Zahir was surprised to find he had a beautiful new driver. This chauffeur did not blend into the background. Oh, no. Diana Metcalfe talked. She laughed. She took him on unplanned detours. And he had more fun than he'd had in years.
But back in his desert kingdom, a dynastic marriage was being brokered for Zahir. Crazy though it seemed, he wished that this wonderful, vivacious, thoroughly unsuitable woman could be his bride instead....
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January 07, 2008
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Excerpt from The Sheikh's Unsuitable Bride by Liz Fielding
'Leave that, Di.'
Diana Metcalfe backed out of the rear door of the minibus she was cleaning and, stuffing a handful of chocolate wrappers into her overall pocket, turned to face her boss. The woman, unusually, looked as if she was just about at the end of her tether.
'What's up, Sadie?'
'Jack Lumley has gone home sick. He's the third today.'
'The cafe's meat pie strikes again?'
'So it would appear, although that's the Environmental Health Officer's problem. Mine is that I've got three drivers with their heads down the toilet and a VIP with a packed schedule arriving at London City Airport in a little over an hour.' Despite her worries, she managed a wry smile. 'Please tell me you don't have a hot date tonight.'
'Not even a lukewarm one.' Who had the time? 'You want me to work this evening?'
'If you can.'
'It shouldn't be a problem. I'll have to give Dad a call, let him know he'll have to give Freddy his tea.'
'How is your gorgeous little boy?'
'Growing like a weed.'
'Daisy keeps asking me when he can come over for another play-date.'Then, 'I'll fix up something when I call your father. You don't have time, not if you're going to meet that flight.'
Diana blinked. Meet the flight...? 'Excuse me? Are you saying that I get the VIP?'
'You get the VIP.'
'But I can't! You can't...'
Sadie frowned. 'You've been checked out on the car haven't you?'
'Um, yes...' Company rules. Everyone could, in theory, drive any car, in the Capitol fleet. In theory. But this was the newest, most luxurious, most expensive saloon car in the garage--pride and joy of Jack Lumley, the company's number one driver. While she'd anticipated a shuffle round to take up the slack, an extra job or two, never, in her wildest dreams, had she imagined she'd ever be entrusted behind its leather-covered steering wheel.
Or entrusted with one of their top drawer clients.
'Thank goodness for that,' Sadie said with feeling.
Apparently, she could!
Diana slapped a hand over her mouth, but not quickly enough to catch the word that slipped out.
Sadie sighed. 'Please tell me you don't use that kind of language when you're on the school run, Diana.'
'Me? Oh, please! Where on earth do you think I learned a word like that?'
'Are the kids really that bad? My father took it on as a public service, something for the local community, but I won't have--'
'The kids are okay,' she said quickly. 'Really. They're just at that age where shocking the grown-ups is a sport. The trick is not to react.'
'The trick, Di, is not to join in.'
'I don't...'Realising that she just had, she let it go. 'Right.' Sadie looked thoughtful. 'I've half a mind to put Jack on the job for a week or two when he's fit. Teach them to think twice about their language. Teach him to think twice about eating dodgy meat pies on my time.'
The senior driver of Capitol Cars reduced to driving a minibus full of lippy primary school kids?
Having swiftly recovered from her shock, Diana grinned. 'Now that's something I'd pay good money to see.'
They exchanged a glance. Two single mothers--one at the bottom, the other at the top of a male-dominated business--who between them had heard every chauvinist put-down, every woman driver joke in the book. Sadie, with obvious regret, shook her head. 'Unfortunately he'd resign rather than do that.'
'Totally beneath his dignity,' Diana agreed. 'I'm sure learning that I've been driving his precious car will be punishment enough.'
Sadie just about managed to stop herself from grinning back and snapping back into 'boss' mode she said, 'Yes, well, just remember that at this end of the business the clients prefer their chauffeurs politely invisible.'
'No singing, then?'
'I find it keeps the passengers from using bad language...'
'Right. Well, come on. I'll brief you on Sheikh Zahir's itinerary while you change. This is a full dress uniform job. And yes, before you ask, that includes the hat.'
Diana thought she'd managed to cover her near slip pretty well, but Sadie's quick glance suggested that she was not fooled.
'Sheikh Zahir al-Khatib is the nephew of the Emir of Ramal Hamrah, cousin of his country's ambassador to London and a billionaire businessman who is single-handedly turning his country into the next uber-fashionable get-away-from-it-all tourist destination.'
Diana instantly lost any inclination to sing. 'He's a genuine A-list VIP, then.'
'You've got it. The Mercedes is at his disposal full-time while he's in London. The hours will, inevitably, be unpredictable but if you can hold the fort for me today, I'll have someone else lined up to take over tomorrow.'
'You don't have to do that,' Diana said a touch fiercely, hoping to counteract the initial impression of irresponsibility. She might not be Jack Lumley, but her passengers were never short-changed.