The sheikhs secret princ.., p.6
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       The Sheikh's Secret Princess, p.6

         Part #2 of The Sheikh's Every Wish series by Holly Rayner
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  Anita chuckled. “Oh, you’re definitely overdressed.”

  “Right,” he said. “So that narrows it down.”

  “Does it, though?” she asked teasingly.

  He laughed, sliding his hand down her arm so that he was holding her hand as they walked. “All right, point taken. From here on out, I’ll just wear an old pair of… what do you call them… the jean pants that are also kind of a shirt…”

  “Overalls,” Anita supplied, as she watched him making the shape of overall straps with his free hand.

  “Right, overalls. From now on, I’ll wear nothing but overalls.”

  Anita felt like this date had been nothing but laughing, and she couldn’t help herself. “It’s hilarious imagining you in overalls.”

  “Honestly,” he replied, “I’m a little insulted that you even can.”

  He turned his head to face her. They were walking forward, now, neither of them looking ahead. She felt like she could kiss him just then. She felt like she could just lean in, and…

  Anita stumbled. They’d somehow gone off the curb. She nearly fell but he caught her.

  “Well, it’s not easy,” she said, not missing a beat in their conversation, “but I have a wild imagination.”

  In mere minutes, they arrived at their destination, although Anita found herself wishing she’d picked somewhere further away.

  “Crazy golf?”

  Anita turned to face him, her face illuminated by the bright, flashing sign of the crazy golf course. “I can’t tell whether I’m catching you at a disadvantage, because they don’t have golf courses in Az Kajir, or if I’m putting myself at a disadvantage by challenging a businessman to a round of golf.”

  He raised an eyebrow, but his face gave no indication either way. “Well, we’ll just have to see, won’t we?”

  There was a little bit of a wait to play, as there were other parties that had come in in front of them. Hakim seemed unfamiliar with the experience of waiting. He looked around, as though someone should be fixing it for them. That was more the man she had expected, she supposed: looked after for all his life. But he didn’t complain, nor did he really seem to mind waiting. Not as they were, standing hand in hand.

  Around twenty minutes later, the competition began, and from the very first shot, Anita knew she was in trouble. Hakim kept shielding his eyes from the flashing lights of the room. The clubs and balls were both neon, and lit up in an omnipresent black light, as did their teeth.

  “I should mention; you know we do have golf courses in Az Kajir. The grass takes some encouraging, but we do our best. Have you never been back home?”

  With that, he sunk a hole-in-one, and raised his arms in victory.

  “Don’t get cocky,” Anita said, as she dropped her ball into the hole on the third shot. “They get harder.”

  She was glad the hole-in-one had distracted Hakim from where their conversation had been headed. She didn’t know quite what to tell him. Well, she knew the truth, but she also knew that if Fadi was opposed to her talking to this man, then talking about their homeland and giving exact details about their lives was probably an even greater betrayal.

  The reminder of Fadi brought her mood down, and for the next few holes Anita had a difficult time concentrating on where she was and who she was with.

  “Is something wrong?” Hakim eventually asked, his voice laden with concern. “Have I done something?”

  “No, nothing. Sorry. I was thinking of something sad, but I shouldn’t be. Not tonight.”

  He gave her a warm smile, and, again, Anita was tempted, just for a moment, to kiss him.

  ***

  The game, in the end, was a massacre. Hakim teased Anita relentlessly, up to the limit of what she could take, but no more.

  By the time they got out, the night had calmed down considerably. The threatening clouds that had kept Hakim’s helicopter from him had cleared, and the sky above them was lit up with stars. The air had cooled just enough that Anita considered digging out her sweater, but didn’t quite feel the need.

  Their eyes were adjusting from the constant bombardment of light and movement inside the crazy golf course. Out here everything seemed hard, and true, and real.

  Especially him. Always him.

  This had been the night of her life. She would never forget it, and she was glad she had gone for it, whatever Fadi would have to say about it.

  “So where to, now?”

  Hakim, apparently, wanted it to keep going.

  Anita was at a loss. “I… I’m not sure. That’s all I had.”

  Hakim looked around them. “It’s a beautiful night. How about we just pick a direction, and walk?”

  Anita looked around her. Living in Houston since she was three, she’d gotten to know the city pretty well. But, still, the city seemed different to her tonight. It seemed like a different world entirely.

