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Family loyalty and the knowledge that her love for Chris would never be returned led Polly to accept marriage to Prince Raschid, heir to a desert kingdom. She linked her hands together to stop them trembling.

Prince Raschid ibn Saud al Azarin was about to arrive. She turned away from the view. Maggie was swiftly joined by twelve-year-old Joan and four-year-old Elaine, who had not a clue what the excitement was about but was determined not to be left out of it. The window-seat was a tight squeeze for the three of them, each craning their necks for a better view.

In an effort to to calm her nerves, Polly breathed in slowly. What her sisters were finding so fascinating was sheer purgatory for her. Could this be real? This was England in the eighties, an era of female liberation. How could she possibly be on the brink of an arranged marriage to a complete stranger? Those must be the colours of the Dhareini royal family. Guiltily biting her lower lip, Maggie watched her sister sink down into one of the shabby nursery armchairs, covering her face briefly with her spread hands.

Joan stared at her eldest sister with unconcealed horror. Polly flinched visibly. Her temples were pounding with the nagging beat of a tension that no amount of painkillers would put to flight. The morning had crawled past. Hardly anybody had talked over the lunch table. Irritated by these histrionics, the ever practical and status-conscious Joan frowned.

The door slammed. Ashamed of her over-emotional behaviour, Polly pushed an unsteady hand through the silvery blonde curls falling untidily over her brow and wiped at her wet eyes.

Thirty-odd years ago Ernest Barrington had been a youthful diplomat attached to an embassy in one of the Gulf States. During his years in the Middle East he had spent his leave exploring neighbouring countries. On one such trip he had ventured into the wilds of Dharein in Southern Arabia, a country still torn by the fierce feuds of warring tribes and relatively little more civilised than it had been a century earlier.

There he had recovered his strength, and shortly before his departure he had been honoured by an invitation to join a royal hunting party. Out in the desert an assassination attempt had been made on his royal host. The details of that shocking episode were somewhat blurred.

Shorn of extras, the most basic version ran that, seeing a rifle glinting in the sunlight, Ernest had thrown himself in front of the King and dragged him to the ground, suffering a minor head wound in the process. But it was obviously the highest honour the King could think to offer. All Rights Reserved.

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An Arabian Courtship



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