The Sheikh's Rebellious Bride(6)

By: Cara Albany



Zoe had been Jack's only child. Zoe's mother had died when Zoe was young. Being so close to the whole experience of the international polo circuit, Zoe had grown up with a passion for horses. For that reason, she had trained to be an equestrian vet. It was ironic therefore that although she now spent so much time around horses, she had very few opportunities to practice her skills as a vet.

Zoe's gaze lowered and her head dipped. Seizing the opportunity, Tariq quickly touched the tip of a finger to her chin and lifted her face up toward him. Zoe didn't resist. Her eyes met his gaze, and once again he saw the depth of thought and feeling in those shimmering green pools.

"It's complicated," Zoe said after a pause.

"Tell me. About you."

Zoe shifted awkwardly. "But you have to go back out there for the next match," she said. It occurred to him that she looked as if she were trying to find an excuse to end their conversation. If she had been planning to say something to him, it appeared she might have had a change of heart.

Feeling her soft skin against his fingertip tempted Tariq to move closer to Zoe, but he could see the warring emotions in her eyes.

"I suppose you know all about my father," Zoe said softly.

Tariq nodded and let her continue.

"I'm in charge of everything, now," she said. "I have been for over a year." She sighed. "And, it has been one helluva year, I can tell you."

"But, successful, I assume?" Tariq asked.

Zoe's green eyes peered into Tariq's. He took his hand away from her face. It seemed suddenly like the wrong thing to do, especially when faced with such confusion, such uncertainty. He hadn't expected this from Zoe. After the way they had parted, the acrimony, the accusations, he had anticipated she would want nothing to do with him. But, right now, there was no hint of their former troubles.

"Success is relative," Zoe said.

"What do you mean?"

Zoe breathed out slowly and seemed to be struggling to find the right words. Finally, she spoke: "After my father died, you know I inherited the business. There was no-one else to take it over. And, it meant so much to my father that the last thing I could ever think of was to sell it off or close it down. He wouldn't have wanted that." Zoe scowled. "Not at all," she said emphatically.

Tariq frowned. Where was she going with this?

"It was his legacy," Zoe said. "He spent most of his life building it up. It wasn't something I could just throw away."

"What about being an equestrian vet?" Tariq asked.

"What about it?" Zoe said sarcastically. "I still get to deal with horses, but strictly from the business side of things. It's not the same."

Tariq peered into Zoe's eyes, searching for an explanation. Just what was the problem?

"So, things are going well, right?" Tariq asked.

Zoe shook her head. "Not at all," she said. "I've made a painful discovery, Tariq," she said.

"What's that?"

Zoe gazed, wide-eyed straight at Tariq. "That I have no head for business, nor any passion for the thing. The only passion I have left is to make sure my father's legacy continues."

Tariq savored the way she said passion. It rolled off her tongue in the sweetest way imaginable. "A very noble thing," Tariq replied trying to disguise the effect her words had had on him.

Zoe nodded, and there was a curious look in her eyes, as if she were pleased that he had said that. "It is the right thing to do. I have to respect my father and what he created. He left it to me, and I have to do whatever I can to ensure that it carries on."

"I wouldn't expect anything less from you, Zoe," Tariq said.

Again, she looked at him as if he had managed to cross one more hurdle. There was a glint of approval in her gaze.

"So, why do I get the feeling you have a problem, Zoe?" Tariq asked directly.

Zoe seemed taken aback by the way he had cut to the chase. She paused and then sighed, her shoulders sinking almost with an admission of defeat. "Well, that's the thing, Tariq. I do have a problem. A pretty big one."

Tariq felt a stab of worry in his gut. Zoe sounded frightened. Her voice was filled with sheer, unadulterated dread. Something terrible had happened, and Tariq desperately needed to know.

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