The Sheikh's Rebellious Bride(3)By: Cara Albany
"Are you feeling unwell?" Saira asked.
Zoe swallowed and shook her head. "I'm fine. I've probably been working too hard. And, the heat." Zoe waved a hand in front of her face.
"Perhaps you need some fresh air," Saira offered. "Evenings in Qazhar can be notoriously hot this time of the year."
"I suppose that's why they play polo in the evening," Zoe said trying to move the focus of attention away from herself. "It makes sense when you think about it," she said.
Saira busied herself for a while longer with the horse's leg. After wrapping some white strapping around the horse's leg, Saira completed her examination, lifting her small bag from the earth covered stall floor.
"Perhaps we can go outside for some fresh air," Saira suggested.
"No," Zoe said quickly. Too quickly she realized, because Saira's eyes widened. "I think I'll stay here just a little while longer."
Saira looked puzzled. Zoe knew she'd have to explain. "I am a trained veterinarian," Zoe said to Saira.
"Really?" the other woman said surprised.
"I trained back in the States. Before I took over my father's business. In fact, I used to be the go-to gal for everything horse related," she said trying to joke.
But, Saira seemed serious for a long moment. "And you gave up being a veterinarian to run a business?" Saira asked appearing perplexed that anyone would do such a thing.
"It's a long story," Zoe said with a casual wave of her hand. She smiled at Saira. "I appreciate your help."
"It's what I'm here for," Saira replied. Zoe wondered if she had inadvertently stepped over some boundary, some protocol. After all, Zoe was only a visitor in Qazhar. Once this polo event was over and done with, she would be on a plane out of the kingdom as fast as possible. At least she would if he didn't agree, she reminded herself.
Saira stepped out of the stall, and Zoe followed. "I will arrange for the horse to be attended to later, once all the guests have departed. Someone will have to tell the sheikh about his horse," Saira said looking visibly worried.
"I can do that," Zoe said sharply.
Saira nodded without reply.
Zoe smiled at Saira and folded her arms. She suddenly wanted to be alone. Again.
Saira seemed to sense this and bade Zoe farewell. Zoe watched the petite young woman make her way out through the high archway entrance. From outside the stables, Zoe could hear the appreciative roar of the spectators, the voice of the match commentator through the loudspeakers.
Zoe was glad that everyone appeared to be enjoying themselves. That was why she was here, after all. As the owner of the company which arranged these exhibition polo events all around the globe, it was her responsibility to make sure that everything went as smoothly as possible. The special expertise of her father's company had been valued by everyone in the tight-knit community of polo professionals for many years. It had been her father's legacy to Zoe.
She closed the stall behind her and gazed at Tariq's horse. It was a very special looking stallion. Every bit as unique as the man who had expected to ride upon it in the upcoming second match of the evening.
Zoe wondered how he would react once he found out. Of course, he had other mounts in the stable. That went without saying. The sheikh and his riches ensured there was always an uninterrupted supply of treasured horses at his disposal.
Just like he'd had an endless supply of female acquaintances, Zoe thought bitterly. She gritted her teeth at the thought of Tariq with all those women. She was sure that hadn't changed in the two years since they'd been together.
Zoe sighed and asked herself just how long she'd have to wait.
Zoe had come to the stables in search of a refuge. Some place where she could keep a low profile. At least, until the polo matches were complete. Then she could perhaps mingle with some of the guests.
But, the real reason she'd come to the stable was that she knew she could speak to Tariq.
What she wanted to ask him could not be spoken of in front of a crowd of strangers. For one thing, she had no idea how he would react. Tariq had always had a fierce temper; had always been easy to provoke into anger as well as passion.
Zoe thought about those nights so long ago when she and Tariq had been wrapped in each others arm. Sensual nights of bone-melting, soul-igniting passion that had set her heart on fire. She had never forgotten how she had felt while with Tariq. The memories just would not shift, no matter how hard she had worked to drive them away.