EIGHT YEARS LATER
He was home. Finally.
Paige Galbraithe moved from the chaise positioned next to the balcony doors of her bedroom and stared at the lights that swept over the lawn.
The limousine moved with an almost stealthy slowness along the curved, oak-bordered drive. The lights swept over the landscaping like a cat burglar’s penlight as the car neared the garage. The bright gleam disappeared into the three-story mansion Khalid owned in the heart of the exclusive section of Alexandria, Virginia, designed as Squire Point.
After ten days captivity in her brother’s home, the rat had finally shown up. It was about time. She was rather sick of cooling her heels in the luxurious comfort of her brother’s home rather than in her own apartment.
Collecting the silk robe she had left lying on the back of the chaise, Paige pulled it on quickly, covering the ankle-length, matching deep-violet gown she wore. Anger and determination made her movements jerky.
Ten days. She had waited ten days to confront him.
He wouldn’t answer his cell phone—his fiancée Marty was running interference—but still, her brother wasn’t talking to her. Marty assured her daily that she would get to tear a strip off his hide in person, and each day, he was a no-show.
“Relax for a while, Paige…”
“Khalid will call soon…”
“You’ll have explanations when Khalid arrives…”
Even her parents refused to tell her what she needed to know, what she demanded each time they called to see how she was doing.
She was fed up with it. She was twenty-five years old; she wasn’t a teenager. She was Khalid’s sister, not some damned prisoner he could control. She was easy to work with, and she considered herself a very understanding person. But her patience had begun wearing thin a week ago.
Belting the robe furiously as she turned on her heel, Paige stalked across the bedroom and eased open the door before stepping into the hall. Moving to the stairs she stopped and waited, listening carefully.
She wasn’t about to let him think that she was still awake and waiting on him. He’d been slipping into the house after he was certain she was asleep, doing whatever he did, then slipping back out before she awoke.
The damned coward.
Abdul, or Abbie as she called him, his Saudi manservant, was always abjectly apologetic that he hadn’t awakened her before Khalid left, as she had asked him to do. He had a million excuses, but she knew the truth. Khalid was his boss, and Khalid wasn’t about to face her until she simply left him no choice.
They were working together—Abbie, Marty, Khalid’s security team, and even Khalid himself—to keep her in place and completely in the dark as to why she was suddenly being held in what her brother called “protective custody.” Even the U.S. marshal service wasn’t this damned diligent.
Even her parents were refusing to help her. Her mother’s fear for her only daughter, her “baby” as she called her, had Marilyn Galbraithe going along with whatever her son had cooked up this time.
And that son hadn’t even given his sister the courtesy of facing her and giving her a clue as to how long this would last, if there was an end in sight, or the details involving the danger she was facing.
She had a good idea. After all, she was well aware of the fact that his brother, Ayid, had finally played his final hand and attempted to murder Khalid and his fiancée, Marty, less than a month before. Just as Ayid’s twin, Aman, had gone after Abram in D.C. as he waited in a hotel to meet with FBI Director Zack Jennings and the Homeland Security Director to declare his U.S. citizenship based on his mother’s status as an American citizen.
Instead, Khalid had killed Ayid, and Abram had killed his youngest brother, Aman. Though, to keep Abram’s defection to the U.S. a secret, Khalid had taken the blame for both deaths.
She suspected this was why she was placed in isolation in the monstrous mansion her brother now owned. The mansion that same father, Azir Mustafa, had bought for him.
She wanted to hear it from him, though. She wanted to know exactly why Azir Mustafa thought threatening her was going to gain him anything. And she wanted to know why the hell Khalid thought that destroying the life she was building for herself was going to help.
She’d been all but imprisoned by her overprotective parents for far too many years. Her mother had been so terrified Paige would be kidnapped or taken, that she would disappear as had once happened to her, that she had kept Paige always in sight.
Bodyguards. Security-enhanced private schools. Private tutors. She’d been so overprotected she had nearly smothered to death.
