Sheikh's Forbidden Conquest(9)

By: Chantelle Shaw

Thankfully, the cut on his chin had closed up. She handed him the towel and stepped back from him. ‘You’ll live. I’m sure legions of women will be relieved,’ she said drily.

His smile remained fixed, but Lexi sensed a sudden stillness in him that made her think of a panther about to pounce on its hapless prey. She reminded herself that the playboy was also a powerful Sultan who had kept peace in Zenhab despite the often volatile situation in other parts of the Middle East.

‘Your sailing accident was widely reported in the press, Your Highness,’ she murmured. In fact the tabloids had only carried a paragraph or two about his capsized yacht and had been more interested in reporting stories of his affairs with supermodels and actresses.

It wasn’t as if she was in the least bit interested in a promiscuous womaniser, Lexi thought. She had only agreed to meet the Sultan because Roger Norris had asked her to.

‘I understand that your yacht has been retrieved from where it sank in the Solent and it was discovered that the keel had been ripped from the hull.’ She hesitated. ‘I’m afraid I was rather hasty the other night when I jumped to the conclusion that you had ignored the reports of an approaching storm. I...apologise if my attitude was less than professional.’

Kadir just managed to stop himself from laughing out loud at Lexi Howard’s grudging apology. She had spoken politely, but he sensed her reluctance to be here. It was obvious that she had been sent to see him, and it was easy to guess the real reason for her visit. Her next words confirmed his suspicion.

‘Roger Norris explained that you have made a very generous offer to finance a second rescue helicopter.’

Kadir idly wondered if the coastguard commander had told Lexi to dress up for their meeting and perhaps try to persuade him to donate even more funds. Catching the cool expression in her eyes, he dismissed the idea. No one would dare tell Lexi Howard what to do—which made her choice of outfit interesting.

He ran his eyes over her, noting how the stretchy fabric of her dress moulded her toned figure and emphasised the shape of her firm breasts. The dress stopped at mid-thigh-level and below the hemline her slender legs, sheathed in sheer black hose, looked even longer with the addition of three-inch stiletto heels. Recalling his erotic fantasies about her while he’d been in the shower, Kadir felt the simmering heat in his gut burn hotter.

‘The least I can do is to make a contribution to the rescue agency responsible for saving my life and the lives of my crew,’ he said abruptly. ‘I must also apologise, Captain Howard, for not thanking you for your skill and bravery after the rescue the other night. I am conscious that I owe you a huge debt of gratitude.’

‘I was simply doing my job,’ she muttered.

‘I understand from Roger Norris that you no longer work for the coastguard agency.’

‘My contract was only for a year. Although, if there is to be a second rescue helicopter, I might get my job back.’

‘But you don’t have another job to go to at the moment?’ Kadir knew he was staring at Lexi but he could not help himself. She was so damned beautiful! He cleared his throat. ‘I asked you to meet me because I have a proposition I want to discuss with you.’

‘What kind of proposition?’ The gleam of sexual interest in his eyes, and memories of the stories in the newspapers about his playboy lifestyle, sent Lexi’s imagination into overdrive.

Kadir was irritated that Lexi obviously believed the garbage which had been written about him in the tabloids. But she was not nearly as composed as she would like him to think. Her breathing was shallow and the downwards sweep of her long eyelashes was too late to hide her dilated pupils. He roamed his eyes over her in a slow, deliberate appraisal, and was rewarded when the hard points of her nipples became clearly discernible beneath her clingy dress.

Suddenly he understood, and a feeling of satisfaction swept through him. He had seen her scornful expression when she’d referred to the reports of his alleged playboy lifestyle. Most of the stories about his private life, which had been printed alongside the news of his yachting accident, were either rehashed from years ago or greatly exaggerated. Kadir had felt no inclination to defend himself to Lexi, but he’d been annoyed by her readiness to judge him.

Now, as he watched her cross her arms defensively over her breasts, he realised that the waves of antagonism she had been sending out were a frantic attempt to disguise the fact that she was attracted to him. Perhaps she hoped that her frosty attitude disguised her sexual awareness of him, but Kadir knew—just as he always knew when a woman was interested in him. He had played the game of chasing women who wanted to be caught too often, he thought cynically.