The Sheikh's Secret Princess, Page 4Holly Rayner
“Enough!” His voice was a half-growl, half-roar.
It scared Anita. Fadi had never scared her. He’d made her anxious to please him, and sorry she’d disappointed him. But scared?
“Turn that off,” he said, more quietly. “I need to talk to you.”
Like a puppet on strings, Anita went to the sound system and turned off the music. The restaurant felt so cold and empty without it.
She returned, and stood in front of him, waiting for whatever punishment was coming.
“Now,” he said. “The waitresses said they saw you talking to the Sheikh tonight. Is this true?”
She nodded. She wanted to add something in her defense, about how they had just been making the usual waitress-customer small talk, but it wouldn’t have been true, and she had a feeling that excuses would only have made things worse.
“And am I to assume,” he continued, with the same glowing coal of anger in his eyes, “that your good mood is due to something he has said?”
Anita nodded again, but this time Fadi looked like he was waiting for further explanation. She gave it to him, her voice sounding quiet and weak in the light of her father’s anger.
“He lost his ring. I returned it to him. He said he wanted to take me out to dinner to thank me.”
Fadi looked like he was about to boil over again, but he held it in. There was something else in his expression that Anita couldn’t quite make out.
And then she placed it. It was fear.
“You’re not going,” he said, then he turned away, as though that was the end of the discussion.
Anita was worn out from a day that had been an endless roller coaster of emotions. She was in no mood to have one of the greatest feelings she had felt in her young life yanked away from her with no explanation.
“I am going,” she replied. Her voice shook when she said it.
Fadi’s voice shook when he answered, but with anger rather than trepidation. “You have no idea what I’ve given up for you.”
Anita felt her own anger rising to meet his. “And how would I? You never tell me anything!”
He turned back to face her, the hot coal in his eyes again.
Anita continued, her own emotions rising. “Hakim taught me more about my family in two sentences than you have in eighteen years! I have a right to know!”
He started stepping towards her, now, and the fear she’d felt earlier was coming back. He was like a powerful beast, she thought. She’d never given much thought to how strong he was, but he was more musclebound than a cook had any right to be.
“Right?” he bellowed. “What right? You don’t have a right to anything, girl. You only think you do because I raised you like a little princess!”
Anita felt her rage turn into righteous anger. He’d done nothing of the sort. She’d worked alongside him for everything they’d ever got. Yes, he’d struggled to make a life for them, but she’d always struggled with him. Nothing had ever been handed to her. And he had the nerve to insult her that way now, just because she had talked to a man that he didn’t approve of?
“Well, I’m not a little princess anymore. I’m not a little anything anymore. And I deserve to know.”
She could see the conflict in him. It was like he wanted to say two things at once, but he couldn’t say either. Instead, his rage boiled over. He grabbed a glass candleholder of the nearest table, and hurled it across the restaurant.
The sudden movement seemed to break the spell. All Anita could think was that that was quite a lot of rage for her never to have seen in the last eighteen years.
Fadi turned back to face her. The emotions had drained from his face, his anger broken with the glass candle holder.
“It’s dangerous for you to talk to those men. You won’t do it. You can’t. That’s all you need to know.”
And then he walked away, leaving Anita alone in the empty restaurant.
Anita began trying to get the restaurant back into order, but realized very quickly that she had no chance of doing it by herself. The day was hitting her, hard, and the second wind she’d gotten at Hakim’s invitation was completely gone now she knew she couldn’t accept it.
She wanted to rage at Fadi. She wanted to rebel, and tell him he had no power over her, and he couldn’t tell her what to do. But tonight had been so different. It had been like she didn’t even know him. The strangers had brought out a side to him that she’d never even known existed, and wished now that she had never seen.
The one thing that she knew was that after seeing him like that, and seeing the way he insisted that it was too dangerous to see Hakim, she couldn’t see him.
She resolved to keep asking. Now that she knew a little more about the history of her ring, she felt it like a hand on her, reaching out from the past. It was like her father was calling out to her.
