Sheikh's Forbidden Conquest(7)

By: Chantelle Shaw

Kadir pictured Lexi Howard’s face. Her delicate features—the finely arched brows, defined cheekbones and perfect Cupid’s bow lips—reminded him of the exquisite porcelain figurines in his grandmother’s collection, which were displayed in a glass cabinet at Montgomery Manor. But the Flight Captain’s fragile appearance was deceptive. He frowned, remembering her sharp voice and the dismissive way she had flicked her frosty blue eyes over him.

Immediately after he had been rescued from his doomed yacht, Kadir’s pride had stung worse than his cracked skull. But now, with his equilibrium restored, he found Ms Howard’s attitude refreshing. It had been a novelty to meet a woman who did not fawn on him or flirt with him. Too often he had found it too easy to persuade women into his bed. When he had been younger he had enjoyed being spoiled for choice, but a life without challenge was boring.

Lexi Howard was definitely a challenge. Desire kicked in Kadir’s groin as he thought of the cool blonde beauty. He imagined teasing her mouth open with his tongue and tasting her. How long would it take to break through her reserve until she responded to him? he wondered, picturing her creamy complexion suffused with the rosy flush of sexual arousal.

Closing his eyes, he leaned back against the shower wall and visualised the icy, uptight Flight Captain melting beneath his hands. Slowly, he slid his hand down his body and stretched his fingers around his erection. He pictured Lexi Howard’s capable hands on him, caressing him, stroking him lightly and then not so lightly...gripping him hard...

With a groan, he gave in to temptation and the urgent demands of his arousal. The cords in his neck stood out as he tipped his head back and the fire inside him became a furnace. His release came swiftly, awarding him momentary satisfaction that felt somehow incomplete.

But pleasuring himself was his only option, after the decision he had taken six months ago when his future bride had turned twenty-one and under Zenhabian law had become of marriageable age. Out of respect for Haleema, Kadir had ended his affairs with his European mistresses.

In the ten years that he had been Sultan of Zenhab he had been careful to avoid personal scandal in his desert kingdom, and had earned the support and respect of the population. It had been suggested to him by some of his advisers that monogamy was not a requirement of his arranged marriage as long as he was discreet, but he had every intention of fulfilling his role of husband to the best of his ability, to honour the promise he had made to his father.

Kadir had only been sixteen when Sultan Khalif had suffered a stroke that had left him a prisoner in his body—unable to walk, and with limited speech. Under Zenhabian law, the Sultan’s brother had been made an interim ruler until the rightful heir came of age. But when Kadir had turned twenty-one, Jamal had been reluctant to hand over the Crown to his nephew, and he’d had support from tribal leaders in the mountain territories.

In order to claim the Crown from his uncle, Kadir had been forced to agree to marry the daughter of Jamal’s strongest ally, Sheikh Rashid bin Al-Hassan. At the time he had signed the agreement, Haleema had been a child of eleven. But now she was twenty-one and, since the death of Sheikh Rashid two months ago, Kadir had come under increasing pressure from his uncle to set a date for his wedding. He knew he could not put if off for much longer. Haleema’s family would consider a lengthy delay to be an insult to the princess of the mountain tribes, and Jamal—the most poisonous snake in Zenhab—would waste no time stirring up trouble that could threaten the stability of the country.

For the sake of Zenhab and for the love he felt for his father, Kadir would honour his duty. But there was a part of him that rebelled against the old ways of his kingdom. He had been educated in England and at university he had felt envious of his peers, who were free to live their lives without the burden of responsibility that had always been his destiny.

He had never even seen his future bride, but that would soon change. On his return to Zenhab he would travel to the mountains to meet Haleema’s brother Omar, the new leader of the northern tribes, and begin formal proceedings for his marriage. He might even be permitted to meet Haleema, but according to the old customs he would not have an opportunity to be alone with her until she became his wife.

Kadir’s thoughts turned once again to Flight Captain Lexi Howard. She had proved when she had rescued him and his crew that she was a highly skilled pilot, hence his decision to offer her a job as his private pilot in Zenhab. He knew it might be viewed as controversial to appoint a woman in what was considered by traditionalists to be a male role, but he fervently believed that his kingdom needed to modernise and accept that women were equal to men. The helicopter he had recently purchased would allow him to travel to Haleema’s home in the mountainous northern territories more easily. And with that last thought of Haleema, his future had been decided for him ten years ago, he felt a sense that prison bars were closing around him.