The Sultan's Harem Bride(5)By: Annie West
Though according to Imran plenty of women had already thrown themselves at His Royal Highness.
Jacqui pressed a hand to her swooping stomach.
‘You should sit.’ It wasn’t a suggestion but an order, cracking through the tension in the room.
Jacqui pushed back her shoulders and opened her mouth to tell him she was fine.
‘The dream was disturbing. You shouldn’t exert yourself yet.’
‘You know about that?’
‘Why do you think I’m here?’ His lofty expression made a joke of her fear he might be a sexual predator. What would a man like Sultan Asim want with a woman as plain as Jacqui Fletcher?
Awkwardly, the long coverlet almost tripping her, she subsided on the bed. Silly, how weak her knees felt. But the dream had been so real.
‘Are you all right?’ He’d moved from the door but kept his distance. Clearly he had no desire to get close.
Grimly Jacqui acknowledged she wasn’t in the same league as the sort of women rich, sexy potentates entertained. Nature had skimped on her curves, for a start. Was that why she accepted so easily that his interest wasn’t personal?
‘I’ll be fine soon,’ she lied. Experience told her it would take far longer to shake the miasma of that dream. She tugged the covering close.
‘Do you get them often?’
Her head snapped up. What did he see as he scrutinised her so closely? Terror? Grief? Guilt?
Instinct urged her to protect her privacy. ‘Occasionally.’
‘You should see someone about them.’
‘You seem awfully interested in my sleeping habits.’
Was that a flush of colour across his cheekbones or a trick of the multi-coloured light?
Jacqui tensed and rubbed her forehead; a headache was beginning. Nerves and stress made her snap at the man who had the power to make or break this venture.
How could she? Everything rode on the Sultan’s goodwill.
She wished she could blame her stupidity on being disorientated after the nightmare. Yet Jacqui had an awful suspicion her reaction to the Sultan himself was to blame. He was just...too big, too masculine, too close, though he stood metres away. It was as if the spacious room had shrunk and couldn’t accommodate the two of them.
‘I’m sorry,’ she murmured huskily. ‘I apologise.’
‘No need. I understand.’ His voice was a deep burr that worked its way under her skin and turned her insides to mush. ‘The circumstances are...unusual. I should apologise for breaching your privacy. Finding a stranger so close on waking must be disconcerting.’
No mention of her nudity, or his hands on her body.
Yet she had trouble thinking of anything else.
She should be relieved he clearly didn’t want to be in her bedroom. What she’d thought was a gleam of sexual interest in those hooded eyes was nothing of the kind.
Yet for some reason tension still eddied between them.
‘Now we’ve got the apologies out of the way...’ he paused, as if waiting to be sure they had ‘...you can answer my question.’
‘Your question?’ Jacqui felt like a parrot, repeating the word, but her foggy brain was a mess of impressions. Imran. The barely familiar room. The shock of meeting the Sultan. The curious ripple of reaction deep inside when those dark eyes rested on her.
He folded his arms and Jacqui was momentarily distracted as the movement moulded his long robe to a body that was even larger and more powerful than she’d imagined.
‘Exactly who are you?’
* * *
Amber. Her eyes were a luminous shade of amber. A warm, enticing shade that made him think of sunrise over the desert, or the peachy reflection of late-afternoon light in the pool at his favourite oasis.
Asim had been stunned by that glowing brightness when she’d looked up at him. Those wide-spaced, slightly slanted eyes gave her an intriguing feline look.
He found himself staring.
Better staring at her eyes than her naked flesh, his conscience taunted. He was the lion of Jazeer, ruler, law-giver and leader. He did not ogle defenceless women.
Yet the image of her lithe, streamlined body had lodged in some unrepentant part of his brain and he couldn’t shift it.
She hunched her bare shoulders and he realised he was scowling.