Escaping had taken every ounce of strength she had, because she loved her parents. Because even in their attempts to ensure her safety, she had always been aware of their love for her. Just as she had been of the nightmares they suffered from a past haunted by the horror of her mother’s kidnapping, forced marriage and rapes at the hands of a monster. That monster had been the father of her half-brother’s and the father of the man she couldn’t push out of her mind or her fantasies.
“Stay away from me.” His eyes blazing with black fury and none of the sexual satisfaction he should have felt after spilling himself only moments before into the lover he had shared with his cousin, Tariq. Only moments before he came to her. “For both our sakes, Paige, stay the fuck away from me!”
That had been eight years ago. Eight years since he had buried his lips and tongue between her thighs and threw her into an ecstasy she still hadn’t felt again. Not before and not since. Eight years since he had fucked her with his tongue yet, he had never even kissed her.
In those years she had taken a lover, she had finished college, and she had begun a career that she enjoyed. But still, there was a regret that lay inside her like a weight. The regret that came with so many “what might have been’s.”
Moving from her room to the stairs, she waited. Standing back from the steps just far enough that he couldn’t see her, Paige peeked into the shadows below as he moved to the second floor, turned, and a few seconds later, she heard the door to his suite close.
Her lips tightened into a hard smile.
Ten days. It was ten days too long and she was damned tired of waiting, of being patient and fighting to understand why her parents and her brother had to live in fear of the day that Azir Mustafa or one of his family members would come after her.
Moving quietly, swiftly, she made her way to the second floor and the door of the master suite.
No lights shone from beneath the door, but that didn’t mean anything. She’d seen Khalid move in the dark as though he were born to it.
His brother, Abram navigated it as though he owned it though.
She shook that thought away. She was not going to think about Abram tonight. She was not going to allow the rest of her night to be as restless as her days had been with the fantasies and the memory of those stolen moments in her bedroom all those years ago.
This was the reason she refused to settle back and relax while she was here. It was the reason why she pushed herself to the point of exhaustion each night after work. To keep low the fires of arousal from building any higher.
Thinking of Abram was always a mistake. And desiring him showed a complete lack of judgment and had nothing to do with why she was here or why she was getting ready to skin her brother alive.
The worst thing she could do at the moment was allow thoughts of Abram to interfere with her determination to get the answers she needed, and to find a way to balance her family’s fears with her own determination to have a life.
She needed a life. Without it, all she could think about, dream about and remember, was Abram and the feel of his lips sucking hard and tight at her clit as his tongue—
She shook away the thought again.
Gripping the doorknob she checked it slowly, quietly. It wasn’t locked. He wasn’t busy with his fiancée, or having wild monkey sex with her. He was obviously there alone, because she couldn’t hear him talking and Marty didn’t move as quietly in the dark as Khalid did. Besides, the door to his suite was always locked when they were in it together.
Easing the door forward stealthily, she all but tiptoed as she began to enter the room. Inside was dark, shadows lengthening through the narrow slits between the curtains, providing the barest hint of moonlight. Determination clenched her teeth a second before the door was jerked out of her hand, a manacle wrapped around her wrist, and in the next second she found herself flat against the wall as the door slammed closed.
Fight or flight.
Flight wasn’t possible, and for the briefest, shocked second, she had no idea the identity behind the hard, masculine body pressing her into the wall. Calloused and rough, a broad hand covered her lips, muffling her cry as her knee slammed upward, almost but not quite managing to connect and slam her attacker’s balls straight to his throat.
Instead, she found her knee blocked by a hard, extremely muscular thigh as it shoved its way between hers, pressed into the juncture and lifted her to her tiptoes. In the same breath she felt her attacker’s head bend, strong teeth nipping her ear and drawing a shocked gasp from her throat.
“Hello to you too, hellcat.”
