Pursued by the Desert Prince(9)

By: Dani Collins

“That’s what you got from everything I just said? No! And neither is my mother, before you go there. Family money paid for the materials and Trella and I are doing the work. This isn’t a buy off or an attempt to hold something over Sadiq. We’re contributing to his special day in the way that makes him happiest. That’s all.”

He pondered that with a raspy scrape of his bent fingers beneath his jaw.

“You still don’t believe me?” What on earth would it take?

“How did he help solve the kidnapping? How old was he? Fifteen? Sixteen?” His voice was thick with skepticism. “How well did he even know your family? I understood he only went to Switzerland when he began prepping for university.”

“I trust this conversation won’t leave this room? Because the police asked us to keep it confidential and we always have. We never speak publicly about the kidnapping because there are many details we wish to keep private.”

“Of course,” he muttered testily, as though he was insulted she would question his integrity.

“You know Sadiq is a bit of a computer whiz? Well, the internet was quite young and few tools had been developed for online sleuthing. It probably wouldn’t even be legal now, the kind of hacking he’d done, but who cares? We have him to thank for Trella’s return. And you’re right that he only knew of us. We weren’t friends yet. He was in a few classes with my brothers, but when Trella was taken, he was on the steps beside Ramon. He saw it happen and was horrified. He wanted to help and used his own time, hours and hours I might add, to create software code that produced a lead that panned out for the police. If you want more information, you can take it up with Sadiq.”

The truth was, Sadiq was a security specialist. He’d merely been a nerd with a passion at that time, but now it was his private business—literally his confidential side job that she only knew about because her family had introduced him to the man who had the contract for their own security. She didn’t know if even Hasna was aware that Sadiq wrote code for Tec-Sec Industries.

“There aren’t many people we trust unequivocally, but Sadiq is one of them. He didn’t do us a favor. He saved my sister’s life. So if he wants me to make dresses for your sister for the rest of my life, I will. Happily. Without checking with you first.”


KASIM HADN’T EXPECTED her to admit outright that she had had an affair with Sadiq, but he hadn’t expected an explanation like this, either. It shed an entirely different light on things. He couldn’t help but believe her.

Of course, she had done her best to scramble his brain with that kiss, so he forced himself to proceed cautiously.

“I’ll allow that Sadiq is what the Americans call a ‘geek.’ He is very modest and I’ve seen that do-good streak. He always seems sincere in his kindness toward Hasna. I can believe he would take it upon himself to help a stranger’s family. But I will check this with him,” he warned.

“Be my guest!”

Sadiq would back her story regardless. It was a far more tasteful explanation than admitting he’d had an affair with her. It was more tasteful to him, Kasim acknowledged darkly.

“I may have to relay some of this to my parents.” He was sorry now that his mother knew anything about this. She had already used the waiving of payment to stir up his father, basking in the importance of being the one to inform the king that there might be a scandal attached to their daughter’s wedding. She could easily have put the wedding itself in jeopardy in her quest for her husband’s attention, ever in competition with the king’s consort, Fatina.

It was exhausting and, given his father’s blood pressure and enlarged heart, Kasim expected his mother to show more sense. It was almost as if she was trying to provoke a heart attack. Maybe she was. Hell hath no fury, as the saying went, but at least he could defuse her latest damage with this information.

“If that’s what it takes to keep both our sisters from suffering profound disappointment, fine,” Angelique said stiffly, rising. “I trust they will also keep that information confidential.”

“They will,” he promised, brushing aside politics at home as he realized she was trying to kick him out.

He wasn’t ready to leave.

His mind had barely left their kiss. The way she had responded like a boxer coming into a ring had been exhilarating.

“Have dinner with me,” he said.

“Pah! Are you serious?” She blinked her mossy eyes at him. “Why?”

It was a completely singular reaction. Women cozied up to him and begged for an invitation to dine with him.

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