Marrying the Sheikh

By: Holly Rayner

ONE





Ella Jones awoke to the feeling of soft fur on her cheek.



“Oh, Princess,” she said lazily as the cat nuzzled her whiskers against her face. “That tickles!” Ella giggled and stroked the cat lightly. “Good morning to you, too.”



The sun filtered through the sheer curtains hanging from the wall of windows in Ella’s bedroom. She had chosen the apartment for its incredible views and astounding amounts of natural light. As a designer, Ella had always been drawn to the way light played on architecture and had used that to enhance her creations. She had developed such a talent for design that right after graduating from college, she had been snatched up by a prestigious firm in New York City.



Ella came from a small town in Rhode Island and had first visited New York on a high school field trip. Her class had been given a tour of all of the landmarks, the theater district, the monuments and of course, the architecture. As soon as Ella saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral and The Plaza Hotel, she was hooked. All of the stained glass windows, the atriums, drew her in and filled her mind with images. She began sketching and drawing the moment she left the city.



She got a full scholarship to Columbia University and headed off to the big city to pursue her dreams. Ella sailed through her undergraduate, completing her degree in just three and half years. She interned with several high-end firms in the city and was offered a full-time position with E.J. Munford Design before she left school. Because she had interned briefly with them, she knew the outfit well and was more than happy to stay on in New York to begin her career.



But Ella’s first year at Munford turned out to be very different than what she expected. When she interned, she had had the opportunity to sit in on design meetings and provide input to some small scale designs and projects. But when she came on full-time at the firm, her position changed drastically.



Gone were the days of sitting in glamorous board rooms with polished tables and gleaming windows. Ella’s days were instead spent checking designs for spelling and spec errors, and running plans to builders and clients. She no longer got to be part of the conversation and felt more like a servant or errand girl.



Over time, Ella’s creative juices began to get the best of her. After a year at the firm, she still hadn’t been actively involved on one design project. She thought about pursuing a job with another firm or even going out on her own, but her parents and friends discouraged her from doing so.



“It will look terrible on your resume,” said her mother, a retired nurse who had held the same job her entire adult life. “Employers want to see longevity and loyalty to a job. A year isn’t long enough to show that you’ve given it an honest try.”



“But I’m so frustrated,” Ella said to her mother every time the conversation came up. “All I want to do is design.”



Ella had gotten close with one of her colleagues at E. J. Munford and asked her opinion. Hannah was an executive secretary who'd been working for the firm for two years when Ella came on board. The two women were about the same age and had a lot in common; they both enjoyed cooking, working hard and watching black and white movies with a good bottle of wine.



“Listen,” Hannah told Ella every time she brought the subject up. “Why don’t you just say something to Munford? Or Mini Munford?” Hannah was referring to the firm’s senior partner and his son.



“I don’t know,” Ella would say. “I don't want to get a reputation as a whiner. I mean, I do have a job and it pays well. It’s just not the job they hired me for.”



Hannah supported Ella’s decision, even though she had her own reasons for wanting her to stay; aside from their blossoming friendship, Ella had agreed to help Hannah plan her upcoming wedding. Hannah and her fiancé Trent had been engaged for six months and couldn’t afford a New York City wedding planner. They knew how creative and organized Ella was and had asked if she wouldn't mind helping them out. She was only too happy to oblige.



Ella had decided that she would commit to staying on at the firm until the wedding. During that time, she would use the wedding as a way to exercise her creative talents. She and Hannah spent the next six months planning every detail of the wedding, right down to the color of the flowers on the tables. They worked diligently and even when Hannah got tired and wanted to beg off, Ella kept on going. She really enjoyed planning the wedding and when it was time to make a decision about staying at Munford or leaving, she knew what she wanted to do.



“I’m going to start my own business…” she told Hannah after she returned from her honeymoon. “I’m going to be a wedding planner!”

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