Home>>read Darker Side of Desire & the Sheikh's Pregnant Prisoner free online

Darker Side of Desire & the Sheikh's Pregnant Prisoner(10)

By:Penny Jordan

‘You’ve seen the papers?’ Claire nodded, still trying to comfort Saud. ‘What’s the matter? Is something wrong with him?’ Raoul asked her, glancing down at the child in her arms. Saud wriggled on her lap, his movements tightening her nightdress until the soft swell of her breasts was clearly visible beneath it. Raoul’s glance lingered only briefly on her body, but it left Claire’s acutely aware of her near-nudity.

‘He’s teething,’ she replied huskily. ‘I think perhaps I’d better stay with him today…’ She didn’t look up at Raoul.

‘We’ll both stay with him,’ he surprised her by saying. ‘Or rather we’ll take him with us. Don’t forget you’ll need to equip a nursery for him before we leave Paris, and we’ve only got a couple more days.’

He bent down, one lean finger touching Saud’s hot cheek, his knuckles accidentally grazing her breast. Her response was instant and electrifying, awareness flooding her body. All Raoul’s attention focused on her as he studied her flushed cheeks, his eyes slowly dropping to her breasts and lingering there for several seconds. It took a considerable effort of will-power to keep her breathing steady and even; to busy herself with Saud as though she was completely unaware of the way Raoul was looking at her, or her body’s immediate physical response to it.

‘I’ll get Saud dressed. If we’re getting short of time we’d better not waste any of it.’

It was amazing that she managed to sound so calm, when her whole world had been jolted off its axis. No man had ever aroused such a reaction within her. If Raoul had leaned forward and stripped the nightdress from her body, she wouldn’t have made the slightest move to stop him. And if he had touched the flesh where his glance had lingered… A wave of heat burned through her. What on earth was she thinking? She was glad that Raoul had turned away and had not witnessed that betraying tide of colour. Her reaction must have had something to do with the tenderness she had seen fleetingly in his eyes as he bent to touch Saud. Yes, that must be it! His affection for the little boy had caught her off guard.

Feeling relieved that she had managed to find an explanation for her unusual reaction, Claire waited until the door had closed firmly behind him before moving from the bed. A glimpse of her own reflection in one of the room’s many mirrors arrested her, fresh colour storming her cheeks as she realised how transparent the fine cotton actually was, every line of her body revealed through it. What was she worrying about? Raoul was hardly likely to be aroused by the sight of her naked form. Hadn’t he already told her how much he despised her? And he was hardly likely to be short of admiring female companionship.

For some reason the thought was a depressing one, but Claire didn’t pause to analyse why. She was growing adept at avoiding unpleasant issues, she recognised wryly, as she bathed and dressed Saud, forcing her mind to turn to Raoul’s plans for the remainder of the day.


THEIR shopping spree finished, the purpose of their presence in Paris achieved, Claire found her thoughts turning again and again to the country which was to be her home for the next twelve to eighteen months. Rather than ask Raoul about his country, she had secretly managed to buy some books about the Middle East from a book store selling books in both French and English and she pored over these, alone in her room after Saud was asleep.

Omarah, it seemed, was one of the most forward-thinking of the Gulf States and reputedly one of the most beautiful, with a long coastline along the Persian Gulf and a wild hinterland behind it where the nomadic life of its desert inhabitants was preserved and protected. Careful forward-thinking had resulted in a diversification of business interests. Omarah was the centre of the Middle Eastern banking world, with a university that prided itself on the number and excellence of its science graduates, and technological progress had been carefully matched by a retention of Muslim values and the tolerance on which all Muslim races prided themselves towards adherents of other religions. Unlike many of the other Gulf States, Omarah possessed a capital that had its roots in antiquity. That Belthar had been a port of renown when Baghdad was still a village was a common boast, or so Claire read, and her senses were stirred by the photographs in her guide book, depicting, as they did, scenes she felt could not be rivalled by Hollywood’s most lavish Arabian Nights fantasies.

On the last night of their stay in Paris, Raoul surprised her by announcing they would dine in the hotel’s most, exclusive restaurant. Claire wanted to refuse, but Raoul coolly overrode her objections.

