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Authors: Zee Monodee

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Once Upon a Second Chance (1 Night Stand Series)

BOOK: Once Upon a Second Chance (1 Night Stand Series)
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

Once Upon a Second Chance

Copyright © 2013 by Zee Monodee

ISBN: 978-1-61333-472-0

Cover art by Tibbs Design

 

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work, in whole or in part, in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.

 

Published by Decadent Publishing Company, LLC

Look for us online at:

http://www.decadentpublishing.com

 

 

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Also by Zee Monodee

 

Once Upon a Stormy Night

 

 

Once Upon a Second Chance

 

A 1Night Stand Story

 

By

Zee Monodee

 

 

~DEDICATION~

 

 

To the sister of my heart, Natalie, for always encouraging me to rise above and beyond. And with special thanks to Jessica, Vanessa, Graylin, for their cheer & support, & to Doreen for all the Arab phrases.

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

“You didn’t have a scarf on when you left.”

Leila Hassan Al-Nadir bit her lip and yanked off the thin muslin cloth she’d wrapped around her head. She bunched the fabric and stashed it in her canvas tote.

“It’s the sun,” she mumbled, eyes lowered. How could she have forgotten to discard the scarf once she returned home? This way, Carole Laroche’s intense gray irises wouldn’t have focused on the white strip of cloth hiding her hair.

“We have hats for that,” the older woman intoned, a hint of humor in the tart reply.

They did; to wear anything in layers around the neck spelled an invitation to roast under the scorching tropical summer sun. But Leila couldn’t help it. For the past ten years she’d worn a scarf, sometimes even a
burka
showing only her eyes, around her home and outside.

A snort escaped her. Her
home
. More like her prison, the place she went after her father had sold her off to be a fifty-five-year-old man’s broodmare. Thank goodness she’d been barren and the old bastard never got what he sought from her—a male heir. She’d suffered beatings every month when she failed to get pregnant, his almost-nightly visits to her bed just one step short of rape…. Ten years and her “husband” hadn’t accepted the fact she would never give him a child, male or female. He’d made sure to buy her from her father as a virgin, assured of her being untainted by any other before him, unlike his two other wives who’d been married previously. The women who should have given him his heir, since they’d born offspring for their previous husbands.


Chérie
? What’s the matter?”

Leila tore her thoughts from the dark memories and stared at the woman who had welcomed her into her home three months earlier. Before meeting Carole, she had never believed compassion existed, or peace thrived on a small island called Mauritius in the southern Indian Ocean. She’d known a life of fear and paranoia in her Arab father’s house in Essex, and then the United Arab Emirates household of Bashir Al-Arif, the man who had bought her virginity.

A sliver of remembrance sliced through her. She did recall something else. Tenderness, caring, gentleness—all of which she’d found one magical night with the man who saved her from her painful existence, when her first husband divorced her out of the blue.

The man who made her his wife…then drugged her before morning came and transported her all the way from Abu Dhabi to Mauritius, where he dropped her, still unconscious, into Carole’s care, before he vanished.

Don’t think of him
. If she did, the tears would threaten to fall, the anguish would come back, as well as the desperation of knowing he’d saved her only to leave her even more alone than before.


Ma chérie
?” Carole raised a dainty porcelain cup in her direction.

Tea. The solution to all woes. The British thought so, and on their former colony of Mauritius, even French-origin natives needed their three o’clock fix.

Leila sighed and dumped her tote on a sofa before she stepped out onto the wide terrace facing the clear blue waters of the Grand Baie lagoon. In what was dubbed the
Côte d’Azur
of the island, on the northwest coastal tip, she didn’t stand out with her fair skin and flaxen hair. She passed for a tourist or even a member of the white descendants of French rulers who’d stayed despite the British seizing power over two centuries earlier. She shouldn’t feel like the odd one out here, like the pale foreigner she’d been in the UAE, but she did.

Leila was on temporary reprieve before the questions came. Carole poured her a cuppa.

No sooner was the drink in front of her than the inquisition began. “So, the scarf again? You know you don’t need to wear it here.”

She did, but she’d lived a decade with her loose hair never touching anything but the pillowcase on her bed. When awake, without a
hijab
wrapped around her head, she felt naked. In the UAE, a female thus covered obeyed the law and protected herself from the gaze of men. In Arab countries, the men, who should’ve been taught to respect all women, teased the ones who didn’t cover up. Foreign women were seen as “easy,” not warranting the deference a Muslim “sister” demanded with her head-to-toe covering. Even in England, her father had always made her go out with a hoodie or other head-hugging gear.

She’d been shocked to learn, here, men didn’t tease. Whether the female population wore scarves or not, they received respect. Of course, she heard the occasional whistle, usually from drunken young men or secondary school students, but a woman could walk the streets of the coastal village in a bikini and no man would call her a whore.

