Sheikh's Untouched Woman(8)

By: Kylie Knight


That was a sound a man could get used to hearing. He spotted the duo sitting on a blanket under a large tree. The young red headed child was giggling at the butterflies on his arm.

“No Rafa, don’t eat the butterflies. They’re your friends.”

His steps faltered. That sultry sweet voice. Serena. The child had the same auburn hair. She picked up the baby and his chubby hands went to her cheeks and planted a slobbery kiss on her nose. She laughed that sweet laugh and felt like he was intruding on a private moment. “Good afternoon, Serena.”



~



Her body went numb at his words. Under normal circumstances those were benign words spoken by a former lover. Today with Rafa in her arms, feet away from his father, those words were like a numbing agent to her entire body. Stiff and scared she took a moment to compose herself before she spoke. “Raffir.”

“And who do we have here?” He squatted down to get a better look at the child. To see the features of the man lucky enough to give Serena a baby.

“This is Rafael.” She didn’t turn Rafa around, she couldn’t.

“Hello Rafael,” he said in that crisp accent that drew all eyes his way.

She squeezed her baby, god help her, but she did to keep his attention focused on her. But Rafa wasn’t used to the deep timber of male voices and his head swiveled towards it. “Babababa,” he slapped his hands on his legs in excitement.

Raffir gasped and fell from his squat until he was sprawled out on the grass. Those golden eyes, flecked with brown, were not just familiar they were the defining trait of the al-Jazzari family. Every male for the past hundred years has had those same eyes. His gaze flicked to Serena’s and the wariness mixed with guilt told him who that lucky man was. Him. “Serena?”

She nodded as Rafa continued his baby talk. “Yes.” She closed her eyes, allowing a few tears to roll down her cheeks before she cleared them and blinked the rest away. “He’s my son.”

“I think you mean our son.”

She heard the anger in his voice but Serena was not intimidated, would not be intimidated. Not now and not about this. “No I mean my son. I raised him alone and kept his father’s identity a secret so that he could marry someone else and fulfill his duty to his country.” She lifted Rafa and kissed his chubby cheek. “Don’t worry yourself about a thing Raffir. You have no more obligations today than you did yesterday.”

He stood when she did, his eyes riveted to the little boy in Serena’s arms. His son. Rafael. It seemed the boy was as enthralled with him. His little arms reached out to Raffir who could do nothing but the same until he held his son in his arms for the first time. He was so small and light, Raffir didn’t know if he was holding him too tight. “You’re so small,” he whispered to Rafael, who was staring at his face, taking stock of all his features it seemed. Small hands landed on either side of his face, looking deeply into his eyes. Eyes that were mirrors of each other. “Oh,” he laughed when the wet kiss he’d been expecting turned into an attempt to eat his nose.

The sound of his son’s giggles squeezed his heart until he thought he would cry. From joy and anger, confusion. Rage.

Serena packed up their bags and turned away from the scene before her. She couldn’t bear to look at Raffir holding their son, so enchanted by her bundle of joy. It hurt, it hurt so bad. That was how it should’ve been but it wasn’t. It never would be. “Okay Rafa, it’s time for your nap.” She reached for him, trying to avoid touching Raffir.

“We need to talk Serena.”

She nodded. “You can come ‘round tonight for dinner and talk. Come at half seven, I’ll text you the address.”



~



By the time seven o’clock rolled around Serena knew what she had to do and she’d made a list to put it all into action. She knew, by the way his eyes lit up when he held Rafa that Raffir would not give him up. So she was willing to make some concessions to give him that chance, not that he deserved it. But she was not prepared to hear the words Raffir uttered over dinner.

“We should get married.”

She looked for signs of humor or insanity but found none, which was weird because she couldn’t have heard him correctly. “Excuse me?”

“I think we should get married.”

“No.” The way his eyebrows rose would have been comical if his surprise hadn’t been due to extreme arrogance. A year ago she had been prepared to throw her life away to become his bride. This year that wasn’t a compromise she was willing to make.