Darker than Night and Twice as Dangerous was how the magazine he’d snaffled from his secretary’s desk referred to the Al Maktabi brothers. Razi al Maktabi replaced it with a wink at the only woman who knew how he took his coffee.
Razi’s lips were still curving when he shut his office door. The media was struggling for dirt on him, apparently. Coming to a halt in front of a wall of windows he placed his first call. While he waited for it to connect he studied a gunmetal slice of the Thames, where the never-ending action soothed him. Across the river, in what felt like touching distance from his penthouse, stood the Houses of Parliament, while behind him the sleek cocoon of the CEO of Maktabi Communications, a company he had driven to international prominence, ticked every box on his man-toy wish list. Ahead of him lay the Phoenix throne of the Isla de Sinnebar, but before he assumed the duties of his desert kingdom he was calling one last reunion.
The magazine article had got some things right, Razi reflected as the telephone droned in Lord Thomas Spencer-Dayly’s Gloucestershire mansion. Razi’s elder brother, Sheikh Ra’id Maktabi, was every bit as hard as the journalist supposed- and with good reason. Their father had sewn enough wild oats to seed the whole of the American Midwest and there were numerous pretenders to Ra’id’s Sapphire throne, which went some way to explaining why Ra’id ruled mainland Sinnebar with a rod of iron earning him the sobriquet The Sword of Vengeance by those who liked a lick of Hollywood with their sheikh. The journalist had left one thing out. Razi would die for the brother who had made his childhood bearable, and who had fought for him to share the same rights Ra’id enjoyed as their father’s legitimate son-
Razi’s face lit as the voice of his closest friend came on the line.
‘What’s up, bad boy?’ Tom growled, sounding as if he had just climbed out of bed.
Razi outlined his proposal.
‘Press turning up the heat?’ Tom suggested with amusement.
‘They don’t bother me. I’m more interested in us taking one last break before I assume control-’
The air between London and Gloucestershire stilled. Both men knew the seriousness of the task awaiting Razi. The moment he was hailed ruling sheikh of the Isla de Sinnebar, Razi would immerse himself in caring for his people. ‘It’s a task I relish, Tom.’
‘I know… I know.’
Tom had his serious side too, but today was all about lifting his best friend’s mood. ‘I can’t pick up a newspaper without seeing your ugly face staring back at me,’ he complained. ‘I’ve got the morning press right here-’
Razi’s lips tugged with amusement. Brought to Tom’s suite of rooms having been ironed first by his butler, no doubt.
‘Here’s just one example-’
Furious rustling ensued as Tom attempted to tame the broadsheets. ‘Can the playboy prince work the same magic on the Isla de Sinnebar as he has on Maktabi communications and every woman of marriageable age-’
‘I’ve heard it, Tom,’ Razi interrupted good-naturedly.
‘They say you’re a danger not just to your rivals in business, but to women everywhere.
‘Business is my passion,’ Razi cut across Tom flatly. And now he would turn those skills to the management of a country.
‘And the women?’ Tom pressed, not ready yet to let his friend off the hook.
‘I have a vacancy.’ And could be as dangerous as any woman wanted him to be.
Tom laughed. ‘That shouldn’t take long to fill. This journalist describes you and Ra’id as educated muscle-’
‘Yes, I rather liked that,’ Razi admitted, succumbing to Tom’s good mood with a grin. ‘Doesn’t it go on to say we’ve proved ourselves to be fighters and lovers of unparalleled vigour?’
‘Was the woman talking from personal experience?’
‘Hang on while I wrack my brain for memorable encounters with someone audacious enough to take notes while I made love to her-’