Nine year old Rashid looked at the pink and pudgy thing in his mother’s arms, disgusted and irritated. He didn’t want to be here. He wanted to get back to his studies. His instructor was just telling him how to calculate an angle which was much more fascinating than whatever this...thing...was. “It’s a girl,” he said with nine year old disdain and stepped back from the bed where his mother was laying with the ‘thing’ in her arms. He didn’t know why she wanted anyone else in the family. The three of them were just fine!
Lila, Rashid’s mother laughed softly and nodded her head. “You’re very smart,” he teased. “She’s a girl and she’s very interested in meeting you.” Lila looked down at her already handsome son with pride, understanding that he felt as if this new baby might usurp his place in her heart. She had to be gentle so that he knew that she loved him just as much as before the birth of their new baby.
Rashid glanced down once again, noting that the eyes in the round, pink face were closed. He discarded the notion that the baby was even remotely interested in meeting him. “I believe it’s more concerned with sleep mother,” he said carefully, not wanting to hurt her feelings, but still not interested in his new baby sister. “Besides, I wanted a brother. Not a sister.”
Lila glanced up at the man standing at the end of the hospital bed with amusement. Majid El Hasham Busain, current Sheik of Tasain and one of the most handsome men she’d ever met in her life, looked down at his first born son with pride and amusement as well. When Lila looked back at her son, still standing stiffly beside the bed and pretending to not be interested in the baby girl, she chuckled. “Why would I want another boy? I have a perfect son with you,” she replied and leaned over to kiss his dark hair.
Rashid sighed, leaning in to the kiss and stepping closer to his mother. “What are you going to call it?” he asked, trying to get into the spirit of the occasion. Since they were alone in the room, he accepted her affection but he didn’t like it when others might see him. They might think he was weak if they knew how much he liked his mother’s hugs and kisses and that couldn’t be allowed. His father had told him over and over again how a ruler must never show weakness. And the people of Tasain loved his father, almost as much as he did, so the invincible man must be doing something right.
His father smiled down at his slightly larger family, beaming with delight. “Her name is Isla and she’s going to love you just as much as we do, son.”
Rashid felt better when his tall, strong father walked to the side of the bed next to him. “Will it cry?” Rashid asked carefully, slipping his hand into his father’s larger one, feeling better when his dad’s warm, strong hand wrapped around his smaller one.
His mother laughed softly. “Your sister isn’t an ‘it’, dear. And yes, Isla doesn’t know how to talk yet so the only way she can tell us she’s hungry or uncomfortable is by crying.”
Rashid leaned against his father’s strong leg. “I still don’t understand why you wanted a baby,” he grumbled.
He didn’t see the look cross between his mother and father because he was watching as the pink bundle moved, her lips pouting together and one hand reaching out as if to touch him. Her eyes were still closed so he wasn’t sure what she was doing, but he reluctantly agreed that pink wasn’t such a bad color, as long as it was on a girl.
Eight years later....
“Come on!” Rashid called out, pulling eight year old Isla along behind him. “You’ve got to see this!” he said.
Isla ran as fast as her little legs could carry her, but her older brother was much taller. She hoped she could be as tall as he was when she got to be seventeen but she knew she had a long way to go before she could match her beloved brother.
Well, she loved him today. That wasn’t always the case. Sometimes she just wanted to punch him but knew she shouldn’t. She did on occasion though. And only when he wasn’t expecting it because Rashid was fast and strong. The last time she’d done something to him, he’d caught her and tickled her until she was crying, which she didn’t like. But most of the time, he was pretty nice. Especially when he helped her with her homework. He had a lot of patience with her then.
“Just trust me,” he said, his deep voice and broad shoulders already more than matching his father’s. In fact, they were the spitting image, except that Rashid was now slightly taller. Isla’s brother was extremely protective of his baby sister, especially since she’d transformed from a pink pudgy ball into a little girl he could play tricks on and he could talk to, when he wasn’t talking with his father about everything from politics to economics.
“Is it mother?” Isla asked, concerned because she’d gotten so big lately. “Has the baby come yet?”
“You’ll have to wait and see,” he said, only slightly disappointed that she’d guessed so accurately. Most of the time, he enjoyed his sister’s intelligence. He was glad she wasn’t one of those irritating girls who only thought about shoes and clothes. Isla was smart and picked up on her lessons quickly. Otherwise, he would stay away from her as much as possible. He really disliked women who were brainless and there were enough of them in the world! Well, there were stupid men too, but he was thinking about the soft, sexy women and the way he liked to kiss them.
