Begging for Prince Tariq Shazad ibn Zachir’s mercy was the last thing Faye wanted to do.
She hadn’t seen Tariq for a year…since their wedding. But Faye’s brother was imprisoned in Tariq’s homeland, and only Tariq could grant his freedom. Faye expected her meeting with the man she’d married to be tough, but Tariq’s ultimatum took her breath away: become his mistress and her brother would be released!
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IN HIS villa in the South of France, Prince Tariq Shazad ibn Zachir, paramount sheikh and ruler of the oil-rich Gulf state of Jumar, tossed aside the cellular phone and turned his attention to his most trusted aide, Latif.
Shrewd at reading others, Tariq noted the strain etched on the older man’s face. ‘Something wrong?’
‘I regret that I should have to disturb you with this matter…’ Latif settled a folder down on the desk with an air of profound apology ‘…but I felt it should be drawn to your attention.’
Surprised by the other man’s discomfiture, Tariq swept up the folder. The opening document was a detailed report from Jumar’s chief of police. Tariq scanned the name of the foreign national, who had been imprisoned for bad debts. He froze, his superb bone structure clenching, narrowed dark eyes hardening with angry incredulity. It was Adrian Lawson, Faye’s elder brother!
Yet another Lawson guilty of dishonesty and deception! As he read the explanation of the events which had led to Adrian’s arrest his lean, strong face hardened in disgust. How could Faye’s brother have dared to set up a construction firm in Jumar and rob the very citizens that he, Tariq ibn Zachir was sworn to protect?
Powerful memories were stirring, disturbing memories which Tariq had spent twelve months endeavouring to forget. What male wished to recall his own worst mistake? Faye with her fake innocence, who had laid a snare to entrap him as surely as any seasoned gold-digger. The bait? Her beautiful self. The threat after the trap had snapped shut? Scandal! The paramount sheikh of Jumar might exercise feudal power over his subjects. But, even in the twenty-first century, Tariq ibn Zachir accepted that it was his duty to maintain a conservative lifestyle. And a year ago his choices had been few for his father, Hamza, had been dying…
Snapping back to the present, pale with bitter anger beneath his tawny skin, Tariq slowly breathed in deep. Unlike many other scions of Middle Eastern royal families, he had not been educated in the West. Tariq had been raised much like his ancestral forefathers. Military school, tutors, desert survival exercises with the British special forces. At the age of twenty-two, a pilot and an expert in every possible form of combat, Tariq had finally convinced his father that, while the ability to lead his future people into battle was naturally important, one hundred years of peace within their borders and with their neighbours might suggest that a business degree could be of rather more imminent use to his son.
Tariq had duly discovered a natural talent for the business world and had enriched the swollen coffers of a state already so fabulously wealthy that he and his people made the highest per capita charitable contributions of any country in the world. And with his entrance into the more liberal culture of Europe, Tariq had also received an unparalleled education on the ways of Western women. Yet even in the grip of his subsequent cynicism, he had still been slaughtered like a sitting duck when he’d met Faye Lawson…
‘How do you wish me to act in this matter?’ Latif enquired.
Tariq flashed him a questioning glance. ‘There is no action to be taken. Let the process of law take its course.’
Latif studied his feet. ‘It seems unlikely that Adrian Lawson will be able to produce the money necessary to obtain his own release.’
‘He may rot.’
After a very long and tense silence, Latif cleared his throat with deprecatory hesitance.
Tariq sent him a look of grim amusement. ‘Yes, I know what I do…’
Uneasy though he was with that response, the older man bowed and departed again. Well aware of the source of Latif’s anxiety, Tariq considered his own position with grim disfavour. Realities he had sidestepped now confronted him. His fierce pride, his fury at being set up and trapped, had come between him and common sense. But it was time to sever his connection with Faye Lawson and move on.
It should have been done a year ago. It was not a situation which could be left unresolved. Particularly not when he now had the responsibility of bringing up three young children, orphaned by the plane crash which had decimated his own family circle. He needed a wife, a warm, maternal woman.It was his duty to marry such a woman, he reminded himself. However, it could not be said that he was eager to embrace that duty.
Thrusting aside the folder on Adrian Lawson, unread beyond that first enlightening page, Tariq lounged back in his chair like a restive tiger, brooding dark golden eyes hard as iron. The Lawson siblings and their boorish stepfather, Percy, were a sly and greedy trio, who allowed no moral scruple to come between themselves and financial profit. How many other men had Faye played for a sucker? How many lives had Percy ruined with blackmail and dishonest business practices? And now it was evident that even Adrian, the only one of the trio whom Tariq had believed to be decent, was equally corrupt. Such people should be punished.
Tariq pictured the hawk that was the emblem of his family soaring high above the desert in search of tender prey. A chilling smile formed on his well-shaped mouth. There was no reason why he should not strike a blow for natural justice.