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Saving the Sheikh, Page 27

Ruth Cardello

Page 27


  He smiled down at her and she swore silently, I’m going to save you, Rachid, if I don’t kill you first for not trusting me.

  Chapter Eighteen

  Zhang was both relieved and concerned when, at the end of the meal, Rachid informed her that he had some business to address before he could come to her that evening. Another woman might have been hurt to be dismissed by her groom on their wedding night, but another woman wouldn’t have spent half the meal hoping he would accept her request for some time alone to rest.

  And by “rest,” I mean “find out if Jeremy has uncovered anything yet. ” Going directly back to his room was too risky, since there was a good chance Ghalil would be waiting for her to do just that. Instead, Zhang headed to the suite of the only person crazy enough to help her.

  Alone and still dressed in the suit he’d worn to dinner, Dominic answered the door. With a quick glance over her shoulder to make sure no one was watching, Zhang slipped inside.

  “I need to talk to you, Dominic,” she said.

  “Isn’t this a conversation you should have with your mother?” he asked dryly.

  Already short of temper, Zhang asked, “What the hell are you talking about?”

  Dominic closed the door and motioned for Zhang to sit. Suddenly serious, he said, “Sorry, an attempt at wedding humor. What do you need?”

  Zhang paced the small area between the couches. “Jeremy is set up and searching files now. I told him I’d return after dinner, but Gahlil saw me leave his room. I don’t know what he thought I was doing there but it’s too dangerous for me to return. Can you do it? I don’t trust using our cell phones here. Something’s not right. ”

  Dominic crossed the room to where Zhang stood and agreed. “As usual, your instincts are right. Rachid’s announcement felt strategic – like he was trying to goad someone into action. Do you think it’s his brother?”

  “I don’t know, but I’m hoping Jeremy found something. Will you help me?”

  Abby stepped out of the bedroom, covered in a long blue silk nightgown and robe. “Help you do what?”

  Zhang and Dominic looked at each other guiltily, like two children caught red-handed and trying to come up with a convincing lie.

  Abby crossed the room, stopping just in front of her husband. Hands placed angrily on her hips, Abby said, “Dom, you promised me that we wouldn’t keep secrets from each other. ”

  Dominic took her hands in his and said, “I don’t want you involved in this, Abby. It’s too dangerous. ”

  With her chin held at a stubborn slant, Abby said, “Even more of a reason why I should know what is going on. ”

  Just as stubborn, Dominic shook his head and said, “No, Abby. The less you know the better. ”

  “You can’t do this, Dom,” Abby pleaded.

  Looking unhappy, but set in his decision, Dominic said, “Zhang needs my help. Give me thirty minutes –”

  “I’m pregnant,” Abby blurted out, sudden tears filling her eyes.

  Dom sat down on the couch behind him with a heavy thud. “Pregnant?”

  Abby sat beside her now pasty-white husband, took one of his hands and laid it on her stomach. “Yes. Do you understand why you have to stop seeing yourself as indestructible?”

  When Dominic spoke, his voice shook with emotion. “I’m going to be a father. ”

  Abby nodded, tears flowing down her cheeks. “Yes. And that means that you have to stop risking your life like it doesn’t matter, because it does. It matters to me. And it matters to our baby. ” She turned to look up at Zhang and pleaded, “Please, don’t ask him to do something dangerous. I know you’ve been very kind to me, but I can’t lose him now. ”

  Dominic pulled his wife to his side, wiped her tears away with one hand and looked down into her pleading eyes. He said, “I’ll be fine, Abby. ”

  When he looked up, his eyes were full of such sadness that a profound sense of shame settled over Zhang. It was easy to forget that Dominic wasn’t a bulletproof hero, just a man who loved his wife and was torn between helping a friend and protecting his new family. She couldn’t ask him to risk more than he had.

  The outer door of the suite flew open and Lil burst in. As soon as she saw Abby crying, she rushed to her side and said, “What happened? Tell me it wasn’t something I did. ”

  Abby straightened from Dom and sniffed. “No, this time I’m the awful person. ”

  No, I’m the one being selfish. This is my problem. Zhang said, “No, you’re not, Abby. You’re doing what any good mother would do – you’re fighting for your family. ”

  Lil said, “I don’t understand. ”

  Laughing and crying at the same time, Abby said, “I’m pregnant. ”

  “Oh, my God, I’m so happy for you. ” Joining her sister on the couch, Lil wrapped an arm around her and said, “Okay, so why is everyone so miserable? You all look like I felt when –” She stopped abruptly and stood. “Hang on, I’m seeing a pattern here. Why did we bring Jeremy? Didn’t you learn anything from what I did?” She looked around at the stunned expressions of the three she’d walked in on and said, “You might as well tell me everything or I’ll only try to find out on my own, and you all know how that works out. ”

  Zhang said, “I shouldn’t have involved any of you. I’m sorry. ”

  Abby said, “No, Zhang. I was wrong. Dominic’s right. I can’t let my fear stop us from helping the people we love. ”

  Shaking her head, Zhang said, “No, you were right. This is my problem. ”

  Dominic stood. “It’s too dangerous for you to go back there, Zhang. ”

  Jake walked through the open door. “Go where?”