A horrible thought occurred to him and he stopped in the middle of the hallway. Isla stopped as well and looked up at him and he was startled to realize that his little sister was going to be a great beauty. Would some other man do to her the things he thought about doing to other women?
The idea of his sweet little sister in the arms of another man suddenly enraged him.
“What’s wrong, Rashid?” Isla asked, suddenly worried about the furious expression on his face. He’d been so excited a moment ago, what had changed?
Rashid started to say something, his hand tightening on his arm as he looked down at her innocent expression. “Don’t ever...” he started off, but stopped himself. He knew that his sister would eventually marry, but he gritted his teeth with determination. She wouldn’t marry some jerk! Or someone like him, who....well, just not someone who would think of doing things to her that he thought of doing to other women. Things like kissing and touching their breasts, of moving inside....
No! She would be protected from that! She was sweet and innocent. She shouldn’t even think about having sex, much less doing it. His mind always seemed to be thinking about sex and women and how lovely they were and how soft and pretty.
Dammit! He had a responsibility towards his little sister, and now there were two of them! What was a man to do?
Father would know, he thought to himself. Rashid knew he’d have a talk with his father as soon as possible. He had to protect his sisters now!
“Rashid?” Isla prompted when she saw his jaw clench. She put her hand on his shoulder, trying to comfort him as best she could. “Are you ill? Should I call a doctor?” Her mind frantically went through the possibilities but he didn’t have any of the symptoms she’d read about in the medical books she’d snuck out of the palace library. She read them in secret, thinking they were the most fascinating things to read. But none of them helped her right at the moment. She couldn’t discern any problems with Rashid and that scared her.
Just as suddenly as his ager came, Isla saw his face clear up and he smiled down at her. “It’s nothing. I just thought of something I need to discuss with dad.” He squeezed her hand to reassure her. “I promise, it’s nothing I can’t take care of.”
Isla smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. He was right. Rashid could do anything and if he had trouble, father was always there to advise him. She sometimes became irritated with their discussions because they were always filled with boring talk of politics and money or buildings. That was so boring! But they liked it, so she tried very hard to keep quiet when they were intently arguing their side during a conversation.
Rashid pulled her along again and they were walking as quickly as possible towards the area where the palace hospital was located. The closer they got, the more concerned she became.
At the hospital room door, he looked down at her with an eager expression, then shoved open the door to allow her entrance.
Isla looked inside the room and saw her mother and father. “Mother, why are you in here?” she asked, more than a little worried because everything looked strange here. The bed wasn’t comfortable like the one at the palace, and the people all were wearing strange clothes, very plain and dull.
She peered over the high bed, ignoring her mother and father’s huge grins. Something was wiggling and she wanted to see. “What’s that?” she asked as she noticed the baby. “It looks like a baby. Is that what was in your tummy?” she asked curiously.
Lila laughed and nodded her head. Patting the side of the bed, she encouraged her daughter to get a better look. Rashid came over and lifted his little sister up high. “Isn’t she pretty?” her mother asked, her long, tapered finger running down the chubby cheek of the newborn.
Isla looked down, wondering what it was her mother and father saw in the baby. “She looks squished,” she replied.
Lila looked at her husband and they both laughed.
“She’ll get pretty, just like you,” Majid said and took his daughter out of his son’s arms. “Go ahead and hold her, Rashid. You never held Isla when she was a baby so this is your chance.”
Majid came over and lifted Isla into Rashid’s arms, not giving him an excuse to avoid holding his newest baby sister. He then reached down and picked up Isla, wanting her to see the new baby as well.
Isla giggled as her father nuzzled her neck, but she watched with rapt attention as her fabulous brother gently held the tiny bundle that had been their mother’s arms. His face slowly changed from wariness to fascination as the tiny bundle opened her eyes and looked up at him.
Rashid looked down at the tiny infant, amazed that such a small human could actually survive. “She’s so small!” he gasped.
Majid tickled his daughter. “Your brother was that size once,” he said and laughed again at her disbelieving expression. “I have pictures,” he said.
