The Sheikh's Pregnant Prisoner(5)

By: Tara Pammi


“LENIENT?” LAUREN GLARED at him, hating the tremor she couldn’t contain at the casual power in his words. “You had your thugs throw me here without hearing a word I had to say.”

“If you were anyone else...the punishment would have been much worse.”

“I slapped you. It’s not a capital crime.”

“You slapped me in front of the High Council who thinks women should stay at home, that women need to be protected from the world, and from their own weaknesses.”

There was no smoothness to his words now. They reverberated with cutting hostility. “That’s archaic.”

“Fortunately for you, I agree. Women are just as capable of deception, of manipulation as any man I’ve known.”

Lauren stared at him. “So you’re a misogynist as well as being a sheikh? I don’t know how much more of this I can handle.”

Something entered his gaze. “This is not New York, Lauren. Nor am I an average Joe.”

“No, you’re not,” she whispered. Even in New York, she hadn’t made the mistake of thinking he was an average man.

A small-scale exporter, he’d told her, struggling to keep his place in Behraat because of the changing political clime. The gleam of interest in his eyes—six feet of stunning, sexy, jaw-droppingly arrogant man’s interest in her, averagely attractive ER nurse, who’d long ago chosen a life of non-adventure and boring normalcy, because it was safe—it had gone straight to her head.

She’d swallowed his lies all too willingly.

Instead, he was the ruler of a nation and, if the media was to be believed, one who had seized power from the previous sheikh. He was the very embodiment of power and ambition she despised, far from the rootless man she had thought him to be.

The black-and-white tiles swam in front of her eyes. She slid into the chair in a boneless heap, tucked her head down between her knees and forced herself to breathe.

The fine hairs on her neck prickled, the air coated with an exotic scent that her traitorous body craved all too easily. Standing over her, his presence was a dark shadow stealing every bit of warmth from her.

His long fingers landed on her nape and her skin zinged. “Lauren?”

The concern edging into those words tugged at her, but she resisted its dangerous quality. Because it was reluctant at best. “Don’t pretend you care.”

Shock flared in his gaze. At least, that’s what her foolish mind told her. But when she looked back at him, it was gone. Before she could move, he trapped her behind the table, his arms on either side of her head. “Did you know already?”

“Know what?” Her answer croaked out of her, every cell in her pulsing with awareness at his proximity.

Her gaze fell on the thin scar that stretched from the corner of his mouth to his ear, on the left side. The memory of tracing the scar with her tongue, the taste of his skin, the powerful shudder that had gone through him, it all came back to her in a heated rush.

“Look at me when I’m speaking to you,” he said, his tone dark and gravelly.

More than impatience colored his tone. She pulled her gaze upward, her stomach doing a funny flip. His nostrils flared. The same memory danced in his eyes, making the irises a darkly burnished gold.

With a curse that reverberated around them, he clamped his jaw, until the memory and the gold fire was purged from those eyes.

The ruthlessness of his will was a slap.

She was tired, hungry, and her composure was hanging by a very fine thread. All she wanted to do was crawl into her bed and never look at the world again.

“What did I know, Zafir?”

“Did you know who I was? Is that why you slapped me and had your friend record the whole thing?”

Her sluggish brain took several seconds to react. When it did, it destroyed the barrage of unwanted memories and their effect on her. “What the hell does that mean?”

He bent down toward her, swallowing her personal space. Until their noses were almost touching and his breath fanned over her heated skin. “Your journalist friend David had a tiny camcorder and shot the whole...incident.”

“So? Which part of the word journalist confuses you?” she said, confusion swirling within her. “He was running that thing all day...”

“Did he know what you were about to do? Did you plan it?”

His voice was no more than a raspy whisper yet each word dripped with menace.

Shredded everything she’d ever felt for him. “Is that how much you know me?”

* * *

Zafir ruthlessly tuned out the hurt resonating in Lauren’s words.

The feel of her soft, warm flesh under his fingers was already disturbing his equilibrium.

His muscles tightened, his blood became sluggish and the spiraling desire to kiss her mouth was a relentless hum in his veins.

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