The Sheikh's Priceless Bride, страница 1часть #1 серии Sheikh's New Bride
Table of Contents
The Sheikh’s Priceless Bride
The Sheikh’s Priceless Bride
The Sheikh’s Bride Bet
Also by Holly Rayner
The Sheikh’s Priceless Bride
Copyright 2018 by Holly Rayner
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part by any means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the explicit written permission of the author.
All characters depicted in this fictional work are consenting adults, of at least eighteen years of age. Any resemblance to persons living or deceased, particular businesses, events, or exact locations are entirely coincidental.
Bill Bauer studied the enormous diamond sitting in the middle of the table. It was perfect. It had been stunning when he found it, but now, it was even more so, having been polished and cut to perfection.
Bill had found the diamond almost by accident. He’d been planning to shut down that part of the mine, since he was sure they’d taken everything from it that they could.
His tradition was to walk through the mine each day, and when the day came that he decided that part of the mine was finished, he walked through again one more time. He took the time to thank whatever power in the universe that had created the process that crushed carbon under massive amounts of pressure to create the beautiful gems known as diamonds.
Without that process, he would have probably been a lawyer or an accountant—someone stuck in an office working on computers and spreadsheets with boring people dressed in boring black suits. Instead, he traveled the world and got his hands dirty. He took raw potential and made it possible for artists to create sheer beauty.
Bill had been wildly successful. Every year, he was listed among the richest men in the world, a designation that he could not have cared less about.
His joy was in his work, in pulling beauty from the cold, hard earth.
So, keeping to his tradition, he took the time to walk through the mine the day before he shut that area down. For some reason, he was thinking about his brother as he walked through the mine, occasionally reaching out to touch the dirt.
If only Jack could see him now. He’d have to change his mind about his good-for-nothing brother. Bill worked hard and did right by his employees, and by any measure of the definition, he was successful. Even as he prepared to close this section of the mine down, he was opening another section up. All he had in his future was more wealth and more success.
He stopped and looked up and down the mine. The earth here had been good to him. Bill sighed. It didn’t matter how good the ground had been to him. He didn’t have anyone to pass it on to.
Maybe it was time to start thinking about that, too.
Bill figured he’d never retire, not really. He’d just mine until one day the mine was stripped, and he had everything he could possibly want in this world. But he could do some good for others who didn’t have everything, too. He’d talk to his lawyers about setting up a way to give his fortune away to people who could use it.
Bill turned around to head back out, when he noticed a slight glint in the dirt. Not even a shine, just a tiny wink of light caught his attention.
He pulled out the trowel he usually carried with him and carefully carved out a line around the hunk of rock. He scraped away the dirt and then gently pushed the rock back and forth to work it free of the ground. There was more of it below than he’d thought at first, and it took a good half hour of cautious maneuvering to work the gem free.
As soon as he pulled it out of the dirt, he knew. This hunk of compressed carbon was something special, and when it was clean and polished, it would be something spectacular. Something like the world had never seen before.
Bill took his time before showing his find to anyone. He decided this one gem wasn’t going into circulation with his regular inventory—it was unique, and he intended to treat it that way.
He asked one of his closest business associates to cut and polish it, not trusting anyone else. The finished product was exquisite, one of the finest diamonds Bill had ever seen. He never set the diamond, preferring to leave it loose, not wanting to diminish its sparkle with something as mundane as metal wrapped around it.
Eventually, word about his find got out. He refused to sell the diamond, even as the offers got bigger and wilder, knowing that if he ever needed money for something, this diamond would make his fortune again.
For years, he kept the best security on this singular diamond. He eventually stopped showing it to people, and let it pass into legend. Then, he planned to hide it away until it was needed the most.
Bill didn’t think he’d ever need the diamond, but there was someone else who would, sometime in the future. He’d already planned to give most of his fortune away, but it didn’t matter. This one thing would offer as much—if not more—financial security than the rest of his money.
He’d never given a diamond to anyone, had never wanted to, but this diamond…this diamond was meant for his family.
Bill wouldn’t disrupt the little girl’s life. It was clear to him, even from across the yard, that she was happy with her adopted parents. He’d had a private investigator look into the family; they weren’t wealthy, but they would give her a happy, stable life with everything she needed. Certainly much more than a crotchety old man could, even with all his riches.