It had been so long since she had heard his voice. The rich, dark, foreign flavor of it wrapping around her senses and sending a heavy, heated lethargy to settle in the depths of her sex.
Memories washed over her.
His hands, calloused and strong, so dark against her thighs as his black hair, like roughened silk falling over her flesh as his lips moved over her clit. They had surrounded it, sucked it, lit a fire to it that had exploded through her system into an ecstasy she longed to revisit every second of her life.
Beneath his palm her lips parted to drag in a hard, heavy breath as her body began to soften, to shape to the harder, stronger contours of his masculine body.
She shouldn’t be doing this. He had avoided her for years, slipping in and out of Khalid’s home and her life, and she had seen him only briefly, and always in the company of others.
Without volition her hips relaxed, the mound of her pussy pressing against the hard upper leg shoved between her thighs as she felt her breasts harden, her nipples so sensitive they actually ached.
Pleasure skated through her system as her tongue peeked out to touch her lips, to touch his palm. Slightly salty, male, the taste of him exploded against her tongue as he jerked back from her just as suddenly.
Staring up at the darkened shadow of his face, seeing the glitter of his gaze, feeling the heat of his body, Paige found herself, probably for the first time in her life, unable to speak. She couldn’t find the words, she couldn’t fight past the emotions or the tightening of her throat as she stared back at him.
The need for his touch was a craving she couldn’t resist. She couldn’t deny it. It was like a drug and she had gone far too long without a fix.
Her lips parted, but no words came out. She couldn’t let them, because she was terribly afraid those words would be a plea. That she would beg for things she wasn’t certain how to ask for with this man. Things she knew she was probably better off without.
Her body sure as hell knew how to ask though. She was shocked, flushed with heat and had to forcibly keep her hips from rubbing against the hard flesh pressed into the mound of her pussy.
And he knew it. His leg was tense, but each time her hips shifted against the firm muscle she swore he tightened further against her.
And he wasn’t letting her go. If anything, he was holding her tighter, perhaps, if she weren’t mistaken, his leg was pressing more firmly against the suddenly heated, swollen folds between her thighs. And oh yes, it felt so damned good. That heated, slow rub against her, stroking her clit, sending bursts of incredible sensation ratcheting through her.
She had known over the years that this was coming. At the first opportunity. The moment he touched her, the very second they found themselves hidden from curious gazes. She had known this would happen. That the need and the hunger would rage out of control.
“Why?” squeaky, weak, her voice was nothing as it should have been. It didn’t sound determined or confident as it usually did. And it sure as hell didn’t sound independent and strong.
Swallowing tightly she tried again.
“Why are you here? Where’s Khalid?”
She tightened her fingers against the hold he had on her wrists, though she found herself stopping short of actually straining against his hold. After all, if she protested too loudly, or struggled too much, he might actually let her go.
“Khalid and Marty are with her parents.” Deep, dark, she swore she actually trembled as he spoke. “They are completing the plans for your protection.”
Her protection? Right now, all she needed protection from was the brilliant heat she was helpless against.
“He should be here.” Oh man, she was dying here. She could feel her blood racing, her flesh heating, her clit throbbing harder in demand with each second.
The longer she lay there beneath him, the more she wanted him. The more she wanted the sensations, the pleasure she had only had the briefest taste of eight years before.
“Should he be?” His fingers tightened, then relaxed against her hip a second before his palm cupped it, shifting her, moving her against his thigh. “I think at this moment, it’s a very good thing that he isn’t here. Wouldn’t you say?”
A flash of fire streaked through her pussy, clenched the tightened muscles and almost stole her breath. Pleasure raged through her body, but it was a painful pleasure, an achy, needing-so-much-more sensation type of pleasure that it weakened her knees and had her breathing in roughly.
“He kidnapped me,” she breathed out roughly. “I’m going to kick his ass.”
“Go right ahead,” he murmured. “When he arrives. Until then, I believe it might be time to see if your lips are as soft and as sweet as they appear to be. If they are anywhere as sweet as that hot, luscious little pussy I cannot forget the taste of.”
