|Название||The Sheikh's Bought Wife|
|Автор произведения||Sharon Kendrick|
|Жанр||Короткие любовные романы|
|Серия||Mills & Boon Modern|
|Издательство||Короткие любовные романы|
No. Zayed Al Zawba wasn’t interested in the personal. He wanted to know about her qualifications—and if she was planning to ask him for a pay-rise, or a loan, then wouldn’t it be in her best interests to be honest about them for once, instead of playing down her achievements for fear that it might come over as boasting?
‘I studied at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies in London and it was there that I became aware of some of Kafalah’s great lyric poets. I became obsessed with one in particular and it was he who inspired me to learn your language so that I could translate his verses.’ She smiled as she thought about the impact those poems had first had on her. The sudden realisation of just how powerful words could be. ‘You will, of course, be familiar with the work of Mansur Beyhajhi?’
‘I have no interest in poetry,’ he said carelessly. ‘That was more my father’s line.’
Jane tried not to wince at his reaction but she wasn’t sure if she managed it. But even though she was appalled at his cavalier dismissal of the greatest poet his country had ever produced, she shouldn’t have been surprised. He hardly had a reputation as a man of great sensitivity, did he? He was known for racing fast cars and flying in private jets, as well as his legendary sexual consumption of beautiful women. And yes, everyone knew he was a wizard at playing the stockmarkets which added even more to the financial reserves of his oil-rich country—but that didn’t stop Jane from sometimes thinking it was a pity that Kafalah had such a barbarian for a ruler. Had the early deaths of his parents contributed to his insensitivity—or had the responsibilities of having to rule at such a young age hammered them out of him?
Try to make allowances for him, she thought.
‘Of course not,’ she said. ‘For a moment I quite forgot that you are a man of action, rather than a man of letters.’
There was a slow intake of breath from the other side of the table, a low hissing—not unlike how she imagined a striking snake might sound.
‘You make me sound like an intellectual and cultural lightweight. Was that your intention, Miss Smith?’
‘I thought we were supposed to be talking about me, Your Serene Highness, not you.’
His black eyes narrowed. ‘And I note you’ve neatly avoided answering my question.’
Jane nodded. Keep him sweet, she urged herself. Whatever it takes, just keep him sweet. ‘You are a desert sheikh whose role is to work for his country,’ she said boldly. ‘It is not necessary for you to love poetry.’
He gave a brief nod, as if partially mollified by her diplomatic reply. ‘Go on,’ he said. ‘Tell me about yourself.’
She drew in a deep breath. ‘I wrote an essay about Beyhajhi which caused some excitement in the academic world and I was called to your embassy by the then Ambassador, who wanted to speak to me about it. He offered me a job right there and then—cataloguing, translating and preserving the beautiful manuscripts which your father had collected and rescued from the country during his life. To be honest...’ And for the first time that day, Jane properly relaxed as she remembered how that job offer had felt. As if everything had slotted into place. As if for the first time in her life, she was exactly where she was supposed to be. ‘It was my dream job,’ she admitted, with a smile. ‘And I leapt at the chance.’
Zayed stilled, momentarily taken aback by the impact of that unexpected smile. Why, it made her face light up as if it had been illuminated by sunshine. For the very first time he noticed that her eyes were the colour of caramel and that her enthusiasm had made them gleam, like the most precious amber. Why the hell didn’t she smile like that more often, instead of walking around with such an uptight and prissy expression?
But she was prissy, he reminded himself—and that was exactly why she was perfect for the role he had in mind. He didn’t want an attractive woman who flashed her eyes and her body at him, who might tempt him into sex. He wanted a brief, businesslike marriage in order to attain Dahabi Makaan for his people—and then a swift termination of their non-consummated union.
‘You love my country, don’t you?’ he questioned suddenly.
‘Absolutely,’ she said simply.
‘Yet you have never visited it before?’
‘No. I haven’t.’
She attempted another smile but this time it was more of a grimace, he noted.
‘But you would like to?’
She looked at him with the expression of a child on a boiling hot day who had just been asked whether they would like an ice cream. ‘Of course I would. But I can’t just go. I would need to be invited. I’d need to have somewhere to stay. And anyway,’ she added, her face crumpling as if she’d just remembered something, ‘I can’t afford it.’
‘But if you were invited,’ he said slowly, ‘and if money were no object, you would go.’
A trace of impatience entered her intelligent eyes. ‘Obviously.’
‘Than I think we can be of service to one another.’
She frowned. ‘I’m getting increasingly confused, Your Royal Highness. You invited me out for dinner and I’m still not sure why. Won’t you tell me what your purpose was for asking me here tonight?’
He nodded, reminding himself that he needed to be stern and to lay down all the guidelines right from the beginning. She needed to be made aware of the honour he was about to bestow on her. ‘I need a wife,’ he said simply. ‘And you are the perfect candidate.’
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