The Sheikh's Rebellious Bride(7)

By: Cara Albany



He reached out and laid a gentle hand on Zoe's arm.

"What is it, Zoe? You must tell me," he demanded.

"It has to do with the company," she said in a flat voice that had more than a tinge of resignation about it. "There are financial problems. Big ones."

"How big?"

"Big enough to finish the company off," Zoe said. Her voice was filled with pain. Tariq wanted so hard to take that pain away by any means at his disposal.

He frowned. "How can that be?"

"Unknown to anyone, my father had a serious amount of outstanding loans. I didn't know about them until recently. But, they've been called in. I believe there are some people behind all of this. And they want the business for the prestige it has, the connections with certain wealthy individuals."

"That's ridiculous," Tariq said. "If it's a question of money, then I can do something..."

"No!" Zoe cut in sharply. Her voice was icy, and her eyes had a sudden fury in them that shocked Tariq. He withdrew his hand from her arm. "This isn't something that can be fixed with money," Zoe said emphatically. "It's about more than money. And I will not be in debt to anyone."

Tariq tightened his lips, careful not provoke Zoe any further. Her eyes blazed with a passionate fury. He saw a fierceness in her that recalled their own previous union  s. After a few moments, she calmed. "I'm sorry, Tariq. It's just been a difficult time. The thought of losing the legacy my father handed to me is just unbearable."

Tariq nodded. He could see that she was being tortured by this worry.

"So, what's the solution?" Tariq asked. "Why are you telling me this?"

Zoe's eyes flashed and she gazed at him. "Don't you remember?"

Tariq frowned. "Remember what?"

"What you said to me the last time we were together," Zoe replied.

Tariq racked his brains to recall what Zoe could be talking about. Tariq's mind went back to the way his love affair with Zoe had ended.

He remembered the way she had stormed out of the luxury hotel room in London. They'd argued, as usual. But, for some reason, this last disagreement had been particularly nasty. His last image of Zoe had been of her storming out of the room, bag in hand, hair completely disheveled, screaming at the top of her voice that she never wanted to see him again.

He'd known it had been serious and he'd raced after her, catching her at the lifts. While she had waited he had tried everything to persuade her to stay. But, she had a mind of her own. That had always been one thing he'd loved about her, above all else.

As the lift doors had closed he had uttered one last sentence. Something he had never said to anyone else.

Ever.

The recollection of those words made a chill race up his spine.

Tariq looked at Zoe. He could tell that she knew he had remembered what he had said to her. There was a slight grin of satisfaction on her lips.

Zoe raised one querying brow and said nothing.

Tariq frowned at her. "Are you serious?"

Zoe nodded, maintaining her determined silence.

Tariq took a few steps back and ran a hand through his dark hair. The temperature inside the stables seemed to have risen suddenly.

Tariq turned and stared at Zoe. "Is that what this is all about?"

Zoe took a step closer to him, her eyes steady, her jaw firm. She took a deep breath and then spoke. "It was a promise, Tariq," she said slowly.

Their eyes were locked on each other, a challenge accepted, a battle commenced. This was a matter of honor, personal integrity. That was something that was in Tariq's DNA. He had been raised to be a man of his word. It was that simple. A sheikh who broke his promises was no kind of man at all.

And, here was this demanding, utterly beautiful American woman asking him if he was willing to keep his promise. She wasn't just asking him. Zoe was testing him.

Tariq's mind drifted back to that moment and the words that had spilled out of him, the declaration that had been wrenched from his heart. As he recalled it, he couldn't help but smile. He looked down at Zoe. "So, you want me to keep my word?"

"That's what I came to ask you," she said.

"And this will solve your problem?" he asked.

Zoe nodded.

Tariq shook his head, almost disbelieving that this was happening. "Very well. Ask me your question," he instructed her.

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