The Sheikh's Purchased Bride

By: Holly Rayner

ONE



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It seemed like every Broadway actress had a ritual before her curtain call. Breathing exercises, mantras, stretches and impossible yoga poses; all perfectly acceptable rituals to ready the actress for her moment in the spotlight.



This was hardly Broadway, however, and Amie Shaw’s pre-show ritual wasn’t nearly anything glamorous. Nor was she the lead. In fact, she was merely the understudy, and lately, her pre-theater routine mostly consisted of circling the want ads in the Chicago Tribune while sipping back copious amounts of free green room coffee.



It’d already been two years since she’d ditched her life as a waitress in Indiana to pursue acting in Chicago. At the time, she’d had big dreams and just the right amount of naivety to believe she would make it big. The reality, however, was far from it. Since arriving in Illinois, she’d landed a couple of small acting gigs here and there, but nothing worth writing home about. She’d nearly fainted when she received the lead role in Carolina and the Bridge—that is, until she found out she’d been cast as the understudy. Thus far she hadn’t even stepped on stage once, and tonight was the last show.



She’d chosen her starter apartment before she’d even left Indiana; catching an ad online and deciding that particular choice would be low-budget enough that she wouldn’t be limited to eating boatloads of ramen upon coming into the city. She’d been in her ‘starter’ for two years now and desperately needed an upgrade. Still, with mounting bills and no acting career in sight, she’d taken to mindlessly searching the want ads in the paper and obsessively checking her phone for acting gigs and waitressing jobs.



Boy, would her parents be proud.



Though divorced, Amie’s parents could always agree on one thing: her career, or lack thereof. So it came as no surprise to her when, on separate occasions, both her mom and dad expressed concern for her pursuit of acting, especially when she decided to move out of state. She’d loved acting ever since she was a child, and she knew she was good, she just needed more opportunities. If she could get to the big city, she’d foolishly thought, the roles would come pouring in. Lately, though, she’d been thinking more and more that her parents might have been right all along.



Like most other nights, Amie had taken her place in the wings backstage at the local theater to watch another rendition of a fantastic play she had seemingly learned all the lines in vain for. She sat atop an old speaker near the stage, outfitted in sweatpants and a T-shirt; her long hazelnut hair scrunched up in a lazy bun.



She absent-mindedly tapped her fingers against her coffee cup as her eyes skimmed through the paper. There was a sudden rustle backstage that might have signaled to her that the show was starting, but there was still over an hour to go before curtain call. Before she had a chance to swallow her coffee and ask a stagehand for the scoop, the director came rushing up to her.



In standard dramatic fashion he grabbed her coffee cup and set it roughly on the speaker, causing it to spill slightly over the surface.



“Thanks for that,” she said with a grin.



“You’re honestly just sitting there?”



Amie blinked emphatically. “I have become one with this speaker. She understands me and I, her.”



“No time, no time!” he shouted.



“For what?”



“For that thing you do when you get sarcastic! Wardrobe!” he yelped across the green room while rubbing his temples in an over-exaggerated fashion. “This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening!”



“Michael!” she said firmly, grabbing both his shoulders. She felt comfortable sassing her director; the two had formed a close friendship over the last few weeks—watching him throw up backstage on opening night had done a good job of breaking down the walls between them. “Words. Use them. Breathe, then speak.”



“Sharon called in sick,” he said, referring to the lead actress. He placed his hand on his forehead and gave a woeful sigh. “It’s all up to you now, honey, so get into wardrobe immediately, if not sooner.”

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