|Название||The Sheikh's Bought Wife|
|Автор произведения||Sharon Kendrick|
|Жанр||Короткие любовные романы|
|Серия||Mills & Boon Modern|
|Издательство||Короткие любовные романы|
‘No buts,’ said Zayed impatiently. ‘For the idea grows on me with every second which passes.’ Yet he could see the look of doubt on his aide’s face and knew very well what had caused it. Because Zayed was a man known for his virility. A man who needed the regular release of sex in order to sustain him—in the same way that a horse needed oats and exercise in order to live. He doubted there was a woman alive who could resist him in her bed and the idea that he could tolerate a sexless marriage was almost laughable. Yes, there were undeniably obstacles to such a chaste union but Zayed was a man who thrived on overcoming obstacles, and as he stared into Hassan’s perplexed face a brilliant idea began to form in his mind.
‘What if I were to choose a woman who does not tempt me in any way?’ he said slowly. ‘A drab woman who makes a mockery of all that is feminine. A woman who would turn a blind eye if I happened to stray. Surely that would provide the perfect solution?’
‘You know of such a woman, sire?’
Zayed’s mouth flattened into a hard line. Oh, yes. He knew of such a woman. An image swam into his mind as he thought about Jane Smith who, with her mousy hair and the colourless clothes which swamped her figure, fitted the bill perfectly. What was it that the English said about a woman on whom the gods had not gifted much in the way of looks? Plain Jane. Yes, indeed. Never had such a description been truer than of the uptight academic who was in charge of the archives of his embassy in London. For not only was she plain, she was also immune to his charms, some might even say disapproving—a fact he had registered a while back with something approaching incredulity. At first he’d thought she must be playing games with him. That she was using that well-known feminine ploy of affecting indifference towards a powerful man, in the hope that it would stir some interest in his groin and in his heart. As if any part of him could ever be stirred by Jane Smith! He had discovered her attitude to be real and not feigned when he’d overheard someone mentioning his name and, as he had silently rounded the corner of his London embassy, had seen her rolling her eyes. Insolent, foolish woman!
Yet Jane loved his country with a passion which was rare for a foreigner and she knew it better than many of its natives, which was why he hadn’t instantly dismissed her for gross insubordination. She adored every contour of its deserts, its palaces and its rich, sometimes bloody history. Zayed’s heart gave a savage wrench of pain. A pain which had never quite healed no matter how hard he had tried to turn his back on it. Might not it help that healing process if he accepted his grandfather’s bequest and acquired Dahabi Makaan? To close a door on the past and to look beyond, to the future?
‘Prepare my jet, Hassan,’ he said harshly. ‘And I will fly to England to take the wretched Jane Smith as my bride.’
THE DAY HAD started out badly for Jane and now it seemed it was going to get a whole lot worse. First there had been the phone call—one of the ominous and highly disturbing phone calls which had started arriving daily, leaving her feeling frustrated and scared. Then her train had broken down on her way into work, where she was greeted by complete panic by the time she arrived at the Kafalah Embassy. And the news which awaited her made her heart sink. Sheikh Zayed Al Zawba had decided to pay an unexpected flying visit—quite literally, since he was currently on board his private jet and expected within the next couple of hours. He was a proud and demanding man and the ambassador had been nervously barking out instructions left, right and centre while every female secretary had been grinning as they eagerly awaited the arrival of the desert king, because Zayed was also known for an arrogant charm and sex appeal which made women flock to him like moths to the light bulb. But Jane grimaced when she heard of his impending arrival. She banged her office door shut more loudly than was necessary because she didn’t think he was charming or sexy. She didn’t care that he was a wizard when it came to negotiating trade settlements, or building schools and hospitals in his homeland.
She hated him.
She hated the way his black eyes glittered whenever he talked to you as if he were in possession of some secret he wasn’t going to let you in on. She hated the way women reacted whenever he was around—fawning all over him as if he were some kind of god. A sex god, she’d once overheard someone whisper. She swallowed. Because wasn’t that what she hated most of all—the fact that she wasn’t immune to the undeniable allure of the desert Sheikh, even though he represented everything she most despised—with his legions of lovers and his callous disregard for the feelings of the opposite sex? And yes, she knew he’d had a pretty awful upbringing—but did that give him carte blanche to behave exactly as he liked? How long were you supposed to make allowances for the past?
Hanging up her jacket, she tucked the back of her blouse into her skirt and sat down at her desk. At least her office was hidden away in the shadowed basement of the Central London embassy, far away from the excitement of the gilded upstairs and all the preparations which were being made for Zayed’s arrival. With a bit of luck she could hide herself away down here and not even see him.
Automatically she switched on her computer and the screen immediately lit up with a beautiful screensaver of the famous palace of Kafalah but unusually, Jane saw nothing. For once the blue dome and gilded arches failed to register because all she could think about was the phone call she’d received first thing this morning and the now-familiar voice of the man making it. The message he gave was simple and didn’t vary but the tone of his voice was becoming increasingly hostile. She didn’t know how he’d got hold of her number—all she could think about was the growing note of threat each time she spoke to him. This morning he had got straight to the point.
‘Your sister owes a lot of money and somebody needs to pay. Is that somebody going to be you, sweetheart—because I’m getting kind of impatient?’
The line went dead and Jane could have bent her head down over her keyboard and wept—except she wasn’t the kind of person who ever allowed herself the luxury of tears. Crying was a waste of time and she wasn’t about to start now, because she was Jane the coper. Jane who everyone else turned to when they were in trouble. Jane who could always be relied upon when the chips were down and the world around was dissolving into chaos. Because years ago she’d stumbled upon a certain truth – that if there was a problem then it could be sorted, if only you looked hard enough to find a solution.
Pulling her mobile phone from her handbag, she clicked onto Cleo’s number but it went straight through to the answering service and she got the drawled message which was supposed to be funny—only right now it didn’t sound remotely funny.
‘Hi, this is Cleo. Leave a message and I might call you back. But then again, I might not.’
Jane took a deep breath and tried to keep calm even though her heart was crashing against her ribcage in a way which was making breathing difficult. ‘Cleo, this is Jane and I need to speak to you. Like now. Could you either pick up if you’re listening, or call me back as soon as you get this?’
But Cleo didn’t pick up and, as she cut the connection, Jane didn’t hold out much hope that her sister would call back. Cleo was a law unto herself and lately that law seemed to have no boundaries. As non-identical twins they shared the same birthday—but that was just about all they shared. Jane loved the safety and stimulation of books while Cleo liked dancing the night away. Jane dressed for comfort—Cleo for show. Cleo was beautiful and Jane was not.
But Cleo’s lifestyle couldn’t possibly be financed by the money she earned only erratically, though her spending hadn’t taken that into account. Why else would some bailiff-type person have got hold of Jane’s number and started making all kinds of threats if her twin didn’t pay back some of her mounting debts? She decided to phone her after work, maybe even go and see her—and she would stand over her sister until she made an appointment to see her bank manager and sorted out this whole sorry mess.
With an effort, Jane pushed Cleo’s troubles out of her mind as she began to focus on