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Darker Side of Desire & the Sheikh's Pregnant Prisoner(6)

By:Penny Jordan

The contempt and ugly suggestiveness of his tone took Claire’s breath away. She dearly longed to throw his words back in his face, and his money, but at that moment Saud started to cry, and by the time she had soothed him, rocking the small round body against her shoulder, enjoying the warm baby smell of him, she had had time to think. Time to consider all that such a large sum of money could mean for Teddy. No more scrimping and scraping; no more having to do without the treats enjoyed by most of his fellow boarders. She suppressed a small sigh, knowing that she really had no choice. And then there was Saud. Already she was fond of the small child. There had been one attempt on his life, and she had to admit that the Sheikh’s plan was an excellent one.

‘I… I agree.’ The words almost choked in her throat as she saw Raoul’s cynically knowing eyes rest on her flushed cheeks. The Sheikh was thanking her profusely, but Claire barely heard him, she was still too shaken by the look of acute dislike she could see in Raoul’s eyes. And this was the man she would have to live with as his wife for twelve months! It was on the tip of her tongue to take back her words, but before she could speak he forestalled her.

‘I will have the arrangements put in hand. First we will fly to Paris. At the end of the week…’


He saw her stunned expression and laughed sarcastically. ‘Oh, don’t worry, I have no intention of extending the farce of our “marriage” to include my French relatives, it is just that as my wife you will be expected to maintain a certain standard of dress and appearance.’ His lips twisted bitterly as they surveyed her slender frame in the tailored tweed suit. ‘While your clothes might be perfectly suitable for your present life-style…’

‘My nephew is quite right,’ the Sheikh interposed sympathetically when he saw her face. ‘He is a very wealthy man, and it would not be fitting…’

‘But surely, if everyone knows you have forced him to marry me, they will not expect…’

‘What they will expect is for you to be dressed as befits my wife, even if I don’t treat you as such.’ He grimaced as he caught her brief flush, and added with infuriating accuracy, ‘Oh come, surely you don’t really suppose that I can’t see what is running through your foolish head now? I will say this once and once only, Miss Miles. Even if you were the type of woman I find physically attractive, which you are not, the fact that you have another lover, and your very evident avarice, would undoubtedly be sufficient to kill any desire I might have for you.’

Claire went red and then white as he turned on his heel and stormed out of the room, leaving her alone with the Sheikh and Saud in a silence that seemed to thicken with every passing second.

‘Try to forgive him,’ the Sheikh said softly at last. ‘His has not been an easy life. His mother, my sister, was forced to live almost as a servant in her own home when she returned from France. She had married Lucien D’Albro against my father’s wishes, and when they parted…’ He drew a faint sigh. ‘You must understand that it is a matter of family honour when a woman parts from her husband, and my father was of the old school. To make matters worse, a marriage had been arranged for Zenobe. She died when Raoul was very young, but my father remained bitter about his birth to the end. As a child I remember Raoul desperately wanted to be accepted by my father, but he was a man of cruel pride. Raoul of all the family is most like him, and I think my father sensed this. Against his will he loved Raoul best of all his grandchildren. When he died he left him a considerable fortune, but nothing could wipe away the bitter loneliness of those early years. As a child, Raoul was taught to hate and deride his European inheritance. As an adult, he knows that this teaching sprang from my father’s anger against Zenobe and against her husband, but Raoul is a complex character; a man who has suffered and still suffers great pain.’

He saw Claire’s expression and assured her softly, ‘You do not believe me, but I assure you this is so. Why else, now that he is an adult and free to adopt the Muslim religion if he so chooses, does he deny himself this thing that he wanted so desperately as a child? He is a man deeply conscious of the schisms within himself.’

Rather than reassuring her, the Sheikh’s words only made her regret more than ever her folly in agreeing to accept the role of Raoul’s wife. It might only be make-believe, but some deep inner instinct warned her against any sort of intimacy with Raoul, no matter how tenuous. He would hurt her if he could, she could sense it inside him. Saud stirred in her arms, and she glanced down at the olive face.

