Authors: Kris Pearson
Was that a leg-hole? She pushed a foot through. It felt okay. After further poking about, both her feet seemed to be in the right places. She tugged the shorts up and breathed out the big gulp of air she found she’d been holding in.
Much better. Except now her most intimate part was caressed by silk that had been pressed against
most intimate part just moments before. It felt absolutely thrilling and unnerving to know that.
And his most intimate part was now lolling at ease only an arm’s length away. Or maybe it was standing to attention like disgusting Gary Gorridge’s used to? She closed her eyes and willed those hateful scenes away.
Too much time ticked by. Her nerves screamed. Did she have to beg Rafiq to put his trousers back on? He’d made no immediate move to.
“You’ll have to help me with this.”
Her eyes snapped open again. Help him with what?
Not on your life, pig.
But to her considerable relief he meant the other end of the sash. He held out his arm. She reached over with fumbling fingers and tied it around his wrist, double-knotting it as he had around hers.
And at last he grabbed the trousers from on top of the cover and pushed them down into the bed.
“This is impossible,” he complained after thrashing about for a while and apparently achieving nothing. Laurel shook with silent giggles until he reached out and switched off the lamp. Then her giggles died, and she watched in horror as he stood silhouetted beside the bed in the faint glow of the moon. He stepped into the pants. A huge spike of flesh reared out in front of him, and all the terrible memories of Gary Gorridge returned to swamp her brain again.
Somehow Rafiq managed to stuff his hugeness away and haul the zipper up.
So now she wasn’t in bed with a naked man—instead he was a dangerously-aroused one. She wondered which was worse as she scrambled to her far edge of the bed and lay stock-still, as distant from him as she could be without tumbling out onto the floor. How was she ever going to sleep?
Twenty minutes slid by. Laurel had never felt more awake. As she lay there beside him in the darkness, every sense became acute. The soft old bed-linen smelled of lavender. Palm-fronds swished about in the breeze, sounding quite close to the bedroom window. The glimmer of light from outside sometimes dimmed as clouds floated across the moon but she could always see Rafiq’s dark outline against the pale linen, and hear his quiet breathing. To her great relief he kept his word about making no move in her direction.
She’d never shared a bed with a man before. This was new territory. Not that this was ‘sharing a bed’ in any accepted sense, she decided. She was being held captive. Against her will. By a man who had done terrible things to her only hours earlier.
Terrible things like treating her gently. Helping her to escape. Providing her with something to drink and directions to safety.
The thoughts buzzed around in her head like blowflies in a bottle, and she found it difficult to keep up her resentment towards the man who had—perhaps—acted more chivalrously towards her than anyone else in her life.
But really, what a ridiculous position he’d put her in. Insisting she share his bed. Tying her up as though she couldn’t be trusted. Lying beside her in the pulsing darkness and taking no notice of her.
She flinched at the last strange idea her brain had conjured up.
Of course she wanted him to leave her alone! But although he’d left her body alone, her mind was another matter. There he kept intruding outrageously, and Laurel had the sneaking suspicion it was far more her fault than his.
Even without touching him, her skin detected his heat flowing across towards hers. And he’d not fallen asleep either; his breathing sounded deep and regular, but somehow not quite deep and regular enough to assure her he’d dozed off. He wasn’t snoring or snuffling in the least—just lying there breathing.
Spicy cologne drifted from his skin and crisp dark hair. Sometimes it overcame the faint lavender fragrance on the sheets. She’d hated the smell of him in the van, but maybe his scent was tied so closely to that terrifying situation, and the bag and the handcuffs and his strong dominating body, that nothing would have smelled good then. Now she found it exotic and right for him.
Although, she had to remind herself yet again, he was still a disgusting terrorist who kidnapped women and held them against their will. She was not in the least attracted to him. Of course she wasn’t. How could she even be thinking such ridiculous thoughts!
