Sheikh's Forbidden Conquest(10)

By: Chantelle Shaw

But this time the rules were different. When he returned to Zenhab he would honour the promise he had made to his father and marry the bride who had been chosen for him. Although he desired the Flight Captain, he had no intention of actually catching her. But Lexi did not know that!

‘Why don’t we sit down,’ he murmured, ‘and make ourselves comfortable?’

Lexi swallowed as she watched the Sultan lower himself onto the sofa. He stretched his arms along the back, drawing her attention to his bare torso. His broad shoulders gleamed like burnished copper in the golden autumn sunshine slanting through the window, and his chest and forearms were covered in a fine mat of silky black hairs that accentuated his raw masculinity.

Conscious that her heart was thudding uncomfortably fast, she made a show of checking her watch. ‘I really must be going. I expect you want to finish getting dressed,’ she said pointedly, ‘and I have to be somewhere at seven-thirty, and I want to hit the motorway before the evening traffic builds up.’

‘Do you have a date this evening? And there I was thinking you had worn that very sexy dress especially to meet me,’ Kadir drawled.

Lexi flushed. ‘It is not a sexy dress,’ she said tightly. ‘It’s a cocktail dress suitable for a cocktail party to celebrate my sister’s engagement.’ The idea that the Sultan assumed she’d dressed up for him was infuriating but, to her shame, she felt a frisson of awareness shoot through her when his dark eyes gleamed with a hard brilliance.

‘Surely you don’t have to leave just yet if the party doesn’t start for another two hours?’ To Lexi’s consternation, he sprang up from the sofa and walked over to her, moving with the speed and grace of a jungle cat. He was too close and towered over her so that she had to tilt her head to meet his intent gaze. Heat radiated from his body, or maybe the heat came from her, making her feel flushed and flustered and acutely aware of her femininity.

Desperate to hide the effect he had on her, she launched into an explanation. ‘The journey to Henley-on-Thames, which is where my sister’s fiancé’s parents live, will take over an hour, and I daren’t risk being late and upsetting Lady Fairfax.’

Lexi frowned as she recalled how tense her sister had sounded on the phone. Athena had confided her worry that Charles’s parents did not approve of their son’s choice of bride because they had hoped he would marry someone with a similar aristocratic pedigree to the Fairfaxes. ‘The engagement party is my chance to prove that I can be a good wife to Charlie and a sophisticated hostess when he invites business clients to dinner,’ Athena had said earnestly.

Lexi had struggled to picture her accident-prone sister as a sophisticated hostess, but she had kept her doubts that Charles Fairfax was the right man for Athena to herself.

Her thoughts scattered when Sultan Kadir spoke. His deep, dark voice curled around her like a lover’s caress. She caught her breath as he lifted his hand and brushed the back of his knuckles oh-so-lightly down her cheek. It was a blatant invasion of her personal space but her feet seemed to be rooted to the floor and she could not step away from him.

‘I am disappointed that you must rush away before we’ve had a chance to discuss my proposal. Perhaps we can arrange to meet again at a more convenient time?’

She licked her dry lips and told herself she was imagining the predatory gleam in his eyes. ‘Your Highness...’ Her voice sounded strangely breathless.

‘Please call me Kadir, Lexi.’

The way he said her name, with that soft huskiness in his voice, was too intimate, as if he had stroked each syllable with his tongue.

Lexi felt as though she was drowning in his molten gaze, but a tiny part of her sanity remained and asked why she was letting him get to her. He was a notorious womaniser, and in the past when other men like him had tried to come on to her she’d had no trouble shooting them down.

Of course she would not allow herself to be seduced by the Sultan, she assured herself. But she could not deny that his interest was flattering and a salve to her wounded pride after Steven’s betrayal. Without conscious thought, she swayed towards Kadir, bringing her mouth even closer to his. Her heart pounded and her eyelashes swept down as she waited, tense with anticipation, for him to brush his lips over hers.

‘You’ve been a long time in the shower. I’ve been getting bored waiting for you.’

Lexi froze and jerked her head towards the petulant female voice. Shock slithered like an ice cube down her spine when she saw a woman standing in the doorway that connected the sitting room and bedroom. Through the open door she could see a big bed with rumpled sheets. The woman—girl—was no more than seventeen. Lexi recognised she was Tania Stewart, daughter of the local yacht club president Derek Stewart, who also owned the Admiralty Hotel.