Hidden in the Sheikh's Harem

By: Michelle Conder

He stroked his white beard, which she knew meant he was thinking about whether to answer her or not. ‘Who told you?’

Farah felt as if a dead weight had just landed on her shoulders. ‘It’s true, then?’

‘The information needs to be contained. Amir, see to it.’

‘Of course.’

Not realising that Amir had followed her in, she turned to him, her eyes narrowing as she noticed that one of his eyes was blackened. ‘Where did that come from?’

‘Never mind!’

Farah wondered if it was from the prince and turned back to her father. ‘But why? How?’

Amir stepped forward, his jaw set hard. ‘Prince Zachim arrogantly assumed he could go dune driving in the middle of the night without his security detail.’

Ignoring him, Farah addressed her father. ‘And?’

‘And we took him.’

Just like that?

Farah cleared her throat, trying not to imagine the worst. ‘Why would you do that?’

‘Because I will not see another Darkhan take power and he is the heir.’

‘I thought his older brother was the heir.’

‘That dog Nadir lives in Europe and wants nothing to do with Bakaan,’ Amir answered.

‘That is beside the point.’ She shook her head, still not comprehending what her father had done. ‘You can’t just...kidnap a prince!’

‘When news gets out that Prince Zachim is out of the picture, the country will become more and more destabilised and we will be there to seize the power that has always been rightfully ours.’

‘Father, the tribal wars you speak of were hundreds of years ago. And they won. Don’t you think it’s time to put the past to rest?’

‘No, I do not. The Al-Hajjar tribe will never recognise Darkhan rule while I am leader and I can’t believe my own daughter is talking like this. You know what he stole from me.’

Farah released a slow breath. Yes, the king’s refusal to supply the outer regions of Bakaan with basic medical provisions, amongst other things, had inadvertently led to the death of her mother and her unborn brother—everything her father had held dear. Farah tried not to let her own misery at never quite being enough for her father rise up and consume her. She knew better than anyone that wanting love—relying on love—ultimately led to pain.

Her father continued on about everything else the Darkhans had stolen from them: land, privileges, freedom. Stories she’d heard at her bedtime for so long she sometimes heard them in her sleep. Truth be told, she actually agreed with a lot of what her father said. The dead King of Bakaan had been a selfish, controlling tyrant who hadn’t cared a jot for his people. But kidnapping Prince Zachim was not, in her view, the way to correct past wrongs. Especially when it was an offence punishable by imprisonment or death.

‘How will this bring about peace and improve things, Father?’ She tried to appeal to his rational side but she could see that he had a wild look in his eyes.

Her father shrugged. ‘The country won’t have a chance of overthrowing the throne with him on it. He’s too powerful.’

Yes, Farah had heard that Prince Zachim was successful and powerful beyond measure. She had also heard he was extremely good-looking, which had been confirmed by the many photos she’d seen of him squiring some woman or another to glamorous events. Not that his looks were important on any level!

She rubbed her brow. ‘So what happens now? What was the Bakaan council’s response?’

For the first time since she’d walked in, her father looked uncertain. He rose and paced away from her, his hands gripped behind his back. ‘They don’t know yet.’

‘They don’t know?’ Farah’s eyebrows knit together. ‘How can they not know?’

‘When I am ready to reveal my plans, I will do so.’ Which told Farah that he didn’t actually have a plan yet. ‘But this is not something I am prepared to discuss with you. And why are you dressed like that? Those boots are made for men.’

Farah scuffed her steel-capped boots against the rug. She’d forgotten that she still wore old clothes from working with the camels, but seriously, they were going to discuss her clothing while he held the most important man in the country hostage? ‘That’s not important. I—’

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