Sheikh's Untouched Woman(3)

By: Kylie Knight

Unfortunately right now she needed to get through this heavy traffic and get to the restaurant her newest boss, Francois would be waiting to meet with his new business partner. She had no idea about this guy only that he spoke fluent English and he was a prominent businessman. Of course the mere mention of prominent businessmen brought to mind the one man she both hated and couldn’t seem to forget, especially when Rafael had the same enchanting golden eyes. Thoughts of him always made her teeth clench so she allowed the sounds of city traffic to wash over her and drown out the painful memories and the always present anger. “Much better,” she smiled and was rewarded by an open spot just a few blocks from the restaurant.

She rushed those last few blocks and entered the well-lit restaurant, taking a moment to catch her breath before she spotted Francois. Composed with a cool smile pasted on her face she approached the table. “Bonjour Francois.” He stood and kissed both her cheeks.

“Bonjour Serena. Comment allez-vous?”

She nodded a smile to let him know she was doing well before she took the seat to his right. They talked briefly with Francois stumbling over his English inquiring about her life and telling her about his day. “I’m glad you enjoyed the Botanic Gardens.” She enjoyed going there with Rafa, he enjoyed the vibrant colors. She checked her watch. “Your partner should be here any moment, what is his name?”

“It is Raffir al-Jazzari, crown prince of the Kingdom of Maju-ul.”

Serena stiffened at the deep voice behind her and closed her eyes. No, it couldn’t be. Fate wouldn’t be so cruel. She opened her eyes and immediately connected with Francois’ amused green gaze. With a professional smile on her face she turned and stood. “Mr. al-Jazzari, Serena O’Brien. I’m Mr. Pardieu’s translator.” Instead of extending her hand for a shake she offered a curt nod. This was crap, pure and utter crap. Of all the wealthy men in the world Francois had to go into business with him.

Raffi smirked at her attempt to keep him at a distance. He would allow it for now, but not for long. “Ms. O’Brien please call me Raffir.” He turned to the older man. “Good to see you again Francois.”

Lunch went quickly, at least as quickly as any meal could go when one was seated across from the man who’d crushed her heart under his expensive designer shoes. As usual she opted out of lunch, having found early on that it was difficult to eat and translate a conversation. Francois and Raffi had great respect for each other and spoke amicably about their plans to open several high end and mid-level clothing boutiques. She thought the plans were good and a lot of New Zealanders would love to have affordable yet stylish clothing. Fortunately she was here for her language skills, not her business skills.

Francois spoke to her in rapid English, checking to make sure she was alright. He’d noticed her discomfort and she was sure he’d picked up on the tension throughout the meal and she apologized. “Je vais bien,” she assured him she was fine. She was. Sure, at first she was startled but now that she knew he’d be around for at least the next month she would find a way to deal with it as the professional she was. She stood and the men joined her.

“Au revoir, Serena.” He kissed both her cheeks and she offered to walk him out. A nice gesture and a great way to avoid alone time with Raffir. Unfortunately for her Raffi caught up with them at the valet station.

“Serena I was hoping you’d like to have a cup of coffee with me?”

She took in a long breath and released it before looking up at him. “No thanks.” It was simple and to the point. She just hoped it worked.

His face darkened for a moment but turned pleading. “Come on Serena I’d like to talk and to apologize. You can let me do that, can’t you?”

You’ve got to be kidding me! “No really I can’t Mr. Al-Jazzari. Besides there’s nothing to apologize for, you were just being honest. Right?” As much as it still hurt to say those words, it took her a few months to realize that he had been telling the truth. So as much as it still hurt she didn’t need an apology. It would change nothing.

He narrowed his gaze at her, unaccustomed to this stronger version of his sweet Serena. “You’ve got your reprieve Serena. For now.” He leaned in a bit and told her, “We will talk.”

Her stomach dropped and that anxiety she’d long gotten rid of once she realized Raffi would not be coming after her, returned in full force. She turned a strained smile to Francois and bid him farewell.

Raffir couldn’t believe it. After more than a year of searching for her he’d found Serena by chance. Even for a man of his immense wealth finding one little Irish born girl from Australia had proven impossible. In fact it had shown him just how little he’d actually invested in her. An entire year together and he didn’t know much about her beyond her name and her area of study. So he’d started in Australia and came up with a few dozen Serena O’Briens but none of them his Serena.