Ashes and Light by Karen L. McKee

By Karen L. McKee

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I have meetings to keep or my business will surely fail. ” He stood with a lithe movement that spoke of years of action and caught Papa’s arm as he rose to say goodbye. The two men embraced, warm Afghani-style. Then Michael Bellis turned to Khadija. ” He held out his hand in a gesture so Western it took her breath away. Stricken, Khadija looked at the proffered hand, then at his gaze. To not shake his hand would be rude and that would upset her father. Michael Bellis smirked and held his hand steady as if this was a test.

She met his gaze, and a specter of warmth seemed to cross it, seemed to bleed into her. Her breath caught in her chest. Who—what—was this man who was so gentle with her father? Kofr—infidel—enemy of Islam. Or friend? She lifted her chin. No, she would not trust a man whose motives were so uncertain. “Your eyes and your attitude betray you aren’t Afghani. ” The skin around his eyes crinkled in laughter. ” All the blood ran from her head. She had forgotten herself once more and shamed her father.

You will tell me. ” She would obey him. She would until such time as she left his home for the home of her husband and then he would be alone. A small grief caught in his chest. ” Her voice was sharper than he had heard it before. He frowned. “He’s an old friend—family. ” “He’s a foreigner. ” “He helped us during the hard times. ” “Nothing. He asks nothing. ” “I—I don’t like him. ” The way her voice broke said it was true. “Pishogay—daughter,” he said softly, reaching to comfort her and was surprised.

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