Among the clothes he had bought for her was a Dior model lavishly designed; a swathe of off-white satin covering her from throat to ankle at the front, but dipping down to her waist at the back. The fabric enhanced her pale colouring, drawing attention to the size and depth of her eyes. With it Claire wore the diamond and emerald earrings Raoul had bought for her, the diamonds throwing out tongues of fire when she studied her reflection in her mirror. The slender sheath of silk made her look taller and somehow fragile, her hair a silver veil curving down on to her shoulders. She was just slipping into high-heeled sandals when she heard the knock on her door. Expecting the maid who was to watch over Saud, she called out ‘Come in,’ sudden tension infusing her muscles as the door opened and Raoul walked in.

Dressed in formal evening clothes, he projected a devastating image of male beauty; the same sort of beauty possessed by a mountain leopard, Claire thought, shuddering slightly; a beauty that engendered fear and gave birth to a curling sensation of pain cramping through her lower stomach. He studied her without comment, and she had to bite back the childish desire to demand if he was satisfied with what he saw. Everything she was wearing he had paid for, and as he watched her she felt a bitter impulse to tear off the silk dress and the fine underwear she was wearing beneath it and to fling them at his feet, together with the priceless gems adorning her ears, and to tell him she would rather go naked through the streets then wear clothes paid for with his money. But she quelled the impulse, telling herself she was being stupid. Like herself, he was simply a pawn in a very dangerous and difficult game. There could be no personal relationship between them, they were simply actors, each playing a part.

The feeling that she had somehow strayed into an extravagant play was accentuated when they walked into the restaurant. For a moment, Claire was dazzled by the sophistication of the other diners. Women glittered with expensive jewels, their bodies wrapped in haute couture gowns. Conversation rose and fell in dizzying waves and although she was loath to confess it, Claire was glad of the elegant length of Raoul’s body alongside her own. Dangerous and lethal as a black cheetah he might be, engendering fear and awareness in every part of her body, but he was also a protection against the battery of curious eyes studying her, observing their progress across the room.


Claire came out of her panic-stricken reverie to register the scrape of a chair being thrust back and the husky, vaguely familiar masculine voice exclaiming Raoul’s name as its occupant got to his feet. Only slightly less tall than Raoul, the resemblance between them was so marked that Claire knew without even considering the matter that she was looking at Raoul’s father. His companion had also got to her feet. She was young, about her own age, but Claire barely had time to register the avid look of appreciation in curious brown eyes before Raoul’s father was reaching out to embrace her, not casually as he might have embraced an acquaintance, but intimately as befitted a true daughter-in-law.

‘I read that you were in Paris, and that you were married. If I read the papers aright, you have made me a grandfather.’ Speculative grey eyes rested thoughtfully on Claire’s flushed face. ‘Forgive me if I seem surprised, mon cher, but somehow from what I had read I expected your bride to appear much less… innocent.’

Something flashed briefly in Raoul’s eyes, whether anger or contempt Claire could not be sure, and for a second she held her breath, wondering if he would look at her again, and see in her face what his father had.

‘It seems your sins have caught you out, my son,’ the Frenchman was continuing. ‘Ahmed always was strongly morally motivated…’

‘A fact of which you were undoubtedly aware when you seduced my mother and implanted her with your seed,’ Raoul grated back. ‘I hope you are praying to Allah that Ahmed might be granted a long life, Father, for once he is dead you need not look to me to continue the generous allowance he permits you.’ His mouth curled contemptuously as he looked past Claire to the brunette standing by his father’s side. ‘How will you pay for your little diversions then, I wonder?’

‘How easy it is for you to condemn. But then you have never gone hungry, never felt the gnawing ache that springs from poverty. You are more my son than you will ever allow yourself to admit. There was only one woman who mattered to me. Your mother knew that. I was always honest with her on that score. My little Marie was killed, killed by the Germans just before Paris was liberated. Your mother knew of my love for Marie. I made her no excuses for what I was, no apologies for loving Marie more than I loved her. Your mother was a spoiled child, Raoul, and I was lonely and bitter enough to think that what she could give me might be some sort of compensation. One day you will love a woman as I loved Marie, and then you will understand.’