Hidden in the Sheikh's Harem: Christmas at the Castello(9)

By: Michelle Conder

She’d known he was incredibly good-looking from the magazine pictures she’d seen, but with his aristocratic features, wide mouth and pitch-black, neatly cropped hair, he was something else in the flesh. Not that she cared.

‘I have not come to plead for leniency,’ she assured him.

‘Lucky.’ His eyes trapped hers in a challenging stare. ‘Because when I get out of here I have no intention of giving it.’

Her mouth twisted. ‘Perhaps you need a little longer to think about your position,’ she suggested, glancing pointedly at his bound hands.

‘Perhaps I do,’ he drawled carelessly.

Oh, but he was getting under her skin! She stared him down for another few minutes and then gave up. This wasn’t a contest, even though he seemed determined to turn it into one. ‘Nevertheless...’ she began, pausing when his hands clenched in his lap yet again. She made a mental note to check his bindings before she left. The last thing she needed was to return him damaged. It would only fare worse for her father. ‘You are not going to die on my watch.’

‘And there I was thinking that our plans weren’t in alignment.’ He smiled and Farah felt an unfamiliar jolt of heat deep in her belly. His teeth gleamed whitely against his dark stubble and she scowled to cover her unexpected reaction. The man was dangerous; his cavalier attitude in the face of his imprisonment was proof enough of that even before one took in the breadth of those shoulders.

Determined not to be intimidated, Farah crouched down in front of the high and mighty Prince of Bakaan. She watched as he blatantly worked his gaze over her from head to toe and for a moment she couldn’t move; a horrible urge to arch her spine and thrust her breasts out for his inspection making her nipples pull tight.

Rocked to her core by the inclination she noticed his eyelids had lowered to half-mast making her feel both hot and cold all over, her sense of danger heightened like never before.

The silence between them lengthened and Farah became aware that her breathing was shallow and that her clothing felt rough against her skin. She couldn’t seem to drag her eyes away from his perfectly proportioned mouth and, as if he sensed her inner turmoil, one corner of it tilted knowingly. More annoyed than ever, she shifted her weight to the balls of her feet, slowly raised the bowl between them and offered it to him.

He didn’t look at the food. Instead his golden eyes held hers in such a way that made her discomfort levels hit an all-time high. ‘If you’re so interested in getting me to eat, then you feed me, my feral little cat.’

Feral little cat? The shock of those soft words had Farah rocking back on her heels as feminine pride kicked in. She might not look her best but she was hardly feral! And as for feeding him... She felt steam rising out of her ears. Even tied up and at her mercy he assumed the superior position. ‘I have no intention of feeding you,’ she snapped.

He gave a soft, deep chuckle that took up residence in the pit of her stomach. ‘Well, there goes that fantasy.’

Farah’s mouth tightened at the taunt. He’d already made it clear he thought she was lacking in the female department so his comments could only be to try and throw her off. Though to what end, other than to rile her, she didn’t know.

It was obvious he didn’t believe she would take him up on his challenge to feed him—and normally she wouldn’t even think of doing so, but there was something about this insolent prince that rubbed her up the wrong way. Plus, she’d dealt with dusty, stubborn camels her whole life so one dirty, scruffy male would be no different. Involuntarily her eyes dropped to his body. It was difficult to see the full extent of his physique in his current position but there was no doubt he emanated a masculine power she hadn’t come across before. Or had never noticed.

She glanced at his hands and the rope around his waist that kept him tethered to the post. The sense of menace and danger that cloaked him made her think twice about her next actions while the wicked glint in his eyes goaded her on. But it wasn’t as if he could actually do anything to her, tied as he was.

A shiver went through her anyway and she lifted her chin. ‘If I feed you, will you eat?’

One dark eyebrow lifted lazily and dense ebony lashes lowered slowly to shield his eyes. ‘You’ll need to get closer to find out.’

Farah ignored the sudden leap of her pulse at his words. Better just to get this over and done with and she’d have one thing accomplished. And wasn’t it true that a man with a full stomach had a better disposition than one with an empty one? Maybe then he’d be more amenable to seeing reason.