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Authors: Kris Pearson

Taken by the Sheikh (9 page)

BOOK: Taken by the Sheikh
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“You as well?”

“Of course. But you won’t recognize me.”

“You were seventeen—quite grown up. Of course I’ll recognize you.”

“I have been rebuilt,” he murmured. “No-one recognizes me. That’s why I can do the work I now choose to. No-one knows I’m the King’s son, except a very select few. Two doctors. My uncle—who is my father’s twin brother. His wife. Yasmina of course. And several men very high in the Security Service.”

“And me.”

“Yes—I shall have to kill you now I suppose.” He lunged at her in the bed, laughing and nipping at her neck.

Laurel threw out a hand to fend him off, terrified by his unthinking proximity, and connected with the big key through his trouser pocket. It had slid backward; almost slipped onto the sheet between them. If he moved a little more...?

“You wouldn’t kill me, you rescued me,” she said, trying hard to keep her voice neutral. Although she was ultra-wary of men and what they might do to her, she’d started to feel safe with Rafiq now several hours had passed with no sexual attack. But the fear was so ingrained she doubted she could let her guard down completely, even if she wanted to.

“True, Laurel. I wasn’t certain I was going to be able to rescue you, but things went well.” He sighed and tucked an arm around her. After flinching a little, she managed to relax against his warm chest.

“It was unwise of me to tell you who I really am. I need your promise of secrecy. Although I guess no-one would believe you if you claimed to know me anyway. I no longer exist officially.”

“Everyone thinks you’re
dead?

“I very nearly was. The merest spark of life. I had incredible luck with my doctors. Incredible luck with the accident, I suppose. I was the only one thrown free by the explosion before the escort vehicle hit my father’s car. All the others burned.” His voice had become far from steady. He tightened his arm around her, sighed again, and fell silent.

“So then you were King?”

“Sadly, no Laurel. Then I was a patient, not expected to live. Or if I lived, not expected to function. I was worked on for nearly two years. There were bones to be reset and pinned, flesh re-shaped, my face to put back together. There was unending physio, clever dentistry, skin-grafts and many subsequent operations. But I was young and strong.”

“And very determined.”

“As you say, Laurel. I was always a determined boy. After all, I was being educated and trained to rule.”

“So why are you not King by now?”

He chuckled at that. “You think my uncle stole my birthright? There’s plenty of birthright to go around. That little emerald-encrusted box you were admiring would buy a reasonable city apartment.”

She gasped. “And it just sits out here in the desert?”

“Where else? My mother loved it here. She could be herself, away from the constant pressures of the palace.”

“So your uncle is now the King?”

“He was heir after my father’s sons. He would have been King himself if my father had not given him a kick while they were together in my grandmother’s womb and made him arrive second—or so he says!”

She let loose a small laugh at that.

“My uncle is a clever man,” he continued. “There was so little certainty I would ever re-join the human race that he let it be known I’d died with the others. Can you imagine the constitutional problems if the nation found they still had a legal heir who was a dribbling imbecile?”

“Difficult, I suppose.”

“Impossible.”

“But didn’t you mind?”

“I was in no state to object. And once I was on the way to mending, I could see the sense of his decision.”

Laurel moved against him restlessly, turning slightly in his arms. “Your scars are visible if I look closely,” she said. “But you’re in amazing shape for a man who went through so much.” She reached up and stroked his chest. In the warm lamplight he shone tautly muscular—hard-honed and tough. She traced her finger across a long scar as far as his nipple, thrilling at the feel of his skin.

“Aubergine,” she said. “Just the right color to describe this little bit. What a contrast to my pasty fingers.” She scraped her fingernail to and fro across the little mound, watching with fascination as his flesh puckered and rose up in a tiny peak.

“Your ivory fingers,” he corrected in a tight voice. He glanced at his watch and eased his arm away from her shoulder. “It’s nearly two, Laurel. We both need to sleep. There’s no way I’ll tie you up again.” He snapped off the lamp.

She smiled in the darkness with secret triumph. Step One had been achieved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

He wasn’t snoring, but she felt he was definitely breathing as though he was asleep now.

