The Sheikh's Pregnant Prisoner(3)

By: Tara Pammi


Did they see a glimpse of his father, the great Rashid Al Masood, the man who had brought Behraat out of the dark ages, in him?

Would he be never allowed to forget that his father had only acknowledged him as his son when he had needed a different crown prince, thanks to his corrupted half brother Tariq?

Once upon a time, he would have been glad to hear that his father’s blood flowed in his veins. But now...now that he was spending his life paying for his mistake...

He cursed the wretched High Council and its power to elect the High Sheikh. Maybe if the bunch of corrupt cowards had spoken up during Tariq’s regime, Behraat wouldn’t be in this state now.

But with Rashid’s strict regulations blown apart, they had been busy stuffing their pockets with Tariq’s bribes while he had ruined relations with neighboring countries, destroyed peace treaties and violated trade agreements...

Yet they used any reason to doubt his rule over Behraat, harped on and on about the separation of tribes from the state.

As if it was his mistake and not his father’s.

Zafir headed straight to the situation room, determined to stomp them out. Much as he hated his father for bringing him up as a favored orphan, he couldn’t turn a blind eye to Behraat. Even before he had learned about his birth, duty had been filled in his very blood.

This was his father’s legacy to him.

Not love, not pride, not even the knowledge of his mother, but this infernal sense of duty toward Behraat.

Lauren’s face on the huge plasma screen monitor brought him to a sudden halt.

Something twisted deep and hard in his gut...a hard thrum in his very muscle, an echo of a primal need that he couldn’t fathom to this day...

That plump bottom lip caught between her teeth, her complexion paler than usual. Blue shadows marred the beauty of wide-set black eyes. The scarf she had used earlier to cover her hair loosely was gone, her black hair cut to fall over her forehead, once again hiding her entire face from him.

The long-sleeved cotton T-shirt molded the curve of her breasts. She sat with her fingers entwined on top of the table, her posture straight, reckless defiance in every line.

Defiant and honest, sensuous and wary, from the moment he had set eyes on her, Lauren had ensnared him.

At his command, his special security force had locked her up, confiscated everything from her. Punishment meted out to anyone who was suspected of being a threat to his new rule. And all the evidence they had gathered since didn’t bode well for her either.

But he couldn’t shake off the betrayal, the hurt that had glittered when she had looked at him. He had wanted to kiss her. He’d wanted to plunder her mouth until the betrayal etched into her face turned into arousal.

“She planned the charade,” Arif said in his matter-of-fact tone. “She clearly means to exploit your weakness in indulging in an affair with her. You should have mentioned her to me after you returned so that I—”

“No.”

Still transfixed by the sight of her, Zafir scrubbed a hand over his face.

There was no place for regret. There was no place for softness, in his feelings or in his actions. There was no choice to be anyone but himself.

Already he’d made a mistake, somehow he’d let her get too close.

“What would be her motivation, Arif?” he asked the older man. His father’s oldest friend, Arif was now his biggest ally.

“She walks around the trade center with a journalist friend who knew you would be present, Zafir. It’s all planned,” Arif spat out, with a vehemence that had been nurtured over a lifetime for women, foreign or otherwise.

Zafir remained quiet, giving the doubts that polluted his thoughts free rein.

The few members of staff present at the trade center had already been pledged into silence. He had offered an explanation to the High Council—to keep the peace for Behraat’s sake.

Her bow-shaped mouth was pinched, her shoulders strained under the weight of her feigned defiance. “Did they find him?”

The older man’s disquiet was answer enough.

Zafir switched off the monitor, taking away the temptation messing with his head.

“We need to contain this as soon as possible. If that video falls into the hands of the media...” Arif continued, letting his silence speak for the consequences.

“We might have a full-scale riot on our hands again,” Zafir finished. Tariq had used too many women, bloated with power and Zafir couldn’t be seen in the same light.

If they didn’t find the video and contain it, what little trust he had gained of the people of Behraat could be blown to smithereens.

Already, the High Council was questioning his proposals for change, looking for ways to skew public perception of him. “I’ll talk to her. No one else,” he said, wondering if he had misjudged the first woman to mess with his head in...ever.

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