Her entire body clenched in excitement at the declaration.
Then his head lowered.
Paige felt her lashes drift close, lips remaining parted, breath suspended as his lips brushed against the edge of her face, sending a rush of exquisite pleasure washing through her again.
“You’re trying to distract me,” she accused him roughly. “I’m not going to let you do it. Khalid owes me explanations, Abram.”
He owed her. She owed herself. She couldn’t let him do this to her or once he was gone, there would be nothing left of her.
“He’s protecting you,” he stated, though his voice sounded rougher, more strained as his lips moved to her ear, his breath stroking across the shell as he spoke. “You’re in danger, Paige, you should have guessed that by now.”
In danger of screaming in need. Of begging for his touch. Of whimpering with the painful hunger she couldn’t control.
“Guessed what?” She hoped he didn’t actually expect her to be able to think at the moment, because it wasn’t happening. But she couldn’t imagine a single reason why she would be in danger.
Unless it was in danger of dying of arousal. As of this moment, that was definitely a consideration. In all her adult years she had never felt this way with another man, had never ached or lost her breath, or felt on fire as she did now. And never had she been so certain she may lose herself in another person.
“That you’re in danger.” There was a thread of amusement in his voice now, the knowledge of it sweeping through her with the same force the hunger had swept through her moments before.
Amusement was the last thing she could have felt as he held her, as the thrill of touching him, of being touched by him, held her captivated.
Clenching her teeth she tensed, trying to pull back, to put just a breath between their bodies as she attempted to find her control somewhere in the morass of aching hunger and need assailing her.
Wasn’t it just her luck to be so aroused by a man while his own arousal, his own needs, were so obviously distant, just as they had been before. It was the story of her life where Abram was concerned. From the time she’d realized she wanted those devilish, sexy lips of his on her, he’d been either furious or amused by her.
“In danger of killing Khalid perhaps,” she forced out. “Would you please let me go now? Get off me, Abram. I’m not in the mood for your games.”
He rubbed his cheek against her hair as though considering her request for long moments. “Perhaps, I like you fine as you are,” he finally stated. “I like how you feel against me, Paige Eleanora Galbraithe. Do you know how the memory of those very few stolen moments have tormented me?”
“And perhaps I think by now I know better,” she whispered hoarsely. “Stop playing with me.”
“Ahh, Paige, love, this is far beyond playing. This is the reason why I have fought against your touch. Because I can feel my control going straight to hell just from the simple act of holding you against me. How can I convince you how much I enjoy the feel of you against me?”
How she felt against him? Or the fact that for the barest few moments, she’d been unable to tell him what an ass he was being?
At the moment, he wasn’t being his normal, mocking self, but she could sense that beast ready to spring forth. And once it did, their confrontations could turn brutal. His mocking, hers loud. They’d been known to rip at each other for hours, like little children poking at each other to gain dominance.
“I can tell,” she said. “You’re on the verge of laughing your ass off, Abram. Let me go.”
His grip tightened on her wrists for a second as she felt tension hardening his body further. Against her lower stomach his cock felt harder, hotter, his body more insistent as he seemed closer, blanketing her like a sensual, muscular beast.
“Not at you.” His voice was suddenly lower, the feel of his heart racing at her breast as he pulled her closer against him with the hand at her hip. “At myself, hellcat. Because no matter how hard I try to pull away from you, I want nothing more than to sink inside you.”
The second the words passed his lips they were covering hers. His body shifted, his free hand pulling her farther up his thigh, working it against the swollen folds as her gown pooled around his leg. The silk of her panties saturating with her juices as she strained closer to him. Her clit heated with a fiery intensity. Her pussy clenched, tightened, the muscles ached with a desperation to be filled and every cell in her body sizzled with the need to be touched.
