Pursued by the Desert Prince(5)By: Dani Collins
And would do it again.
But he would not see his sister’s heart broken again. She loved Sadiq and Sadiq would be the faithful husband she desired him to be. If that meant fast-tracking a new wedding gown, so be it.
He let Angelique read his resolve in his silence.
She stood there with her chin lifted in confrontation, trying very hard to look down her nose at him. “All I have to do is say that I’m Sadiq’s mistress and this goes away?”
“Plus send me the bill and never contact Sadiq again.”
“I can give your money to charity,” she pointed out.
“You can. The important thing is that you will not be able to hold the debt over Sadiq’s head.”
“Ah, finally I learn my real motivation.” Her arms came out in amazement. “I was beginning to think I was the stupidest mistress alive.”
“Oh, I’m quite in admiration of your cleverness, Angelique.”
* * *
His use of her name made her heart, which was already racing at this altercation, take a jump and spin before landing hard.
“Have we arrived at first names, Kasim?” It was a deliberate lob back, not unlike when she played tennis with her siblings and she was so well matched she had to throw everything she had into each swing of her racket.
This man! She had spent years developing a shield against the world and he brushed it aside like it was a cobweb, making her react from a subterranean level. It was completely unnerving.
His lashes flinched at her use of his given name.
“Your insolence toward me is unprecedented. Take extreme care, Angelique.”
Her fingernails were digging into her own upper arms, she was so beside herself. She used the sharp sting to keep a cool head. She had training for this type of negotiation, she reminded herself. He thought he was holding a small fortune in seed pearls and silk hostage, but he was actually holding a knife to the throat of her sister’s happiness along with the debt their family owed to Sadiq.
Given that, there was no way Angelique wanted to jeopardize the wedding arrangements or cause a long-term rift.
Listen. That was the first step, she reminded herself as her ears pounded with her racing pulse. Apparently Kasim felt he wasn’t being heard.
“To be clear,” she said with forced calm, “you believe I’ve orchestrated this to put Sadiq into my debt?”
“Perhaps not financially. His family is wealthy in resources and political standing as well as actual gold. You’ve managed to neutralize yourself in my sister’s eyes, so she couldn’t possibly see you as a threat if you were to move in at a later date for whatever Sadiq was deemed useful for.”
“Can I ask how you concluded that I’m so cold-blooded? Because even the online trolls don’t accuse me of this sort of thing.” She was nice! Her family regularly told her she was too nice.
“If your heart was involved, you would have refused this commission altogether. If you wanted to retaliate for a broken heart, you wouldn’t be trying so hard to please Hasna. No. I’ve told you, I’ve had mistresses. I understand exceedingly practical women. This is an investment in your future. I accept that on a philosophical level, but not when it risks my sister’s happiness. That I cannot allow. So.” He nodded decisively at the card he’d left on the desk. “Send me the bill. Do not contact him again.”
He made as if to leave.
“Wait!” She leaped forward and grabbed his arm.
He froze, gaze locking onto her hand on his sleeve for one powerful heartbeat before he lifted his eyes. His face was filled outrage and something else, something glittering and fiercely masculine.
“Have we arrived at that level of familiarity, Angelique?” He pivoted in a swift move to face her, taking her own arm in his opposite grip.
It was the sudden dive and snatch of a predatory bird catching prey in its talons.
They stood like that in what seemed like a slowdown in time. Her heart pounded so hard her lungs could barely inflate against it.
“We’re not finished t-talking.” Her voice came out painfully thin. She knew she should release him and step back, but she was quite blown away by the masculine interest that flared to life in his gaze.
She wasn’t falsely modest. She knew she was beautiful. It was one of the reasons camera lenses so often turned on her. Men looked at her with desire all the time.
There was no reason she should react to this man’s naked hunger. But she did.
A very animalistic sexual reaction pierced deep in her loins, flooding her with heat and... Yes, it was reciprocal desire. He was looking at her as if he found her appealing and she certainly found him as attractive as they came. There might even be something chemical here because her gaze dropped involuntarily to his mouth. Longing rose within her.