The Sheikh's Bargain Bride (Desert Kings)(3)

By: Diana Fraser

“I want to see him now.” Her voice was edgy, nervous.

“He is unavailable.”

“To his mother?” She jumped up. “If you don’t take me to him, I’ll find him myself.”

He shook his head. “You’d be lost within minutes.”

She turned and headed for the door. But before she could open it he was beside her, his hands gripping her wrists, shackling her to him.

“Anna. You need to calm down before you see him. We have to talk first.”

“You have two minutes and then I’m off.”

She froze as his hand tightened his grip around her.

“I’ll take as long as I like and you will listen.”

“What the hell do we have to say to each other that hasn’t already been said? What else do you need to know?”

“I? I don’t need to know anything further. But you do.”

Her voice was quiet. “I hate you Zahir. You haven’t rested until you could take my son from me. You’ve never hesitated to show your disdain for me. What the hell do you want from me?”

“You still don’t understand do you? Matta is here because he will be living with me from now on.”

“No!” She shook her head, tiny little shakes that sent tremors through her body. “I will never let Matta stay here with you. You have no legal rights.”

“I am his uncle. He will be my heir. He will have everything. With you, he will have nothing. Hardly the doting mother to deprive your child of so much.”

“A child needs his mother. For God’s sake. There must be some shadow of humanity in you. Think of your own mother. Think of her.”

“If you’d had a real relationship with my brother you’d know that our mother died when he was a baby—when I was ten.”

“I’m sorry.” She was stunned. There was so much her husband, Abduallah, had neglected to tell her.

He shrugged. “It is unimportant. I scarcely remember her. A child needs to learn early to survive and Matta will do just that.”

“No! You can’t take him. Any court in any country would give the mother custody of her own child.”

“Depends on what can be proved against the mother.”

“Nothing. You have nothing against me. I have done nothing.”

The thin veneer of politeness left him instantly. The seductive silky-smooth aura of the wealthy womanizer—whose playground knew no borders, no limits—was replaced by the powerful sheikh who’d spent his younger life at war where no rules applied. The change was in his eyes. They were bare—stripped of the chill aloofness—naked and fierce.

“You’ve done everything. Abduallah is dead because of you and your family.”

She shook her head. But she was unable to completely deny the connection between her family and the death of Abduallah. If she hadn’t introduced him to her brother; if the drugs hadn’t been so readily available to someone with her brother’s connections and Abduallah’s money...

But it wasn’t her. She couldn’t be held responsible. “No.” She shook her head more strongly.

“Face facts, Anna, you’re hardly the virtuous widow. Evidence can easily be obtained.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“What? Fabricate evidence against you? I don’t need to. It’s surprising how easily people talk—say whatever you want them to—when money is involved. I know that you’re not a drug user—never have been—but your connections proved fatal to Abduallah. And, believe me, I’d do anything to secure the future of my own flesh and blood.”

She blanched at his words. “Matta?”

“Of course.”

“Matta is my son,” she repeated. “I’m not giving him to you: not now, not ever. I’d die before that happened.”

He stepped towards her, scanning her face. She had nowhere to go. Her back was already pressed against the door. He touched her cheek with his finger, softly drawing down a velvety trail that ended at her jaw. He narrowed his eyes at the sight of the moisture on his fingertip. She hadn’t even known she was crying.

The crease between his brows deepened. He swung round as if to turn away, as if to mask some inner struggle, but stopped abruptly and turned back to face her. Silently his eyes searched hers and she saw the chill had gone, replaced by a complex intensity that confused her.

“You love him then,” he said dully.

“The word ‘love’ sounds strange on your lips, Zahir. I’m surprised you know what it means.”

He dropped the hand that hovered close to her cheek, his handsome face suddenly weary. Abduallah had told her of Zahir’s sacrifice: the years of desert warfare, living away from home in order to protect his family and country. How could a man, so isolated, so accustomed to war, know anything about love?

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