and older and the middle-aged trio of solicitors they worked for were an equally uninteresting bunch. Conversations were about elderly parents, children and the evening meal, never gossip, fashion or men. Ruby enjoyed the familiar faces of the regular clients and the brief snatches of friendly chatter they exchanged with her but continually wished that life offered more variety and excitement.

Top Books