“Hakim.” Her voice came out strangled and not at all charming.

Hakim’s expression had turned wary, as well it should be. “Yes?”


“If you and your uncle are talking about what I think you are talking about, things could get ugly very quickly.”

As threats went, it appeared to be very effective because Hakim excused them on the pretext that she was tired from the long journey.

“Stop by Abdul-Malik’s office on your way to your apartments. He has the final geologist’s report for you to review Mr. Benning can begin his excavations.”

Catherine stopped walking at the second mention of her father. “My dad’s mining company is coming to Jawhar?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It is not important to us, unless you wish to visit him when he is here.”

“Yes, women should not concern themselves over business.”

She chose to ignore the king’s chauvinistic remark. There were still men among her father’s generation who agreed with him, not to mention her own mother’s willful ignorance of her father’s business dealings.

However, she was determined to discuss the issue with Hakim when they made it to their private apartments.

Hakim’s seemingly limitless ardor prevented any conversation but that which occurred between lovers from taking place as he made to her throughout the lazy warm hours of the afternoon.

Several hours later, she was dressed for their official wedding celebration dinner and waiting for Hakim to finish a business call when she noticed the geologist’s report again. She wasn’t surprised her father had moved quickly to take advantage of his new connection to Hakim’s resource rich, if small country.

She picked up the report, wondering what type of mining her father planned to do here. She didn’t recognize the name ore, which was nothing new. Geology had not been one of her strong suits in school. Her interest had always been books and teaching children to appreciate and use them to their advantage.

As she scanned the first page, the date of the initial inquiry caught her eye. At first she wondered if it had been a typo, but other dates coincided with that being the initial query. The problem was that it was for a date significantly prior to her meeting Hakim for the fist time at the Whitehaven Library. Her brain scrambled to understand what her eyes were telling her.

Hakim had known her father before they met.

She shook her head. No. This report was for Jawhar. His uncle had surely had business dealings with her father, but that did not mean Hakim had been apprised of them until later.

It seemed like such a huge coincidence though. Why hadn’t her father or Hakim mentioned it? He obviously knew now. When had he found out?

The questions were still whirling through her mind when she looked up to find Hakim’s gaze locked firmly on her. His face was completely expressionless and for some reason that really worried her.

She laid the report down, feeling an inexplicable need to make sure it lay in the exact spot from which she had originally picked it up. “It’s dated for some time before we met.”

“That report is confidential.” The words were hard, clipped, unlike any tone she’d heard from him before.

“Even from your wife?”

“I do not expect you to concern yourself with my business dealings.”

“You sound just like your uncle.”

Hakim’s head cocked arrogantly in acceptance of that fact.

“I don’t believe women are too stupid to understand business dealings and you’d better accept that I’m not going to pretend ignorance to feed your male ego.”

That made his eyes narrow, but she ignored the reaction.

“Why didn’t you tell me you had met my dad?” she made the accusation as a wild stab in the dark, hoping he would deny it. She wanted to believe the original business had been conducted between his uncle and her father.

“Harold thought it would be best.”

A mixture of raw emotions swirled through her, but chief among them was confusion. Why would her father suggest keeping their business dealings a secret from her? “Did he think I might reject you once I knew you two were business associates?”

“I believe that was his concern, yes. You had shown that marked tendency for the past several years.”

“But you had to know my feelings for you were genuine, that I wouldn’t turn away from our relationship just because you and my father knew each other.”

She felt like she was navigating her way through heavy fog without the aid of headlamps.

“It was not a risk I was willing to take.”

Because he was falling in love with her and hadn’t wanted to risk losing her? For a guy with Hakim’s arrogance, such an explanation just did not ring true, no matter how much her whimpering heart wanted it to.

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