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Hedged Heart (Erotic Thriller, Fiction)

A hedge fund manager struggles to trust the men stealing her heart or her investments.



1. Sheikh Bait

Swim with the sheikhs without being eaten. Heidi DeKalb had violated that rule in so many ways already. Time to pay the bill. Why else had the Sheikh broken tradition and scheduled an unexpected meeting, on a Saturday, only weeks after their regular get-together?

She gazed out the window of the five-star hotel into Park Avenue’s urban canyon, its dark gloom interrupted by regular swaths of light cut by the sun shining along the cross streets. From the twenty-fifth floor penthouse, the traffic clogging Manhattan looked like columns of ants scurrying for food. So busy, orderly, industrious. All working together in harmony for their common good. And crushing anyone who dare stand in their way. Eating them alive.

Time to perform. The Sheikh would not get down to business until after she went down on him. A routine benefit he had seduced her into. Life imitating art in her version of a Faustian bargain. In the original, Doctor Faust sold his soul to the Devil for wine, women, and knowledge. Her deal instead came with an insatiable thirty-something lady-killer. One who, for a change, had arrived without his financial adviser.

Not a good omen. She needed to know. “Where’s Quasim?”

“Quasim, Allah bless his soul, will not join us again. He decided to overdose on his beloved cocaine.”

Not the answer she'd expected. Heidi continued staring out the window.

Although the Sheikh posed on the bed in all his naked glory, she refused to look at him, part of their long-running power struggle. The chemise on her back would have to satisfy him until she felt ready. Even though its mesh body hid little, his eyes must have torn it to shreds already. Impatient men like him failed to appreciate the fine points in a relationship, like carefully chosen scarlet lingerie.

Yet, why let this moment end? Anticipation and terror added excitement to her arousal. Like sex in public. Or bondage. Nothing her husband, or the Sheikh, would entertain.

A quick glance toward the armchair. Brown upholstery blended in with the warm earth tones of the room. The Sheikh’s trademark clothes, black suit and white polo neck, meticulously laid out on the back and armrests, guarding the black leather attaché.

His muscular bodyguard held it close, except during the most private moments when the security detail stood watch in the hallway. Then the briefcase stayed with the Sheikh in a privileged place, always standing upright. Its mystery pushed her daydreams to new heights.

Khalid bin Adham—followed by half a dozen more names or honorifics. Easier to call him Sheikh. An Internet search revealed little, merely a handful of posts in Arabic. The computer translation came out to something along the lines of head of secret service.

Did he protect himself with James Bond luggage full of deadly gadgets, like rocket launchers and nerve gas? Curiosity would surely kill the spy who stuck his, or her, nose inside. With diplomatic immunity, the Sheikh could carry his lethal weapons across any border.

Maybe the attaché held cocaine to cater to his hedonism. Or his paranoia. An untraceable weapon to off inconvenient witnesses like Quasim.

Or the case contained what any master criminal kept around, bundles of cash, bars of gold, and satchels of diamonds. A fortune big enough to make her cream.

She took off her earrings. Sunlight reflected in rainbow colors off the pinkish natural pearls. The Sheikh’s millions paid for them too. Which numbers had ultimately guided her richest client to choose her? Her nine percent average annual return? Or, did he care more about her size eight men’s suits?

The world of hedge funds, exclusive investment vehicles restricted by law to wealthy accredited investors, knew so few female managers, financial media regularly reported on these rare sightings, rankings included. In two decades, Heidi had clawed her way up to a multi-million dollar portfolio—still peanuts by Wall Street standards.

Nonetheless, she attracted the attention of this Arabian prince. Mind you, not one anywhere close to a line of succession. Extended family, or mere bluster befitting a business where appearances mattered—a lot. His entourage called him “Shaych,” a term with various meanings in English. To impress her, the translator may have picked the most favorable connotation.

Fascinating, nevertheless, like every girl’s dreams after reading One Thousand and One Nights. An exotic and rich prince had chosen her.

The memories added to the heat swelling inside her, notwithstanding any objections her brain threw in, then and now.

Alarm bells did go off in her head when the Sheikh’s aides revealed their origin from a patriarchy that denied women the right to drive a car. Why then would even minor royalty invest large sums with a female fund manager? A whole carillon should have played up a storm when they asked to do the paperwork in the name of an offshore corporation controlled by another offshore entity. No coincidences. Not in an industry worshipping mammon, where information rapidly found willing buyers. Almost certainly money laundering.

“My love.” His purring sent shivers across her skin. He had that part of her Arabian Nights illusion down pat. Her fault that she expected more from a leading macho born into a culture that relegated its own women to invisibility.

She turned and faced him.

The same jolt as always, possibly stronger. Goosebumps on her bare arms, yet warmth in her veins from his irresistible radiance. No strand of hair out of place and such a lustrous black only Shinola boot polish could improve on it. Matching moustache and obligatory beard, both perfectly groomed. And those hazel eyes, so deep any thirsty woman trapped in lifeless sands could drown in them like in two wells of a lush oasis.

Deliberately, she waltzed toward him, her swirling arms performing her idea of a stripper’s dance. In a smooth motion, she sent the chemise flying over her head.

At the bed, she crouched down on all fours, her fingers sinking into the amazing softness of the comforter. She stalked to him with petite moves. The thick cotton sent thrills through her fingers, the only foreplay she could expect.

...

Sex scene omitted.

...

Waves of ecstasy rippled through her before he went limp.

Heidi collapsed and let her heat and sweat flow onto his body.

The bliss lasted mere moments until the Sheikh twisted her to the other side of the bed. “Did you invest my money with this Madoff scum?”

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