Pleasure rose fast and hard inside her. Heart racing, blood pounding through her system as her lips parted, her head falling back as he possessed her with his kiss.
Every thought of protest flew out the window. Past angers, conflicts, and confrontations were gone. With her wrists secured to the wall, his thigh pressed between hers, and his lips and tongue caressing and owning every pulse of sensuality, he was drowning her. Paige could feel herself weakening into the promise of the remembered ecstasy.
Dominance swirled from him. It was a wave of heat wrapping around her and sinking into her flesh as his lips rubbed and caressed hers. His tongue licked at hers, dipping in, tasting and caressing until Paige found herself arching up to him, moaning for more.
The only place his hands touched her were at her wrists, and again at her hip. The rest of his body stroked her though. His hard chest against her breasts, his thigh pressed between hers.
Each flex of his leg stroked the hard muscle against her pussy, her clit, sending incredible pleasure racing through each nerve ending as she arched to be closer.
She had to get closer to him.
The need for the heat, for the pleasure was rushing through her like a tornado. She was dying for more of him. For another taste of him. His kiss was like an aphrodisiac, spicy and addictive as his lips slanted over hers and he kissed her with a pure, sensual hunger that she couldn’t have dreamed existed.
The restraint at her wrists should have made her nervous. No man had ever restrained her. She would have never allowed it until now.
Until the feel of him against her, until his hands restrained her and his kiss made her like it.
But that didn’t mean she was submitting easily. Even amidst the incredible starbursts of pleasure. On a primitive, primal level, Paige could sense the battle that could brew between them. The one that had been shaping for years now.
How dominant he could be.
How submissive she would never allow herself to be.
She nipped at his tongue as he licked over hers again, causing his head to jerk back, his gaze to narrow in the darkness.
“You’re playing with fire.” There was a growl in his voice that sent a shiver racing up her spine.
“And what are you playing with?” It was all she could do to keep the tremors from her voice, from her fingers as he held them above her head. “I didn’t start this, Abram, you did.”
“You started this eight years ago, Paige,” he rasped. “Eight years and the taste of the sweetest pussy I’ve had touched my tongue to. You torment me. And now, there is no choice but to anger you in our attempt to ensure your security.”
“Do you think you and Khalid can just kidnap me and get the hell away with it? That you can kiss good enough to make up for it?”
She had to force herself not to let a shiver of pleasure race through her body as his fingers moved over her hip before inching closer to her thigh. To where the silk of her gown fell away from her flesh at the point that her knee had bent, lifting to clasp his thigh, to rub herself against him.
She had to fight to maintain her senses, to control the need to sink back into his kiss, to allow him to sink into her, however she could convince him to do it.
But she knew this man. Dominant. Powerful. A force to be reckoned with in a world so different from her own that it may as well be an alien planet.
“Kidnapped you? I?” Amazement filled his voice, and perhaps just a hint of anger. “Had I kidnapped you, hellcat, you would well know it,” he finally scoffed, and the anger was readily apparent just as his accent became stronger.
Thankfully, his fingers relaxed. He stepped back slowly before reaching to the side and flipping the lights on as he released her.
For a second, she was blinded. Her eyes snapped closed and when she opened them again a second later, he was halfway across the room and heading for the bar.
For a drink. She was tempted to join him.
He moved like a predator.
Paige watched as he stalked almost lazily across the expensive, pearlesent carpeting to the bar on the other side of the room.
Without turning back, he poured a whiskey from the looks of it, and if she wasn’t mistaken, it was Khalid’s finest.
His head tilted back as he took a hard drink. Thick, heavy black hair fell nearly to his shoulders, the blue-black strands silky and glistening in the bright overhead light.
“Get out of here before I insult Khalid by fucking you in his bed,” he snapped.
“Talk about a mood change.” Her eyes rolled as he shot her a hard, half angry look from the corner of his eyes.
“Not nearly enough of a change to keep from fucking my brother’s sister.”
