Awakened by Her Desert Captor(7)

By: Abby Green

  He was dressed in similar pristine fashion to last time—in a three-piece suit. He sent a dismissive look up and down her body, and then said with a faint sneer, ‘Who are you trying to fool? Or are we all going to be treated to an exclusive performance, in which you reveal the truth of what lies beneath your pseudo-respectable façade?’

  Sylvie’s anger spiked in a hot rush. ‘At first I couldn’t understand why you hated me on sight, but now I know. Your father is one of America’s biggest porn barons, and you’ve made no secret of the fact that you disowned him and his legacy to forge your own. You don’t even share his name any more.’

  Arkim Al-Sahid’s body vibrated with tension, his dark eyes narrowing on her dangerously. ‘As you said, it’s no secret.’

  ‘No...’ Sylvie conceded, slightly thrown off balance by his response.

  ‘And your point?’

  She swallowed. Lord, but he was intimidating. Not a hint of humanity anywhere in his whipcord form or on that beautiful face.

  ‘You’re marrying my sister purely to gain social acceptance, and she deserves more than that. She deserves love.’

  Arkim emitted a short, curt laugh. It was so shocking to see his face transformed by a smile—albeit a mocking one—that she almost lost her train of thought.

  ‘You’re for real? Since when does anyone marry for love? Your sister has a lot to gain from this union      —not least a lifetime of security and status. At no point has she indicated that she’s not happy for this engagement to proceed. Your father is keen to secure her future—which is no surprise, considering how his eldest daughter turned out.’

  Sylvie kept her expression rigid. Amazing how this man’s opinion sneaked under her guard with such devastating effect and struck far too close to the heart of her—which was the last place he should be impacting.

  He continued. ‘I’m not stupid, Miss Devereux. This is as much a business transaction for him as it is a chance to secure his daughter’s future. It’s not a secret that his empire took a big hit during the downturn and that he’s doing all he can to bolster his coffers again.’

  Business transaction. She felt nauseous. Sylvie knew vaguely that her father’s fortune had taken a dip...but she also knew perfectly well that her stepmother was the real architect behind this plan. She was a firm believer that a woman’s place was by her rich husband’s side, and no doubt had convinced Grant Lewis that this was their ticket to security for the future.

  She ungritted her teeth and desisted from belabouring the point of whether or not love existed. Clearly in his world it didn’t.

  ‘Sophie’s not right for you—and you are certainly not right for her.’

  An assessing look came over that starkly handsome face. ‘She’s perfect for me. Young, beautiful, intelligent. Accomplished.’ He looked her up and down. ‘And above all she’s refined.’

  Sylvie held up a hand, hating it that that stung. ‘Please—save your insults. I’m perfectly aware where I come on your scale of condemnation. Clearly you have issues with certain industries, and you’ve deemed me worth judging on the basis of what I do.’

  ‘What you are,’ he said harshly.

  Her hands clenched into fists. ‘You didn’t seem to have much of an issue with what I am the last time we met.’

  His face flushed dark red and Sylvie felt the bite of his self-condemnation as sharply as if he’d just slapped her.

  ‘That was a mistake—not to be repeated.’

  Something about that lash of recrimination made her want to curl up and protect herself. The look on his face was pure...disgust. And it would have been worse if it was solely for her. But she could tell it wasn’t. It was for himself.

  Hurt lodged deep in her belly like a dark, malevolent thing, tugging on other hurts, reopening old wounds. Reminding her of the disgust on her father’s face when he’d looked at her after her mother had died...

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