The Sultan's Harem Bride(9)

By: Annie West



‘You intend to write about the women of the palace? And my grandmother agreed?’ His voice was a bass rumble that made her skin ripple.

Jacqui planted her feet, refusing to back up again. ‘She not only agreed, she was enthusiastic.’

What was his problem? He hadn’t looked this menacing even when they’d spoken of Imran. This was about something else.

‘I find that difficult to believe.’ He shook his head, folding his arms across his wide chest. The light of battle disappeared from his eyes, replaced by condescension as he looked down that sexy, arrogant nose of his.

‘I assure you, Your Highness, I’m not in the habit of lying.’ Anger took her across the room till she stood only an arm’s length away. He might be lord of all he surveyed but that didn’t give him the right to call her a liar.

She breathed deep then regretted it as she inhaled the hot, enticing scent of his skin. It infuriated her that she noticed it. She fixed her gaze on his face and ignored the predatory glint she saw there. This time, instead of frightening her, it spurred her on.

‘When I told your grandmother I wanted to write about the traditions of the harem, she was enthusiastic. That way of life has disappeared and I want to document it.’

‘You want to write about women from the past?’

‘That’s what I said.’ Jacqui frowned. ‘The women of the palace and their lives here. Or perhaps you think women’s stories aren’t important?’ The challenge slid out before she could stop it. She was on a roll, too keyed up to pull back, though she knew she should.

Maybe because living dangerously was far more appealing than the dark nothingness she’d inhabited these past months.

Tonight, for the first time in ages, she felt blood pump in her veins. She felt alive.

‘History is about more than wars and politics and who runs the country. What happens on a domestic level is important too.’

‘Yet you made your name chasing stories about wars and politics and who run countries across the globe.’

Jacqui blinked, rocked by the fact he knew about her career. And by the reminder of all she’d lost.

‘I’m interested in a lot of things. My background in news journalism doesn’t mean I can’t branch into something different.’

At least she hoped it didn’t. Nerves made her stomach clench and her palms dampen.

She didn’t know yet if she had what it took to make this dream a reality. But it was the only dream left to her. She’d cling to it with both hands. She owed it to her friend and to herself.

The Sultan surveyed her silently, as if she were a curiosity. Because no one ever stood up to him? She was pretty sure royal protocol didn’t allow for contradicting the sovereign.

Jacqui drew a shaky breath and prayed she hadn’t blown her one chance. She couldn’t fail before she’d even started.

‘Your grandmother is one of the few people who remember such a life here. She’s a valuable resource and it would be criminal not to record what she remembers. This is part of Jazeer’s culture and history.’

‘You’re very passionate about this.’

‘There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about what you do.’

Unless it leads you and your friends into danger.

Unless it destroys lives.

Memory was a sucker-punch to the belly. Her shoulders hunched, the pain almost doubling her over. Here she was, arguing trifles when Imran would never again feel the sun on his face or see his family. Because she had led him into danger. Maybe it was only just that she’d lost her career, her old life, as a result. Maybe she deserved to.

A firm hand closed around her upper arm, holding her steady.

‘Slow breaths.’

Jacqui closed her eyes and nodded, focusing on breathing out through the pain.

The heat of his big frame radiated against her, counteracting the chill deep in her bones. The reassurance of his grip seeped strength into limbs that had turned limp.

‘Here,’ he said. ‘You’ll feel better if you sit.’

Jacqui opened her eyes as he led her to the bed. She almost sighed out loud with relief as she sank onto it. Immediately he withdrew his hand.

‘Thank you,’ she whispered. ‘You’re very kind.’

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