Sheikh's Forbidden Conquest(4)

By: Chantelle Shaw

He broke off abruptly. Following the direction of his gaze, Lexi saw two men hurrying towards them. The helipad was strictly out of bounds to the public but, as she stepped forward to ask the men to leave, they halted in front of the White Hawk’s skipper and, to Lexi’s astonishment, bowed to him. She had learned enough Arabic during her tours of duty in the Middle East to recognise the language they spoke. After a brief conversation with the men, the skipper swung away from Lexi without giving her another glance and strode across the helipad, followed by his two companions.

‘A word of thanks for saving his life would have been nice,’ she said disgustedly, not caring if her words carried across the helipad to him. She glanced at the coastguard paramedic. ‘Did you see how those men bowed to him as if they were his servants? He actually clicked his fingers for them to follow him! Who the hell does he think he is?’

Chris gave her an amused look. ‘I take it from the way you ripped into him that you didn’t recognise him? That was His Royal Highness, Sultan Kadir Al Sulaimar of Zenhab, and I’m guessing that the men who came to collect him are his servants. Not only is he a Sultan, he was the skipper of the Zenhab Team Valiant who won the America’s Cup in the summer.’ He grinned at Lexi’s startled expression. ‘I got the feeling that he didn’t take kindly to you calling him an inexperienced sailor.’

‘I still think he was irresponsible to have sailed when he knew that a storm was coming,’ Lexi argued. ‘But I guess he couldn’t have known his yacht’s keel would fail,’ she conceded reluctantly. She knew enough about sailing to be aware that catastrophic keel failure was uncommon but not unheard of, and it was the main cause of yachts capsizing quickly, giving the crew little warning or time to radio for assistance.

She winced as she remembered how she had accused the man of being an inexperienced sailor. Now that she thought about it, he had seemed vaguely familiar, she mused as she climbed into the helicopter cockpit and prepared to take off from the helipad. During the summer there had been extensive news coverage of the famous America’s Cup yacht race held in San Francisco, when the Zenhabian Team Valiant had beaten Team USA to win the prestigious trophy. Sultan Kadir Al Sulaimar had been interviewed on live television by an overexcited female presenter who had clearly been overwhelmed by his exotic looks and undeniable charm.

Lexi told herself that it wasn’t surprising that she had failed to recognise the Sultan when he had been battered, bruised and dripping wet after being rescued from his sinking yacht. To her annoyance, she could not stop thinking about him. At the end of her shift she went back to the old coastguard cottage that had been her home for the past year but, instead of finishing packing up her belongings ready to move out, she wasted an hour looking up Sultan Kadir Al Sulaimar on her laptop.

She had no trouble finding pictures of him, mostly taken at social events in Europe. He was invariably accompanied by a beautiful woman. Blonde, brunette or redhead, it seemed that the Sultan had no particular preference but, from the dizzying number of different women he was photographed with, it appeared that he liked variety. According to the press reports, he was a playboy with a personal fortune estimated to be in the billions. He owned a luxury chalet in St Moritz, penthouses in New York and London’s Mayfair and an English country estate where he kept racehorses.

There was some information about the country he ruled. Zenhab was an independent Arab kingdom in the Arabian Sea. Kadir had succeeded his father, Sultan Khalif Al Sulaimar, who was credited with establishing peace in Zenhab after years of fighting between rival tribal groups. But while the previous Sultan had rarely travelled abroad or courted the attention of the world’s media, his son was frequently spotted by the paparazzi at nightclubs in Paris, or at Ascot, where he owned a private box and entertained celebrities and members of the British royal family, or driving his attention-grabbing scarlet sports car around Belgravia.

In short, the spoiled Sultan was the absolute antithesis of the kind of man Lexi admired. When she had served in Afghanistan, she had met men who were brave and loyal and utterly dedicated to carrying out the missions they had been assigned even though their lives were often at risk.

The memory of how the Sultan had looked at her with a predatory gleam in his eyes slid into her mind and her stomach muscles clenched. Sexual attraction followed its own rules and ignored common sense, she thought ruefully. Or maybe it was just her body reminding her that it was perfectly normal for a twenty-nine-year-old woman to feel sexual desire.