Hidden in the Sheikh's Harem: Christmas at the Castello(6)

By: Michelle Conder

He had the grace to look slightly uncomfortable. ‘I would like to speak with you.’

She knew he was waiting on her answer as to whether she would accept his courtship but she wasn’t in the mood to face his displeasure when she told him no. ‘I don’t have anything to say to you right now,’ she informed him.

His jaw tensed. ‘Wait for me outside.’

Farah smiled sweetly. Like that was going to happen!

Quickly stepping out of the tent, she took a moment to pull her headdress lower and bent her head to shield her eyes against the setting sun. The air temperature had already dropped and the nearby tents flapped in the increasing wind. She looked for signs of a storm but found nothing but a pale blue sky. That didn’t mean one wasn’t coming. In the desert they came out of nowhere.

Deciding not to waste time on food, she stomped off to the only tent that had a guard posted outside, anger rolling through her. Anger at her father for his outrageous actions and anger at the prince himself—the lowly offspring of the man who had inadvertently caused her mother’s death and changed her once-happy life forever.

She tried to get her emotions under control but it felt like she was fighting a losing battle. Still, she needed to remain calm if she was going to work out a way to get her father out of this mess before he did something even more insane—like listen to Amir!

                      CHAPTER THREE

ZACHIM SHIFTED HIS hands and feet and felt the ropes chafe his wrists and one of his ankles where it had slipped beneath his jeans. His stomach growled.

Ordinarily he wouldn’t say he was a man who angered easily. Three days in this hellhole at the hands of a bunch of mountain heathens had ensured that his temper not only festered, but also boiled and blistered as well. And it wasn’t just directed outwards. It had been stupid to drive so far from the city without alerting anyone as to where he was going.

He rubbed the ropes binding his wrists against the small sharp stone hidden in his lap. He’d picked it up when he’d ‘fallen’ during a toilet break the day before. Since refusing to eat, his ropes had not been checked, which was to his advantage, because it had taken that long to work through the thick layers, but he was just about there. Once his hands were free it would be a simple matter to untie his ankles and get the hell out of there.

He leant his head against the solid wooden post he was secured to by a length of rope circling his waist. It allowed him enough room to lie down on the dusty ground but that was it. What he wouldn’t give for the comforts of his soft bed back at the palace. Ironic when he considered that three days ago he’d been looking for a way to leave the stifling walls of the place.

Be careful what you wish for, he thought grimly.

He wondered what had happened in his absence and how his brother was dealing with the fallout from his disappearance. He also wondered why he hadn’t heard any search helicopters fly overhead.

Flexing stiff muscles that had been bound for too long, he tried to ignore the fact that his stomach was trying to eat itself. He’d been in worse situations during his stint in the army, though he wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Okay, maybe he’d wish it on Mohamed Hajjar and his pompous second-in-command who thought himself mightier than a prince.

The sound of footsteps pausing at the entrance of his tent brought his head up and he shoved the sharp rock beneath him. When the flap was raised he feigned sleep, hoping that whoever had arrived would leave quickly so he could get on with sawing at his bindings. If they were checked now there was no way the person wouldn’t notice what he’d been up to.

With his senses on high alert, he listened to the sound of the soldier’s footfalls. A lightweight, he decided. About one hundred and twenty pounds. Someone he could take easily if it came to that. Unable to smell food, he wondered what the soldier wanted. It was too soon for a toilet break so he kept his features impassive. Whoever it was had gone a few too many rounds with a camel, by the smell of them.

‘I know you’re not asleep,’ a low, sexy voice murmured, sending ripples of awareness across his skin. Hell, that was some voice the soldier had, and he slowly peeled his eyes open, curiosity getting the better of him. He took in black steel-capped boots and combat trousers and moved up the slender figure from the dusty midthigh-length tunic that covered a small pair of breasts plumped up by rigidly folded arms. His gaze lifted to an unsmiling but feminine face that was shadowed by the tribe’s traditional red-checked keffiyeh. Not a guy, then—a relief, given his body’s instant reaction to the voice.