Wifed By The Sheikh (The Sheikh's True Love 3) - Page 24

Zayed looked her up and down slowly, his gaze lingering on her body. “You look absolutely beautiful,” he told her, and she believed him.

They had chosen green and silver for their colors; since Zelda was already married, it seemed silly to her to wear the full wedding finery, and it seemed disingenuous to wear the traditional wedding colors for their renewal. Zayed wore a deep green suit which deepened the green tones in his hazel eyes, while Zelda had worked with Tahirah to create a silver dress with green accents that complemented the design of Zayed’s suit.

Zayed took Zelda’s hand and they walked through the house together and out to the waiting limo. Zelda mentally went over the words to her vows once again as they walked, making sure that she remembered them completely. She was learning more and more Murindhi every day, but there were gaps in her understanding that she was sure would take years to fill.

The Sheikh helped Zelda into the back seat of the big car and joined her there. “You’re sure you want to do this?” It had become a joke between them—Zelda’s escape months before, on the night of their engagement party, and the fact that she had spent so much of her life running away from things.

“Yes,” she said, giving his hand a squeeze. “I’m sure.”

“I think the guests will be pleasantly surprised by the menu at the reception,” Zayed told her.

Zelda snickered; one of the things that they’d agreed on early in the preparations for the ceremony was that she would be in charge of the menu, instructing the kitchens at Zayed’s hotel in what she wanted and how it should be done. It was a useful application of her culinary education and interest, and one that Zayed told her he fully intended on expanding on.

Amongst their other plans, discussed over the meals they shared or late into the night as they lay in bed together, Zayed and Zelda had decided that the best use of her talents would be in designing the room service menus at some of the properties that Zayed owned. Zayed already knew about her skills, both from the trip on the yacht and the random trips into the kitchens Zelda had taken since they’d gotten married, but the vow renewal ceremony would be the debut of her talents to the larger world.

It felt strangely comforting to Zelda to have a place in the world, and a job to do. Her life was busy, but it seemed to be just as full of social obligations as it had ever been with classes or work.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever fully get used to the life of a billionaire’s wife,” Zelda admitted to Zayed as the driver wound his way through the busy city streets, navigating to the hotel.

“Speaking of which, I think there are going to be a lot of people who are scandalized by you inviting Hadya as a guest and not as a staff member for the day,” Zayed countered.

Zelda smirked, leaning against her husband as the driver made a turn. “She’s been here for me since the very beginning,” Zelda pointed out. “I wanted to give her the day off.”

“Still, it’s pretty revolutionary to have one of your household staff as a guest at your wedding,” Zayed told her. He leaned in and brushed his lips against her forehead, lowering his voice to a murmur. “It’s the sort of thing my mother would have done.”

They had talked in depth about Zayed’s parents, to the point that Zelda felt almost as if she had met them. She was saddened by the fact that they couldn’t be present to see their son not only get married, but renew his vows in a ceremony that made the sham marriage a true one.

The car arrived at the hotel, and Zayed helped Zelda out of the backseat, steadying her as she made sure she could walk in the heels Tahirah had made to go with the new dress. They were not quite as high as the ones she had worn before, but Zelda had spent less time in them.

They entered the hotel together, arm in arm, and Zelda could see awe on the faces of the hotel staff, and just a hint of amazement in the eyes of the guests who were milling around. The guests would all be assembled in the banquet room that Zayed had taken up for the occasion, and the officiant would be in place.

Rather than Zayed taking up his position, and then a dozen attendants going down the aisle in a procession, followed by Zelda’s own arrival, they’d decided to walk together, to make it clear that they were husband and wife already, in love. Zelda was grateful for Zayed’s steadying presence as the thin, spike heels of her shoes wobbled slightly on a crack between two tiles—even if there were far fewer guests to embarrass herself in front of, she didn’t want to fall on her face any more than she had for her first wedding.

Tarek, Zayed’s assistant, stood at the door to the banquet hall, waiting for them. “You’re exactly on time,” he said approvingly. “Everyone is just getting seated inside. I’ll give the cue for them to start the music.” He ducked in through the door, somehow managing not to reveal the two of them to the guests, and Zayed turned once more to Zelda.

“Feeling nervous?”

She shook her head, smiling at him, resisting the urge to kiss him until they were in the right part of the renewal ceremony to do it. “Feeling confident,” she replied.

It was true; she felt more and more certain every day that she had made the right decision when it came to Zayed. Slowly but surely, he had opened up more, and every new facet of her husband’s personality had given Zelda more to appreciate and respect. He was even more complex than she had originally realized, with a nuanced sense of humor. He was intelligent, witty and kind, generous and funny, serious yet playful. He had encouraged Zelda not only to take up her role designing menus for some of his hotels, but also to resume her studies at university; after all, he’d pointed out, her argument about not being able to find a job afterwards was no longer relevant.

Tarek reappeared and nodded to them, and Zelda listened carefully for the start of their entrance music.

At the just right moment, the doors opened and Zelda and the Sheikh entered the banquet hall. Just because the ceremony was smaller, and their guest list was more limited, didn’t mean that Zayed hadn’t gone all out; the banquet hall had been totally transformed, decked out in flowers and bunting in silver and green, lit up with candles which gleamed from the crystal chandeliers. The guests were some of the people that Zayed cared about the most: some of his distant relatives, and the friends whose opinions and friendships he truly valued. Zelda didn’t know the guests as well as her husband did, but she had started getting to know them, and she felt much more comfortable walking down the aisle on Zayed’s arm than she had before, walking by herself to his side, particularly now that she knew some of the people watching her.

Their officiant this time, waiting for them at the end of the aisle, was not just some stranger, some anonymous official that Zelda had never met. He was Rasheed, one of Zayed’s closest friends, and one of the guests who’d been on the yacht when Zelda had stowed away. He, of all of the people in the room, knew about Zelda’s real significance in Zayed’s life. Zelda had learned that Rasheed had known Zayed from their private school days together, and when Rasheed had heard about their plans to renew their vows—when he’d found out his friend was finally going to marry for love—he had insisted on taking charge of the ceremony.

They came to the end of the aisle where Rasheed stood. Zelda smiled to herself as Zayed “presented” her to the guests, turning her to face them, before taking her hand in his and leading her the last few steps to the altar proper.

Rasheed cleared his throat and spoke into a microphone, although the group in the room was small enough to be able to hear him even if he hadn’t. “We have come together today to watch these two beautiful people renew the vows that they made two months ago,” Rasheed explained. “Because their original wedding was a traditional one, and because the circumstances were so rushed, Zayed El-Sharabi and his wife, Zelda Barnes El-Sharabi wish to show their friends their true commitment to one another in a new ceremony, before they spend the rest of their lives together.”

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