Wifed By The Sheikh (The Sheikh's True Love 3) - Page 5

“Please, have a seat,” Zayed said in his lightly accented voice, gesturing to one of the low chairs at the table.

Zelda took a quick, deep breath and sat down, swallowing against the dry feeling in her throat. This is where he demands that I become his slave or something like that, she thought worriedly.

The Sheikh called out to the owners of the shop in a language that Zelda didn’t understand, and they nodded, getting to work on whatever it was he’d called for.

He sat down and for a moment just looked at her, his eyes not quite impertinent, but appraising. “You could have been in very serious trouble back there,” the Sheikh said finally.

“I know,” Zelda said.

The Sheikh smiled. “I rather thought it was interesting—seeing you amongst the crew.”

Zelda raised an eyebrow, confused at that comment. “Interesting?”

Zayed nodded, just as the owner of the cafe came to them, approaching the table with an ornate coffee carafe and a small platter of pastries. Zelda thought that both savory and sweet options were present, though she couldn’t be sure.

“Help yourself,” Zayed said, as the cafe owner set the pastries down and poured coffee into two small, beautiful cups, placing one in front of Zelda and the other in front of the Sheikh.

Zelda didn’t feel particularly hungry—her stomach felt as though it had twisted itself into an enormous knot—but she obediently plucked one of

the pastries from the platter, choosing one folded around an orangey yellow filling that she thought might be citrus.

The owner left the table and once more Zayed was silent, watching her.

Zelda took a sip of her coffee—it was strong, thicker than she expected, and strangely sweet—and a bite of her pastry, under the Sheikh’s watchful gaze. She decided the filling was apricot, but it was also heavily spiced with something she couldn’t quite identify, but which thrilled her palate. “You said something about it being interesting to see me amongst the crew?”

“Interesting because I personally interview every member of the crew who works on my yacht,” Zayed told her, smiling slightly. He lifted his coffee cup with deft fingers and brought it to his lips, inhaling the steam for a moment before taking a sip. “As I’m sure you’re aware, I never interviewed you for the job. So it was interesting.”

“You mean…. You knew all along that I was…” Zelda swallowed another bite of pastry with difficulty; her throat was sandpapery once again.

“I knew that you had somehow managed to sneak aboard my ship,” the Sheikh finished with a shrug. “Wise of you to pretend to be a member of the crew rather than a guest.”

“That kind of just...happened,” Zelda admitted. “When I sneaked on, I didn’t know where the yacht was going, how far.”

“I gathered as much,” Zayed said, his bright eyes glinting with amusement. He set his coffee cup down and plucked a pastry off of the platter between them, eating it in a few quick, neat bites. “But it does present you with a very grave problem.”

“Grave problem?” Zelda chose another pastry: one she thought would be savory, based on the reddish-brown color of the filling and the simpler folding of the dough.

“Indeed,” the Sheikh said. “It probably hasn’t escaped your notice that the government here is not exactly fond of illegal immigrants.”

“But I didn’t—don’t—intend to be an immigrant,” Zelda protested, and then looked around; she took a bite of the second pastry to cover for her discomposure. It was savory and sweet all at once, with meat, spices and some kind of fruit. She took another sip of coffee, trying to work her mind around the strangely appealing flavor. “I would be happy to leave anytime.”

“If you’re caught by the officials while you’re lining up a way to get back, you may find that you are not be able to leave,” Zayed said. “The best-case scenario would be that you leave immediately. The more common scenario would be that they imprison you for at least a year—up to five—for entering the country illegally, before sending you home and banning you from the country for the rest of your life.”

Zelda stared at him. “Five years in prison!? Just for not having my papers?”

Zayed nodded. “We are a wealthy country, and we take our status seriously,” he said with a smile. “As an American, you would likely be made an example of.”

“So what do I do?” Zelda finished the second pastry off in one bite, leaning closer toward him over the wooden table.

“You’re safe for a few days at least,” the Sheikh said. “They won’t think to look for you right away; the officials at the harbor will keep their mouths shut. But as soon as any hotel in the city sees that all you have is a passport, they will demand a huge fee for not reporting you. That would make it very difficult for you to get out—and of course, you won’t be able to work in the country to get money for a ticket.” He shook his head. “You’re in a very sticky situation.”

“That’s pretty abundantly clear to me now,” Zelda said flatly. “Is there anything I can do?”

Zayed licked his lips and took another sip of coffee. “There may be something,” he said finally. “Obviously, you recall that I told those officials at the port that we were engaged.”

“I figured that was just a story, something you came up with to justify…”

Zayed smiled again, half-shrugging. “It was,” he said. “And you will never know how grateful I am that neither of those two men asked me your name or any details about you.”

“Me too,” Zelda admitted.

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