The Sheikh's Pregnant Prisoner(4)

By: Tara Pammi

* * *

How dare he lock her up?

Lauren eyed the camera in the top corner of the room. She wanted to march toward it, stick her face in it and demand they release her. But it would only waste her dwindling energy.

The sheer fury she had been running on was crashing already. Misery gnawed at her.

She turned her attention to the small room with its austere white walls and concrete floor. The sterile smell of the room made her empty stomach heave. A window boarded shut with cheap plastic and a faded plastic chair and table graced the room. The other end of the spectrum from the magnificent foyer and reception hall where she’d stood in awe only a couple of hours ago.

Even if she wanted to delude herself that it was all some ghastly mistake, the gritty reality of the room stopped her.

She held her shoulders rigid. But each passing minute filled her with increasing dread and confusion. The old man’s words rang in her ears.

Zafir, the Sheikh of Behraat?

It sounded straight out of a nightmare, yet how else could she explain all this?

She rubbed her eyes and swallowed, her throat dry and scratchy like sandpaper. They had taken her backpack, her cell phone. She thought longingly of the bottle of water in there and even the granola bar she usually hated.

The knob turned as the door was fiddled with on the outside.

Her muscles tensed up, her lungs expanding on a huge breath.

Zafir stepped into the room. She sagged against the chair, saw the tight line of his mouth and instantly pulled herself back up.

He had ordered his minions to lock her up. Just because he was here didn’t mean anything, she told herself sternly.

He cast a look at the camera at the top wall. The tiny orange flicker went out.

Apparently, all it took was a blink of an eye from him and the world rearranged itself.

He closed the door behind him, and leaned against it.

His gaze swept over her, noting everything about her with a chilling thoroughness.

The traditional attire was gone yet he felt no more familiar than the cold stranger she had slapped so foolishly. A white cotton shirt folded back at the cuffs revealed strong forearms, the burnished bronze of his skin a startlingly stunning contrast against it.

Black jeans outlined the hard strength of those muscular legs, legs that had pinned and anchored her in the most intimate of acts, a mere couple of hours before he had stepped out of her life.

The Zafir she had known in New York had still been a mystery, but he’d been a kind, caring man. Not friendly but she’d felt safe with him, even after knowing him for only an hour.

Not straightway approachable after the way she’d ripped into him at the ER, but he’d still been a gentleman.

Not exactly the boy-next-door type and yet he’d laughed with her.

Had all that been just a mask to get her into bed?

He prowled into the room and leaned against the opposite wall, forcing her to raise her gaze. Her stomach was tied up in knots, but she refused to let him intimidate her.

Standing up, she moved behind the chair and mirrored his stance.

He folded his hands and pinned her with that hard gaze. “Why are you here, Lauren?”

“Ask your thugs that question.” She gripped the back of the chair with shaking hands, and tilted her chin up. “Sorry, I mean, your guards.”

He raised a brow, quiet arrogance dripping from every pore. How had she not seen this cloak of power he wore so effortlessly? “This is not the time to play with the truth.”

“Look who’s talking about truth,” she said, anger replacing the dread. “Is it true? What that man said?”

An eternity passed while his gaze trapped hers. But she saw the truth in it.

In fact, the truth or a shadow of it had been present all along.

In his tortured words whenever he spoke of Behraat, in the anguish in his eyes when they had watched a TV segment about the old sheikh still in coma, in the pride that resonated in his voice when he spoke of how Behraat had emerged as a developing country under the sheikh’s regime.

Even in that sense of stasis she had sensed in him, as though he was biding his time.

His very presence was a ticking powerhouse in the small room. He shrugged. Such a casual gesture for something that shook her world upside down. “Yes.”

The single word grew in the space between them, bearing down upon her the consequences of her own actions.

Her throat dried up, every muscle in her quivered. All the stories she had heard from a fascinated David about Behraat, of the ruling family, they coalesced in her mind, shaking loose everything she had believed of Zafir.

She stared at him anew. “If you’re the new sheikh, that means you’re...”

“The man who ordered the arrest of his brother so that he can rule Behraat. The man who celebrated victory on the eve of his brother’s death.” His words echoed with a razor-sharp edge. “But be very careful. You’ve already committed one mistake. I might not be so lenient again.”

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