The Desert Prince's Mistress
on some deep, gut-level? That here was a man who would not be forced into telling anything about himself—and the only way to get information about him was to appear not to care?
    ‘And poor doesn’t mean unhappy,’ she continued coaxingly.
    He gave a low, mocking laugh. ‘That’s the fairytale version, spoken with the voice of someone who has absolutely no idea what material deprivation is like.’
    ‘You can’t know that!’ she protested.
    ‘True,’ he agreed. ‘But I’m right, aren’t I?’ The golden eyes flickered over her lazily. ‘Let me guess—you grewup in the country? A stable family life with brothers and sisters? Fresh air and exercise and three meals a day? A pony in the stable and dogs barking when you came home from school?’
    Lara froze, then swallowed, and the tiptoeing of fear began to shiver its way down her spine. ‘That’s…that’s bizarre. Well, except for the brothers bit—I have two sisters and they are much older. And my father was away a lot. But the rest is correct.’ Her blue eyes were as big as saucers as she looked at him. ‘How could you possibly have known?’
    ‘About the country?’ Some things you didn’t need to be told. He reached his hand out and lightly touched her cheek. ‘It’s written all over you. Skin like this wasn’t made in a city.’
    Was that a trace of wistfulness in his voice, or was she imagining it? ‘W-wasn’t it?’
    ‘No.’ He let one of his fingers drift over skin that felt like satin. ‘You’re a real milk and honey girl!’
    Lara found the compliment shockingly satisfying—almost as gratifying as the all too brief contact when he had touched her, making her want him to touch her again. She shook her head slightly, trying to remember why she was here.
    ‘Very good. Ten out of ten,’ she said lightly. ‘Your turn now.’
    ‘Isn’t this supposed to be a guessing game?’ he mocked.
    ‘Well, I know you grew up in the city.’ Lara drew a deep breath and decided to go for broke. ‘I’d say that you are an only child and that your parents were…separated.’
    There was an odd pause. ‘Is it really that obvious?’ he questioned, and a slightly bitter note came into his voice. ‘Do I have one-parent family written all over me?’
    Lara felt guilty, but she managed not to show it. ‘Not at all,’ she said hastily. ‘It’s more a case of working thingsout from the information available. Putting bits in, like a jigsaw. The area you mentioned doesn’t really conjure up a cosy family scene, with roses round the door.’
    ‘As opposed to the image of a mother who was hard-pressed to put food into her hungry child’s mouth?’
    ‘Is that what it was like?’ she whispered, horrified.
    ‘Not quite,’ he commented sarcastically. ‘But I should hate to puncture the little bubble-picture you’ve invented in your head!’
    ‘Now you are making fun of me.’
    ‘I thought that all women liked to be teased?’
    He was making her feel gauche and unsophisticated. And she didn’t like his constant references to what ‘women’ liked—it made her feel one in an endless line of them—which, when she stopped to think about it, she probably was. But this isn’t about you, Lara, she reminded herself—it’s about him. And Maraban. ‘But you were poor?’ she questioned bluntly.
    His eyes grew flinty. ‘Do you want me to give you a breakdown of our weekly finances?’
    She heard the distaste in his voice, and she didn’t blame him—her questions were crossing over the line between good taste and bad, and unless she gave him some kind of explanation she couldn’t possibly keep on asking them. What on earth was she going to do ? Tell him, or tell Khalim first?
    ‘You’re right. I’m sorry—I was just being nosy. Don’t worry, I won’t ask any more.’
    Darian studied her, noting the way her blue eyes were suddenly looking haunted. The vulnerable little tremor of her lips made him want to kiss them. ‘You know, you really

Similar Books


Carol Ann Erhardt

The Plagiarist

Hugh Howey

Drowning in Deception

Willa Jemhart

Cries from the Earth

Terry C. Johnston

A Marriageable Miss