The knowledge still didn’t put her at ease to ditch the head covering, though. Old habits died hard, lifestyle requirements even harder.

“I told you, it’s the sun. I forgot my hat,” she fibbed. Leila squirmed beneath the scrutiny. Even after three months under the woman’s roof, despite the human warmth and frequent laughter bathing the villa, she couldn’t move past thinking herself a barely-tolerated guest.

“I thought you’d gone out to buy some flowers.”

A sigh of relief greeted the change of topic. “The pink roses were sold out. Brigitte said a man called and ordered all twenty-seven she had in the shop.”

“Shame.”

She nodded and took a sip of tea.

“One of the blooms would’ve looked good in your hair tonight.”

Leila froze. “Tonight?”

Not another big gathering where I have to wear revealing clothes and let my hair loose
. Why couldn’t Carole just let her disappear into a dark corner instead of dragging her into situations she had no skills to handle?

The older woman smiled. “You’re going on a date.”

If she hadn’t swallowed her tea yet, she would’ve choked. “No way.”

“Way. Everything’s set up. I’ve left a dress on your bed, and I got you new shoes.”

“You mean with a man? Alone?” Her heart started to beat faster, and after placing the cup back in its saucer with a nerve-wrenching rattle of bone china, she balled her fists tight for composure.

“Pfft. What else do you understand by date?”

“With who?” Maybe, just maybe,
he’d
be back….

“I don’t know. A woman who once helped me owns a dating service called 1Night Stand. Madame Evangeline, that’s her name. I had her arrange everything.”

Seriously
? “You’d send me out to meet a total stranger?”

“He’s been vetted by Madame. After bearing witness to what she can do, I trust her.”

“But—” The word sputtered in her throat. “I’m married, have you both forgotten?”

Carole’s face hardened. “He is not coming back. You know it.”

Leila jumped to her feet. “No! Khalid would never abandon me—”

A sob threatened to fall from her lips. She clamped her mouth shut and spun toward the terrace railing to grip the wrought-iron with both hands.

He saved me
, she wanted to shout.
How can he do this to me now
?

She felt more than heard Carole stop behind her. The other woman conveyed understanding through her gentle touch on Leila’s shoulders.

“My stepson left you here under my care on the condition I find a good man for you. Someone who would take care of you, give you the freedom and the kind of life you’ve been denied for the past decade.”

A lump clogged her throat, and she blinked to ward off the tears. “Has he given—” she couldn’t bring herself to say the word
talaaq
—divorce in Arabic—which annulled a marriage when stated three times toward a wife. “Has he repudiated me yet?”

Without my knowledge
? Everything happened without her knowledge or her consent.
No, not everything
. She’d given her consent to the marriage with Khalid bin Abdallah Al-Nadir, because she’d been asked by the
imam
and two other men she didn’t know, who acted as witnesses, before the ceremony took place. A far cry from her first marriage, when her father had manipulated everything.

“You know he cannot do so. Not before you have someone willing to marry you right away.”

Carole had explained the Islamic marriage laws to her, given how her father, and no one at the
madrassah
, had thought it important to impart such knowledge to a Muslim girl. She’d learned how to read the Quran and how to pray there, the extent of the “necessary” lessons, and hadn’t had a mother or even an aunt who could’ve sat her down and given her “the talk” Islamic-style. The English public school system in Essex had been more conducive to learning how to swear than living in an Arab household. Always a mouse that disappeared in her father’s fearful presence, she had also never asked.

Hence she’d never known that, once a man divorced his wife, he couldn’t marry her again, unless she’d been married to another man and he’d forsaken her, too. When Bashir, her first husband, divorced her, he forsook all claim to her. But should Khalid annul their marriage now, the old pervert could step in once again to claim her. He could kidnap her, his most prized possession—the English virgin wife with the green gaze and pale hair—and the law in his country wouldn’t blink an eye. But as long as she remained married to another, she would be safe.

The realization of what fate had reduced her to rose up to engulf her like a flash tide, and she refused to fight this time. She gave in, let the sorrow wash over her and drown her in the deepest reaches of loss’s abyss.

She must’ve kidded herself these past three months, pulled the wool over her eyes to obliterate the sight of what the past decade had done to her. But no longer. Nobody had managed to break her spirit in all that time, yet, the prospect of a blind date suddenly resembled an insurmountable mountain. How could she do this?

The sobs welled up, and tears rushed forth.


Ah, ma pauvre chérie
.” Carole pulled her into her arms and stroked her hair.

Leila buried her face in the bony shoulder, welcomed the motherly embrace she hadn’t experienced since her mum had died over two decades ago. The whiff of Poison on her benefactor’s blouse teased her nostrils, soothed her ragged soul.

BOOK: Once Upon a Second Chance (1 Night Stand Series)
13.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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