For my current readers:
I can't write a thank you big enough to cover my thoughts on the reviews for Partners, but I want you all to know that you made me feel really special at a time I am not feeling my best. For those of you who mentioned it, there won't be a sequel, I'll let you write the rest of the story for yourselves, it's so much better that way ;)
Isabel- yes the list on my bio is stories I have completed and have ready to post, I update each time I finish one :)
For my new readers:
Welcome to the world that is AngKeats, please let me know what you think of my story and feel welcome to check out my others :)
This is just a short intro chapter, the rest will be longer!
"Let her go."
Troy's voice was strong, commanding but low enough not to carry. In the dark forest it was wise not to shout too loud. It was wise to move quickly.
Only something he had seen stopped him short. A girl- he couldn't tell how old- was being dragged by the wrists through the trees by an overpowering male.
And as he rode his stallion through the sweet smelling wood, his face wrapped with scarves to cover himself from the chill; he'd caught the scene and felt compelled to save the damsel in distress.
The man he'd accosted just laughed, gripping tighter on the petite Arabian female's wrists as she took advantage of the respite in being dragged along.
"She's mine, stranger." He said. "You should go on your way."
Troy flicked his eyes to the tiny black-haired girl; her hair impossibly long and her costume distinctly Princess Jasmine-like. He didn't know her from anyone and yet something about the fire in her brown, brown eyes told him to fight for her.
"Let her go, I won't say it again." Troy repeated, watching as she twisted and rolled to break the contact the man had on her.
"Look buddy, I bought her at the slave market fair and square. Good price, too," he arched a brow.
Troy swung his leg over his horse and dropped to the ground. "How much?"
The man laughed again while the girl paused, frowning at him now.
"I'm not selling her."
"Why not? I'll give you double what you paid." Troy offered, tucking his scarf down while he negotiated.
"Double?" The man hesitated.
"Name the price." Troy reiterated.
"I was gonna have fun with this one tonight, too," the man flicked his eyes over the girl, making her scowl.
"How much?" Troy repeated, standing firm, his horse whinnying impatiently behind him.
"Five mill." The man stated.
Troy arched his brow. "As if you had 2 mill to start with…"
"You wanted her, any price," the man goaded.
"Fine, five mill it is," Troy went into his pouch tethered to his horse and wrote out a cheque.
"How do I know it'll cash?" The man squinted unsurely as Troy held out the scrap of paper.
"Look at the name on it." He told him with a direct stare of his blue eyes.
The man looked up again, shocked.
"Here's two hundred in notes to disappear," he added, handing the man a wad of notes.
The guy looked at him and then at the money and then held forward the chains that bound the girl by both hands and feet and acted as a leash, too.
"Is there a key?" Troy asked and the man flicked his eyes up from counting out his money to smirk.
"Here," he handed over a small key and Troy looked to the girl, then back.
"Thanks. Travel safely," he added- the standard term of parting in Arabia.
"Good luck with her anyway, she kicked me all the way home…" the man muttered as he walked away, leaving Troy and the girl alone.
"Well?" He asked, his breath smoky in the cold air as he began to unlock the chains. "Are you gonna kick me?"
"Don't think you own me now," the girl warned in a low voice, bringing his eyes up in surprise, having just unlocked her ankles and about to start at her wrists.
"I do until we get out of here," he told her. "What's your name?"
She jiggled her wrists impatiently for release and he curled his lips up at the edges, deliberately delaying until she answered.
"Gabriella." She supplied once she realised he wasn't going to free her until she answered.
"All done," he husked as he dropped the chains to the ground, frowning as he noticed the red marks on her wrists and he unconsciously rubbed his thumbs against the sore skin instinctively.
"Ouch," she complained softly, tugging her hands toward her chest and he let go with his gentle hands quickly.
"Look, I'll take you to the border. You can do what you like then," he offered.
Gabriella met his gaze as she rubbed her own wrists. "I told you, I'm no-one's slave."