  She agreed, and was expecting for Hakim to pick a direction at random, but instead she felt his hand over her eyes. How had he moved around to get behind her so quickly? She was disoriented by the night, and the memory of the lights and the candles, and the impossibility of her time with this man.

  “Point straight ahead,” he told her, and for the first time she thought she could detect a hint of an accent in his voice. It must have been that she could only hear it when he was close to her like this, his lips just inches from her ear.

  She did as she was told, and gave way as he began spinning around with her, his free hand on her shoulder. She thought he’d spin her around once, maybe twice, but he kept going. Anita felt herself begin stumbling, and losing control.

  “Are you ready?”

  His voice was still coming from close to her ear, but she was so dizzy that it was hard to place.

  “Whoa there, featherweight,” she heard him say, as her arm collided with his face.

  And then his hand was gone from across her eyes, and his other hand was gone from her shoulder, and the warmth of his body was replaced by the growing cool of the night.

  Anita stumbled, confused and disoriented, trying to get her bearings. At last, she came to a stop. “That way,” she said, adjusting her arm so that it aligned with a street.

  Hakim was still rubbing his jaw, but he took her by the arm anyway. “Right, let’s go.”

  “Sorry about that,” she said, as he walked along beside her. “Did I hurt you?”

  She liked how he leaned in to talk to her, now.

  “You didn’t hurt me, no. Well, nothing that I can’t forgive.”

  This road was darker than the others they’d been walking down, but a streetlamp illuminated his winning smile as they passed under it.

  Anita hugged his arm close to her. Nothing about the evening had gone as she’d expected, but then, she hadn’t really known what to expect. The direction fate had chosen for them was little-traveled, which would have left them time to talk. But Anita didn’t want to talk. Not now. She just wanted to enjoy his presence, the night, and the city that felt like it was theirs and theirs alone.

  Eventually, the path they were walking started to feel more familiar, and Anita found she recognized a few buildings.

  “Oh, I know where we are!” she said quietly.

  “Oh really?” Hakim asked.

  Instead of answering, she took off at a faster pace, breaking to the left and dragging him along with her.

  Hakim didn’t question her, only followed along. And when they arrived at a brightly-colored truck, a couple of minutes later, all became clear.

  “Oh, I see,” he said. “You just want sweet things.”

  “Always,” Anita said, looking up at him. “This is the best late night ice cream truck in Houston. That may not sound like much, but I swear it’s amazing.”

  He took her word for it, and waited in line with her, telling the man behind the counter to surprise him, while Anita ordered the same salted caramel and chocolate concoction she always got when she and her friends found themselves in the vicinity of the t
ruck late at night.

  As they were walking away, a thought occurred to Anita. “You like surprises, don’t you?”

  He seemed taken aback. It was a moment before he answered. “You know, there was a time when I didn’t. But tonight, I think they’re growing on me.”

  They meandered, not walking anywhere in particular. Suddenly, Hakim pulled back and stared at his ice cream as though it had bitten him.

  “What?” Anita asked.

  “There are… there are leaves in my ice cream.”

  Anita had to giggle. “What, really?”

  He held his cone out to her to take a taste.

  “Ohhh,” she said, when she’d found out what he meant. “That’s kale. I’m not sure what they’ve done with it to make it go in ice cream, but that’s definitely kale. The hipsters always sneak up on you when you’re not looking.”

  He took another lick, thoughtfully. “You know, even with leaves in it, it isn’t bad.”

  Surprises. Good ones. That’s what tonight was, wasn’t it?

  They walked on until they found a fountain square. There were a few people milling about, but no one really staying there. Someone, maybe the city, or perhaps a prankster, had put soap in it, and there were bubbles piling up in the fountain.

  They sat at the fountain’s edge, and finished off their ice cream. Anita found that her legs were getting cold, and instinctively leaned them into his.

  Without a word, Hakim took off his suit jacket, and put it over her bare legs. She looked at him questioningly, but he only shrugged.

  “You were cold,” he said, like it was a simple matter of cause and effect.

  He took care of her. Or he wanted to, she thought.

  The idea sent a wave of guilt through her; she wasn’t quite sure why at first, but then it dawned on her: Fadi was her protector. But Fadi thought she needed protecting from this man.

  She looked at Hakim like she was seeing him for the first time that night. What was it about him that Fadi found so threatening?

  He had a look to him like he could do some harm—if you were his business rival, that was. He seemed shrewd and smart, and willing to act decisively. But what harm would he cause her?

 
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