Sheikh's Hired Mistress

By: Sophia Lynn & Ella Brooke

Chapter One

Laine’s eyes narrowed into thin slits and fixed on the temp.

His eyes went wide as plates. The clock ticked. A tumbleweed may have passed by.

He set his notepad down on Laine’s desk and picked up the phone. “Brandt Interiors,” he half-sang, “This is Jacob speaking. How may I direct your call?”

Laine smiled victoriously and looked back to her computer screen. She had a lot of work to complete on this account before going home for the night. Convincing the Madisons that they needed to redo their den as well as all of their bathrooms—and that she was the only decorator in the state (and especially the only one at Brandt Interiors) they should even consider—had put her schedule back a few days, but it would be worth it. The commission on this account was going to be astronomical. Mr. Brandt had a tendency of overlooking her work or handing her assignments over to more senior (and more male) employees, but once he saw what she’d done here, turning a bathroom remodel into a whole home project, he would have to notice her. A raise and preferential leads couldn’t be far behind.

Jacob tried to hand her the phone, but she cut him off with a wagging finger.

“It’s your sister.”

She met his eye, sucked in her cheeks, and then went back to work.

“She’ll have to get back to you,” Jacob said. He rolled his eyes after taking a message and then reclaimed his notepad before returning to his business.

If Laine had a second to breathe, she might have felt guilty for blowing off her baby sister Emma. But Emma’s already-bustling acting career had taken off in the past year, and she rarely made time for Laine and their father. No doubt Emma was between takes or photoshoots or fabulous lunches with beautiful people. She could wait a few hours for Laine to take a break.

Laine had been hired at Brandt Interiors directly after her graduation from Parsons four years ago. Ever since, her life had been patterns, swatches, and haggling with suppliers. It was just how she liked it, aside from having to scavenge for recognition among less-talented associates. It didn’t leave much time for those rare creatures known as weekends and vacations, though. Laine only took time off to go visit her father, who lived alone upstate. Laine called him almost every day. He was about as good at making social ties as Laine was. Emma had tried to play matchmaker for him throughout her high school years, but it had come to nothing. Greg McConnell had always been a one-woman man.

“Hiii-eee!” Emma sang from the doorway, rapping her knuckles up and down the frame.

Laine very nearly spit out her coffee. “Em? What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be on a set somewhere in Hollywood?”

“If you’d answer my calls, you’d know that we’re doing some filming here in NYC!” Emma bounded behind Laine’s swivel chair and mussed her carefully arranged hair. “Take a break! How often do you get to see your baby sister?”

“Maybe more often, if you’d come home for holidays,” Laine drawled, swiveling back to her computer. “I’m glad you’re in town. I just got a pretty decent couch—”

Emma laughed. “Oh, no. I stay in a hotel, sweetie.”

Laine sucked in her cheeks.

Emma leaned on the back of Laine’s chair. “Come out with me tonight! The whole cast is going to this totally swank party. It’s gonna be insane!”

“What part of ‘insane party’ says Laine McConnell to you?” Laine finished up an e-mail to a distributer. “I’m strictly business casual. If you have a function where I can wine and dine some prospective clients, give me a call.”

Emma shook Laine’s shoulders and leaned on the edge of her desk.

“Be careful of those papers!”

“You’ve gotta start living your life, Lainey.” Emma threw her hands out emphatically. “There’s so much more out there than work.”

“I like work,” Laine argued. “You don’t move up if you don’t put in the hours. You like your work.”

“I’m an actress. I get to play pretend for money.” Emma hopped onto the desk and swung her legs. “Seriously. Come with me. I’ll introduce you to my hot costars.”

“Mmm. Empty-headed man candy. What more could I ask for?”

Emma swung down to block Laine’s screen. “Give the empty-headed men a chance! Or at least, dance with them and enjoy some top notch hors d’oeuvres and champagne.”

Laine sat back in her chair and watched her lovely sister flashing the smile that had been earning her the big bucks since her first national ad selling chewing gum. Emma could be infuriating. Every move had an infusion of well-practiced grace. Laine could still see Emma prancing around as a little girl in their mom’s heels. Laine, on the other hand, had neither been born with grace nor felt compelled to practice it. Her style was a very distinct business-chic, with sensible but stylish heels, which she rarely deviated from in public. She only could imagine herself dolled up Emma-style among all the glitterati at this party. She would feel like a stork parading around in a slutty dress.