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Written by Caitlin Crews

Chapter Three

I'd made a lot of questionable decisions in my life.

But propositioning Zain, a prince of the House of Sadat and widely held to be the wickedest of them all, was probably the dumbest.

It had given me what I wanted. Zain owned the land the Desert Oasis Resort and Spa sat on and was the only person alive who could suggest that a certain person be hired when normally there were extensive waiting lists for every position.

Zain was a modern, sophisticated royal who lived mostly abroad, handled his own business affairs, and was famous as much for the clubs he owned in Manhattan and Ibiza as the famous women who hung on him. His connection to the kingdom of Sadat was always presented as an afterthought. He was something like twenty-fifth in line for the throne, which meant he was rich and titled, but no threat to his cousins with more direct claims.

The beauty of New York was that while someone like me might not have known anyone in Zain’s exalted circles personally, I’d been working behind bars in Manhattan most of my adult life and was certain to know someone on the door at one of the fancy parties Zain attended.

It had taken a few tries, but I’d finally talked my way into the sort of birthday party that showed up in the tabloids. I’d skirted celebrities like I was doing an obstacle course, moving around the cavernous club until I finally found the man I was looking for.

He was easy to spot. Because it had been a typical New York club filled with sparkling, glamorous people, and Zain did not sparkle. He was too intense. Too brooding, with that fierce expression on his hard, compelling face. He wasn't pretty.

And yet there was something about him that made me look twice, against my will. As if he was daring me to ignore him when I couldn't imagine anyone who could. That night, once I found him, I couldn’t look away.

He wasn’t pretty, but he was beautiful all the same in a broad-shouldered, lean, and rangy sort of way. That heavy-lidded, too-knowing gaze of his above a sensual mouth that hinted at a kind of cruelty that made my stomach flutter.

The kind of cruelty that could make a girl cry.

In all the right ways.

I hadn't decided on a sales pitch that night. I'd figured that like most things in my life, I’d jump in with both feet and figure it out once I got there.

"You appear to be in the wrong party," he had said when I'd approached the low couch where he lounged. “Are you lost?”

He was clearly perfectly at ease despite the fact he was on his own in this crowd. There was no doubt he wanted it that way. In the time I’d been at this party I’d seen three separate women approach him, then leave quickly, when all he’d done was gaze back at them. I didn’t think he’d said a word.

He was gazing at me then, stern and sure, and I had to fight not to shiver. I let the tiny little excuse for a dress I was wearing ride high on my thighs, so he could see the dragon that wrapped around one quad and the phoenix that took pride of place on the other. I usually enjoyed it when men looked at me. I liked them to see the evidence that I was strong and resilient. That I didn’t need them.

That night, oddly, it felt as if I was presenting myself—and even my beloved tattoos—for his approval.

“Why do you think I’m lost?" I had asked. I’d planned to sit next to him without an invitation, because I wasn’t intimidated by men no matter who they were and I liked to show it—but something stopped me. “Do I not look high-class enough for you?”

“You’re different," he clarified. Something flashed in his dark gaze. “Aren’t you?”

I smiled, and made it good. “I’m here for you.”

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About the author

I discovered my first romance novel at the age of twelve. It involved...

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Caitlin Crews

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