She found the shadowy bedroom well lit by moonlight once her eyes had accustomed themselves to the night. It was a hard, terrifying, masculine room. Who’d want guns and knives on their bedroom walls? The vague silhouettes of the highest ones were visible where he’d left them. Just as visible as his silhouette against the pale pillow if she turned her head again. She sighed and rolled over; yes—there he was.
“Not asleep, Miss Kiwi?” His voice washed over her like a husky caress in the intimate darkness.
“Are you surprised?”
“Relax and drift off, Laurel. After what you went through today you need to rest and recover.”
“It was you who put me through it.” She drew a deep angry breath. “Do you seriously think I can just forget an experience like that?”
“Fayez identified the wrong woman.”
Laurel puffed the breath out in a sharp sound of disapproval. “And just as well. Poor Maddie would have been terrified. She’s barely eighteen. Still living at home.”
“And you’re so much older?” She could hear the taunt in his voice, but chose to ignore it.
“Twenty-three. And I’ve had to be much more independent than she has.”
“You left home early?”
Left home? Where was home...?
“My mother died when I was five,” she said, still feeling the hurt those words always stirred up. “She wasn’t married so I became a foster-child. Moved on several times. You get harder after situations like that.”
She heard the sorrow in his voice, and realized that he, too, had lost his home and family. But why should she sympathize? He’d kept her here against her will. He had no right to—no matter how often he claimed her life was in danger, and that other people’s safety also depended on her remaining out of sight. He’d given her precious few details as to why.
“So who brought you up?” he asked, breaking into her fractured thoughts.
“I wasn’t brought up, I was dragged up,” she muttered. “In other people’s homes, paid for by the Government. Given food and clothes. Sent to school.” She fell silent, and it was some time before she spoke again. “I think my mother was ill. I have memories of her being often in bed. And in hospital before she died.”
“And your father? De Courcey sounds like a French name?”
“He was a sailor, or so she said. Maybe already married to someone else. Perhaps he never existed. It’s just the name on my birth certificate; I don’t remember him. She might have made him up—she didn’t seem to have a proper family.”
Laurel could still remember the shame of it at school. No ‘real’ parents to attend sports days or end-of-year prize-giving evenings. No Granny and Grandpa to go and visit at weekends and talk about with school-friends on Mondays.
She tossed restlessly and felt a gentle tug on the sash that joined them.
“Sorry,” she said. “Anyway, I stayed longest at the last home. Mr and Mrs Gorridge. That’s why I can’t stand being locked up. They locked me up all the time.”
Rafiq heard the tremble in her voice. Fury? Pain? He found he wanted very much to enfold her in his arms again and comfort her, but in the intimacy of his bed this was no longer possible. On the floor, with her in tears, it had seemed permissible—indeed, necessary. But now? No way in hell!
“And no-one came to rescue you?”
“It was for my own good. No-one knew besides them.”
“Locked up why? What had you done?”
“Nothing. Grown up. Got a bit prettier, I suppose. They locked me up because of their son, Gary.” She moved restlessly in the bed, and again the sash tugged tight between their wrists. “I was fourteen. Not very confident.”
A wave of protectiveness rushed through him, swamping every other emotion. “And the son did what exactly for you to deserve this?” he asked, struggling to keep his voice calm.
“He was big. Mr Gorridge was big, too. Big and fat.”
Rafiq could feel she was shuddering; the mattress shook.
“Gary was out of control,” she added a few seconds later, once she’d apparently gathered her courage up again. “Full of teenage hormones on the rampage. Wanted sex. Wanted sex all the time, with me. So they locked me up to keep me safe.”
Rafiq stayed silent for long moments as he battled with his outrage.
“They should have locked
up,” he finally grated.
“They did. He smashed his bedroom door down. Twice. They couldn’t let that happen all the time. I could see that. So locking me up was the second-best option.”
“Not for you.”
“No,” she agreed in a small sad voice.
“Mostly. Unless he had football practice.”
Rafiq swore under his breath.
“But what was worse...” she added after a thrumming silence. “He used...to knock on my window while I was locked in. Lots of times. And I had to look out through the glass to stop him knocking because it made Mrs Gorridge angry if she heard him banging and banging.”
