Sheikh's Forbidden Conquest(57)

By: Chantelle Shaw

‘I wish I was with you in Zenhab to give you a hug,’ her sister said. ‘I wish I could help. You know I love you, Lexi.’

Lexi swallowed. She did know that Athena cared for her, but she had always struggled to show her own emotions. ‘You’re a great sister. I...I love you too,’ she said huskily.

She sensed Athena’s surprise. ‘You’ve never said it before. I think you should tell Kadir how you feel about him and give him a chance to explain why he seems so determined to marry you.’

‘It was only because he wanted his child. But there isn’t going to be one. He’s the Sultan of Zenhab and needs to marry a woman of royal blood, not someone whose genes come from a very murky pool.’

‘What will you do?’

‘Come home, look for a job.’ She still needed to pay off Cathy’s debts, Lexi thought wearily. She remembered that Kadir had taken her passport and she would have to stay on at the palace until he returned from his trip to the mountains. It was only fair to tell him her news in person rather than leave a message on his phone.

Memories of the past days they had spent exclusively in each other’s company pushed into her mind. Had she imagined that they had had fun together, shared laughter, friendship? Could she do what her sister had suggested and tell Kadir she had fallen in love with him?

Her stomach swooped at the idea of risking his rejection. Kadir had only wanted her when he had thought she could be carrying his baby, and the traditions of his kingdom meant he could not allow his child to be born illegitimate, she reminded herself. She was certain he would be relieved not to be forced into a marriage he did not want.

* * *

The helicopter buzzed above the palace before dropping down to land in the courtyard. Kadir had hired a new pilot, an Australian guy called Mitch, who Lexi assumed would continue to work for the Sultan after she had gone.

She had carried her suitcase down to the entrance hall and as she watched Kadir walk up the palace steps she pulled the peak of her cap lower over her eyes. The clothes he had bought her were hanging in the wardrobe in the apartment she had first occupied when she had arrived in Zenhab. She had applied for a job in the UK, flying workers out to oil rigs in the North Sea, and she doubted there would be many opportunities to wear designer evening gowns in the cold winter in Aberdeen.

Wearing her pilot’s uniform made her feel more like herself. A grey skirt and jacket teamed with a crisp white blouse, and her hair swept up beneath her cap, gave the impression of cool professionalism and hid the truth that her heart was breaking. Through a window, she studied the Sultan in his traditional robes and tried to feel distanced from him, but memories of Kadir, naked, beautiful, lowering his body onto hers, threatened to shatter her composure.

She took a few steps forward as he swept through the great palace doors, halting when his dark eyes immediately shot to her suitcase.

His smile faded. ‘Do you have news for me?’

‘I’m sure you will be as relieved as I am to hear that I’m not pregnant.’ Her jaw ached as she flashed him a brittle smile. ‘Our worries were needless, but now we can both get on with our lives.’

Kadir’s eyes narrowed and he fought the urge to whip Lexi’s damn cap off her head so that he could see her face. She sounded so cool and in control, reminding him of the ice queen who had rescued him from his capsized yacht and ripped into him for risking the lives of his crew.

He absorbed her words. There was to be no child. No son to love, as his father had loved him. No daughter to adore, with silvery-blonde hair and eyes the colour of mountain skies. No requirement under Zenhabian tradition to marry Lexi. She had said she was relieved not to be pregnant. Maybe she was right, he brooded.

‘It’s probably for the best.’ He glanced around the entrance hall, suddenly aware of the presence of several palace staff. Ignoring his chief adviser who was hurrying towards him, he caught hold of Lexi’s elbow and steered her into his study, shutting the door and locking it to ensure their privacy.

‘Was it necessary to manhandle me?’ she complained, rubbing her arm. ‘Why have you brought me in here?’

He countered her question with one of his own. ‘Why are you leaving?’

‘I’ve told you why. I’m not carrying your baby. You have hired a new pilot so there’s no reason for me to stay in Zenhab.’ It took all Lexi’s will power to keep her voice steady. Kadir had said it was for the best that she wasn’t pregnant. Of course he was pleased, she told herself. Of course he did not want a whore’s daughter to be the mother of his heir. Of course he did not love her because no one, apart from her sister, ever had.