The Sheikh's Bargain Bride (Desert Kings)(10)

By: Diana Fraser



Suddenly she heard running feet.

With an impending sense of horror, she put her hand to her mouth, wanting to call out, to stop Matta from being rejected, to keep him from harm. He had no business to be there. But he was too far away. Neither Zahir, nor Matta, could see or hear her.

She watched as Matta bounded up to Zahir from behind and jump onto his leg, his little hands digging in to the folds of his robe. With one swift movement, Zahir had swept his arm around Matta’s small body and swung him high in the air.

Appalled, Anna watched, waiting to see the inevitable. But it didn’t come.

Matta’s loud shrieks of joy echoed around the courtyard as Zahir swung him again and again into the air, catching him before he fell.

The guests laughed and turned away to leave.

As the adrenalin ebbed from her body, she sank against the wall for support. She felt sick and dazed. She continued to watch as Zahir swept the boy up until he sat across his shoulders, each chubby leg firmly secured by Zahir’s hands. As they turned towards the gardens, Anna caught sight of Matta’s wide grin below eyes that shone bright in the sunlight.





By the time she reached them Matta was back on his feet, trying to catch up with his young cousins. She fell into step with Zahir as they made their way through to the rear entrance of the palace, out to a plateau that overlooked the wide plains.

She reached out and placed her hand lightly on his arm. He stopped walking immediately and turned to her expectantly.

“Zahir, I was wrong.”

He raised an eyebrow. “I’m sure you were. But about what in particular?”

She even ignored his jibe. “About Matta.”

“Ahh.” He nodded. She could see he understood.

“You were right. This is the place for him. He will be happy here.”

He hesitated. For a moment she wondered if he realized what it had taken for her to say these words. Perhaps. Perhaps not. She would never know for he didn’t speak. He simply nodded slowly.

“He is happy here. Look.”

Her gaze followed his, out to where the boys were playing, safely within the battlements of the palace, safe from the plunging drop below, his nurse watching close by.

The late afternoon was giving way to a sunset that flooded the surrounding plain with fire, warming Zahir’s face. She dropped her hand that was still touching his arm and stepped away.

“I have to go now.”

“Get changed for dinner. We are not always so traditional. You are free to wear whichever of your clothes you like: traditional or western. You have plenty to choose from. I will send Matta in shortly.”

She nodded. She couldn’t even wait for her son. It was as if something inside her had shifted, the pressure was off. The wide-open plains, her son safe, she felt herself being lulled into a state she couldn’t have imagined twenty-four hours previously. She needed to get away from Zahir. She needed time to think.

Zahir watched her go and smiled to himself. He wasn’t sure exactly what it was that so reassured her. Presumably seeing the boy with his friends and relations. Whatever. The first part of his plan had gone well: reassure her about the child.

She was wrong. He hadn’t underestimated her maternal instincts. The first stage of his plan of seduction was based on them. And, with that worry gone, she would know there was no other place for her than here. Now she had to realize that there was no other place for her than in his bed. And she would. She would soon see that there were worse things than being the wife and lover of Sheikh Zahir Al-Zaman of Qawaran.





Dressed in one of the beautiful designer gowns that now filled her wardrobe, Anna looked through the east window, out to where a line of darkness crept over the plains as the fiery sun dipped behind the mountains. The view, so beguiling in its expanse, so different to the intimate beauty of the courtyard garden, called to her strongly. Her acceptance that Matta was where he needed to be came at a cost. The void she’d felt open within her, couldn’t be filled. Part of her believed that that was enough; that was all she could hope for. But something deep inside demanded more. She closed her eyes and felt the wide, open space as though it were a living entity. Could she find her own freedom here?

The unearthly screech of a bird of prey echoed around the darkening plains and drew her attention up into the blood-red sky. She watched the huge falcon spread its tawny-black feathers and hover for a moment before swooping downwards suddenly. It flew past her window and landed on a man’s outstretched gloved hand.

She could see the bird’s plumage, rich and textured in the last of the fiery sun, could see it stretch its neck in pleasure as the man gently stroked the falcon’s body. The falcon stopped pacing on the man’s gloved hand, calmed and ducked his head in submission.

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