Jewel in His Crown

By: Lynne Graham

‘I don’t think they can have wanted Mum to know,’ Ruby offered evenly. ‘After the divorce my father and his family were happy for her to leave Ashur and from then on they preferred to pretend that she and I didn’t exist.’

‘I wonder what the guy they want you to marry is like,’ Stella remarked, twirling her dark fringe with dreamy eyes, her imagination clearly caught.

‘If he’s anything like as callous as my father I’m not missing anything. My father was willing to break Mum’s heart to have a son and no doubt the man they want me to marry would do anything to become King of Ashur—’

‘The guy has to be from the other country, right?’

‘Najar? Must be. Probably some ambitious poor relation of their royal family looking for a leg up the ladder,’ Ruby contended with rich cynicism, her scorn unconcealed.

‘I’m not sure I would have been so quick to send your visitors packing. I mean, if you leave the husband out of it, being a princess might have been very exciting.’

‘There was nothing exciting about Ashur,’ Ruby assured her friend with a guilty wince at still being bitter about the country that had rejected her, for she had recognised Wajid Sulieman’s sincere love for his country and the news of that awful trail of family deaths had been sobering and had left her feeling sad.

After a normal weekend during which her impressions of that astounding visit from the court advisor faded a little, Ruby went back to work. She had met up with Steve briefly on the Saturday afternoon and had told him that their relationship was over. He had taken it badly and had texted her repeatedly since then, alternately asking for another chance and then truculently criticising her and demanding to know what was wrong with him. She began ignoring the texts, wishing she had never gone out with him in the first place. He was acting a bit obsessive for a man she had only dated for a few weeks.

‘Men always go mad over you,’ Stella had sighed enviously when the texts started coming through again at breakfast, which the girls snatched standing up in the tiny kitchen. ‘I know Steve’s being a nuisance but I wouldn’t mind the attention.’

‘That kind of attention you’d be welcome to,’ Ruby declared without hesitation and she felt the same at work when her phone began buzzing before lunchtime with more messages, for she had nothing left to say to Steve.

A tall guy with luxuriant black hair strode through the door. There was something about him that immediately grabbed attention and Ruby found herself helplessly staring. Maybe it was his clothes, which stood out in a town where decent suits were only seen at weddings and then usually hired. He wore a strikingly elegant dark business suit that would have looked right at home in a designer advertisement in an exclusive magazine. It was perfectly modelled on his tall, well-built frame and long powerful legs. His razor-edged cheekbones were perfectly chiselled too, and as for those eyes, deep set, dark as sloes and brooding. Wow, Ruby thought for the very first time in her life as she looked at a man….


WHEN Prince Raja walked into the solicitor’s office, Ruby was the first person he saw and indeed, in spite of the number of other people milling about the busy reception area, pretty much the only person he saw. The pretty schoolgirl in the holiday snap had grown into a strikingly beautiful woman with a tumbling mane of blonde hair, sparkling eyes and a soft, full mouth that put him in mind of a succulent peach.

‘You are Ruby Shakarian?’ the prince asked as a tall, even more powerfully built man came through the door behind him to station himself several feet away.

‘I don’t use that surname.’ Ruby frowned, wondering how many more royal dignitaries she would have to deflect before they got the hint and dropped this ridiculous idea that she was a princess. ‘Where did you get it from?’

‘Wajid Sulieman gave it to me and asked me to speak to you on his behalf. Shakarian is your family name,’ Raja pointed out with an irrefutable logic that set her small white teeth on edge.

‘I’m at work right now and not in a position to speak to you.’ But Ruby continued to study him covertly, absorbing the lush black lashes semi-screening those mesmerising eyes, the twin slashes of his well-marked ebony brows, the smooth olive-toned skin moulding his strong cheekbones and the faint dark shadow of stubble accentuating his strong jaw and wide, sensual lips. Her prolonged scrutiny only served to confirm her original assessment that he was a stunningly beautiful man. Her heart was hammering so hard inside her chest that she felt seriously short of breath. It was a reaction that thoroughly infuriated her, for Ruby had always prided herself on her armour-plated indifference around men and the role of admirer was new to her.

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