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Excerpt: The Husband She Never Knew

When Noelle woke again the sluggish exhaustion had gone, giving her a sense of relief, but also leaving her her both weakened and wary.

She sat up and saw Ammar was still sitting in the chair by her bed. He’d fallen into a half-doze, his face softened in sleep, dark lashes sweeping against his cheek, reminding her for a breathless second of the man he used to be. The man she’d thought he was. His eyes flickered open and he stared at her for a taut moment that seemed suspended and separate in its sudden, raw honesty. Ammar gazed at her, seeming almost vulnerable, hungry, and as for her? Noelle could feel the answer in herself. She’d loved this man once, no matter how he’d brought them to this place, and she felt its echo through her heart.

Ammar straightened, glancing at his watch, and the moment broke. ‘We’ll be in Marrakech in twenty minutes.’

‘And then?’

‘A helicopter to my villa. It takes a couple of hours.’

She shook her head slowly, banishing that echo, that remnant of longing. ‘Ammar… why are you taking me there? What do you want from me?’

His mouth tightened and his gaze flicked away. ‘We’ll talk about that later. Right now you should freshen up. There’s food in the main cabin.’

‘Don’t tell me what to do.’

He returned his gaze to her, level and considering. ‘As you wish. I was only seeing to your comfort.’

‘My comfort? If you’d been concerned with that, you wouldn’t have kidnapped me in the first place.’

He expelled a low breath. ‘I told you, it was necessary.’

‘You had me drugged.’

‘It was the safest way to transport you. I didn’t want you to harm yourself.’

‘How very thoughtful of you.’ It was getting harder to hold onto her brittle edge, the safety of sarcasm. She could still remember how he looked in that unguarded moment, how she’d felt, even as fury raced through her. 

‘I try,’ Ammar said with a ghost of a smile, and it took Noelle a stunned second to realise he was actually making a joke. Toc-toc.

‘Try harder,’ she answered back, meaning to snap, but it came out like some absurd attempt at witty banter.

Ammar gazed at her with the remnant of that smile, his eyes dark and sorrowful. ‘I will,’ he said softly, and Noelle felt something twist inside her, start to break. No, she could not start responding to this man. Remembering.

The only thing to remember was the hard fact that he’d hurt her terribly in the past and kidnapped her today. What kind of people did he know, to arrange a kidnapping in broad daylight? What kind of man was he?

Before their marriage she’d thought he was gentle, tender, loving if a little restrained. They’d dated for three months, a time so achingly sweet Noelle’s eyes stung to remember it. She’d wanted to give him everything, her life, her soul, and more importantly, she’d thought he wanted it. Sometimes she’d caught him gazing at her in a kind of wonder, as if he couldn’t believe she was really his.

Then they’d said their wedding vows and in a matter of hours he’d changed completely, turned into a brusque and distant stranger she didn’t know or understand. A man who, it seemed, was perfectly capable of abducting his former wife and keeping her captive in his desert villa. The real Ammar.

It was the real Ammar she needed to remember now. Drawing herself up as much as she was able, she said firmly, as if talking to an unruly child, ‘Well, now you’ve got me here you can say whatever it is you’ve wanted to say, and then you need to arrange my immediate return to Paris. I can get a flight from Marrakech.’

Something flashed in Ammar’s amber eyes, although Noelle could not discern what it was. She’d once loved the color of his eyes, the warm peat-brown of whisky. She’d seen emotion reflected there, emotion he had never spoken of or given into in any way and yet she’d believed. She’d known.

‘No.’

Noelle’s fingernails snagged on the coverlet as she clenched her fists. ‘No?’

‘I cannot arrange your return to Paris. Yet.’

‘When, then?’ He shrugged, which was no answer at all. ‘Ammar, what do you want from me?’ Another flicker in his eyes--could it be regret? ‘This is a crime, you know,’ she said in a low voice, hardly able to believe she was saying the words, and that they were true. ‘You could be arrested for this.’

He glanced away. ‘I’ve done too many things already I could be arrested for. One more won’t matter.’

Shock iced straight through her, froze in her bones. She did not want to know what he was talking about, was overwhelmed by the terrible strangeness of a man she’d once thought she knew. Loved. ‘My God,’ she choked, ‘who are you?’

Ammar turned back to her, and she saw a fierce blaze of determination now turning his eyes to gold as he met her own bewildered gaze. ‘I’m your husband.’

Excerpt From: THE HUSBAND SHE NEVER KNEW by Kate Hewitt
Copyright © 2013 by Kate Hewitt
Permission granted by Harlequin Books S.A. All rights reserved.

January 2008