“It is not a matter of being used. I know you resent your father’s interference in your life. You have said so, but it is a father’s prerogative to find a suitable husband for his daughter. And all the pleasure we found in one another’s company awaits only your acceptance of the truth.”

“Sex without love is degrading and a father concerned for his daughter’s well-being does not sell her in exchange for a mining partnership.”


“He did not sell you.”

Tears that should be impossible considering how many she had shed in her lonely bed the night before welled and spilled down her cheeks. “Yes, he did. I’m nothing more than a duty wife, bought and paid for.”

It hurt so much, she felt as if her heart was being squeezed by a vice.

She turned her face away, not wanting him to witness her grief.

The tray was lifted off her lap. A moment later, she was being pulled into his strength. “Don’t cry. Please.”

She didn’t want him to comfort her. He was the enemy, but there was no one else and the pain was just too heavy to bear alone. His hands rubbed her back, his mouth whispered soothing words while she wept silent tears, soaking the front of his thob.

“You are more than a duty wife.”

“You don’t love me.” Her voice broke on each word as the tears competed with her mind for control of her tongue. “You married me because your uncle told you to.”

His arms tightened around her, but he did not deny it.

She pressed her face into his chest, wanting to blot out reality. But reality would not be ignored. She was only putting off the inevitable, she realized, allowing Hakim to hold her because she knew it was the last time.

Taking a deep breath, she hiccupped on a sob, but eventually managed to gain control of herself again. She pushed herself from his arms. “I need to get up.”

He frowned. “This conversation is not finished.”

“I need to get ready to travel.”

He searched her face, but she refused to meet his gaze.

Finally, he sighed. “You are right. We need to prepare for our journey to Kadar. We go by helicopter. As much as it pains me to see your hair bound, you should braid it.”

Hadn’t he heard a word she had said? “I’m not going with you to the desert. I’m going home,” she spelled it out as if to a slow-witted child.

“You are wrong.” His expression was carved in granite. “You will come with me to our home in the desert.”

“I won’t.”

“You will.” Standing beside the bed, he looked every inch the Arab prince, his belief in his own authority absolute.

“You can’t make me.”

“Can I not?”

Frissons of unease shivered along her spine, but she defied him with her eyes. “I’m not going through a second sham of a marriage.”

“There is nothing fake about our marriage.”

“That’s your opinion and you are entitled to it, but it won’t change mine.”

“I have had enough of this. We will participate in the Bedouin ceremony tomorrow as planned. I will not allow my grandfather to be shamed before his people. Nor will I allow you to dismiss our marriage.”

With that, her even-tempered, civilized husband stormed out of the room.

Two hours later, Catherine was dressed in a sleeveless fawn sweater and doeskin pants for traveling. It had a matching calf-length cardigan that made it perfect for the transition in weather from Jawhar to Seattle. And she was going to Seattle, regardless of what her arrogant, deceitful wretch of a husband had decreed.

She checked to make sure her passport was still in her handbag and nodded in satisfaction at the sight of the small blue book. She had cash, her credit cards, everything she needed for depature from Jawhar.

She’d called the airport minutes after Hakim had stormed from their apartments that morning. Then she’d called for a car, reasoning that he was too arrogant to have put a moratorium on her going anywhere. She’d been right. There’d been no problem ordering a car to take her to the airport.

Hakim had assumed she’d wait for him.

That they would continue discussing their marriage.

But there was nothing left to discuss.

She hurt in ways she hadn’t known it was possible to hurt and she was not sticking around for more of the same.

She’d come out onto the balcony to wait for a servant to announce her car was ready.

The sights and sounds of Jawhar’s capital were open to her as their apartments were on the outer wall of the Royal Palace. While the city was much smaller than Seattle, the cacophonous mixture of voices, beeping horns and tinkling bells that rose to her was more impacting on her senses than Seattle’s downtown district. The sun beat against he skin, warming her body while leaving her heart a cold lump in her chest.

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