She turned away from Rafiq, feeling ashamed, even though she knew full well the shame should not be hers.
“And when I looked out, he would be...playing with himself,” she concluded in a strangled mutter. “His ‘thing’ was huge and red and ugly. So you see...”
Her voice was the merest whisper now. The voice of a frightened child. “When you held me down this afternoon, it brought memories back. Being helpless and frightened. Being in a nightmare that happened again and again. I hated having to watch him, but if I didn’t he’d be smashing at the window and I was frightened the glass would break and his mother would blame me for that as well as the broken door.”
She sighed, and he heard the weight of huge sorrow in the soft sound.
“The thought of being locked up again tonight was just too much to bear,” she added. “I’m sorry I lost it.”
He reached out and found her hand. Curled his fingers around hers in friendship. And wondered what he could ever do to make amends.
The tiny movements had been going on for some time now. He’d woken instantly and lain there, alert and primed for action, even though he’d been careful to give no sign of this. He kept his eyes closed down to the merest slits in case Laurel caught their gleam in the darkness.
He watched as she slowly sat up. With infinite caution she pushed back the bedcover and rose from the bed.
He launched himself across at her like a heat-seeking missile at a bonfire, yanking her down again as she screamed with terror.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going, Miss Kiwi?” he growled in fury.
He stretched one arm sideways and snapped on the lamp. The sash trailed from his wrist, but no longer from Laurel’s.
She lay panting beneath him, breasts heaving, eyes huge and panicked.
“To the bathroom,” she gasped. “I didn’t want to wake you, but I must have had too much of that nice juice with dinner. Let me up or you’ll be sorry.”
His eyes bored down into hers, trying to gauge her true intentions. Was she inventing this? Grudgingly he moved aside, granting her freedom but still regarding her with extreme suspicion.
She rose with a display of hurt dignity and padded across to the bathroom. His eyes followed her slim legs all the way up to the hems of his black silk shorts.
She crept back in beside him a little later.
“You’d better tie me up again,” she said, proffering the end of the sash.
“You got out of it easily enough last time.”
“Yes, so I did,” she said, sending him a grin that looked far from contrite. “But you don’t trust me, Rafiq. Tie me up again please.”
Would this work? She was certain she’d had his sympathy after telling him about Gary. He’d held her hand with such warmth and tenderness then. And somehow she hadn’t felt quite so scared any longer. Now she was thrilled to hear him reply, “No Laurel, I’m sure there’s no need. It was a stupid idea.”
She stretched and yawned, secretly enjoying the way his eyes zoomed straight to the taut fabric of his shirt as it outlined her breasts. “That’s what I thought in the first place, but you went all macho on me.” She made a small show of checking her watch “Only 1.45? It’s a long night, isn’t it...”
She snuggled down just a fraction closer to him. She’d undone the top buttons of the shirt in the bathroom and wondered if he’d noticed. She needed to distract him, somehow put him off his guard. He’d kept glancing at her breasts during dinner. Maybe a little skin was the price she’d have to pay to divert his attention. She surely had nothing else she could bargain with, and he hadn’t switched the lamp off yet.
Once again she lay there pretending obedience. He was being a well-mannered pig she had to admit, but there was no way she was willing to be kept prisoner like this. How was she going to get free?
“Tell me about your parents and your brothers,” she asked. “Unless it’s too painful of course.” She waited, wondering if he would.
Rafiq didn’t reply immediately, but after a minute or two he sighed and said “It was a long time in the past, Laurel. Time does not heal, but at least it dulls.”
“Mmmm.” It hadn’t dulled her memories of disgusting Gary, displaying himself so close to her bedroom window.
“My father was a good man,” he continued. “Firm but fair. Al Sounam prospered under his rule. The oil-fields were productive, we had excellent contracts with America and Great Britain, and there was food for everyone.”
“And your mother?”
“Beautiful. Much loved. I will show you her photograph. You shall see our whole family, the way we used to be.”