  Dominic’s explanation held everyone’s attention long enough to allow Zhang to back out of the room unnoticed.

  One hand casually pocketed, Rachid stood beneath the dim lighting of the covered patio that overlooked the inner courtyard of the palace. Realistically, he knew that his plan to draw the traitor out might take weeks, if it worked at all. He was counting on his enemy being tempted by the chaos of the wedding weekend. Temptation was another reason he’d avoided being alone with Zhang. He couldn’t involve her in this.

  He’d expected Zhang to be hurt by his withdrawal, but she’d looked almost relieved when he’d said he needed some time to himself before their wedding night. He shouldn’t care, but the indifference with which she accepted the news had stung. Yes, he’d already decided to honor her request and keep their relationship platonic, but a part of him had hoped it would be as difficult for her as it was for him.

  He froze at the unmistakable sound of metal sliding against metal as a round was racked in a gun chamber just behind his head. Moving himself away from the watchful eyes of the guardsmen had apparently worked. Without turning, Rachid said in Arabic, “You didn’t waste any time. ”

  He waited, praying that the voice didn’t belong to someone close to him.

  The male voice that answered wasn’t one he recognized. It said, “It didn’t have to come to this. You should have left when you had a chance. ”

  Rachid stood tall. “I came home because my father asked me to, and I stayed for the same reason. Will you shoot me in the back of the head like a coward?” When the man didn’t answer, Rachid turned and recognized the traitor as one of the royal security guards. “You know you’ll never get away with killing me. ”

  The man kept his firearm pointed directly in Rachid’s face. He said, “The gun will be traced back to your American friends. No one will suspect one of the guardsmen. ”

  “Are you willing to bet your life on that?”

  The man shrugged. “Too late to worry about it now, isn’t it? You can’t live since you know who I am. ”

  Deciding to stall until either an opportunity to fight presented itself or help arrived, Rachid said calmly, “You pledged your life to protect the royal family. Why do this?”

  The man’s face contorted with anger. “You’re not one of us
. You and your foreign wife will make a mockery of the crown. I am protecting the royal family,” he said with conviction. “I’m protecting it from you. ”

  Out of the corner of his eye, Rachid saw movement in the doorway behind the gunman. Relief quickly turned to real fear when he saw who had joined them.

  A few moments earlier, Zhang had decided that texting Jeremy was not going to be enough. She headed back to his room and, as she expected, found Ghalil lingering in the hallway.

  Fight, Hadia had said. Fight for Rachid and the rest will take care of itself. Zhang came to a fast decision. She walked directly up to Ghalil and asked, “Are you looking for me?”

  Ghalil sneered down at her. “I was waiting to see if you had the gall to return to your boyfriend’s room on your own wedding night. ”

  Zhang stepped closer, invading his space and thundering up at him. “Are you so blinded by your jealousy of your brother that you honestly can’t see what’s going on?”

  Ghalil grabbed her by the arm and snarled, “I’m not jealous of my brother. ”

  Zhang said, “Pride is the worst shield because it leaves you both vulnerable and wrong at the same time. ”

  The young man’s eyes blazed with fury. “Wrong is seeking out another man when you’re married to my brother. ”

  “Suddenly you care about Rachid?”

  “I’ve always cared about him. ” Good. Maybe there is hope for you after all.

  “Then prove it. Put your pettiness aside and help him before he gets himself killed. ”

  The young man’s hand tightened on Zhang’s arm. “What are you talking about?”

  “Didn’t you think Rachid’s dinner announcement was oddly timed?”

  “Not if he’s eager for the crown. ”

  “But he isn’t, Ghalil. Even you know that. So why move the date up?”

  Ghalil countered, “Because he fears the embarrassment you’ll bring our house?”

  Zhang ripped her arm out of his grip and gave his chest a shove. “Listen, you little yipping puppy, I love your brother, and if you’re any indication of the support he has here, he’s going to need all the help I can give him. He made that announcement to draw someone out. I know it. There is a traitor in the palace. ”

  Ghalil shook his head in confusion. “I would know if that were the case. Rachid would have taken his concerns to the royal security if he had any, or told me. ”

  “Unless he didn’t know who to trust. ”

  “If all of this is true, what are you doing with this American man?”

  Zhang sighed. She didn’t want to expose her actions, but she needed his help. “Do you believe me?”

  The young man wavered. “Some of what you say makes sense. ”

  “Then help me. ” She looked up into her brother-in-law’s face and deepened her plea. “Help me save your brother. ”

  Ghalil nodded, suddenly looking years older as he straightened his shoulders and stepped up to the responsibility she’d laid at his feet. “Okay. ”