She didn’t know she had any living relatives, and he was fine with that. He would have adopted her, but she wouldn’t have been happy with him. He wouldn’t upset the girl by making her choose families.
He turned the gift over and over in his hands. She didn’t need to know he existed. She didn’t need to know the story of his estrangement from his family, or that he felt like he needed to make amends.
But one day, she would need s
Sheikh Khizar Jamshidi read through the file laying on his desk one more time, tapping his long fingers on the paper. Bill Bauer had kept meticulous records about his mine and his business, but the one piece of information Khizar wanted was nowhere to be found.
Khizar had been finalizing the paperwork to buy the famous Bauer mine when Bill died suddenly. Though, Khizar thought, Bill had been 87 years old, so maybe it wasn’t so unexpected. His death had put a stop to the purchase, at least until Bill’s estate was settled.
Khizar’s lawyer had been able to get a copy of Bauer’s will, and after reading through it, Khizar had come to two conclusions: Bauer’s mine had been stripped of anything of value, and Bill himself had very little in the way of possessions.
Most of Bauer’s fortune was going to charitable organizations, which Khizar supposed was a good thing. The man certainly had enough money to do good. And, in all their conversations, Bill had never mentioned any relatives, so it wasn’t like there was family to fight over the fortune.
Bill had also left money to his employees, enough to give each of them a healthy severance package as the mine closed down. What worldly goods he had were designated to be auctioned off or donated.
Khizar stood and paced across the plush carpet, from the large sleek desk to the wall of floor-to-ceiling windows along the far side of the room. He looked down over the city, wondering if somewhere out there was a person who had the information he sought.
At thirty, Khizar was a well-respected businessman, the CEO of one of the world’s finest jewelry companies. He had everything he could possible ask for, and maybe that was why he wanted this one thing it seemed he couldn’t have.
There was a diamond of great beauty and value—some said the most perfect diamond in the world. Bill Bauer had found that diamond in his mine, and the gem had become something of a legend, partly because Bill refused to part with it.
Khizar wanted the diamond for the same reason Bill had never sold it—the man who owned it would never be poor.
Not that Khizar ever needed to worry about being poor. His uncle was the Sheikh of Nudushan; Khizar was royalty in his own right, in addition to being one of the wealthiest men in the world. He owned the best penthouse in Nudushan’s capital city, a luxury yacht, a private jet, and multiple cars. He could go anywhere and buy anything.
His parents didn’t understand his quest for this diamond. Khizar ran several diamond mines himself. His company bought and sold precious stones and jewelry, and Khizar had a priceless personal collection of gemstones.
He ran a hand through his black, wavy hair. Whatever else he owned, this one diamond was important. The sheer prestige of owning the Bauer Diamond would ensure his company’s success for many years to come.
Khizar and Bill had talked into the night many a time over expensive whiskey, and the way Bill had described the diamond had captured Khizar’s imagination. Bauer would never tell Khizar the location of the diamond, and the Sheikh had liked the old man too much to pressure him.
He’d hoped that buying Bauer’s mine would shake loose the secret of the diamond’s location, but when Bill died, that information died with him.
Khizar had been prepared to go through with the purchase of the mine after Bill’s death. He’d had his lawyer draw up papers and an offer, and had visited the mine in person to complete the deal. Khizar was surprised to learn that most of the mine’s employees had been let go. The foreman, Bill’s right-hand man, had walked him through the mine. Khizar learned that the once-rich gem veins were now stripped, more or less worthless.
The gem wasn’t listed as part of the old man’s will; there was no reference to it at all, not as a gemstone and not as jewelry.
Khizar was certain Bill had never had the diamond set into jewelry—he’d insisted on keeping it in its purest, though polished, form. But he’d checked anyway, in case Bill had been trying to hide it by turning the diamond into a set piece.
The Sheikh returned to his desk and picked up the phone, where his secretary answered immediately. He arranged for his company’s in-house investigator to look into Bill’s life to see if, perhaps, there were any clues left to find.
A week and five dead-ends later, Khizar was half-convinced that the diamond didn’t actually exist. Bill’s stories must have been just that: stories.
He’d chased down an old miner in Australia, who’d claimed to have been Bill Bauer’s business partner for a few years back in the day, who said he knew where Bauer had stashed the gemstone. The guy told tall tales in a bar in a small town outside Sydney, trading wild stories for a round of beer. There was no truth whatsoever to his words, which Khizar had figured out about ten minutes into their conversation.
