Marrying the Sheikh

By: Holly Rayner





“Well,” she said, picking up her drink. “We’ll just have to make sure that you do that. Now,” she went on, trying to lighten the mood. “Tell me all about Eleuthera.”





FOUR





The jet landed about forty-five minutes later and was met by a driver from the hotel. Karim escorted Ella off of the jet, onto the runway, and into the waiting car.



“You’re going to love this place,” he said, more excited that she had seen him all day.



They drove along the single lane, flat road and took in the scenery. To the left were little homes and bungalows dotting the sloping landscape and to the right lay the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.



“You’re right,” said Ella as she watched the waves roll in against the white sand beach. “I do love it.”



“You haven’t seen anything yet,” Karim said, smiling.



The car arrived at the resort and rolled down the crushed gravel driveway, making a soft rumbling sound that always reminded Ella of old money. As they rounded a corner and passed a throng of palms, Ella spotted the hotel.



The green and blue clapboard siding gave the building the appeal of old-world charm. The wood was faded from the sun and salt, but the white trim looked like it was freshly painted, making the contrast rich and warm. The front of the building displayed a simple portico entrance flanked by two brick columns with windows on either side. The whole building looked smaller than Ella’s apartment. She couldn’t imagine how they would fit the 300 guests that Karim and Nadia had invited into such a small venue.



“Here we are,” said Karim as he hopped out of the car and held his hand out for Ella.



She smiled and placed her hand in his, trying to ignore the electricity she felt as their skin touched. She emerged from the car and walked with Karim into the simple structure. Once inside, she began to see why Karim and Nadia had chosen the resort.



The lobby was small and cozy, with a short wall of counter top for check-in and a few rattan chairs scattered about for arriving guests. The deep cherry wood floors complemented the ambiance of the lobby perfectly and gauze curtains and wicker furniture tied the whole look together. Ella was impressed with the inviting air of the place and didn’t think she could have designed it better if she tried. But she still couldn’t see how the tiny boutique venue could hold so many guests.



“Well,” Karim asked, beaming down at Ella. “What do you think?”



“It’s beautiful,” Ella said, following him through the lobby as he waved briefly at the clerk. Karim's staff members stayed behind and chatted with the hotel staff as the Sheikh kept moving through the hotel.



“Really,” Ella continued. “The grounds, the old-world charm. It’s all truly lovely, Karim. But…”



She was about to express her concerns about the size of the venue when they arrived at the back room of the hotel. After walking through two large cherry doors, Karim and Ella entered what might ordinarily be called a ballroom. Except this was no ordinary ballroom.



If Ella could think of one word to describe it, she would have said atrium. Except that it didn’t have a glass roof. Instead, each side of half of the room was built with floor-to-ceiling windows that opened like French doors. The back of the room also had a wall of the same windows, but these folded together like an accordion, opening the entire room up to a flagstone patio and the beach and ocean beyond. From where Ella stood at the entrance to the room, it appeared as if the room led straight into the deep blue water of the Caribbean.



“Oh my gosh,” she said, blinking several times to make sure she wasn’t seeing things. “This is incredible! I mean, this…” Ella paused as she attempted to take it all in. “This is absolutely magnificent. The use of the wood and stone and how they play off the natural lighting. And the ocean… oh my goodness, the ocean!”



Ella had planned many weddings in her short career. She had organized events at some of the swankiest locations in the world. But none had the appeal of this. The simplicity of the venue combined with the natural beauty of the little island made this location ideal.



“I’m impressed,” Ella said turning to Karim. “I think this will do just fine.”



Karim smiled. He knew Ella would love it. And now that he had her approval, he could leave her to handle the arrangements and get back to New York and his busy schedule.



“Great!” he said, walking over to her. “Nadia was here last month with her family and approved of the venue as well, so I think we're good to go.”

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