Pursued By The Desert Prince. Dani Collins
as a schoolgirl, really, which wasn’t like her at all. With two very headstrong brothers, she had learned how to hold her own against strong masculine energy.
She’d never encountered anything like this, though. Closing herself into her office with him felt dangerous. Not the type of danger she’d been trained to avoid, but inner peril. Like when she poured her soul into a piece then held her breath as it was paraded down the catwalk for judgment.
“Please have a seat,” she invited, indicating the conversation area below the mural. There were no pretty views of actual Paris in this windowless room, but the office was still one of her favorite places for its ability to lock out the world. She spent a lot of time on her side of its twin desks and drafting tables.
Trella’s side was empty. She was home in Spain, but they often worked here in companionable silence.
“I just made fresh coffee. Would you like a cup?”
“I won’t stay long.”
That ought to be good news. She was reacting way too strongly to him, but she found herself disappointed. So strange! She took such care to put mental distance between herself and others. The entire world would have this effect on her if she didn’t, but he only had to glance around her private space and she felt naked and exposed. Seen. And she found herself longing for his approval.
He didn’t seem to want to sit, so she pressed flat hands that tremored on the back of the chair she usually used when visiting with clients. “Was there something particular about the wedding arrangements you wanted to discuss?”
“Just that you should send your bill to me.” He moved to set a card on the edge of Trella’s desk.
She turned to follow his movement behind her. So economical and fascinating. And who was his tailor? That suit was pure artistry, the man so obviously yang to her yin.
He caught her staring.
She tucked her hair behind her ear to disguise her blush.
“Her Majesty made the same offer and you needn’t have troubled yourself. It’s a wedding gift for Sadiq and the princess.”
He noted the familiarity of her using Sadiq’s first name with a small shift of his head. “So Hasna said. I would prefer to pay.”
His gaze was direct enough to feel confrontational, instantly amplifying this conversation into one of conflict. Her pulse gave a reflexive zing.
Why would he be so adamant—?
Oh, dear God! He didn’t think she and Sadiq were involved, did he?
Why wouldn’t he? According to the headlines, she’d slept with half of Europe. When she wasn’t doing drugs or having catfights with her models, of course.
“Sadiq is a longtime friend of the family.” She retreated behind the cool mask she showed the world, ridiculously crushed that he would believe those awful summations of her character. “This is something we want to do for him.”
“We.” His gaze narrowed.
“Yes.” She didn’t bring up her sister or what her family owed Sadiq for Trella’s return to them. The fact that Sadiq had never once sought any glory for his heroism was exactly why he was such a cherished friend. “If that was all...” She deliberately presumed she’d had the last word on the topic. “I should get back to the final arrangements for your sister’s things.”
* * *
Kasim had to applaud his future brother-in-law’s taste. Angelique Sauveterre had grown from a very sweet-looking girl into a stunning young woman. In person, she had an even more compelling glow of beauty.
Her long brunette hair glimmered and shifted in a rippling curtain and what had seemed like unremarkable gray eyes online were actually a mesmerizing greenish hazel. She was tall and slender, built like a model despite being the one to dress them, and her skin held a golden tone that must be her mother’s Spanish ancestry.
Cameras rarely caught her with a smile on her face and when they did, it was a faint Mona Lisa slant that allowed her to live up to the reputation of her father’s French blood: aloof and indifferent.
She wore that look now, but when she had first greeted him, she had smiled openly. Her beauty was so appealing, Kasim had forgotten for a moment why he was here and had been overcome with a desire to pursue her.
Perhaps this captivating quality was the reason Sadiq was so smitten?
“About those arrangements... Today went well?” He had understood it to be the final fitting of his sister’s wedding gown and the bridesmaids’ dresses as well as a private showing of other clothes made for Hasna, all taking place on the runway level of this building. Once the last nips and tucks were completed, the entire works would be packaged up and shipped to Zhamair for the wedding next month.
“You would have to check with the women who were here, but they all seemed pleased by the time they left.” So haughty and quick to keep the focus on his sister.
From what he’d heard around his penthouse, the consensus had been a high level of ecstasy with everything from the clothes to the imported cordial to the finger sandwiches and pastries.
“Hasna doesn’t seem to have any complaints,” he downplayed. “Which is why I’m willing to spare her the nuisance of replacing all that you’ve promised her.”
Angelique was tall in her heels. Not as tall as him, but taller than most women he knew, and she grew taller at his words, spine stiffening while her eyelashes batted once, twice, three times. Like she was filtering through various responses.
“All that we’ve made for her,” she corrected, using a light tone, but it was the lightness of a rapier. Pointed and dangerous. “Why on earth would you refuse to let her have it?”
“You can drop the indignation,” he advised. “I’m not judging. I’ve had mistresses. There is a time to let them go and yours has arrived.”
“You think I’m Sadiq’s mistress. And that as his mistress, I offered to make his bride’s gown and trousseau. That’s a rather generous act for a mistress, isn’t it?”
She repeatedly spat the word as if she was deeply offended.
He pushed his hands into his pants pockets, rocking back on his heels.
“It’s a generous act to arrange a private showing for such a large party at a world-famous and highly exclusive Paris design house.” It hadn’t been only his mother and sister, but Sadiq’s mother and sisters, along with cousins and friends from both sides.
The cost of something like today wasn’t so high as to imperil his riches, of course. The groom’s family could equally afford it and given the extent of the Sauveterre wealth, and the rumors that the family corporation had underwritten this folly of an art project in the first place, he imagined Angelique wouldn’t be too far out of pocket, either.
“Had this afternoon been the only line item offered at no charge, I wouldn’t have batted an eye,” he said. “But the gown? I know my sister’s taste.” He imagined it had easily run to six figures. “And to throw in wedding costumes for the rest of the party? Including mothers of the bride and groom?”
“Sadiq’s parents and sisters are also friends of the family.”
“Plus a full wardrobe for Hasna to begin her married life,” he completed with disbelief. “All at no cost? This is more than a ‘gift’ from a ‘family friend.’ If I had learned of it sooner, I would have taken steps long before today.”
Hasna had been chattering nonstop about her big day, but what did he care about the finer details? He was glad she was marrying for love, he wanted everything to go well for her, but the minutia of decor and food and colors to be worn had meant nothing to him. It wasn’t until he had noted she was grossly under budget—not like her at all—that he had quizzed her on when to expect an invoice for the dress.