She tried a little stretch and murmur to see if he’d react. Nothing. Her fingers wandered towards him. There was no sign the key had fallen from his pocket yet. Softly, slowly, she investigated. Touched his trousers. Located the edge of his pocket. 

He heaved out a deeper breath than usual and Laurel froze. He relaxed again and so did she. She counted out sixty long seconds before she dared to start moving again.

So lightly along his thigh.

So cautiously over the trouser fabric.

So softly along the pocket edge.

She slid a finger inside, seeking, seeking. She felt the thin split-ring the key hung from, inserted her sneaky finger through it and started to draw it free.

She got the key into the keyhole before he reared up from the bed with a torrent of husky curses, hurtled across the room, pinned her hard against the timber door with his hips, and wrapped both hands around her throat. They stood welded together, lips a heartbeat apart, both gasping with fright and frustration.

“I should strangle you,” he ground out.

“Then do it,” she unwisely challenged. “If you think being locked into a bedroom with you is such a great treat, it’s one I can live without.”

“You have no idea what you’re putting in jeopardy. You have no inkling of your silliness. You can’t possibly escape from here without my help.” He gave a hard thrust of his hips to emphasize his words. “And if you knew what was at stake, you wouldn’t try. Your life, Laurel. My life. The lives of many others.”

He held her immobile, clasp far from friendly, body vibrating with fury. And then, without warning, he kissed her, hard and hungrily, before he jerked the key from the door with another rattling volley of Sounamese and strode across the room.

From that safer distance, he said “You will not stay alive in the desert, Laurel. Just because you managed to get here along the watercourse with my directions doesn’t mean you’ll find your own way to anywhere else with ease. If you retrace those steps you’ll be going further and further from civilization. You’ll have no idea which way to take in the dark. I trust you were not planning to steal the helicopter?”

She stood there astounded, reliving the sensation of his mouth on hers. The heat, the passion, the incredible surge of liquid fluttering deep in her belly.

“Why did you kiss me?” she demanded.

“What?” he asked, apparently thrown by her abrupt change of subject.

“Why did you kiss me? Just then.”

“What does it matter? A man sometimes does stupid things when he’s with a woman. I did a stupid thing—maybe because I’ve spent several frustrating hours sharing a bed with you with no prospect of further pleasure.”

“Further pleasure?” she queried faintly. “Further than what?” Her lips were a hundred times more sensitized by his kiss than her fingers had been in the salon.

“Further than being able to see you, and smell you, and feel you moving about so close to me. Further than having you caress my chest as though it was nothing, and play with my nipple without thinking how arousing that can feel. Further than having you wear clothing against your skin which has been against
my
skin. And knowing my honor forbids me from getting closer to you.”

“Lust,” she sneered, flushing hot all over after hearing some of the exact things she’d been thinking herself. “All men are the same.”

He dropped his flashing eyes from hers and bent to rummage in a leather briefcase which she’d not noticed until that moment. He produced the rest of the reel of thin orange polyester rope and the cigarette lighter.

“No,” she gasped.

“Yes,” he insisted. “Come here. Plainly I can’t trust you, so we’ll take care of things this way. Hold out your hand.”

“Never. You can’t make me.”

“It would be easy Laurel. Perhaps I should stretch your arm along the floor and sit on it. No matter if I dislocated your pretty shoulder or broke your delicate wrist or burned your soft flesh. I have trained for things you’re better not to think about. This is nothing.”

She heard his cruel words and quailed. Yes, with a body as strong as his, such things would be possible. Meekly she held out her hand. Once again he knotted the hateful rope around her wrist and melted the ends together with care.

She watched his sculpted chest rising and falling with every fierce breath he took. He was still just in control of his anger, but she’d obviously pushed him close to his limit. Such a thought was thrilling, and raised her own heartbeat. She shouldn’t be feeling so excited—so strange, so curiously powerful—even as he tied her up and stole her freedom again, but for sure the feelings were there.

