The Sheikh's Impetuous Love-Slave(17)

By: Marguerite Kaye

Nor were such women suitable wife material, with their foolish expectations of true love, and their outrageous demands for attention. A wife was for the production of heirs, nothing more. Prince Khalid, Ramiz thought wryly, was in for a shock if he expected this Juliette de Montignac to observe the long-established borders which delineated a woman’s sphere of influence from a man’s. She did not look like a woman who would willingly confine herself to the harem.

As the wedding procession passed by the podium on which Ramiz sat, along with the other most honoured guests, the glow of happiness which emanated from the bridal pair was almost palpable. Dressed from head to toe in scarlet and gold, her inky black hair flowing down her back, her ankles and wrists jangling with golden bells, the bride, Ramiz was forced to concede, looked enticing. Beside her, Prince Khalid in the royal blue, had eyes only for her.

Ramiz, alone in the enormous crowd of guests, was untouched by the spectacle. The violent death of his brother Asad having brought to an end Ramiz’s role as A’Qadiz’s foreign emissary, threw him, unexpectedly, into a much more testing role as A’Qadiz’s ruler, one which occupied his mind to the exclusion of almost everything else. Were it not for the need to cultivate every neighbour as an ally, he would have spurned the invitation to attend this wedding, but Prince Khalid was too important a man to offend.

As the Bedouin priest said the final blessing and Prince Khalid lifted the veil to reveal his bride, her face alight with love, the courtyard of the royal palace in which the ceremony had taken place erupted with applause. Though the betrothal, when it was first announced, had caused a great deal of offence amongst the various factions with eligible daughters, Ramiz had to admire the sheer brilliance of Prince Khalid’s robust defence of his choice. Juliette de Montignac had been selected for him by the goddess Shal’aal. By pure coincidence, Ramiz was sure, a rare yellow diamond, the biggest anyone had ever seen, had been discovered in the excavations of the temple in the ruined city of Persimmanion. It was a sign, Prince Khalid told his people, and his people believed him. A diplomatic triumph, Ramiz conceded with reluctant admiration as he watched the prince kiss his bride lingeringly on the lips before presenting her to his people, glowing with pride.

Rose petals showered down on the couple. Applause rang out. Ramiz, Prince of A’Qadiz, watched the spectacle without seeing it, waited impatiently for the throng to move forward to the banqueting rooms, for the bridal pair to distribute the golden coins to the waiting children, for the whole affair to be over. His handsome face concealed beneath the gold-edged white silk headdress, Ramiz was already planning the journey back across the desert in his mind. His desert, his kingdom awaited him. There was much to attend to. There were disputes to settle, enemies to slay, allies to appease. The affairs of state lay heavily upon his broad, muscular shoulders.

As Prince Khalid and the new Princess Juliette sat down together to partake of the wedding feast, Ramiz made his excuses and called for his caravan to be readied. He did not know what the Fates had in store for him but he was ready to meet any challenge thrown at him, supremely confident in his ability to prevail. Duty had called him. He was ready.

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