Paige blinked back at him. “Damn, that sounded almost depraved, Abram. Would you like to rephrase?”
He turned. Male grace and predatory strength. And pulsing, blazing, male lust.
She could feel her pussy creaming, saturating her panties further and sensitizing her clit to the point of painful need.
Just the sight of him was enough to make her ache, to make her crave with a strength and a power that made her knees weak.
He was tall, broad, and muscular. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on his six-four frame, or beneath the exceptionally soft white shirt and well-worn jeans.
Finishing the whiskey he sat the glass on the bar behind him, his gaze never leaving hers. She could feel that look through every inch of her body. Sensitized and aching for his touch, her skin felt too tight, constricting as she tried to still the rapid rise and fall of her breasts.
“Rephrasing isn’t the only thing I’d like to do, or may attempt to do.” The heavy warning in his voice was followed by a heavy-lidded glance along her body.
Hell, she may as well have been naked. Unfortunately, there was a part of her that wished she was naked.
Paige didn’t have to look down to see that her nipples were trying to burrow their way through the silk of her gown.
She didn’t bother to tug the robe over the swollen curves or even pretend a shame she didn’t feel. And it wasn’t the first time she’d been forced to face Abram as an independent woman rather than the submissive child he often expected her to portray.
Unfortunately, he was rarely shocked by her anymore.
“And what makes now any different from the past years? There was a time when I would have welcomed your touch, Abram, but now I can’t help but be suspicious. What the hell is going on?”
“Besides your determination to acquire that spanking I keep promising you with?” He spoke as though he were serious.
“Promises, promises. My ass stopped tingling in anticipation years ago.” She waved the comment away. “That doesn’t change the fact that unless you tell Khalid’s goons out there to get out of my face and let me go home, I’m going to have every one of you brought up on charges. That wouldn’t please your daddy, Abram. Last I heard old man Azir was already pissed because you were refusing to remarry for the sake of a child.”
Her ass had stopped tingling in anticipation? Abram nearly came in his damned jeans with that comment. His cock hardened to pure iron, the head throbbed, and if there wasn’t pre-cum in his jeans, then he wasn’t iron hard.
Paige watched his black eyes flare with renewed lust. A perfectly arched, perfectly male black brow rose lazily. “Are the phones in the house not working?” He all but smirked as he ignored her last comment.
Her lips thinned. “I’m trying to be nice about this, Abram. Don’t make me call the authorities.”
He waved his hand toward the phone on a nearby desk in invitation. “I didn’t kidnap you, Paige. Daniel Conover and his security team did so, at your brother’s orders and with FBI Director Zachary Jennings’s approval. Would you like to call the authorities now, hellcat?”
She glared back at him irritably. “Stop calling me that.… And it would likely do just as much good to call the cops now as it would to call Khalid,” she snapped. “Get me out of here, Abram.”
She was desperate. If she had to stay locked up even one day longer she was going to go crazy. There was nothing to do here. No way to focus her energy or to stop fantasizing about this man who seemed intent on dancing through her mind at all hours of the day and night.
If she didn’t find a way to return home, to get back to her job—knowing now that Abram was the one slipping into the house at night—then she might end up making the biggest mistake of her life.… begging him to take her to his bed and to finish what he had started eight years before.
“Take me home.” She crossed her arms over her breast and stared back at him firmly.
“I can’t do that.” He shook his head, his expression suddenly somber. “Relax, Paige. Enjoy a nice vacation for a few more weeks—”
“Weeks!” Her eyes widened as amazed disbelief flashed through her and rejection instantly snapped through her mind. “Hell no!” Her hands went to her hips as she confronted him furiously now. “I have a job, Abram. I have a life…”
“Not if you leave here.” His tone was suddenly ominous, his expression hardening as though he knew the danger she would face, whatever it may be.
She was damned glad someone knew what was going on, because she sure didn’t.
“What the hell do you mean by that?”