Khizar had trawled through the records of Bill’s biggest sales, trying to determine if he’d hidden the diamond in a larger commission. He had talked to Bill’s foreman several times, as well as some of his longest-serving employees.
The men who had worked Bauer’s mine insisted that Bill still had the diamond, but Khizar talked with others in the industry who weren’t certain that the diamond was even real.
He was having dinner at the best restaurant in town—seated, of course, at the best table in the dining room—when his investigator called and asked to meet with him. As he waited for the man to arrive, he nodded at an acquaintance at the bar, and smiled at two lovely ladies who were watching him closely.
If he weren’t so involved with the search for the diamond, he would have found their interest appealing. He might have even asked them to accompany him to a party later that evening. It didn’t matter that he didn’t have a party on his schedule. If someone wasn’t throwing one, he’d have put one together himself. No one turned down his invitations, even at the last minute.
His investigator arrived, a nondescript man in a dark suit, able to blend in wherever he was needed.
“Sheikh Jamshidi.” The man nodded at Khizar as he slid into the booth and laid a folder on the dark wood table.
“James, what do you have for me?”
“Bauer was estranged from his family. He apparently hadn’t had any contact with them in decades.”
Khizar nodded. “He mentioned his brother, Jack, a few times, and how they didn’t talk; their parents died when they were quite young. His brother died several years back, shortly after I met Bill.” Khizar thought. “I believe Jack had a child, as well.”
“Correct. Jack and his wife had one son, Robert. Robert married and had a daughter.”
Khizar thought, putting the pieces together. “That would make the daughter Bill’s great-niece. He never mentioned her.”
James pulled a photo out of the folder. It showed a man and woman standing together, his arm wrapped around her as she held a girl. The girl’s arms were wrapped around the woman’s neck and her head rested against the woman’s shoulder.
James tapped the man’s image. “This is Robert.” He tapped the woman’s face. “His wife, Jennifer. And their daughter, Jacqueline.”
James pulled another photo out of the folder, this one showing the aftermath of a terrible car accident.
“I’m not sure Bauer ever knew about the girl. Robert and Jennifer died in a wreck shortly after that picture was taken. There’s nothing I can find that indicates Bauer went to the funeral or ever had contact with the girl. She was in and out of foster homes for about a year, then adopted. She’s 26 now.”
“Do you know where she lives?”
“Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She owns a small bakery there. I’m getting more details on her now.”
“Thank you, James. Deliver the information to me tomorrow at the airport; I’m flying to Milwaukee first thing.”
James nodded once, and silently left his boss to ponder what he’d learned.
True to his word, James had put together a folder with more information on Jacqueline Bau
Khizar bounded up the stairs and onto the jet, which was painted with the royal-purple logo of Jamshidi & Company. The pilot greeted Khizar as the door was closed behind him.
“We’re ready for takeoff, sir.”
The Sheikh nodded. “Thank you. Let’s go.”
He settled into a deep leather chair, laying the folder on the mahogany table in front of him, and waved one hand at the hovering steward, who brought him a cup of steaming hot tea.
The plane accelerated down the runway and then glided smoothly into the air. Khizar drank his tea and read through the information James had found, impressed at the level of detail contained within.
As James had mentioned the night before, Jacqueline Bauer owned a small bakery in Milwaukee. The store was in a part of downtown that was seeing a resurgence in business, but more business in the area hadn’t seemed to help Bauer’s bakery.
The landlord had raised the rent on the building four times over the last five years, and the stores on either side of the bakery had seen high turnover. Studying the financial data, Khizar wondered if the landlord was trying to push Jacqueline out by making it more expensive for her to stay there.
Khizar pulled out his computer and opened the thin case. He typed a few search terms into the web browser and read through the results. Jacqueline’s business had received good reviews—though, in his opinion, not enough of them to make much of an impact. The bakery didn’t show up in any local newspapers or magazines; it hadn’t been written up or had any local press cover it.
He studied pictures of the bakery online. The store was tiny, but bright and cheery. The blue and yellow décor wasn’t understated, but it wasn’t garish, either. It looked like the small front space had four or five tables where patrons could eat, and a counter running across the room topped a case filled with cupcakes, small pies, pastries and cookies.