The Sheikh's Bargain Bride (Desert Kings)(4)

By: Diana Fraser



“Tell me, Anna, why did you marry my brother?”

His question caught her off-guard. She hesitated as she remembered the brief courtship with her husband—so different to that of the other men she’d known.

“He was gentle; he respected me.” Even as she uttered the words she realized how impossibly small they must sound to people who didn’t have to fight for everything they had. But, to her, they had been huge—big enough to divert her from her hard-won Cornell scholarship.

“That’s it? You’ve put our family through hell because you needed respect?”

“I married him because I loved him.”

His gaze fell briefly. He walked away and looked through one of the huge domed windows with views across the desert, out to the distant red hills.

“Loved his money more. It must have seemed a miracle that someone of his standing should take interest in someone like you.”

“Why? You did.”

She bit her lip. Referring to their one-night stand was hardly clever in the present circumstances.

He slowly turned to face her. Horizontal beams of late afternoon sunlight shone onto his dark face but revealed nothing. He was like a closed book now as he approached her.

Closed and too close.

A muscle flickered in his jaw.

“I,” he flicked loose the band that held her hair back and watched intently as it swung into position like a curtain of silk, “am not my brother. I am a realist. I harbor no sentimental illusions about anything or anyone. Particularly when it comes to sex. Particularly with someone like you. And just as well when you turned out to be the wife of my beloved brother. If it’s respect you want I suggest you try practicing loyalty, try speaking the truth.”

“But we didn’t know…it wasn’t that simple…” Her words sunk into the silence of words that could not be uttered, even now. There was no point. Whatever she said, she was damned in his eyes.

“It was exactly that simple.”

She sensed the latent power of his fist as it ground briefly against the doorframe before he turned away.

She had no fear for herself. She knew instinctively that he would never hurt her physically. It was what he could do to her emotionally that scared her.

“There’s only one simple fact here and that’s that Matta is my son and he will not be living here with you.”

He turned to face her, all signs of his anger masked once more. He shook his head. “The child stays.” His lips quirked into a chilling smile.

The chill turned to ice down her spine and destroyed all hope.

“You can’t take him away from me. You can’t.” She stepped towards him and clutched his arm in desperation, gathering the loose folds of his robe like a dying woman gripping tight to a lifeline. He stilled instantly as if electrified. He turned slowly to face her. His eyes were lowered, in disdain, she imagined. But she had nothing left. “What do I have to do to make you see?”

“You can do nothing.” He raised his hand slowly to hers, still clutching the soft silk of his robe, and then pressed it against hers. For one long moment she thought she might have got through—touched something inside of him—but then his hand grasped hers and dragged it away. “Begging won’t get you anywhere.”

“Then what will?” He was silent and she pressed her advantage. She had nothing to lose and everything to gain. “Zahir, you can’t take him. He’s my life.” She shook her head and he closed his eyes briefly as her hair swept his cheek. He trapped a strand between his fingers but didn’t let it fall.

“And what is your life to me? Life in the desert, life at war, is worth only what it can be bargained for. What,” he added softly, “would you give in return for your son?”

“You want to bargain?” she asked, incredulous.

“Yes.”

“What do you want?”

“You.”

He let his hand trail down her arm.

“Why would you possibly want me when you have so little respect for me.”

He smiled. “Respect? More like unfinished business.”

Something, fear or lust, sliced through her deep inside and sent shivers radiating out to her skin. He lifted her hand and examined her forearm, now raised with goosebumps.

“Cold, Anna?”

“Disgusted, Zahir.”

“I think not. I think, I know, you want me still. If you live with me, here in Qarawan, you can still be with your son. Otherwise, you will never see him again.”

“It’s illegal, I’ll win him back.”

“I have the power, Anna. The law has nothing to do with it. You have my conditions, what is your answer?”

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