Hidden in the Sheikh's Harem: Christmas at the Castello(8)

By: Michelle Conder

Zach nearly laughed at her haughty tone. He’d yet to come across a woman who didn’t want to appeal to him. Good genes, a good bank account and what sounded like a good title went a long way to impressing the female population. He raised his hands in the air and cocked an eyebrow. ‘Untie my hands, little heathen, and I’ll soon change your mind.’

He almost heard her teeth grind together from across the room at his suggestive tone and, just as she was about to launch into what he could only imagine was another cutting admonition of his character, the tent flap was once again pushed aside and Hajjar’s second-in-command sauntered in, bearing a dish of food. The smell hit Zach instantly and made his stomach curl in on itself.

Obviously surprised to see Mohamed’s daughter, he pulled up short. ‘What are you doing here?’ he bit out.

Zach saw her chin snap up and her eyes shoot daggers. ‘I can handle this, Amir,’ she murmured icily.

‘No, you can’t.’

She responded in hushed tones and Zach avidly followed their furiously whispered interaction. She clearly had a personal relationship with the soldier and for some inexplicable reason he was disappointed.

Not wanting to dwell on why that was, he focused on the soldier’s face. He wasn’t at all happy with whatever it was she was saying but he clearly lacked the baydot to do anything about it. Idiot. All she needed was a sound kissing and she’d see reason.

A sound kissing?

He nearly chocked at the absurdity of the thought. His ancestors might have behaved that way, but since when did he think kissing a woman into submission was an acceptable mode of conduct for a man? And who would want to kiss this smelly little spitfire anyway?

Disgusted with his interest in their argument, he drew up his knees and used their distraction to work at his bindings.

Too soon the woman won and took the bowl of food from the soldier’s hands. Needing more time alone, Zach goaded him by asking where he’d misplaced his baydot. The soldier stiffened. So did the spitfire.

She whirled on him, all fire and ice. Maybe ‘spitfire’ was too tame a word to describe her. She was more like a wild little cat with her dark, almond-shaped eyes and pursed lips.

‘Come, Farah.’

The girl rounded on the other man and, for all that Zach didn’t like him, he felt himself wince for the guy. ‘He’s just trying to rile you,’ she bit out.

Not stupid, then, Zach mused with reluctant admiration.

‘He is dangerous,’ the soldier returned. And he should know, since it had taken six of them to subdue him.

‘And tied up,’ she pointed out impatiently. ‘Which I have no plans to change.’ But Zach did and he felt another coil of rope give as he put more pressure on it.

‘What are your plans?’

Fascinated by the changed tension in the air, Zach stilled his movements. He sensed there was more behind that question than met the eye. The girl obviously did, too, but her scrunched brow indicated that she didn’t understand the meaning behind his question.

He wants in your pants, sweetheart, if he hasn’t been there already.

She released a slow breath. ‘Just give me five minutes here. I’ll meet you in the dinner tent.’

Slightly mollified, the soldier nodded tersely. He sneered at Zach before stalking out of the tent, letting the flap drop back loudly into place.

She stared at it, brooding.

‘Trouble in paradise, little cat?’ Zach offered, as if they were old friends taking tea together.

His question snapped her out of her reverie and she marched back to him. ‘Be quiet. And don’t call me that.’

‘I thought you wanted me to speak.’

She glanced down at the small metal bowl in her hand and frowned. ‘What I want is for you to eat.’

Zach’s stomach agreed with her. ‘I’m not hungry.’

She scoffed. ‘What is the point of starving yourself? You’ll die.’

‘So nice of you to care.’

‘I don’t.’

Her condescending attitude and lack of respect annoyed the hell out of him and he was starting to get some inkling as to the reasoning behind his ancestors’ methods of subduing a woman. He wouldn’t mind having this one bow down at his feet and acknowledge his superior position to hers. ‘You know, your father might want to send someone with better interpersonal skills to plead for leniency next time,’ he suggested testily.

* * *

Damn, but the urge to have this man bow and scrape at her feet was so strong Farah nearly pulled her small dagger out from inside the hidden pocket in her tunic and made him do it. His attitude was truly irritating.

As were those piercing golden eyes. Lion’s eyes. They said so much and nothing at all, just stared back at her as if he knew something that she didn’t. With the few days’ worth of beard growth covering his angular jaw, those implacable eyes made him seem harshly masculine and deeply imposing even though he was sitting on the ground. The tightly coiled energy he emanated made her think of a cobra about to strike. Or an eagle about to take flight and rip its prey to shreds. He wore a dusty black shirt that stretched across broad shoulders and jeans that hugged what looked to be powerful thighs, the muscles bunching periodically when he looked at her.