“I like a scavenger hunt. If you wanted to set up some kind of elaborate game, I might be persuaded to participate. That could keep me busy for a bit.”
“That is not what I had in mind.”
The hair on the back of her neck stood on end, goose bumps breaking out over her arms. “Organizing your sock drawer?”
“Okay, you need to start talking, because I’m starting to panic.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“I have an idea.” She had overheard enough of his conversation with James to start piecing some things together. And what she surmised was that he was royalty of some sort. Because he had accused James of sleeping with his sister. His sister, who happened to be a princess. So unless he was some kind of royal bastard, he had to be a prince, sheikh or otherwise titled person. A quick internet search when she’d gotten back to her computer would’ve clarified everything. Of course, now she was separated from her computer, for who knew how long, so finding out who he was wouldn’t be as simple as she imagined.
Though if she could get her phone...
“I am Sheikh Zayn Al-Ahmar, of Surhaadi. And I am taking you back to my country for the foreseeable future.”
Her stomach jumped up and hit the back of her throat.
“What do you mean I’m coming back to your country with you?”
“Just exactly what I said. You are returning to Surhaadi with me, until I can figure out a means of dealing with you.”
“Well, I don’t want to.”
He shifted in his seat, one arm draped over the back of it, his legs thrown out in front of him. He had the posture of a lazy cat, as though this were mundane. As though he kidnapped women from alleys in New York every day, and threatened to take them back to his desert kingdom. As though this were as commonplace as ordering sparkling water instead of still.
But she had a feeling it was only an illusion. That, much like a cat, the lazy posture was simply lulling her into a false sense of security, so that she would be all the more surprised when he pounced. She decided then and there that she would not be lulled.
“All of this has very little to do with want, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “Do you truly think I want to bring you back to my country with me? If so, you are mistaken. This goes deeper than want. This is about what I must do.”
“Well, what is it you must do? Let me help you with that, and perhaps we can both be spared this whole taking me back to the desert thing.”
“I am afraid I do not have time to negotiate.”
“I’m asking honestly, what is it you need? What is it you want from me?” Anything was preferable to this. Well, okay, not anything. But a lot of things.
“I require your silence, habibti. And while under normal circumstances I would be willing to pay for your silence, I find that I must be even more diligent in this instance. I cannot take the chance you will simply take my money and then give away my secrets, anyway.”
“I have a lot of honor. And I also have a lot of bills. So, all things considered, a payoff might be your best bet.” At this point, she just wanted to forget she had ever even seen the man. No payoff required. She was starting to get seriously freaked out.
“As I said, under normal circumstances I might have gone that route. But there is too much at stake. Anyway, what sort of paltry story do you suppose you could bring out of the Chatsfield name? There is more to this story. More to what I know about James Chatsfield. Come back to the palace with me, and I will tell you everything.”
Oh, no, that was far too easy, and made absolutely no sense. The man was trying to get her away from people, away from New York, to keep something secret. He was hardly going to give her surrounding information.
“I don’t trust you.”
“All things considered, I doubt there is any chance of there being trust between us.”
“Well, perhaps we don’t need trust. Perhaps we just need you to not force me to go someplace against my will. Right now, I would take that over trust.”
The limo started to slow, pulling into a driveway that she didn’t recognize. This didn’t look like any of the airports she was familiar with, or at least not a terminal she was familiar with. Not that she had spent very much time traveling, but she had dropped friends off when they went on trips.
Still, she was not an authority on air travel. “Where are we?”
“A private section of the airport, reserved for visiting dignitaries. It allows us to sidestep a lot of bureaucracy.”
She was starting to put the pieces together, but between the general feeling of shock and the haze of disbelief covering this whole thing she wasn’t feeling as quick as she usually did.