She could feel a premonition of danger then, even stronger than what she had felt in the past ten days.
Khalid wouldn’t just kidnap her without a reason. A part of her had known that whatever was going on was more than simply a suspicion of danger. It was more than a threat against Khalid and Abram.
Abram moved back to her slowly, his expression flashing with frustration, irritation, before slowly smoothing out to an icy calm that sent a chill of dread racing up her spine.
“Why can’t I leave, Abram?” she whispered as she fought the edge of fear threatening to spread through her now. She knew her brother had been having some problems with his and Abram’s two younger half-brothers, but surely those problems didn’t extend to a threat to her? Besides, weren’t they dead now?
“Because your name was found among papers of a certain terrorist, Paige. Until we learn why—” His voice lowered, his expression becoming heavy, sensual, and filled with hunger. “Until we know for certain, you are too precious to risk.”
Something flashed in his eyes, something dark and dangerous as his hand lifted, his fingers sliding beneath the shoulder of her robe, the calloused, heated pads of his fingers caressing beneath the silken material.
“Abram.” Too precious to risk? He’d said it as though he meant it, as though she were actually precious to him.
And she couldn’t let herself believe that. She and Abram had had far too many confrontations over the years to ever believe she was anything more than an irritant, and for the moment, perhaps, a desire.
Focusing on the intimate touch, on the pleasure, was something she eagerly embraced now as she fought to distance herself from the information he had just given her. The knowledge that a terrorist had somehow focused on her.
The question of why raged in the back of her mind as she deliberately forced herself to focus on the desire instead.
She didn’t think she wanted to know why. Not yet. Not until she could still the horrible foreboding, the fear threatening to overtake her.
Throughout the years she had teased, irritated, and deliberately provoked him. She winked at him when he was somber, blew kisses at him when he was angry, and that was just when she had been little more than a child and he an eighteen-year-old man of the world in her eyes. And now, he was the man she couldn’t get out of her dreams, or out of her fantasies.
Paige stood still, silent, as Abram’s fingers caressed from her shoulder to her neck, stroking her flesh as though he enjoyed the feel of it. His gaze locked with hers, his eyes somber, intent, and a flash of fiery hunger filled them as he pushed his fingers into her hair.
He cupped the back of her head, holding her in place as his head lowered slowly. Paige felt her lips part, her heart striking harder against her chest as it raced out of control.
“Let me taste you again, Paige,” he whispered, his lips nearly touching hers. “I see you staring at me with such innocence, and with such hunger. All that’s saved you these past years has been Khalid’s diligence in keeping us apart.” His lips touched hers. “Khalid isn’t here now to save you, precious.”
Paige felt her lips part helplessly.
“He wasn’t there eight years ago,” she whispered. “And you took another woman instead.”
“And yet, all I remember of that day was how wet and sweet you were,” he retorted sensually. “Are you still as sweet?” His lips brushed against hers. “Are you still as wet?”
She should be questioning him. She should be outraged. She should be frightened and trying to figure out a way to stay safe without remaining a prisoner in her brother’s home and for the moment in Abram’s arms.
Instead of questioning him, though, her lips were parting for him, a shaky moan leaving them as he pulled her to him firmly and deepened the intimate possession. A kiss that lacked the dominance of moments before, as well as the demand. This kiss seduced, it cajoled. His lips and tongue rubbed against hers, tasted hers and within seconds her hands were gripping his shoulders, nails biting into his flesh as she fought to get closer to him.
This was a side of Abram that he had never allowed her to see. This gentle, seductive side. The dangerous eroticism that existed just beneath the surface and was now flowing free as his lips, tongue, and hands began to stoke the searing flames of need through her entire body.
His hands slid to her shoulders, gently sliding the sleeves of her robe down her arms until the silk caught at her elbows.
His lips slid from hers, his tongue peeking out to taste the sensitive skin of her neck and sending shivers racing through her body. Paige gasped for breath, a low moan escaping her lips. She swore there was an electric current beneath her skin, brought alive by the touch of his lips as they stroked and kissed their way to her shoulder.
