The Sheikh's Heir(4)

By: Sharon Kendrick

He raised his head then and she saw the way he stilled. The way his black eyes narrowed as he moved his gaze around the ballroom until at last it came to alight on her.

Like a hunter, she thought.

Ella felt as if she had been caught in a dark yet blinding spotlight. She could feel herself flush—a slow heat which started at the top of her head and seemed to work its way right down to her toes. Had he known she’d been staring at him? Look away, she urged herself furiously. Look away from him right now. But she couldn’t. It was as if he had cast some powerful spell over her which was making it impossible for her to tear her gaze away.

From across the dance floor, his black eyes grew slightly amused as their overlong eye contact was maintained. A pair of ebony brows were raised at her in arrogant question, and when still she did not move, he bent to whisper something into the blonde’s ear.

Ella was aware of the woman turning and glaring at her and of the man with the black eyes beginning to walk towards her. Run, she urged herself. Get away from here before it’s too late.

But she didn’t run. She couldn’t. It was as if she’d been turned into a tree and was rooted to the spot. Now he was almost upon her, and his physical presence was so overwhelming that she felt the breath dry in her throat. His shadow moved over her as he approached, enveloping her—and suddenly it was as if every other person in the crowded ballroom had ceased to exist.

There was a pause while he let his eyes rove unashamedly over her face and then her body, just as he’d done when the big-breasted redhead had passed him by.

‘Have we met somewhere before?’ he questioned.

Ella didn’t have to hear his deep, accented voice to know that she had been right. It was him. The opinionated man who’d been so rude about her family. She’d already decided that he was proud and arrogant, but she hadn’t expected this level of charisma. Nor for him to have such an overwhelming effect on her that she could barely think straight. And she needed to think straight. Now was not the time to demonstrate that her tingling body seemed to have taken on a greedy life of its own. All she needed was to remember his unforgettable insults.

‘Not until now,’ she said, injecting a noncommittal note into her voice and hoping it sounded convincing.

Hassan’s eyes flicked over her, interested at the play of emotions on the Madonna-like oval of her face. She had been staring at him as if she’d like to rip his clothes off with her teeth! Not an uncommon reaction from a woman, it was true—and she was pretty enough for him to have given the idea a moment’s consideration. But her initial hungry look had been replaced by one of wariness and suspicion. He felt the faint prickle of hostility emanating from her, and that was novel enough to arouse his interest.

‘Are you sure about that?’ he murmured.

She thought how incredibly well he spoke English, despite the sexily accented voice. It seemed to whisper over her skin with its velvet caress, and inexplicably she started wondering what it would be like to have that voice murmur sweet nothings in her ear. ‘Positive,’ she replied coolly.

‘Yet you were staring at me as if you knew me.’

‘Aren’t you used to women staring at you, then?’ she questioned innocently.

‘No, never happened to me before,’ he drawled sardonically, wondering what was making her blow so hot and cold. He looked at the provocative scarlet gleam of her lips and felt a sudden rush of desire. ‘What’s your name?’

Ella wished that her breasts would stop tingling and likewise the molten throb of lust deep in her belly. She didn’t want to feel like this about a man who had talked about her family in a way which had made them all sound like some sort of gutter animals. She stared at him, defying him to contradict her. ‘My name is…Cinderella.’

Hassan gave a slow smile. ‘Is it now?’ So she wanted to play, did she? Well, that was fine by him. He liked games—particularly of the flirty, sexual nature. And particularly with nubile young women with glossy, red lips and firm bodies which had been poured into a shiny silver dress which emphasised their every willowy curve. As a child, the only female role models he’d known had been servants and as an adult he had discovered that women were usually predatory and nearly always beddable.

He felt the sudden beat of anticipation as he looked at her. ‘Then I think the fairy tale must have just come true, Cinderella,’ he said. ‘Because you’ve just met your prince.’

It was the corniest line Ella had ever heard and yet, somehow, it worked. For some insane reason it made her want to smile—a little I’m-so-pleased-with-myself sort of smile to accompany the embarrassing rise of colour to her cheeks.

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