The Sheikh's Rebellious Bride(9)

By: Cara Albany

Tariq started to walk away, but at the last moment, he turned and leaned close to Zoe. "If I do accept your proposal, then this is my message to you," he said. He dipped his head and crashed his lips down upon hers in a sudden kiss that caught her completely unawares. Tariq swept his arms around her back and crushed her against him. He felt her body spasm with instinctive resistance, but he held her even tighter against his hard body. She softened for a brief moment before raising a fist and slamming it against his shoulder. Their lips parted, and Tariq peered at Zoe, ensuring she could see the victory on his face.

"That tasted sweeter than I remember, Zoe," he said.

She glared at him one last time as he turned away and headed toward the stable doorway.


What had she done!

Zoe watched Tariq stride out through the stable entrance and gasped, leaning back against one of the stalls.

She could hardly believe what had just happened. Had she just asked Tariq to keep a promise he had made to her, what seemed like an eternity ago?

Maybe she hadn't any right to make such a demand of Tariq.

The truth was, when she had first considered it as a solution to her problem, she had dismissed it as a desperate fantasy. Back in America, before leaving for Qazhar, Zoe had done everything in her power to find a way out of her predicament. She had consulted with her most trusted advisors, men who had known her father for years. But, none of them had been able to come up with a solution. The secret debts her father had accrued were just too large.

Zoe rolled her eyes and sighed. The emotions coursing through her body weren't just a reaction to the stress caused by holding Tariq to his promise. It was much more than that.

Zoe knew the real truth.

Those emotions had been caused by the sheer, primal presence of Tariq. He was an unbelievable looking specimen of pure male beauty. She'd forgotten what it was like to be so close to him; to inhale his elemental aroma; to feel the heat radiated by his muscled body.

But, one thing she hadn't wiped from her memory. The feel of his lips on her own, the forceful touch of that kiss.

Zoe rested a hand on her heart and felt the frantic hammering. Could he still affect her like this? Why hadn't she realized that his mere presence would reawaken intense, even alarming, long-buried sensations?

Tariq had changed in the two years since she'd last seen him. He'd matured and now looked older than his years. He was a few years older than Zoe, but he seemed to have acquired a toughness about him which she couldn't recall having seen before.

Zoe closed her eyes, and the image of Tariq swam to the front of her mind. Zoe took a moment to guiltily savor the details of Tariq; the dark, limpid pools of his eyes that bore mercilessly into her; the dark hair that just asked for Zoe to reach across and snake her fingers through it; the soft, cruel smile; the full lips that promised so much pleasure; the firm, straight line of his nose.

And then there was his body.

Zoe swallowed at the memory of those wide shoulders, strengthened by the exertions of playing polo every week; the obviously taut frame beneath the red polo shirt he had been wearing.

And then there had been the sight of his hips and thighs, encased as they were in his tight, cream-colored polo pants. There had been no mistaking the strength that lay within, the fully developed muscle of his thighs and behind. She could imagine those thighs clasped tight around a horse as Tariq raced furiously across a polo field.

Zoe shook her head and frowned.

What the hell was wrong with her?

Tariq was no man to be trifling with. She'd chosen him to be her savior, the one person who could offer a way out of her difficult situation. If she was going to see this through, she was going to have to get any ideas of that kind firmly out of her mind.

She only had to stay married to him for a year, or even less if things went well. Then, they would go their separate ways. Tariq would get what he wanted; he'd get to keep his integrity, and no doubt prove to everyone that he was ill-suited to matrimony. Then, he could safely go back to his playboy lifestyle, his passion for polo and other idle pleasures. He'd be able to avoid being tied down. For a while at least.

Zoe recalled how Tariq had often complained about the pressure that was heaped on him to get married. It was standard practice in these parts that young men would be forced into an arranged marriage when they reached a certain age. And, Tariq was that certain age. Maybe, Zoe was doing him a big favor, after all.

Also By Cara Albany

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