His Defiant Desert Queen(6)

By: Jane Porter


“You’re in no position to buy yourself out of trouble, Miss Copeland. Your family is bankrupt.”

“I could try Drakon—”

“You’re not calling anyone,” he interrupted sharply. “And I won’t have Drakon bailing you out. He might be your sister’s ex-husband, but he was my friend from university and from what I understand, he lost virtually his entire fortune thanks to your father. I think Drakon has paid a high enough price for being associated with you Copelands. It’s time you and your family stopped expecting others to clean up your messes and instead assumed responsibility for your mistakes.”

“That might be, but Drakon isn’t cruel. He wouldn’t approve of you...of you...” Her voice failed her as she met Mikael’s dark gaze. The sheikh’s anger burned in his eyes, scorching her.

“Of what, Miss Copeland?” he asked softly, a hint of menace in his deep voice.

“What won’t he approve of?” he persisted.

Jemma couldn’t answer. Her heart beat wildly, a painful staccato that made her chest ache.

She had to be careful. She couldn’t afford to alienate the sheikh. Not when she needed him and his protection.

She needed to win him over. She needed him to care. Somehow she had to get him to see her, the real her, Jemma. The person. The woman. Not the daughter of Daniel Copeland.

It was vital she didn’t antagonize him, but reached him. Otherwise it would be far too easy for Sheikh Karim to snap his fingers and destroy her. He was that powerful, that ruthless.

Her eyes burned and her lip trembled and she bit down hard, teeth digging into her lip to keep from making a sound.

Fear washed through her but she would not crack, or cry. Would not disintegrate, either.

“He wouldn’t approve of me flaunting your laws,” she said lowly, fighting to maintain control, and cling to whatever dignity she had left. “He wouldn’t approve of me using my sister’s passport, either. He would be angry,” she added, lifting her chin to meet Sheikh Karim’s gaze. “And disappointed.”

Mikael Karim arched a brow.

“In me,” she added. “He’d be disappointed in me.”

And then wrapping herself in courage, and hanging on to that fragile cloak, she removed her boot, placing it on the floor next to its mate, and turned to her dressing table to begin removing her make-up.





CHAPTER TWO

MIKAEL SAW JEMMA’S lower lip quiver before she clamped her jaw, biting down in an effort to remain silent, as she turned back to her dressing table.

He was surprised at how calm she was. He’d expected tears. Hysteria. Instead she was quiet. Thoughtful. Respectful.

He’d planned on defiance. He’d come prepared for theatrics. She’d almost gone there. Almost, but then thought better of it.

Perhaps she wasn’t as silly as he’d thought.

Perhaps she might have a brain in her pretty head after all.

He was glad she wasn’t going to dissolve into tears and hysteria. And glad she might be starting to understand the gravity of her situation.

But even then, he was still deeply furious with her for knowingly, willfully flaunting every international law by entering a foreign country with a false identity, and then practically stripping in public.

It wasn’t done.

It wasn’t acceptable.

It wouldn’t even be allowed in San Francisco or New York City.

So how could she think it would be okay here?

His brow lowered as his narrowed gaze swept over her. She looked so soft and contrite now as she removed her makeup. It was an act. He was certain she was playing him. Just as her father had played his mother...before bankrupting her, breaking her.

His mother would be alive today if Daniel Copeland hadn’t lied to her and stolen from her, taking not just her financial security, but her self-respect.

Thank goodness Mikael was not his mother.

He knew better than to allow himself to be manipulated by yet another Copeland con artist.

Mikael refused to pity Jemma. He didn’t care if she was sorry. Had Daniel Copeland shown his mother mercy? No. Had Daniel Copeland shown any of his clients concern...compassion? No. So why should his daughter receive preferential treatment?

“Will I have a lawyer present?” she asked, breaking the silence.