Sheikh's Forbidden Conquest(59)

By: Chantelle Shaw

‘Good, you brought the honey,’ he drawled.

She gripped the heavy glass jar. ‘Have you any idea what I’d like to do with this?’

‘Show me,’ he invited softly.

‘Don’t tempt me.’

‘Why not?’ He sat up and stared at her intently. ‘You tempt me constantly. I think about you all the time.’

‘Don’t say things that aren’t true.’ She stared at the patterned rug on the floor, willing herself not to cry.

‘I never took you for a coward, Lexi.’

‘I’m not a coward, damn you.’

‘Then look at me.’

Something in his voice, a tremor of emotion that felt like an arrow through her heart, made her slowly raise her head. His eyes were darker than she had ever seen them—dark with pain, she realised with a jolt. His teasing smile had disappeared and he looked serious and tense, almost—nervous. But that was ridiculous. What did the powerful Sultan of Zenhab, the desert king, have to fear?

‘You really would have gone back to England, wouldn’t you?’ he said harshly. ‘After everything we shared, the most beautiful time of my life, I thought, hoped you were starting to trust me.’

He couldn’t sound hurt, Lexi told herself. She must be imagining the raw expression in his eyes. ‘You said it was for the best that I’m not pregnant.’ Her voice shook. ‘You said goodbye at the palace and let me go.’ Only now did she acknowledge she had been testing him, hoping at the eleventh hour for a miracle.

‘I was hurting,’ he shocked her by saying, ‘and I was angry with myself for failing to do enough to convince you that we have something special. I went into the gardens and sat on my father’s favourite bench. Remembering how much he loved me, the confidence I gained from my happy childhood, made me understand why trust is such a difficult concept for you. I understand why you are scared of emotions because you were rejected by your birth mother and your adoptive parents failed to make you feel loved.’

He stood up and walked towards her, stealing Lexi’s breath with his masculine beauty, his powerful body all satiny skin and strong muscles.

‘I do think it is better that you didn’t fall pregnant the last time we were on Jinan.’ He tipped her face towards him when she tried to look away to hide her pain and confusion. ‘I can’t imagine you would be happy to have an accidental pregnancy after what you told me about your biological mother,’ he said with an intuition that touched a chord inside Lexi. ‘When you conceive my baby I hope it will be an event we have planned, and our child will be longed for and loved from the moment of conception.’

Her heart was thumping so hard she could barely breathe. ‘I don’t understand,’ she whispered. ‘Why did you bring me here?’

He brushed her hair back from her face with gentle fingers. ‘Jinan is where it began, although that’s not quite true because it started when you hauled me out of a stormy sea and promptly wiped the floor with me.’ He smiled. ‘No one had ever spoken to me like that before. I was furious but at the same time all I could think of was how badly I wanted to kiss you. But I knew I couldn’t. I had to honour my arranged marriage, and my desire for you was forbidden.

‘I thought I would have no trouble resisting you,’ he said roughly. ‘Ever since I was a young man, I had resigned myself to the prospect that I must marry for duty, not love. And in some strange way it was a relief to know I would not suffer the heartbreak my father felt when my mother left him. My emotions would never be at risk, or so I believed. But when the kidnapper threatened you with a gun the truth hit me like a bullet through my heart.’

Kadir closed his eyes for a few seconds, haunted by the memory of the fear that had churned in his stomach when he’d thought she might be killed.

‘I realised that if I lost you, my life would not be worth living. I also knew that I could not keep the promise I had made my father and marry Haleema. I could not marry without love, even though my decision meant I might lose my kingdom and my role as Sultan of Zenhab.’

Lexi was stunned by his revelation. ‘I know how much it would have hurt you to break your promise to your father. You loved him so much.’ She did not know what to think, and she was afraid to trust the expression in Kadir’s eyes. He had told her he’d realised he could not marry without love, but that didn’t mean that he loved her.

For some reason she thought of her sister. Athena had always been patient and loving, never asking Lexi for anything in return. She felt ashamed that it had taken her so long to tell her sister she loved her.