Sheikh's Desert Duty(59)

By: Maisey Yates



“I can’t believe you ended your engagement for me... I...I...”

“Sophie, I have to tell you...I called Colin Fairfax. He mentioned a trade. A tape. I know you didn’t do this simply to get a scandal. I know there was more. And it isn’t only because of what he said, but because I knew in my gut, in my heart, that you were the woman I fell for out in the desert. I knew that was truly who you were and I think I would have come for you no matter what.”

“Really?”

“I have a bad habit of kidnapping you.”

She laughed, a sniffly, watery sound.

“Sophie....what was the tape? I need to know.”

She wanted to protect him from this. Didn’t want to do anything to destroy the moment, but she owed him honesty. Because she refused to hide herself from him. Refused to hide anything from him.

“I feel like...I do need to tell you this,” she said, the words coming out slowly. “Because I want you to know something. Because I want you to understand that as much as I love Isabelle...I wouldn’t have told about Leila and James if I didn’t have to. Because I love you, Zayn. I love you more than anything or anyone. I would have chosen you. I would have chosen your family. It’s more than just a trade, it’s all of that. And since you know about the recording...I need you to know that.”

She took a shaky breath and continued. “My boss called after I got back to my room and told me he had a recording. He says he got it from Damien’s father. He...he played some of it for me. It’s a recording of you. Of your last altercation with Jasmine. He was going to release it, and I offered him a trade. And to ensure he kept his word...I sort of blackmailed him and threatened to tell his wife he’s been cheating. Well, and then he fired me. But the thing is, I didn’t want you to know about the tape. I don’t want you to ever hear it. I didn’t want it...I didn’t want it out there. Because you have to understand that no matter how sad it is that your last moment with your sister was a bad one, you didn’t force her to make the decision she did. We all make our own choices. I made this one. To protect you. And I sort of sacrificed Leila to do it, and I know you never would have. But that was my choice. You. Always you.”

* * *

Zayn’s heart felt full. Like it would burst. Pain, grief and a strange release were rising in him like a tide.

He had come back for her. But this...this was beyond anything he had imagined.

And yes, it brought about the pain of that day. Knowing there was a recording of those angry words spoken between them, a tape he would never need to hear because he could replay it in his mind without error.

“I do not...I do not deserve this,” he said. It was all he could say, all he could think.

“You’ve saved everyone else, why won’t you let someone save you?” she asked, the words so innocent, so perfect, he could hardly accept them. Could hardly accept that she was real. That she had seen him, and still wanted him. That she knew his darkest secrets, and still loved him.

“Is that what you have come to do?” he asked. “Save me?”

“You kidnapped me. And I grant you, saving your kidnapper...it’s strange. But so are we. I’m...well, I’m the girl from the wrong side of the tracks. And you? You’re a sheikh. We don’t go together.”

Emotion nearly choked him. “Perhaps that is why we are perfect for each other.”

“Zayn...are we? Do you want this? Do you want...me?”

“Yes.” There was no hesitation, because he had known the answer. Always.

“That’s the moment I was waiting for,” she said, her green eyes glittering with tears, “that triumphant moment...it was this all along. I’m Sophie Parsons. You know me. I don’t have any money or any status. Or a job. My bank account is empty. But my heart is full. It’s full of love for you.”

His chest tightened, so much it was painful, his eyes stinging. “I will tell you another story,” he said.

“Will you?”

“Yes. Once there was a man who did things for others, so he would not have to look at the pain inside himself. And he met a princess. But he did not love her. And she did not heal him. Then he met a woman, and he loved her with everything in him. And that love is what healed him.”

“I hope this story has a happy ending,” she said, a tear sliding down her cheek.

“That is up to you.”

“This is like a fairy tale, you know. And I never bothered with those, because I always figured they weren’t for girls like me. But now...now I think...it was always the girl locked in the tower. Or the girl who scrubbed the floors. Or the one whose father didn’t love her. These stories...they’re for everyone. They’re for me. This is for me. So yes, this will have a happy ending.     We will have a happy ending.”

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