The Sheikh's Heir(7)

By: Sharon Kendrick

‘No, I don’t, actually.’ Ella saw the spark of warning glittering in the depths of his black eyes and a sudden, heady power infused her. Was he so spoiled that he was used to people just falling in with his wishes every time he snapped his fingers? Yes, he probably was. She recalled the words of his aide. The smarmy way he had tried to talk him round. Ugh! She leaned forward, her voice probably not as low as it should have been but her rage was so profound that she didn’t care. ‘But then you’ve probably exhausted the topic since you’ve already said quite a few nasty things about Allegra, haven’t you?’

He stiffened. ‘I beg your pardon?’

He had relaxed his hold on her and Ella took the opportunity to step away from the distraction of his touch, staring fearlessly into the ebony glitter of his eyes. ‘You heard me,’ she said. ‘But perhaps you’re suffering from some sort of short-term memory loss and need me to remind you of the things you said. Shall I do that?’

‘What the hell are you talking about?’

Ella began to count the facts off against her fingers. ‘Let’s see, you think she’s highly unsuitable and that Alex shouldn’t be marrying her. Didn’t you describe her as a “tramp”—just like her mother and sisters? And didn’t you say that you considered the whole Jackson family far too “vulgar” ever to be related to the Crown Prince of Santina?’

‘Where the hell did you hear all this?’ he demanded.

‘I notice that you don’t deny it!’ she accused, her voice growing louder as several of the other dancers turned their heads to see what was going on. She could see the dawning light of recognition in his eyes and she leapt in for the final thrust, a fierce protectiveness sweeping over her as she thought of her wayward family. ‘You delivered your damning verdict on people you have never met, didn’t you? And then you left to find someone “tolerably attractive” to dance with. And that someone just happened to be me!’

There was a split second of a pause before his eyes narrowed as he looked at her. ‘You’re one of the Jacksons?’ he guessed.

‘Oh, bravo, Sheikh Hassan! Prince of the desert! It took you long enough to work it out, didn’t it? Yes, I’m one of the Jacksons!’

Resisting the desire to show her just how speedy his responses could be, he glared at her. ‘You were eavesdropping in the anteroom!’

‘And if I was?’

‘Eavesdropping!’ he repeated contemptuously. A slow anger began to build inside him as he met the defiant light in her blue eyes. But in truth, he was furious with himself for not having followed his own instincts. He had thought that he’d heard something, and yet he had allowed himself to be convinced otherwise. And wasn’t that lazy and dangerous behaviour from a king, especially one who had just left behind a war zone? Was he getting complacent now that he was away from the battlefields?

He lowered his voice to an angry hiss. ‘That’s exactly the kind of vulgar attitude I would have expected from a family such as yours, and one which completely vindicates my belief about your general unsuitability to be mixing in royal circles. I rest my case.’

It wasn’t so much the hateful things he was saying which made Ella’s blood boil, but the sanctimonious way he was saying them. As if he was in the right and she was in the wrong! As if he was allowed to say what he pleased and there wasn’t a thing she could do about it. Her blood was pounding in her veins as she felt her rage rise, and an odd kind of hurt and frustration come bubbling to the surface.

People were staring at them quite openly now, but she didn’t care.

‘Unsuitability?’ she declared. ‘I’ll show you unsuitability if you want!’ Almost without thinking, she grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing waitress and tossed it over his dark, mocking face before turning to push her way through the throng of openmouthed spectators.


FOR a moment Hassan was frozen into shocked immobility, scarcely able to believe what had just happened. The impudent minx of a Jackson girl had thrown champagne over him!

Angrily, he wiped both cheeks, aware that people were staring at him, their voices beginning to rise in excited chatter above the brief, stunned silence which had followed their very public row. But he barely paid them any attention. He was too busy watching the tottering sway of ‘Cinderella’ Jackson’s silver-clad bottom as she moved through the ballroom, as swiftly as her ridiculously high heels would allow.

He could see his bodyguard fixing him with a questioning look, as if seeking permission to go after her and give her a crash course in royal protocol. But Hassan gave a decisive shake of his head as a cold realisation crept over him.

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