But she would never get anything out of Fadi if she disobeyed him in such a serious way. And one evening of polite conversation with a man who felt indebted to her for returning his lost ring felt like a bad trade for a lifetime relationship with her father.
She climbed the stairs slowly, heading towards her bed, convinced that if Hakim actually did remember her number and ever contacted her, she would have to turn him down.
She changed into her pajamas and climbed into bed. This, at least, was still the same. This room was home. It had been home for as long as she could remember.
This was her life. It was the one where she worked her hardest at the restaurant, and at school. It was the life where she was a dutiful daughter who cared about her family, and her friends, and didn’t get asked out by handsome princes.
Anita was just beginning to doze off, her eyes opening and closing sleepily, when she saw her ceiling light up, followed by the subtle buzz of her phone. She reached out to grab it off the nightstand, her tired arm grasping awkwardly and accidentally knocking a book to the floor.
She picked up the phone and looked. A text from an unknown number:
Hello Anita. Are you still awake?
Anita laughed into the empty room, careful to keep her laughter quiet enough that Fadi wouldn’t be able to hear it through the walls.
It was Hakim. It had to be. And he didn’t text much, judging by his weirdly formal text speak. Besides, anyone who did much texting would know that a text like that, sent at 1:30am, was a booty call. And there was nothing funnier than the idea of the proper, elegant sheikh she’d met earlier making a booty call.
She went to reply that she was, then hesitated. She had to turn him down. She had to tell him she couldn’t see him. But, Anita thought, she didn’t have to do it right away. It would be rude not to at least have a little bit of a conversation with him.
I am. Is this Hakim?
A silly question, but she felt a little awkward texting the man with the entourage and the limousine from the pink and yellow patterned bedroom she’d had since she was three.
She saw the little bubble. Typing…. Typing… Never had that little typing bubble been more annoying to her than it was now. Finally, she got a response.
Oh good, I remembered right. Thank you again for finding my ring. I hope you will allow me the honor of taking your out to dinner tomorrow night. Pardon my contacting you at such a late hour. I only did so because I needed to know if you would be available, so that I can make the proper arrangements as early in the morning as possible.
It was, by leaps and bounds, the longest text Anita had ever received. No, the Sheikh apparently did not text.
She bit her lip. She couldn’t answer his question right away. If she did, the conversation would be over before it started. She wanted to live in the moment a little longer.
Since she was never going to see him again, Anita figured she might as well say what she really wanted to. She typed it into her phone and pressed send, holding her breath while the progress bar filled at the top of the screen.
Is that the only reason?
A typing bubble. And then no typ
ing bubble. And then a typing bubble again. Was he trying to kill her?
Finally, a response.
For shame. Such implications! And here I am, innocently begging you to promise to see me when you’re almost certainly in bed. Innocently. Like an innocent person.
Anita smiled to herself. He didn’t do texting, but the man certainly did sarcasm.
She thought for a moment, and then replied.
Oh, good. I was worried. There have been far too many saucy sheikhs around here lately. I have to be sure.
She should stop. She knew it. She shouldn’t keep on like this—not if she was going to honor the promise she had made in her mind to Fadi—but with every message, she found it harder to imagine not meeting up with him the next day.
Finally, she had to put an end to it. It had been, in many ways, the most exhausting, overwhelming day of her life. It was time it came to a close, but she wasn’t sure how to broach the subject.
Luckily, or unluckily, Hakim brought it up himself.
So, you’ll meet me tomorrow night?
Now was the time. Anita knew what she had to do.
I’m sorry. I can’t meet you.
She clutched her phone as she waited for a response.
How do you make the pictures on this?
Wait, I found it.
And then there was a picture of a sad-faced emoji.
It was too late for Anita to laugh again in her room; Fadi was only a few rooms over. But something about the idea of the heir apparent to the throne of Az Kajir sending her emoji’s was a bit too much to take. She texted back.
His reply came quickly.
Well enough done that you’ll meet me?
Who was he to say? But then, just now, it felt like he wasn’t asking too much
Even as she typed the word, she could feel her conviction waning.
I command you as your prince.