The Sheikh's Bargain Bride (Desert Kings)(7)

By: Diana Fraser

“You are insulted. It is not beauty I seek. Beautiful women are easily attainable. No, it is you I want.”

“Why? Just tell me why. Is it anger that I was married to your brother? Is it for revenge because you believe me responsible for your brother’s death? Punishment for betraying him with you? Do you think you’re teaching me a lesson or something? What?”

A few days ago he’d wanted to do all of these things. But now? The intensity was still there but the hot anger had been replaced by something new. His body still stirred at her proximity, wanting to draw close to her, breathe her in, touch her skin, watch her emotions flicker across her grey-blue eyes. His heart still beat to be with her. But now he had her, now he’d won the battle for her and she was here, just as she should be, he felt her vulnerability. He simply wanted to hold her. But he couldn’t. Not yet.

He might have won the battle, but not the war. War came down to strategy. And strategy came down to tactics.

“Why do I want you? It is simple. I have spent every day of the last four years imagining making love to you; remembering your eyes, your mouth, open, moist, wanting. Your thighs, how they felt against my tongue, against my fingers.”

He paused briefly, arrested by the sight of her shocked expression as he took her back to the memory of their one night together. Her hand was frozen in the act of raising the coffee cup to her lips: lips, he noticed, that were lightly parted as if spellbound by his words. And her gaze held his with eyes that had become more violet than blue from the inner heat that he could see shimmering across her skin, pumping her body with awareness.

He smiled to himself. He simply had to give her time for her mind to allow what her body already knew.

“I cannot live like that,” he continued. “I have work to do, a people and a country to govern. I must have you to rid myself of this obsession.”

She took a deep breath as she placed the coffee cup carefully before her. “And how exactly do you propose to have me? You said that it would not be by force. Or have you changed your mind on that score?”

“You insult me. I would never do anything so dishonorable.”

“So let’s get this straight. You’d kidnap my son and blackmail me into marriage. And that’s not dishonorable?”

“No. That is a means to an end. Taking you by force would have no positive benefits, other than temporary. It is you,” he looked into her eyes, “who I must have. And it must be done willingly or it will be ineffective.”

“Zahir. You’re like a spoilt boy, wanting only what you can’t have. You think like one to. Once you get it then you won’t want it any more. I’ll be moved to a corner of the palace and forgotten about.”

“You understand perfectly.”

She shook her head. “I won’t play your games.”

“Then don’t. If you don’t wish to engage in this battle, you have already described your solution.”

“I have?”

“Come to me. Let us ride out this mutual obsession,” he held up his hand to silence her. “It is mutual. And then it will be over.”

Over. Could she do it? Swallow her pride and her dreams and give in to his wishes? But not just to his wishes, she was forced to admit. Her mind had been desperately trying to control her physical response to Zahir since she’d entered the room. And she’d succeeded at first. But his words of passion broke through that control, filling her mind with nothing but the memory of the heat of his naked body against hers, of the rhythmic movement of his hips as he drove into her repeatedly, sending her over the edge to a place that she dared not revisit. Without control she would be entirely at his mercy.

“I can see you like the thought.”

She could feel her cheeks burning.

“I won’t make it so easy for you.”

“Easy for you, I would have thought. Lie with me, then, when the obsession is vented—maybe months, maybe years—it will be over. You can do whatever you wish to do: stay here with Matta, or not. You will be wealthy and have the freedom and independence you claim you’ve left behind.”

So he had heard her. And yet he’d made no sign or acknowledgement of her words last night.

His flippant use of the words that she held so dear angered her. What did he know about growing up, always on the outside of society, looking in? What did he know about studying all night in order to gain the education that she knew to be the key to independence? What did he know about letting her own dreams slip away from her, shifting them to her son? Matta would be loved. He would be respected. He would be a part of this world that had excluded her from birth, by virtue of her birth.

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