‘Already he is attached to you,’ the Sheikh said quietly. ‘I should like you to remain here with us until it is time for you to leave for Paris.’

‘I… I shall have to tell my employers.’ And Teddy, she added mentally. She would drive down to his school to tell him—but tell him what? She nibbled her lip, worrying at its soft fullness, as she took Saud through to his own room and set about preparing his food. She knew that there were several Arab children at Teddy’s school. If she told Teddy the truth, he might innocently mention it, and she felt it would be unfair to put the Sheikh’s plans at risk. But what other alternatives did she have? She could hardly not tell her brother anything.

The problem worried at her mind as she prepared Saud for bed. Perhaps she ought to allow Teddy the fiction that she was marrying Raoul. She would say nothing of Saud, of course… And then in twelve months’ time? Marriages broke up all the time… Dear God, what was she doing?

Panic swept over her, pushing aside all her sensible thoughts and decisions. She couldn’t go through with it. She couldn’t! She couldn’t put herself in the power—no matter how briefly—of Raoul D’Albro. He would taunt and torment her continually. She had seen it in his eyes when they studied her with contempt and bitterness. But she had to go through with it. She had said she would—and then there was the money.

Her mouth twisted wryly. Oh, she had seen the look in Raoul’s eyes when he mentioned it. He thought she had accepted through greed, but he was wrong—quite wrong. It was for Teddy’s sake, not for her own personal gain. But he thought Teddy was her lover. As her feelings of panic subsided, Claire acknowledged that she was the one responsible for that error. But even if she could correct it, would she? Wasn’t she safer while Raoul thought she was a greedy, avaricious female with at least one established lover?

But safe from what? Even if he knew the truth Raoul would not be interested in her. She wasn’t his type. He had told her that. But the danger didn’t come from him, it came from within herself, Claire acknowledged tiredly. Right from the very first time she had seen him it had been there, although she had fought against admitting it; she had told herself that he was everything she disliked and resented in a man.

And he was, but there was more to it than that; more to her feelings than mere dislike. And yes, if she were honest, she would have to admit to the faint, but unmistakable feelings of nervy excitement that his presence aroused. An excitement which she knew instinctively possessed the seeds of very great danger.


THE week seemed to fly past. Claire spent most of it with Saud, and found herself getting fonder and fonder of the little boy with every hour that passed. Fifty thousand pounds had been deposited in her bank account, and she had written to her employers, telling them that she was getting married, deeming this the wisest course in view of what she intended to tell Teddy.

Teddy. She gnawed anxiously on her lower lip. Yesterday she had told Raoul that she had someone she had to see before they left for Paris. From his cynical, taunting smile she knew he thought she referred to her lover, and she hadn’t tried to correct him, but now, this morning, he had told her that a car and driver would be put at her disposal—in case she tried to run out on her agreement, she thought cynically. After all, with the money in her bank account… But no, she would never do that. She would keep her side of the bargain, for little Saud’s sake if nothing else.

It would take about three hours to drive to Teddy’s school, and somehow she would have to find a way of eluding her driver, just in case he discovered it wasn’t a man she was seeing but a little boy! Perhaps she could persuade him to wait for her in the village. It was only a mile from the school. She could easily walk. Thank goodness she had had the foresight to telephone the school and speak to Teddy’s headmaster. He had readily agreed to allow her to speak to Teddy, promising that he would warn her brother to expect her visit.

She had bought him a new watch, remembering that he needed one badly, and hoping that she had made the right choice. She was just studying it when her door opened and Raoul walked in. As always, she felt acutely ill at ease in his presence, her sense of anxiety increasing as his cool gaze slid over her slender body in its pale lemon linen suit. The suit was relatively new and fitted her body snugly, drawing attention to the slender curves of her hips and her slim length of thigh.

His mouth curled when he had finished his inspection. ‘Very cool and correct. What are you hoping to do? Drive him into wanting the woman you have hidden behind the barrier of your oh so correct clothes?’ His eyes sharpened as he saw the watch she was holding in her hand. ‘What’s this?’