The Sheikh's Bargain Bride (Desert Kings)(2)

By: Diana Fraser

It was furnished for comfort too, with simple, over-sized suede sofas in neutral tones grouped around a huge wooden table, glowing with a patina created from years of care.

She sat down wearily and looked around. It was a room designed to appeal to the senses: a seductive room. God help her.

She dropped her bag and her hand instinctively caressed the geometric inlay that edged the wooden table. It was smooth, worn by generations of hands, seeking to engage with its beauty. But even as her fingers sought the same engagement, her eyes searched the shadows.

A cool breeze alerted her to a door opening on the far side of the room, behind a wooden screen.

She didn’t see him at first but she knew he was there. Just the feel of his powerful presence close to her kick-started something deep inside that had lain dormant since she’d seen him last. Her heart hammered against her chest and she could feel heat rise through her body that had nothing to do with the warmth of the spring afternoon.

Then he emerged, all dark and light. There had never been any half measures with Zahir—physically, intellectually or emotionally. It had been a part of the initial attraction to be with someone so definite, so sure. Now, the white of his robes accentuated the rich nutmeg of his skin and the shadows that gathered below the strong lines of his face. His eyes, too, seemed to absorb the light. They held no subtlety of expression or color, only intensity.

She felt that intensity connect with her at an elemental level, just as it had when they met nearly four years ago. It was the same as before except for the quiet rage that she could sense within him and except for the fact that she was a mother now with more to lose than herself.

Then he moved forward into the light and the impression evaporated. He was the powerful, charismatic sheikh still, but civilized. While a smile curled at his lips, his eyes showed reserve, distance.

“Salamm w aleykum Anna.” He nodded to her in greeting. “How was your journey? I hope my staff were attentive?”

She jumped up. “Where is he?”

“Surely that is no way to greet your brother-in-law? Not in my country, nor yours, I believe.”

“It’s the way we treat people—family or not—who are trying to take their child away from them.”

“I agree, such circumstances don’t warrant the usual courtesies. However, I am old-fashioned in such things.”

“Spare me the lecture in manners and tell me where I can find my son. We’ll be leaving on the next plane out.”

“Please sit. I have ordered you mint tea. Is that satisfactory?”

“Where is he?”

He smiled and sat down.

“Anna. I am being polite. I am asking questions that you should, in turn, answer politely. Didn’t your mother—? No. Of course not. With your upbringing I doubt you were taught anything other than how to find yourself a man. Preferably a wealthy one.” His eyes glittered. “And you managed that well didn’t you? Managed to dupe my romantic brother so easily.”

“Stop right there. I haven’t travelled nearly seven thousand miles to pretend we’re on polite terms. I want my son. God knows how much money it took for you to get the court to rule that he come here for a holiday. And how much more to keep him here.” She pushed her fingers through her tightly-bound hair. “Where is he?”

He sat back and looked her slowly up and down, from the scuffed toes of her boots to the hair that hadn’t seen a hair-cut in more than a year. Well, what of it? She stood straight and eyed him directly. She had no money. He’d made sure of that by tying up her husband’s money in trust funds for her son. She didn’t care except that she’d been unable to come to him until now, until Zahir had sent his jet for her.

At the thought of her son she could feel tears prick her eyelids and the maelstrom of emotions that churned in her heart threaten to destroy the cool of her composure. But still she determinedly held his gaze. He would tell her where to find her son and she would not weaken.

“Anna.” It was his gentle tone that did it. She felt the pain crack through the anger that was her shield. She turned away but not before she saw the reaction to her anguish revealed in his face.

“Anna, my nephew is with Muma Yemena—his nurse, resting before dinner.”

She nodded, trying to control her leap of excitement at getting through to him. “He’s well?”

“Of course. He’s been well cared for. Muma Yemena has been his nurse since birth.”

“Only because your brother insisted.”

“As was right.”

She sighed and sat down, studying her hands in her lap, all fight gone. She was trying desperately to control the gnawing fear that her son no longer needed her.

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