Gambling With the Crown

By: Lynn Raye Harris


EMILY BRYANT STRAIGHTENED the severe black skirt she wore, patted the French twist she’d wedged her hair into and steadied the coffee in her hand as she faced the double doors that led to the bedroom of His Most Exalted Highness, Prince Kadir bin Zaid al-Hassan.

Outside, the sky was that special blend of salmon and purple that indicated dawn’s approach. Despite the early hour, Paris was awake and rumbling on the city streets below. Soon, Kadir would be awake, too.

Just as soon as Emily knocked on the carved wooden door. She frowned and dragged in a fortifying breath. The man was impossible—and probably not alone. If this morning was anything like other mornings, she’d be stepping over lacy underwear, rumpled stockings and a couture dress lying in a heap on the floor. On one memorable occasion, a bra had dangled from the priceless Venetian glass chandelier. What city was that in?

Ah, yes, Milan.

Emily firmed her lips in what she knew was a distasteful frown—she couldn’t abide messes, especially from people who should know better—and lifted her hand. Then she rapped three times.

“Prince Kadir? It’s time to get up.”

No matter the hour he came in the night before, Kadir always wanted to be awakened before the sun rose in the sky. Sometimes he went back to sleep, but not before peppering her with orders and instructions about the day. And not before he drank the coffee she always brought.

More often than not, he got up. Emily had learned to relax her expression into an impassive and unimpressed mask of cool professionalism when the covers whipped back to reveal sleek tanned skin and acres of lean muscle. She’d also learned to turn her head discreetly to the side on the rare occasions when he’d failed to add clothing to his lower half before he leaped up and shrugged into his robe.

If he were any other man—if this were any other job—she’d probably be horrified. But this was Prince Kadir, and she knew what the job entailed. He’d warned her as much when he’d hired her. When he’d expressed that a man might be better suited for the job of his personal assistant, she’d assured him she was up for the task.

Therefore, she endured his quirks and his single-mindedness. If he weren’t brilliant, if he didn’t pay her extremely well—extremely—she might not have stayed as long as she had. Not to mention that getting this job straight out of college had been a coup. She still believed that if Kadir hadn’t been so desperate to find someone who could put up with his shenanigans, he would never have agreed to interview her, no matter how impeccable her references.

“Come.” His voice was dark and raspy with sleep on the other side of the door.

Emily opened it up and walked across the darkened room in her sensible heels. There was a time when she’d loved platforms and flash as much as the next girl, but these shoes were a whole lot more comfortable. She opened the thick damask curtains to let in the light and took his coffee over and set it on the antique bedside table.

A quick perusal of the room indicated he was alone. She breathed a sigh of relief. She did not like the woman he’d been dating recently. Lenore Bradford, fashion’s latest runway darling, was not nice in general and evil to Emily in particular.

It was as if the woman was jealous, which was insane, since Kadir had never once looked at Emily as anything more than the person who ran his life and kept his calendar up-to-date. But that did not stop Lenore from shooting Emily angry looks or demanding outrageous things from her.

Like the morning Lenore had wanted chocolate croissants from a boulangerie halfway across Paris. Croissants she knew damn well she would barely sniff before turning to the egg-white omelet instead. Emily had fumed the whole way. Fortunately, she’d not had to do that again, because Kadir had been rather angry when he found out.

Yet another thing Lenore blamed her for. But Kadir wasn’t a stupid man and he could read the address on the bag, which apparently Lenore did not try to hide when she tossed them aside as predicted.

Kadir sat up against the headboard and picked up the coffee. His dark hair was tousled and he needed to shave, but he was still one of the most attractive men she’d ever seen. Not that she was attracted to him. Of course not. He was an arrogant, entitled, brilliant jackass and she did not like men like that.

Heck, she probably wouldn’t like him at all if he didn’t pay her so much.

Except, dammit, that wasn’t quite true. He drove her crazy with his cool confidence and certainty he was always right, but he remembered her birthday and the anniversary of the date she’d started working for him. She liked to think that meant he cared about people in his own fashion, though it was probably just that mind of his, which never forgot a fact.

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