She’d taken care never to be alone with a boy since Gary Gorridge had so effectively demonstrated how out-of-control a male animal was. She’d joined in the groups her flat-mates assembled for parties and movies and clubbing, but had avoided solo dates as though her life depended on it. 

Now she was as solo as it was possible to be with a man—
and
in his room,
and
expected back in his bed—and tied up so she couldn’t escape from him no matter how much she wanted to.

She stood close, feeling the heat radiating from him as he made a second loop on the last few inches of the rope and melted that knot.  Then he moved aside to heave up a corner of the huge bed and tethered her by slipping the loop around the bed-leg. She was as helpless again as she had been in the terrifying bunker that afternoon.

She continued to stand as he lounged back on the pillows again, implacable.

“There’s enough length there so you can go to the bathroom or sit at the far end of the room and sulk. Do as you please, Laurel. Or you can come back to bed with me.”

“Why would I want to do that?” She spat the words at him, hating him. Hating herself for enjoying his kiss. Hating that she wanted to spin silly fantasies of how it might be if she was right there beside him and being kissed again.

“Because it is now three-fifteen and I need some sleep,” he said wearily. “I have to pilot that helicopter safely at dawn. Come back to bed.” He held out an arm. 

With great reluctance she crept closer, seething, not trusting him or herself.

“Is the rope long enough for me to reach those knives outside the door?”

“Probably,” he said with a sigh of exasperation. “Come back to bed.” He made a grab and reeled her in until she was obliged to scramble up beside him.

He hauled her down against his chest and held her there, tucked her head under his chin, and dropped a small kiss onto her hair. She wriggled with annoyance.

“You’re spending the rest of the night right there. And stay still or you’ll find you have a most uncomfortable lump to contend with.”

He snapped off the lamp.

She lay in the darkness, heart pounding, her face cradled against his shoulder. Her arm had settled around his waist. He’d twisted to wedge one of his long thighs between hers, holding her down, pressing against the silk boxers that covered her groin. She felt a fast pulse there —his or hers?

“Rafiq,” she groaned. “Let me go.”

“Let you go where, Laurel? I’ve got you just where I want you now. If you try to escape again I’ll feel you moving, never fear.”

“You’re disgusting.”

He laughed harshly in the darkness. “I’m working on a very tough undercover mission, and you got in the way. You have no idea how difficult tonight is for me. Harder than infiltrating the insurgents. Harder that pretending to be rough with you in the van. Harder than putting you through that video circus.”

“Harder than walking all that way through the desert with nothing to drink for yourself?”

She felt his slight twitch of surprise.

“You noticed, did you? Yes, probably harder than that, too.”

“Why didn’t you drink?”

After a short silence, he said, “I had to make it look like you’d hit me with the chair and escaped. As though only your two bottles were missing.”

“As though
I
hit you? However was I supposed to do that?”

“A moment’s inattention on my part. Long enough cord on your part. Bam.” He took her hand and raised it to his brow, running her fingers over the dressing that Yasmina had so lovingly applied.

“And Nazim and Fayez hit you because I escaped?”


I
hit me. So it would look as though
you
had. Go to sleep Laurel. Behave this time. Please...”

 

He’d reduced her to shocked silence. She started to shake and finally to sob. Hot tears leaked down onto his bare chest.

“Thank-you,” she whispered. “Thank-you, Rafiq.” She rubbed her face against him, kissed his skin, tried to lick up her tears, and drove him mad. What was a man to do except kiss her to stop the torment of her tickling tongue? He tipped her face up and searched until he found her soft lips with his own.

Laurel murmured her surprise—a small breathy sound which served only to inflame him further.

“You should not,” he murmured between lingering glides across her sweet mouth, “taste my skin unless you’re willing for me to sample yours in return.”

He sensed she was on the very point of pulling away. Her whole body quivered. Her heart thumped against his, and he felt her brace her hands to push herself up.

Something kept her from moving though. His mind raced with speculation as she continued to accept his slow drugging kisses and the slide of his fingers over her nape and into her hair. Finally, almost imperceptibly, she started to move her own lips against his, and a wave of sweet elation washed over him.

BOOK: Taken by the Sheikh
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