Carla’s eyes widened and a soft smile played at the corners of her mouth. The palace, her Sheikh’s palace, was a sight to behold. It surpassed her wildest most frivolous imaginings. She bit her lip as she was silently led forward.

So far Qatar had been a clandestine enchantment. She was basking in the foreign and incredible sights, sounds and smells. Her escorts were an entourage of uniformed men. They had been her companions ever since she stepped off of the flight. Now they flanked her on both sides as if she were royalty. It had been disconcerting at first. But she remembered that she was going to be treated as a princess for the next six months. She adapted for the time being, suppressing her sense of western conscience. She wasn’t used to seeing people bending over backwards to serve her. As they nodded and bowed, she swallowed to push her guilt aside.

If this was what the Sheikh wanted for her, this was what she desired, she thought.

She stepped into the castle. A mid-aged women placed a thin white scarf around her head. She didn’t mind it at all. As she glanced around, several women and men stood along her path. Some were in traditional attire. They did not look up at her, except for a pair of curious green eyes. Carla smiled back instinctively. However, the girl, who could be no older than nineteen, hid behind the brick archway.

The grandeur of the palace soon transferred her interests to other things. Large carved doors were opened with a dramatic flourish and she was in a bedroom. It was decorated in deep maroon and gold and Carla felt more like a princess. A small smile appeared on her face at the realization that her entire home could easily fit twice inside the bedroom. Glass doors led onto the balcony and the sights beyond beckoned to her. Gold curtains swayed in the breeze and she pushed them aside to step out.

Her breath caught. She feasted her eyes on the majesty of her Sheikh’s home country. Assortment of residences and commercial blocks scattered before her. Strategically placed domed mosques seemed to decorate the landscape.

“Khatoon?” one of her escorts asked from behind her.

Carla had to force her eyes away from the display. She sighed and inhaled sharply before turning around. The ménage of men and women who had escorted her constantly bowed to her. One of the men motioned toward the wide, luxurious bed. Carla stepped inside and saw a dress lying on the pearl-colored silk sheets.

Hesitantly, she neared it. It was a long gown with a fitted bodice and a full skirt that would fall to her knees. Next to it laid a matching chemise in the finest silk. Excitement sent flutters of arousal through her veins. She assumed that the Sheikh would take it off her body. She could hardly wait.

Ten minutes later her excitement turned to dread. The poofy skirt did nothing for her round full hips. She felt rotund and unappealing. In her mind, she went through the pretty, petite and skinny girls filling the palace. Surely the magnificent Sheikh could do better than the round woman she saw in the mirror?

Her chest constricting, she pushed the debilitating thoughts aside. The Sheikh had chosen her. She was special.

She glanced up as a sudden flurry of activity surrounded her. Large platters were carried out onto the balcony and set on a table. The servers removed the gold-studded covers, and Carla realized it was a feast.

She sat in the chair apprehensively. The long, full sleeves were fitted on her arms. The neckline gave a tantalizing view of her round breasts. Suddenly, she felt feminine and pretty in her dress.

The servant, a young man worthy to be on a magazine cover, pointed to the dishes questioningly. Carla particularly liked roast chicken so she gestured toward it. It was swiftly served onto her plate. She prepared to eat but the server kept pointing. Carla nodded and soon had half the dishes from the table before her.

As soon as her plate was full the ridiculously beautiful fair-skinned men and women removed the excess. She was alone on the balcony with a plateful of delicious food.

She had taken only two bites when a man and a woman returned. She felt a gentle breeze hit her from the right and she peeked discreetly. The man held a large fan made of straw, which was decorated with jewels and silk. He swayed the fan back and forth and the woman instantly offered Carla a goblet of water.

Carla fought the discomfort. Her ingrained values wrestled to be let out to ask them to stop serving her. But she kept her mouth shut. This was the life that the Sheikh wanted for her and she wanted nothing but to please him.

After her meal, she lay on a velvet-upholstered lounge chair. The fanning man continued his duty, and the woman brought forth a bowl of ripe purple grapes. Carla reached for them but the woman bowed, slightly shocked. The next instant it was Carla who was stunned. The woman fed her the grapes, popping one after the other into her mouth.

Carla smiled and closed her eyes. The tantalizingly sweet jelly of the grapes burst in her mouth. All she had to do was part her lips for another one. She felt like royalty just like her Sheikh had promised her. She was in heaven.

A few minutes later Carla was filled with dread. Her eyes opened and then stared at the scenery. She stopped the grape-feeding woman with a sway of her hand. She glanced down at herself and the incapacitating thoughts returned. She failed to come up with a sound reason why the Sheikh would hire a matchmaking service.

Women surrounded him and he could have his pick of them. She knew Sheikhs were known to have harems full of women. Then why her? If he needed companionship, he could surely have found it with a nod of his head. America was a long way to travel for something you could find delivered to your bedroom.

A shuffling sound ensued from the bedroom. Carla saw a group of women striding in. They went about their job, completely ignoring her. Carla returned to her thoughts. The more she considered her acceptance as a companion by the Sheikh, the more she was baffled. Her brow furrowed.

She concentrated fiercely on a gold-domed mosque in the distance when a woman bowed to her. “Khatoon,” the woman said, pointing toward the room.

Carla walked next to her as the dresser led her to the bathroom. It was a long walk and as they crossed the forty feet, the woman spoke in immaculate English.

“The respected Sheikh will be arriving in an hour. You have to be prepared.”

‘Prepared? I am prepared!’ Carla thought. But she had no idea what the dressers had planned for her. A large white bathtub beckoned to her. Within the large speckled gold marbled bathroom, she was stripped of her gown and asked to sit on the steps in the corner of the tub.

Steam erupted from tiny holes around her body and Carla ….