Forbidden: The Sheikh's Virgin(10)

By: Trish Morey

An expression he would treasure for ever.


HE COULD not be serious! ‘Please, no,’ she pleaded of the Sheikha, who must see the moisture clinging to her lashes, who must know how impossible was the thing he was asking. ‘Sheikha, please…’

But, while the Sheikha looked troubled, and squeezed her hand, it was to Rafiq she turned—Rafiq, who looked as if he was about to declare war. ‘You are my son,’ she said, ‘and a Qusani prince. You know I can deny you nothing. But are you sure about this?’

‘I have never been more sure in my life.’

‘But, Sheikha, please…’

‘Sera,’ she said with a sigh, patting the younger woman’s hands where they lay twisted and knotted in her lap, ‘it will be fine. My son is nothing if not a gentleman. You have nothing to be concerned about. Has she, Rafiq?’

And through the screen of her lashes she saw Rafiq smile, the slow, lazy smile of a jungle cat sizing up its next meal. It was a miracle, she thought, that he managed not to lick his lips. She shivered as a chill descended her spine.

‘Of course, not. Nothing to worry about at all,’ he said, in a steady, measured voice that terrified her all the more for its calm, yet deadly intent.

Nothing to worry about? Then why had she never been more afraid in her life?

The two four-wheel drives were packed, loaded with water and supplies in case of breakdowns while crossing the vast desert sands on their way to the mountains, and their drivers were waiting. Already a truck had been sent out to make camp where the desert met the sea, where Akmal had recommended they stop for the night before attempting the steep ascent up into the mountains.

Rafiq just shook his head. It almost seemed like overkill, to pack so much for no more than a two-day trip, but he knew from experience that the desert was an unpredictable mistress, fickle and capricious, and as lethal as she was beautiful. Still, he had no plans to prolong this trip, and with any luck the camp would not be necessary. He intended to get there and back as quickly as possible.

Sera hung back, clinging close to where his mother stood in the shade of the porticoed entrance, her eyes, when he did managed to catch sight of them, troubled and pained.

Finally Akmal was satisfied that the last of the provisions had been properly stowed, the engines idling to power the air-conditioning units that would cool the interiors and make the arduous journey through the desert bearable. He bowed his head in Rafiq’s direction. ‘All is in readiness, Your Highness. Whenever you are ready?’

‘Thank you, Akmal.’

‘Safe journey, my son,’ said his mother, meeting him halfway as he leaned down to kiss her age-softened cheek. ‘Take care of Sera.’

‘Of course,’ he promised. ‘I intend to do just that.’

And then he smiled and accepted her blessing, before making for the first car to talk to the driver.

He pulled open the passenger door and saw in the rear-vision mirror his mother holding Sera’s hands, their heads close together as his mother uttered a few last words to her. Was she once again guaranteeing her son’s good behaviour? Promising Sera that her virtue was safe with him? She needn’t bother. Knowing she was uncomfortable in his presence was all the sport he desired. He had no wish to touch her.

He would not give her the satisfaction.

There was a flash of black robes as he saw Sera dash for what she must have assumed was the relative safety of the second car. He allowed himself a smile as he finished what he wanted to say to the driver, before closing the door and raising his hand to his mother one last time before striding towards it himself.

Shock turned her black-as-night eyes wide as he slid into the seat alongside her. A moment later she turned both her face and body away, shrinking against the door as if she might will herself right through it, and his feeling of satisfaction deepened.

She was terrified of him.

Strange how that knowledge had altered his long-held vow. Ten years ago he’d never wanted to see her again. And ever since then he’d always believed that what she’d killed that day was better left buried, his memories of his time with her buried along with it. Being forced to share the same space with her for two days should have been the very last thing on his agenda. And yet seeing her squirm and cower in his presence…oh, yes, this way was infinitely more satisfying than he could have ever imagined.

He took advantage of the space she left, angling himself to stretch out his legs in the space between them, and even though she didn’t look, didn’t turn, he knew she was aware of every move he made, knew it in the way she shrank herself into an even smaller space.

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