Sheik Zahir del Hassar Alzar watched with almost savage anticipation as the last of the documents were signed. When the pen was finally dropped onto the desk, there was an almost tangible sigh of relief. Four rulers, all their aides and staff members as well as the personal guards standing sentry, understood the significance of that last signature.
There was a moment when every person stood silent, each person within that room looking around as the implication was absorbed.
Zahir nodded to his body guard who understood the signal. “It is done,” he said quietly but with a satisfaction that was so intense, he felt like pounding something. Instead, he stood still, looking at the other three men at the table. They were all leaders of their respective countries now, all just as tall as he was and none were afraid to fight for their people. But Zahir could also sense that they understood that this war had to end.
“It is agreed. Marriage and heirs,” Zahir said despite the fact that everyone had just signed their name, agreeing to the terms.
The other three men nodded.
Zahir turned and lifted one of the four celebratory glasses of thirty-year-old Isle of Jura scotch, waiting for the other three men to do the same. Their battle-scarred hands lifted their glasses into the air. “To peace,” he said. Simple and yet profound.
“To peace,” the other three agreed, just as somberly before clinking glasses.
Zahir looked at each of the men as they sipped their drinks. He’d grown to respect each of these men over the past few months. They’d all agreed to negotiate the peace treaty, just the four of them. It had been an unprecedented act for each be at the negotiation table himself instead of sending representatives. But the secret fort, built on the point where all four of their countries met, had been the perfect place to end this violent, ten year war. It had also been the place where the animosity had started with the dissolution of marriage contracts had started much of the animosity so their efforts, culminating in the treaty today, were significant.
“I’ve arranged a celebratory dinner for tonight,” Zahir said.
Sheik Tarek bin Faisal of Tularia nodded his head. “We are celebrating marriage?” he teased.
Two of the other men laughed, agreeing with him but Zahir only smiled. “Ah, gentlemen. I hope that each of you find a woman like my Callie,” he told them all, startling the three men who were dreading the loss of their freedom but accepting that it was their duty and responsibility. Not just for the treaty but for their countries as well. They were all in their thirties, past time for them to marry and produce an heir so the line of succession would not be in question.
“I just hope to get the task over with quickly,” Sheik Garon Al Sharhi of Lurasa stated with grim acceptance.
“To a wife and an heir,” Sheik Dassar bin Sarook of Altair replied with equal cheerless acquiescence. “May they all be beautiful and gracious.”
Tarek chuckled. “When word of this gets out, all the pretty little gold-diggers of the world are going to be on our doorsteps,” he forecasted with revulsion. “How about if we all agree to keep our matrimonial plans private until we’ve selected our appropriate bride?” He turned to Zahir. “Three of us aren’t as lucky to have married years ago. You’re fortunate you don’t have to start the search now.”
Zahir’s lips compressed. “We all have our challenges,” he told the three of them. No other words needed to be spoken. These men knew what had happened to his wife five years ago. None had approved either, which was one of the reasons why Zahir respected these men so intensely. They all believed in keeping hostilities between combatants. They had all fought hard, but with honor. And all of them had approached the peace negotiations with determination, none believing that the war was good for any of their countries.
“To peace,” Zahir said again and all four men downed the thirty year old scotch with appreciation.
As the celebration dinner commenced with enormous amounts of food, excellent wine and dancers for entertainment, Zahir sat back and watched with a fierce sense of pride that the peace treaty was signed as well as an almost savage impatience to get to his woman, to bring her back to his home.
And to meet his son!
Callie heard the deep voice but her arms, still loaded down with the items of daily life, didn’t move. Not a muscle in her body moved.
At first her heart soared, excitement ripped through her mind and body. He was here! He came back for her! She almost turned to throw herself into his strong arms, but then the painful memories, the horror and fear of those terrible days in his country….
There was a pause, a pregnant moment when nothing in the world moved. Possibly even the earth stopped rotating because her excitement swiftly changed to paralyzing fear.
That voice. It was impossible! He couldn’t be here, she told herself even as her arms started shaking from the effort of holding everything. It simply wasn’t possible that he was here. Not this man, not now. Things had been going so well! This man would…well, things would change!
The mail, her purse, computer bag and groceries that had been precariously balanced in her arms suddenly tumbled to the floor as the world mercilessly started moving again. “No!” she whispered with both anguish and that silly, irrational hope that she’d tried very hard to obliterate over the past five years.
As she slowly straightened up, she whispered, “Please, please, please, please,” as if her begging could diminish the possibility of the one man with that incredible voice standing in her apartment at this moment.
Life had been going so beautifully lately, she simply would not allow for the possibility that he was standing here. The last time he’d come into her life, her world had gone out of control. She’d fallen madly in love with that man and followed him from the United States to his beautiful country. For a few weeks, they’d been deliriously happy and she couldn’t believe her luck in finding a man as tall, strong and handsome, wondering what he could possibly see in her. But on a normal trip through the exciting Saturday market where she’d started to learn about his country and the people, she’d been kidnapped, tossed into a dark hole for three days and, at the end of it all, she’d come back to the relative safety of the United States. As if being kidnapped and traumatized, then ripped from the arms of the man she loved more than life itself wasn’t bad enough, she’d discovered that she was also alone, homeless and…pregnant.