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The corner of Zareen’s lips arched upwards.

“You know I am madly in love with you.”

Zareen gave a light, melodic laugh. “Since when?”

Asim’s look was serious. His forehead wrinkled and his eyes narrowed. “You think this is a joke? The moment I laid my eyes on you, I lost my peace.”

“Tsk, tsk. Poor Asim.”

“Don’t ridicule me,” he snapped. “What can your old husband—whose skin is drooping down—give you? Darling, you need me. Your desires were revealed when you pressed closer to me. I do respect your feelings.”

It seemed a cloud covered Zareen. Marriage to Ahsan had overshadowed her youthful desires and needs. She imagined him as a vulture with its claws on her body. But oh, what wealthy, diamond- and gem-encrusted claws they were, which had encaptured her soul.

The heat rising in her face must have shown, because Asim gave her a cynical-looking smile. His arms crushed her against his body. “The madness of my love will clear all the obstacles in your way,” he said. “Why does your beautiful face show distress?” His hands moved up and down on her bare, slender shoulders, enticing her in a way Ahsan never did anymore.

“Oh, Asim.” Zareen felt momentarily delirious. He stood a head taller than she, lithe and strong, with a thin mustache beneath his hawk-like nose. Frowning, she shook her head. “Why have you suddenly done this to me? Tell me why?” Pain welled up under the bodice of her red Givenchy gown as if he had throttled her soul.

“Because I have looked deep down into your scarred heart,” he said. “How could I then leave you to wander in that darkness?”

Zareen put her chin on his shoulder. In a broken voice she said, “Do you know that I have a young daughter? Amal. She starts university tomorrow.”

Asim threw his head back and laughed like a barking dog. “You don’t have to worry about that. It is of no importance. Our children have no right to close the doors of happiness on us.”

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