Isla looked from her giant father, to her huge brother and shook her head, crinkling up her nose. “Na ah,” she argued. “Rashid was never a baby.”
Rashid just rolled his eyes and handed the infant back to his mother. “I’ve received word back,” he said, his tone ominous and he looked carefully at his little sister. “I’ve decided to accept Harvard’s offer. I think they’re the best school for business, which is what I think I should study for Tasain’s future.”
Isla didn’t understand what he was talking about. “What’s Harvard? And what did they offer you?”
Rashid’s father pumped up with pride. “I know you’ll do very well there, son.”
Isla didn’t like where this was going. Something was happening and she was instantly nervous. Her little arm went around her father’s neck, holding him tighter because her father always protected her from bad things, even scaring away the monsters in her closet when she suspected they’d snuck back into the palace. “What’s he going to do?”
Lila shifted her newborn daughter in her arms. “He’s going to school, dear.”
“But he goes to school here. We’re in the same class.”
Majid shook his head. “Next year, your big brother will be going away to school.”
She didn’t like that at all. “Will I be going too?”
Rashid shook his head. “You’ll have to stay here and take care of our baby sister. Just like I took care of you, Isla. Zarah is going to need you to show her how to do things.”
Isla felt very important all of a sudden and looked at the baby in her mother’s arms. “Will she listen better than I do?”
Rashid laughed, as did her mother and father. “I certainly hope so.”
Eight Years Later....
“Rashid!” Isla yelled out, immediately dropping her pencil to race across the school room, throwing herself into her brother’s arms. “You’re home!” she cried out, excited to see her older brother once again. “I can’t believe you’re finally home!”
Rashid grabbed his sister in a giant bear hug. “I’ve missed you too, brat,” he said with deep emotion. He’d missed home and his sisters, his parents and all the wonderful scents that were co-mingled with his life and memories here in Tasain. He loved this country and his family had always been the center of his life. He was sincerely glad to be back for good this time.
“My turn!” Zarah called out, stomping her foot impatiently when her older sister wouldn’t let go of their brother. “Just because you turned sixteen doesn’t mean you get to hog him all to yourself,” she said, glaring at her sister’s back.
Isla pulled back from her brother and grimaced up at him. “She’s been a beast these past few weeks waiting for you.”
Rashid looked down over his sister’s head and spied the little grouch behind her. “So you’ve been misbehaving, have you?”
Zarah’s face went from angry to horrified in seconds. “I have not!” she gasped. The tears formed in her pretty eyes and Rashid couldn’t take the possibility of hurting her feelings. “I was just teasing, little one. Come here,” he said and bent down with his arms wide open. When her little body hurtled into his arms, he pretended to fall backwards with the impact as she giggled her delight. He wrapped an arm around her back, protecting her as they tumbled to the marble floor and he laughed along with her.
As he looked up, he saw a tall figure glaring down at him and his grin widened. “Hello dad,” he said, not bothering to get up off the floor since the eight year old Zarah seemed to be in no mood to release him. “I can’t move with Zarah on top of me, sir,” he explained.
Majid looked at his oldest, sprawled on the floor with his daughter’s legs straddling his chest. “She does look like quite the victor,” he replied.
Zarah jumped up, grinning from ear to ear and reached her hand out to assist her huge, older brother to his feet. “So I won this round?” she asked excitedly. She’d sparred with her sister on several occasions but never with her brother, although she’d watched him on many occasions during his breaks while sparring with his trainers. Rashid was magnificent as he fought all of them, sometimes more than one at a time. He was slowly learning to best all of them and she cheered him on whenever she was allowed to watch. She’d never beat her sister yet, but there was still time. She had high hopes that she could eventually be skilled enough to best both of them. She might be small, but she knew she was faster than both of them. And she was meaner, she thought to herself.
Isla rolled her eyes and shook her head. “He let you win, silly.”
Rashid winked down at the deflated little girl. “Not true. She won fair and square.”
“Your mother is waiting impatiently for your return,” his father explained with a look that told Rashid that he needed to make haste to his mother’s office or face dire consequences.
Rashid laughed as he bowed to his father. “I’m positive that she’ll have some sort of horrible punishment if I don’t greet her immediately.” He turned to his sisters. “Will you both come with me?”
