CHAPTER ONE

IT was done. Sydney Reed dropped the pen and stared at the documents she’d just signed.


Divorce papers.

Her heart hammered in her throat, her palms sweated. Her stomach cramped. She felt as if someone had taken away the last shred of happiness she would ever, ever know.

But that was absurd. Because there was no happiness where Prince Malik ibn Najib Al Dhakir was concerned. There was only heartache and confusion.

Though it irritated her, just thinking his name still had the power to send a shiver tiptoeing down her spine. Her exotic sheikh. Her perfect lover. Her husband.

Ex-husband.

Sydney shoved the papers into the waiting envelope and buzzed her assistant, Zoe. Why was this so hard? It shouldn’t be. Malik had never cared for her. She’d been the one who’d felt everything. But it wasn’t enough. One person couldn’t feel enough emotion for two. No matter how hard she tried, Malik was never going to love her. He simply wasn’t capable of it. Though he was a generous and giving lover, his heart never engaged.

Of course it didn’t. Sydney frowned. It wasn’t that he couldn’t love—he just couldn’t love her. She was not the right woman for him. She never had been.

Zoe appeared in the door, her expression all business.

“Call the courier. I need these delivered right away,” Sydney said before she could change her mind.

Zoe didn’t even acknowledge the tremble in Sydney’s fingers as she handed over the thick sheaf of papers. “Yes, Miss Reed.”

Miss Reed. Not Princess Al Dhakir.

Never Princess Al Dhakir again.

Sydney nodded, because she didn’t trust herself to speak, and turned back to her computer. The screen was a little blurry, but she resolutely clenched her jaw and got on with the business of selecting property listings to show the new client she was meeting with later.

She’d been such a fool. She’d met Malik over a year ago when someone on his staff had called her parents’ real estate firm to arrange for an agent to show him a few properties. She hadn’t known who Malik was, but she’d quickly familiarized herself with his background before their appointment.

Prince of Jahfar. Brother to a king. Sheikh of his own territory. Unmarried. Obscenely wealthy. International playboy. Heartbreaker. There had even been a photo of a sobbing actress who claimed she’d fallen in love with Prince Malik, but he’d left her for another woman.

Sydney had gone to the appointment armed with information and, yes, even a dose of disdain for the entitled sheikh who broke hearts so carelessly. Not that she thought he could ever be interested in her. She wasn’t glamorous or movie star gorgeous or anything even remotely interesting to a playboy sheikh.

But oh, the joke was on her, wasn’t it?

Malik was so charming, so suave. So unlike any man she’d ever met before.

When he’d turned his singular attention on her, she’d been helpless to resist him. She hadn’t wanted to resist. She’d been flattered by his interest.

He’d made her feel beautiful, accomplished, special—all the things she definitely was not. A dart of pain lodged beneath her heart. Malik’s special gift was making a woman feel as if she were the center of his universe; as long as it lasted, it was bliss.

Her mouth compressing into a grim line, Sydney grabbed the listings from the printer and shoved them into her briefcase. Then she shrugged into the white cotton blazer hanging on the back of her chair. She refused to feel sorry for herself a moment longer. That part of her life was over.

Malik had been happy to be rid of her—and now she was taking the final step and cutting him from her life permanently. She’d half expected him to do it in the year since she’d left him in Paris, but he clearly didn’t care enough to make the effort. Whatever the reason, Malik’s heart was encased in ice—and she was not the one who could thaw it.

Sydney let Zoe know she was leaving, stopped by her mother’s office to say good night and headed out to her car. It took over an hour in traffic to reach the first house in Malibu. She parked in the large circular drive and glanced at her watch. The client would be here in fifteen minutes.

Sydney gripped the steering wheel and forced herself to breathe calmly for a couple of minutes. She felt disjointed, unsettled, but there was nothing she could do about it now. She’d sent the papers; it was the end.

Time to move on.

She went inside the house, turning on lights, opening heavy curtains to reveal the stunning views. She moved as if on autopilot, fluffing the throw pillows on the furniture, spraying cinnamon air freshener and finding a soft jazzy station on the home entertainment system.

Then she walked out onto the terrace and scrolled through the email on her phone while she waited. At precisely seven-thirty, the doorbell rang.

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