The Sheikh's Heir(8)

By: Sharon Kendrick

How dare she humiliate him in such a way? And in public! Why, if a man in his own country had done such a thing, he would have been thrown immediately into the city jail!

His mouth hardening into a grim line, he began to follow her, his long stride quickly covering the distance between them. Now he was close enough to hear the clatter of her high heels on the marble floor and see the gleam of light as it highlighted the curve of her silver-beaded bottom. He saw her glance over her shoulder, her blue eyes widening when she saw him behind her, and a brief sensation of anticipation rippled over his skin as she increased her speed.

Silently, he pursued her, pleased when she briefly hesitated between two corridors—one wide and one narrow. She wouldn’t have a clue where she was going, he thought with satisfaction, whereas he knew well the labyrinth network of passageways which comprised the Santina palace. Hadn’t he and Alex played hide-and-seek in them often enough when they were children?

She chose the narrower passage and he continued to shadow her, knowing that he could easily have caught up with her there and then but he was enjoying the thrill of the chase too much to want to end it. It was like being back in battle, his senses honed and heightened as he pursued his quarry… .

Only when the main body of the palace had retreated and the corridors were bare of servants did he surge forward. She whirled round as he backed her into a corner, her breath coming in short little pants. Her abundant curls were spilling down over the silver dress, one thigh was pushed forward as if to showcase its honed perfection, and he thought that he had never seen a woman look so wild and so wanton.

‘Got you,’ he said, his voice a triumphant murmur, but he didn’t touch her.

Ella stared at him, her heart pounding so hard that it felt as if it was about to leap out of her chest. She was hot and out of breath. Running in these heels had been a stupid thing to try to do because her feet now felt as if they were on fire. What had possessed her to react like that? To dare to chuck a drink over a man who was now towering above her looking like the devil incarnate, a patch of his pristine white shirt clinging wetly to his chest. A man who was different from every other man she’d ever met. Well, she had done it, and now she just had to keep her nerve.

‘You don’t scare me!’ she blurted out, but she wondered how convincing her words were as she met emptiness of his eyes.

‘Don’t I?’ Hassan leaned in a little. ‘Then maybe I need to try a little harder. Most people would be pretty scared of my reaction if they’d done what you’ve just done.’ He observed her rapid breathing which was causing the silver beads over her breasts to shimmer in a provocative sway. And suddenly it was difficult to remember just why he was so angry. He swallowed, so unbearably turned on that for a moment he could not speak. ‘That was some scene you created back there.’

Ella told herself that she ought to tread carefully. That she was dealing with someone who had danger written all over him. Someone who she, with her laughable lack of experience, didn’t have a clue how to deal with. The voice of reason was telling her to try to make it right between them, yet the apology she knew she really ought to make stayed stubbornly unspoken. For how could she forget those harsh things he’d said?

‘Who cares about a scene?’ she questioned stubbornly.

He met the defiance in her ice-blue eyes. ‘Clearly you don’t, but then you don’t have any reputation to wreck, do you?’

Actually, she did. She’d worked hard to build her own business and she survived on the income it provided. But the irony was that causing a scene with the sheikh was likely to bring new customers flocking to her, instead of taking their custom elsewhere. The fact that she was even mixing with royals would be great publicity. A bit of scandal never seemed to affect her client base. Hadn’t she noticed a definite growth in business whenever her father’s face was splashed all over the papers, no matter how dodgy the story? ‘And you do, I suppose?’

‘Of course I do!’ he snapped. ‘I am the ruler of a desert kingdom and my word is law. In fact, I make the laws.’

‘Wow! Mr. Powerful,’ she mocked.

Her insolence was turning him on almost as much as it was infuriating him. He felt a muscle working in his cheek and an even more insistent throbbing at his groin. ‘And I have people who look up to me who will not enjoy reading that their king had champagne flung at him by a brazen English nobody.’

‘I should have thought that people would have been used to your flings by now!’ she returned, and for one brief moment she thought she saw the edges of his lips tilt in the beginning of a smile. But it quickly disappeared and so did her small moment of triumph as she reminded herself that this man was the enemy. ‘Anyway, you should have thought about that before you started laying into my family.’

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