The four of them walked down the hallway towards the greenhouse. Sure enough, as soon as Rashid walked through the door, his mother rushed into his arms to hug him, but with a great deal more decorum than her daughters. “You’re home! Oh, goodness, it’s wonderful to see you again!”
“Hello, mother,” Rashid said formally, bowing once she’d stepped back.
Lila looked at her oldest child, surveying his appearance to check for any signs of stress or problems. “How have you been? Have you been eating well? Not staying out too late with your rowdy friends from school, I hope?”
Rashid laughed softly and kissed her beautiful, still wrinkle free cheek. “I’ve been well. Have these two rug rats been driving you crazy?” he asked, referring to Isla and Zarah who were standing just behind him.
Lila laughed and shook her head. She opened her arms and both girls came to her side. “Just for the past few weeks waiting for you to finish your final exams and turn in all your papers.” She hesitated for a moment. “I’m sorry we couldn’t be there for your graduation this time,” she said softly, her eyes filling with tears.
Rashid shook his head. “I understand, mom. I knew you were there in spirit,” he assured her. He looked down at his sisters. “Besides, these two sent me enough letters and e-mails so that I got homesick!” he ruffled Zarah’s hair and chucked Isla underneath her chin. Knowing how to get even with them, he teased, “Have you chosen their husbands yet, dad?”
Majid sighed and slumped into a chair. “As if I could!” he stated, exasperation in every syllable.
“Don’t you dare!” Lila admonished, shaking her finger at her husband. “They’re way too young. Let them live a little before they have to deal with the insanity of a husband, or even the prospect of one!”
Majid opened his mouth to argue, but then shut it just as quickly when he saw his wife’s stern gaze. He knew better than to bring up this subject with her. He’d tried on several occasions, explaining that they could form alliances early by simply betrothing the girls to their future husbands while letting them have their freedom now. It was done in every ruling family but she would have nothing to do with it. She’d been his betrothed since birth and it was just a stroke of incredible luck that they fell in love at first site. After meeting her when he was twenty-five, he’d never wanted another woman. She’d been only eighteen at the time, so he’d had to wait another two years before making her his bride, but he’d never regretted a moment of their time together. Now, twenty-six years later, he still loved her just as much as that first day.
“I’m never getting married,” Zarah proclaimed and plopped herself down in one of the brocade covered chairs in her mother’s office, crossing her arms over her chest with an emphatic nod. “Boys are gross.”
“Hey!” her brother called out as he poured himself and his father a glass of bourbon.
“You’re not a boy,” Zarah giggled. “You’re my brother!”
“Has Rashid’s bride been chosen?” Isla asked, sitting more primly on the edge of another chair, looking curiously at her parents. She saw Rashid stiffen slightly, but then he relaxed and looked at his parents curiously.
Lila looked to Majid, trying to hide her concern. “Your father has been offered several potential brides but to date, he’s resisted pinning anyone down.” She said that with scorn because her handsome, wonderful husband’s biggest fault was his sexist attitudes. He wanted to quickly select husbands for his daughters but wanted to let Rashid have a few more years of freedom.
Majid rolled his eyes. “Woman, you know the issue there! He’s a man! He needs to...” he started to say but then stopped as he looked at his two daughters. “Well, never mind. We’ll discuss this later.”
Lila accepted the chilled glass of white wine Rashid brought to her, all the while, shaking her head. “We will not discuss this further, my love.”
Majid looked at his son who was holding back his amusement over the bickering of his parents. “Don’t laugh, son. Wait until you marry! I’ll bet that you’ll be manipulated just as easily by your bride as I am by mine.”
Rashid bowed slightly, pretending to accept his father’s guidance. But in his mind, he knew he’d never allow a female, especially his wife, to disobey his commands. He would have a biddable wife who was beautiful and intelligent, but who would trust him and his decisions.
Lila stood up and raised her hand. “Enough about your future spouses. I’m sure they will all be absolutely wonderful and I look forward to each and every one of you getting exactly the man or woman you deserve,” she said and looked darkly at her son who was arrogantly leaning against the door frame. Her look was blatantly saying that she expected his wife to be just as biddable as he was, which was not at all. “It is time for dinner and I’m truly grateful to have all of you here again at last.”
Continue the story in the Love By Accident series!
Rashid’s Story: The Sheik's Pregnant Lover
Isla’s Story: The Sheik's Furious Bride
Zarah’s Story: The Duke's Runaway Princess