"Then how do you expect to get out of here alive?" He challenged. "The way I see it, two steps outside this forest and you'll be kidnapped by the next guy you see."
She closed her eyes and shuddered at the memory of being used like this, being bought and sold like a belonging; and the thought of going through the same thing over made her sick to the stomach.
When she opened her eyes again she met the acute blue gaze of her saviour. Someone who had stopped in the middle of a dark forest, paid five million pounds to secure her safety when he had seen she was being taken against her will and now he was offering her the ultimate freedom. For nothing in return.
As much as she loathed to do it, she had to trust him at his word.
She swallowed. "You promise I'm free at the end?"
"I promise." His eyes were steady like his voice.
"And you won't try anything on the way?"
He grimaced, flicking her a look under his lashes that flipped her belly. "I'm a man not an animal."
"Then I'll go with you." She agreed, rubbing her upper arms now as the chill of the night air sank in.
"Here, wear this," Troy shrugged out of his thick cotton overcoat to leave his gauzy day shirt, and then looked back at her as he reached his horse. "Can you get up?"
Her large brown eyes told him she couldn't so he reached for her waist to lift her.
"What are you doing?" She stepped back, protecting herself against his hands.
"Lifting you up…"
She sighed, frowning again as she pulled his jacket tighter around herself. "I wish they didn't make us wear this flimsy shit," she muttered, walking up to the side of the horse and putting a foot in the stirrup. She looked behind her and pressed her lips in.
"Can you give me a boost?" She asked, gasping in shock as his hands pushed her backside up toward the saddle and she had no choice but to quickly straddle the animal and scowl down on Troy.
He gave her a winning smile and easily launched himself up behind her, taking the reins around her sides, her long hair against his chest.
"What is your name anyway?" She asked him after another sigh.
"Troy," he supplied. "Troy Bolton."
"Troy Bolton finished his six-month sabbatical yesterday and Bolton Enterprise staff are expecting their Executive Director to be back at his desk within the next few days- he is thought to be on a flight right now from Arabia back to the US where his multi-million dollar profit making organisation runs on perfectly without him overseeing the day to day management the way the staff have become used to.
It is often said that Bolton is one of the rare entrepreneurs who has both humanity and shrewd business acumen- a lethal combination that has so far frozen out all of the near competition and landed his franchise the monopoly in the market- something many doubted he would ever do due to his young age.
Now 32, having built his empire over a long, steady ten years, he decided to take a break from work and feed his soul instead by travelling the most mysterious country in the world, Arabia. There was no press allowed into the vicinity; as predicted to allow Bolton total freedom to roam without media glare but the spotlight will be strong when he returns. His career spent building Bolton Enterprise has landed him number one in Forbes magazine and an interview and special documentary are already in the planning.
Now all we have to do is wait for him to land on familiar soil and find out if business is still his main priority- or if he might be letting go of his tight reins having had a taste of the wild…"
Troy took out his earphones and sighed, looking down to his laptop to watch the rest of the news article before he laid his head back on the seat cushion and closed his eyes.
He had to go back and face the intense media glare his success had brought him. He had to withstand the cameras, avoid the questions and commit to publicity for his award and all that was running through his head was how he was going to hide her.
He leaned his head over, opening one eye to check on Gabriella; the extra passenger on his return flight home that he hadn't expected. They'd got to the border, he'd let her go as promised and she had faltered; lost for what to do and where to go and without even leaving, he'd offered her a new life in New York.
And most surprisingly, she had taken it. And now she lay beside him, asleep in her reclined chair, her small bowed lips pouted and her dark lashes against her cheeks. She'd changed from her genie outfit and into a simple long white cotton dress and snaffled his favourite hoodie to snuggle into and as he looked on her now, he saw her vulnerability very clearly.
He wondered whether it was the right thing to do, bringing her back but despite all her bravado she'd been lost when they'd reached safety and he couldn't have left her behind with a clear conscience. So he'd just have to think of something to explain his additional passenger. And think of it fast.