Rescued by the Sheikh(9)

By: Jennifer Lewis

He probably knew the effect he had on women and was just toying with her. She wouldn’t allow it to throw her off course. She intended to be polite and cordial and do everything in her power to ease their passage out of here at the crack of dawn tomorrow.

A servant pulled back her chair and slid it in while she sat. She smiled shyly at Osman, then cursed herself for it when one side of his mouth hitched suggestively in response. She busied herself spreading a napkin on her lap, trying to ignore the flare of warmth in her core. This was ridiculous. She wasn’t attracted to this ostentatious peacock. She much preferred a humble man with a sharp intellect to flashy good looks and an outsize ego.

“Would you like some kefir? It’s made fresh every day from our own goats.” He lifted a delicate silver jug.

“Then I can hardly say no.” Her taste buds grimaced at the prospect of drinking goats’ milk, but she didn’t smell anything acrid or sour as he poured it out. In fact, it was pale pink.

“It’s laced with rose water and cardamom.” He lifted her silver goblet. “Try it.”

She took the cup from him, careful not to have any accidental contact with his fingers, and raised it gingerly to her lips. The fluid slipped over her tongue like rich cream.

“It doesn’t taste like goat’s milk at all.”

“We have the finest goats in the world, bred for centuries to produce the sweetest, purest milk.”

“It’s delicious.” She took another sip, glad she could actually tell the truth. And it was rather sweet of him to be proud of his goats.

Sheikh Osman had insanely long, thick lashes, like a Hollywood starlet. They contrasted amusingly with the dark shadow of stubble that made his cheekbones jut out.

She really needed to stop staring at him like this.

Sam cleared her throat. “That business with the swords nearly made me jump out of my skin.”

He chuckled. “Old tradition. Some of these guards have been with my father for more than fifty years, and their lives revolve around such small rituals. It would be almost cruel to make them put their swords away.”

“I read that your father died four months ago. When do you take his place as ruler?”

His expression was unreadable. “My father’s will contained a number of conditions that must be fulfilled before I can take the throne.”

“You have to get married.” She helped herself to some crispy-skinned chicken pieces.

He stared at her. “How did you know that?”

“I read it in People magazine. They didn’t go into much detail, though. Do you stick with one wife here, or are there usually several?” She couldn’t resist teasing him, even though she knew the answer already.

His brow lowered. “Only one. We may be a traditional culture, but we are not primitive or barbaric.”

“I’m sure there are people who consider having several wives to be very civilized. Possibly even the wives themselves, who might be glad to share the duties involved in keeping a powerful man happy.”

“Duties?” He ignored the plate of grilled shrimp hovering just to his left. Apparently, her questions were getting under his skin.

She raised a brow.

“I assure you that no wife of mine will have the opportunity to grow weary of my company in the bedroom.” Osman helped himself to shrimp and rice, then put down his utensils. He looked into her eyes, unblinking, until she felt her breath grow shorter. “I shall make it my business to please her so that she craves my company as much as I crave hers.”

“Oh.” It was all she could manage. She might have a forkful of food hovering out there somewhere near her mouth, but she’d lost all focus on anything except Osman’s intense gaze. “I’m sure she’ll be very happy.” Her voice came out oddly raspy. Her mind was tumbling with distracting visions of Sheikh Osman pleasuring…her.

Which would certainly never happen.

She tried to convince herself that she pitied his future wife, who would find that pretending to be delirious with pleasure in the sheikh’s arms was part of her rather demanding job. If she was completely honest, Sam had to admit that she didn’t really see what all the fuss what about when it came to sex. It was pleasurable, sure, in the same way that drinking hot cocoa on a chilly day was nice, but she didn’t want to drink hot cocoa for hours on end, day after day, either. Just once a week or so was fine.

“Have you ever been married?”

His question surprised her. “Not to a man. I’ve been married to my job a few times.”

“Making films?”

“It’s one of those careers that take over your life. There’s a lot of travel, and when we’re shooting the days can be so long that there’s barely time to sleep.”

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