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Wanted: A Baby by the Sheikh

By´╝ÜDiana Fraser

Wanted: A Baby by the Sheikh

by Diana Fraser


CHAPTER ONE





Despite the icy wind, Taina Mustonen remained on deck, watching the island grow ever larger. She pushed the collar of her white coat up high around her ears and mouth, so only her eyes were exposed. She reassured herself that it was the cold that made them water.

Behind her, the glittering lights of Helsinki pierced the dark night like cut diamonds. She glanced at them briefly, as if for strength, before turning once more to the island. There was no point in looking back. She breathed deeply of the frigid air and looked up at the house whose windows were dark, save one, where a red light stuttered around the silhouette of a man—her estranged husband, Prince Daidan ibn Saleh al-Fulan.

She swallowed. He was waiting for her.

Her gaze remained fixed on the dark shape. She couldn’t see the details of his face, but her memory filled in the gaps. He’d be watching her with that narrowed gaze that used to make her pulse race. Used to? It still did, even though she couldn’t see him. But she wasn’t here to rekindle what might have been. He was a businessman and so a business proposition was what she’d give him.

The hired boat pulled alongside the jetty and she quickly walked up the steps toward the house. She tried hard to suppress the memories of a lonely childhood spent wistfully looking out from her glass-walled home, toward the lights of the city. She failed and paused for a moment to gather herself, looking up, above the house and tree line to the irregular shape of the old castle that dominated the small island. But that brought forth only more memories she’d prefer to forget. Her gaze fell to the long low house that nestled amongst the trees. Still the one light—in the lounge she realized—still the shadow of the man she’d come to see, still the flicker of nerves which she had to contain if she wanted to succeed. She took a deep breath and walked up to the wide sweep of steps that led to the house.

She hesitated before entering the front door, feeling she should knock at her childhood home. Stupid. It was still half hers after all, even if she chose not to live in it.

She pushed open the heavy door and paused, expecting to be greeted by the housekeeper, but she didn’t appear. Daidan must have dismissed her for the night. Or perhaps for good. It was none of her business any more, she reminded herself.

She took a long calming breath before entering the lounge, willing the buzz of nerves to subside. She could do this. She’d emerged from worse situations. What could he do to her that she hadn’t already done to herself? She kept her gaze lowered as she closed the door quietly behind her.

“You took your time.”

His voice—as powerful and distinctive as ever with its foreign edge—shot straight to her heart, jump-starting it into a staccato rhythm that sent adrenaline surging through her body.

She turned to find he’d moved from the window and was now standing before the log fire, legs planted squarely apart as if expecting a fight. She could barely decipher the details of his tall silhouette but she felt his eyes upon her, as hot as the flames that framed him.

She walked briskly to the sofa, channeling the energy into movement, praying that he wouldn’t detect her weakness. For Daidan, weakness was something to exploit.

“I had things to do.”

“Like waste my money.”

She sat on the soft leather sofa and slowly crossed one long, elegant leg over the other, knowing he wouldn’t fail to notice.

“My darling husband, I believe that was the deal. You receive half my inheritance and I receive, let me think? Why yes, nothing but an annual income to play with.”

There was a long pause in which she held his cold gaze.

“Drink?”

She nodded. While he poured the drinks she allowed herself to scan his face, once so dear. The spare, strong bone structure of someone who was too self-controlled hadn’t changed, nor had his striking coloring of rich nutmeg skin and nearly black eyes. He was still the exotic sheikh in a land of pale Finns. But there were changes. The groove between his brows was more deeply furrowed than she remembered and his mouth was set in a firm line, as if the tense expression never left him now. She couldn’t meet his gaze as he handed her the glass of whiskey.

“Thank you. What shall we drink to?” Her voice sounded too high, strained.

He returned to his position before the fire. “How about the truth for a change?” His eyes narrowed until their dark brown tones had disappeared leaving only a streak of dark charcoal. “Why have you returned? Why now? What is it you want?”

“The truth?” She allowed her mouth to quirk into a smile that held no laughter. “I wonder if you’d know it if it came and slapped you in the face.” She brought the glass to her lips—watching his gaze dip to her mouth—and slowly sipped the whiskey.

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