Forbidden: The Sheikh's Virgin(63)

By: Trish Morey


‘Is it my birthright? I have never once in my life thought about taking over the reins of Qusay. It was a thought as foreign to me as this very land became when I adopted another as my home. And now, to find that circumstances have thrust me into this position—how is that a birthright?’

‘But, Rafiq, you would be throwing away your future.’

‘No, Sera, I would be reclaiming it. For you are my future and always have been. Because from the moment we met we were meant to be together—as surely as the sand belongs to the desert and the mountain peaks to the sky. We are part of each other and always will be.’

‘Rafiq, think of what you are doing…’

‘I know exactly what I am doing. I lost you once before and I will not lose you again.’ He went down on one knee before her. ‘I love you, Sera. Marry me. Be my wife. Live my future alongside me.’

Tears welled in her beautiful dark eyes, but there was love there too, love that swelled his heart and gave him hope. For if she denied him he would be a broken man. A king with no queen. Adrift and alone.

‘Oh, Rafiq, I love you so much. You have given my life colour again when I thought there would be none. You have given me back my heart.’

‘Then you’ll marry me?’

And she nodded, her lips tightly pressed. ‘Yes, Rafiq—oh, yes, I’ll marry you!’

He was still kissing her when his mother bustled in, calling for Sera. She stopped, wide-eyed, when she found them, the excitement in her eyes masked by questions for no more than a second. ‘You’re both here, how wonderful. Have you heard the news? A helicopter’s been found in the desert. Akmal’s gone straight there. They think it might be Tahir’s!’ She wrung her hands nervously in front of her. ‘And to think that all this time we thought he just hadn’t bothered to come. Do you think…? Is there any chance…?’

And Rafiq wondered if this day could get any better as he put an arm around her shoulders and brought her into his embrace—the two women he loved most in the world held within the circle of his arms. ‘Believe,’ he told her, remembering the words of the wise woman, the woman their firstborn daughter would be named for. ‘Have faith.’





EPILOGUE




SYDNEY society had seen nothing like it. The dress was made of a spun gold fabric laden with emerald chips, the best the craftswomen of Marrash had to offer, and the design an ancient Qusani pattern that meant, so Rafiq had been assured, prosperity, long life, and—most important apparently—fertility. Fitted to the waist, it fell in skilfully constructed folds to the ground. The gown was both elegant and timeless, a blend of the best of the east and the west, and with a veil of gold over her black hair she looked like a gift from the gods.

His gift from the gods.

Rafiq tried to contain his joy as she neared. Others could not. The group of tribespeople flown in especially from Marrash to one side, Abizah among them, called blessings as she passed, remarking on her beauty, sending their good wishes in voices that sounded in this place of worship like song.

Other guests, thinking this some quaint Qusani custom, joined in, so that Sera joined his side not to the sound of organ music but to the sound of a thousand blessings ringing out through the chapel.

It was a wedding the likes of which Sydney had never seen before, he thought, and nor was it likely to see again. It was a wedding where the guests responded spontaneously and the whole world rejoiced as it was transmitted around the globe. The guest list had been carefully handpicked, so there could be no embarrassment, no humiliation on either side.

It was the wedding, as far as he was concerned, to end all weddings.

Rafiq smiled down at her as she drew near, curled her hand in his, and she beamed up at him with what looked like her whole heart.

‘I love you,’ he said, knowing those words were more true in this very moment than ever before.

His black-haired beauty looked up at him, nothing but love shining out at him from her dark eyes. ‘As I love you, Rafiq. Forever.’

And his heart swelled. Who needed to be king, he wondered, when you already had your queen?

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