The Sheikh's Rebellious Bride

By: Cara Albany

 (Qazhar Sheikhs series Book 3)




CHAPTER ONE





Sheikh Tariq Al Kharif gazed around the rows of spectators at the Qazhar Polo Club and concluded, yet again, that she must be hiding from him.

Where was Zoe?

He was sure she had been avoiding him since arriving in Qazhar only a few days before to organize this polo event.

Tariq let his mind drift back to the past. Had he really been so cruel? Had he left so much chaos behind, that she would never forgive him? Surely the wounds had healed over the last two years.

Tariq sighed and shook his head slowly. Maybe she hadn't forgiven him, after all. Tariq felt his throat tighten at the thought of Zoe's final stern, unforgiving stare. There had been too much pain. Too much passion. He wondered why he was so desperate to see her after all the pain they'd caused each other.

Beside him, his brother Raz looked quizzically at Tariq. "What's the problem, Tariq?" Raz asked. "Looking for someone?"

Tariq drained the glass of mineral water. "Just admiring the turnout."

"It's impressive," Raz agreed. "Polo's more popular than I thought."

Tariq grinned at Raz. "I know you prefer other kinds of pleasure. Or you used to until Ella came along." Tariq punched Raz playfully on the shoulder. "Now you've been tamed."

Raz frowned. "I have not."

"Of course you have. She's an amazing woman. You're lucky to have her as a wife."

Raz sighed contentedly. "I suppose you're right. Speaking of which, where has she gotten to," he said peering back into the open, tented pavilion area behind them.

Tariq looked along the lines of seats that bordered the wide green polo playing field. He had to admire this place. Under the starlit sky, the huge expanse of green grass seemed strangely unreal. The floodlights that shone down from tall metallic towers on the four corners of the field merely made the contrast with the desert beyond the club even more striking. There was a roar of approval from the hundreds of spectators. Out in the field, horse-backed riders raced after the bright white ball, swinging their long wooden mallets, skillfully controlling their horses.

Tariq's eyes narrowed appreciatively. It was a good contest. The two teams were evenly matched. Although this was only an exhibition match between two regional Qazhar teams, there was a competitive edge to it. Even if it was only for charity.

"There she is," Raz said with audible pleasure in his voice. He stretched out his arms to welcome the woman who had recently become his wife.

Tariq watched Ella shimmy her way between the seated spectators. She had some snack food on a little wooden platter. Judging by the expression on her face the tiny snacks had met with her approval. There weren't many left on the platter.

"Ella," Raz exclaimed. "I wondered where you had disappeared to."

Ella Al Kharif, the American woman who had wed Tariq's brother only weeks before, shrugged her shoulders as she came to her husband's side, letting him wrap his arm around her waist. She lifted a small pastry from the platter and teased Raz's mouth with it. He snapped at it and laughed. Tariq couldn't help smiling. They were a happy couple. There was no doubting that.

A roar from the crowd signaled that one of the riders out in the field had scored a goal.

Ella glanced out at the field. "Did something happen?" she said casually.

Raz squeezed her closer to him. "Someone scored," he said as if it were obvious.

Ella's mouth creased into a sly grin. She and Raz exchanged an unspoken word, and Tariq quickly averted his eyes. If this was what it meant to be married, then he was glad that he was the last of the three Al Kharif brothers to be holding out. Ever since Raz and Ella had married, they had been all over each other. Even in public.

Ella had changed Raz so much that Tariq barely recognized his brother. Gone was the bad boy womanizer of recent years. Now, Raz only had eyes for one woman. Their whirlwind romance had amazed everyone in the Al Kharif family. But, there was no denying how much they both loved each other.

Tariq forced himself to look out at the horses racing around, chasing the tiny white ball. Tariq suddenly wanted to be out there, on his mount, reins held tight, his thighs clenched tight against the sides of the horse. The game thrilled Tariq. It was a strong test of a man's ability to control a horse, and to compete with other men.

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