The Sheikh's Pregnant Prisoner(6)By: Tara Pammi
He closed his eyes, and let the pictures of Behraat from six weeks ago swim in front of his eyes...the people who had died in the riots, the destruction Tariq had wrought on it. The mindless carnage instantly took the edge off his physical hunger.
A sense of balance returned to him, a cruel but efficient tether to control his body. He swept his gaze over her, letting the harsh reality of his life creep into his words. “Do we really know each other, Lauren? Except for what we like in—”
Pink seeped into her cheeks, her fiery gaze shooting daggers at him. “Stop it, Zafir.”
“We knew each other for two months. I brought Huma to the ER. She told you I was...rich and you pursued me for a donation. You recklessly challenged me and I...rose to it. Against my better instincts, I started an affair. The fact that I hadn’t been with a woman in a few months could have been one factor.”
He continued like the ruthless bastard he was, refusing to let her pale face, the way she retreated from him, the way she shrank into the wall as though she couldn’t bear to be touched by even his shadow, thwart him. “And we continued to sleep with each other because it suited us both.”
He tucked away a distracting lock of hair from her cheek and she flinched. “So no, I don’t know what you’re capable of.
“What I do know is that you were always, what is the word, chummy with the press. That reporter friend David, that lawyer, Alicia and you...”
She ran long, trembling fingers over her forehead. “To set up an abuse shelter in Queens. I have nothing to gain by exposing your true colors to the world.”
Frustration made his words harder. “I need that video, Lauren. The current political climate of Behraat is volatile. Even something as simple as a lover’s tiff can be interpreted in so many different ways. My...predecessor abused his power, toyed with women as if they were his personal playthings. Your act questions my credibility, paints me in the same mold as him.”
She shot her hand out, her slender fingers spread out, defiance shining out of her gleaming gaze as she ticked off her fingers. “Abuse of power? Check. Toys with women as though they were personal playthings? Check. It seems you’re the perfect man for the job, Zafir.”
His skin crawled to think she would cast him in the same mold as Tariq. “I’ve never treated you with anything other than respect.”
“Respect?” The words boomeranged in the sterile room, mocking him. “If you respected me, you wouldn’t be treating me like a criminal, questioning my actions, you wouldn’t have walked out in the middle of the night and disappeared.
“The only thing missing was a bunch of cash on the nightstand and a recommendation to your friends.”
“Enough. How dare you speak as if you sold yourself to me?”
“Because that’s what you’re implying, Zafir,” Lauren shouted back at him. With an increasing sense of emptiness, she fell against the wall.
He trapped her against it, his hot gaze burning, his body a seething cauldron of aggression and sensual intent. There was no control now, only a sense of possession. She had truly angered him and still, Lauren didn’t feel fear. Not when he stood close like that.
Silly, stupid Lauren.
“Is that why you did it? Because you’re angry with me, you thought to teach me a lesson?”
“You know nothing about me. And I’m realizing how little I know you.”
“You have no idea what you have done, Lauren. Are you ready to face the consequences? To take responsibility when another riot begins?”
She’d already learned enough about the atrocities suffered by the people of Behraat. And the sooner this nightmare was over, the sooner she would be able to leave.
She clutched on to the thought like a mantra. “Even though it isn’t something I should have to explain, I will. Your claim that David and I planned...this whole thing is ridiculous. He doesn’t even know about our affair.”
“Then why did he run, Lauren? Why not wait to find out what happened to you?”
“Maybe because against your claims to the contrary, you seem to be walking exactly the same path as the old sheikh. You had your men seize me for a mere slap, Zafir. Can you blame him? What would he do with that video anyway? Put it on YouTube?”
His gaze hardened and she realized it was exactly the thing he wanted to avoid. He pulled her cell phone out of his pocket and slid it into her hand. “Call him. Ask him to meet you in the front lobby and bring his camcorder.”
He glared at her. “So that we can delete that video.”
“I told you. Even if David recorded it, it would be by accident. He would never do anything to hurt me. I know him.”