|Название||The Sheikh's Bought Wife|
|Автор произведения||Sharon Kendrick|
|Жанр||Короткие любовные романы|
|Серия||Mills & Boon Modern|
|Издательство||Короткие любовные романы|
She was completely lost in the translation of an ancient Kafalahian love poem and struggling to find an appropriate word for a decidedly erotic act, when she heard the door open. Making a minor click of irritation beneath her breath, she didn’t even bother lifting her head.
‘Not now,’ she said. ‘Come back later.’
There was a moment of complete silence before a silky male voice spoke.
‘In my country I would not tolerate such a response to the arrival of the Sheikh,’ he said. ‘Do you consider yourself so special and different that you should ignore him, Jane Smith?’
The realisation of just who was speaking broke into her deliberations like ice water being tipped over her head and Jane looked up in horror to see that Zayed Al Zawba had entered her office and was shutting the door behind him, enclosing the two of them together in a too-small space. She knew she ought to rise to her feet and bow her head, because even though she wasn’t one of his subjects his royal status demanded she show some kind of deference even if secretly she objected to it. But her body was refusing to obey the dictates of her mind—maybe because the sight of him was short-circuiting the common sense which usually came to her as easily as breathing. Her mouth dried as his powerful body dominated every atom of space in the room and she cursed him for the way he looked. For the way he made her feel. As if she were clutching onto the edge of a cliff by her fingertips as the unsteady ground beneath began to slip away from her frantic grip.
He was wearing robes. Of course he was. She knew of some visiting sheikhs who adapted their appearance for their time in England by wearing cosmopolitan suits—usually handmade in Italy. But not Zayed. Zayed didn’t try to blend in to his environment. He liked to stand out and he managed it effortlessly. Flowing cream silk hinted at the hard and sinewy body beneath and his only compromise was leaving his dark head bare.
Her eyes travelled reluctantly to his face. His cruel and beautiful face. Jane had studied generations of Al Zawba men during her time as an academic. She had seen their distinctive features staring down from ancient paintings and illustrations and their flashing black eyes, burnished copper skin and hawk-like nose were all too familiar to her. But nothing could prepare you for seeing all that proud and haughty lineage in the flesh and every time she had encountered Zayed, his impact on her had never lessened—if anything it had only increased. Maybe that wasn’t so surprising given his physical magnificence, which she would have been a fool to deny.
But she didn’t like the way he made her feel any more than she liked him. It was highly inconvenient that he had only to look at her and her breasts started aching and all she could do was pray that her cheeks didn’t display the heated blood which was suddenly pumping furiously around her system. She just needed to maintain her cool—the way she did with every other person she came in contact with. To politely enquire why he had arrived in her office so unexpectedly—only not so politely that he might feel he could start making a habit of it. And then, hopefully, to get rid of him as quickly as possible.
Awkwardly she rose to her feet, aware of those flashing black eyes whipping over her as briefly she bowed her head.
‘Forgive me, Your Serene Highness,’ she said. ‘I was not expecting you to walk in unannounced.’
Zayed raised his eyebrows. Was that censure he heard in her soft English voice? ‘Should I perhaps have made an appointment first?’ he questioned sarcastically. ‘Checked up to see whether or not you had time to fit me into your busy schedule?’
The answering gesture of her hand as it encompassed the book-cluttered room was expansive but he noticed that her smile was thin.
‘I would have tidied up first, if I had known that Your Royal Highness was going to grace my office with his presence.’
It was on the tip of his tongue to suggest that she might have tidied up her own person as well as her office, but he recognised that such honesty would do little to further his cause. ‘The untidy state of your office is of no consequence to me at the moment,’ he said impatiently. ‘It is you I have come to see.’
She was looking at him with question in her eyes—in a way which somehow managed to be deeply insubordinate, though he couldn’t quite work out why. He wasn’t used to women staring at him like that—as if they would prefer he was anywhere other than here. He was used to adoration and submission—and from women far more beautiful than the one standing in front of him. He had intended to walk in here and tell her that he needed a wife—and quickly—but Jane Smith’s faintly hostile expression was making him reconsider as suddenly the unthinkable occurred to him.
What if she refused?
Zayed’s mind raced. Refusal was something he would not countenance but perhaps he might have to employ a little good old-fashioned diplomacy along the way. And yet wasn’t it slightly ironic that he should have to go creeping around to ask for a favour from a woman like her?
His lips curved as he noticed she wasn’t wearing a scrap of make-up and that her brown hair was scraped tightly back into a bun more befitting a woman of fifty than one in her twenties. An ugly blouse was tucked into an equally ugly skirt which fell in an unflattering length to just below her knees and, as always, it was impossible to see what kind of body lay beneath her drab clothes. She was undoubtedly the most unattractive female he had ever set eyes on and thus the perfect candidate for what he had in mind. Could he ever imagine being sexually attracted to a woman like Jane Smith? Not in a million years.
‘I have a proposition to put to you,’ he said.
Her eyes became hooded as she looked at him warily. ‘What kind of proposition?’
Zayed could barely restrain his click of displeasure. How insolent she was! Did she not realise that his power was all-encompassing? Why wasn’t she nodding her head in instant agreement—eager to please him in whatever it was he demanded? The loud clicking of a clock on the wall penetrated his thoughts as he became aware of the street view from the basement window. It suddenly occurred to him that laying out his terms for her brief tenure as his Sheikha might be better done elsewhere—not here in this cluttered office with embassy staff nervously patrolling the corridor outside, waiting for his next command or perhaps listening, with their ears pressed close to the door.
Injecting his tone with a deliberate silkiness, Zayed gave a rare smile, aware of its powerful impact on members of the opposite sex. ‘It might be easier to explain over dinner.’
‘You know?’ His patience was wearing thin. ‘The meal you eat between lunch and breakfast.’
‘You want to have dinner?’ She frowned. ‘With me?’
Now was not the time to tell her that no, he didn’t, not really. That the shared meal would be nothing more than something to be endured while he told her what he had planned for her. But why ruin what was undoubtedly going to be the night of a lifetime for her? Why not dazzle her as women so loved to be dazzled?
‘Yes,’ he said softly. ‘I do.’
She screwed up her face. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘But you will, Jane. You will. All will be explained in due course. So.’ Lifting his arm so that the fine material of his robe revealed one hair-roughened wrist, he glanced down at the heavy gold timepiece which his father had once worn. ‘You had better leave now.’
She stared at him blankly. ‘You mean, leave work?’
‘But I’ve only just got here. And I’m deep into research about a sixteenth century Kafalahian love poem which