The Sultan's Harem Bride(10)By: Annie West
‘You shouldn’t exert yourself. You were distressed earlier and that took a toll.’
Dully, she nodded. ‘I’m...’ She shook her head.
What could she say? I’m a mess right now might be the truth but she had just enough pride left not to blurt that out. Though after the last half-hour baring herself to this man physically and emotionally she didn’t have much dignity left.
‘What’s so funny?’
Jacqui lifted her face to find him a mere step away, a frown marking that broad, handsome brow.
She bit down a half-hysterical laugh.
If she didn’t laugh she’d curl up in a ball and sob. She’d probably blown her chance to work on this wonderful project. It had shone like a beacon, dragging her out of the inertia of despair and fear.
‘Can you dress yourself?’
Jacqui blinked. Was he offering to do it for her? Her over-tired brain boggled.
‘Good. Be dressed and ready to move in ten minutes.’ Having given the order, he spun on his heel and strode out of the room, only pausing to be sure the door snicked shut behind him.
ASIM PACED THE COURTYARD, resolutely dragging his mind from imagining Jacqueline Fletcher discarding her less than adequate covering.
She was an enigma. Passionate and argumentative, not knowing when to give up. Fiery yet vulnerable. That made him want to ignore the danger she represented.
His desire to protect her was equalled by a burning desire of another kind and that was unnerving.
Yet he wanted to blame her for being alive when Imran wasn’t.
He spun on his heel.
What was his grandmother thinking, inviting a journalist here? Having a professional snoop under the same roof—no matter how large a roof—invited trouble. Any further invasion of his sister Samira’s privacy could tip her into a complete breakdown. The doctors hadn’t said it outright but it was what they feared.
His stomach knotted. Samira had endured so much because he’d failed to protect her. The knowledge ate at him like acid.
Reluctantly he’d supported her plan to study overseas, only to learn she’d embarked on a passionate affair with a Hollywood actor who was the epitome of shallow self-absorption. But Samira had had stars in her eyes, had talked of marriage and hadn’t seen him for what he was.
She’d only found out when he’d been discovered in bed with his co-star by the woman’s wrathful husband. Acrimonious divorce proceedings had ensued, eagerly reported by the press. Scandal grew with stories of multiple infidelities, drug use and even the corruption of minors.
Samira was an innocent party in the morass of stomach-turning revelations about her boyfriend and his co-star. But the press didn’t let up. Once the darling of the paparazzi with her stunning looks, aristocratic heritage and high-profile romance, now she was their prey.
She’d sought refuge here. Only he and his grandmother and a few select staff knew that, as well as being heartbroken, Samira had to recuperate physically too. That story would never make it into the press.
He’d never known fear such as he’d experienced when he’d thought he might lose her. He’d felt so ineffectual. But this, now, was a situation he could control.
Asim grimaced, raking his fingers through his hair. He’d do whatever it took to keep his little sister safe. He wouldn’t fail her again.
Had Jacqueline Fletcher told the truth about writing a book? Or was it a ploy to get a scoop on Samira?
Suspicion ran deep in Asim. How could it not after he’d witnessed the web of lies that had been his parents’ marriage? How could he trust the woman who’d been caught up in Imran’s death?
Yet he couldn’t get a handle on her. He knew she was a respected news reporter. She was Australian, though she’d spent years in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He knew she’d been with Imran when he died.
Everything else was speculation.
Speculation and an unhealthy dollop of attraction.
Asim shook his head, fed up with his circling thoughts. It was time.
He knocked but didn’t enter. Better to be sure she was decently covered. The door swung inwards.