The calloused tips of his fingers moved to the thin strap of her gown, easing it over the curve of her shoulder as his lips continued to play, and to melt her resistance like butter. If there had been any resistance, which Paige was certain she couldn’t have even attempted to fake.
She’d wanted him for far too long, ached for him for too many years to even consider rejecting this touch.
She had never had a man’s touch burn through her as Abram’s did now. She’d never known such abandoned pleasure, or ached to the very core of her body as she did now.
“Abram.” The moaning whisper seemed torn from her as she felt the gown slide down her arms, then past the swollen, heavy flesh of her breasts. “You make my head spin.”
The silk rasped over the tender tips, the sensation surging through her with a wicked rush of ecstatic pleasure as she allowed the words to escape her lips. She knew better. She should hold them back, hold a part of herself back. There was no strength to do so, though.
Her nipples peaked and hardened, rising and falling erratically with her heavy breaths as Abram stared down at them. Paige swore she could feel the very air stroking against her, the invisible currents touching her like a ghostly caress.
“How pretty.” The dark, accented stroke of his voice against her senses had her arching to get closer to him, to feel him touching her breasts in some way, in any way, to ease the ache radiating through her flesh.
She’d fantasized about this. She had dreamed of it.
“What do you want, little hellcat?” His hand moved, his fingers moving over the curve of her breast as her lips parted to drag in air. “What touch do you wish against such pretty flesh?”
Oh God, how was she supposed to deal with this? To handle the sensations that were tearing through her, and the pleasure that made it impossible for her to consider anything but the culmination of the hunger raging through her.
Paige stared up at him, her gaze heavy-lidded as a sense of sensual bravado overcame her.
Her hand smoothed between them, up her stomach to the mound of her breast. Cupping it, she lifted it to him in invitation as his gaze flared in overwhelming hunger. His lips parted, his tongue touching the tip of the tortured flesh.
“Son of a bitch!”
Paige’s head jerked to the side as Abram’s lifted quickly, turning even as he jerked the gowns straps and her robe back over her shoulders to cover her naked breasts.
Her brother stood just inside the doorway, his black eyes almost bulging in shock, his expression, for the briefest moment, slack with complete amazement before it morphed to complete fury.
God, he would show up at the most inopportune time and catch her doing the one thing he’d forbidden her to do years ago.
Don’t mess with Abram, he’d ordered her. Don’t cause such trouble with the only brother he accepted, the only true friend he had ever known. Because it would make enemies of them if Abram took her to his bed.
And what had she done? What had she plotted to do for years? To find herself in Abram’s arms, his lips and hands caressing her. To find herself in his bed, his moving over her, inside her.
Oh hell, Khalid was so pissed.
Slowly, Abram backed away.
Her head turned back and she stared up at him as his gaze turned back to her, his black eyes, darker, more intense than Khalid’s were enigmatic, as Abram straightened her robe over her breasts then began distancing himself fully.
“Go,” he said softly, his tone suddenly remarkably gentle. “You don’t need to be here for this.”
“Paige, what the hell is going on?” Khalid’s tone was coldly furious and striking across Abram’s whispered, though gentle command.
Paige rolled her eyes, stepped back, and finished fixing her gown and robe herself as she turned back to her brother. She couldn’t let herself look at Abram, couldn’t afford to show any weakness now.
Brothers were like wild animals. Show that first hint of weakness and they could be merciless. Rather like an animal at that first scent of blood.
“Get over yourself,” she told him as though unconcerned as she looked behind him and watched as Marty fought to hold back her grin. Khalid’s fiancée was nothing if not laid back and more or less amused by all of them. “What happened Marty? Did aliens kidnap my nice brother again and leave the asshole in its place?”
The “nice brother” referred to his general good mood in the past weeks since he and Marty had become engaged. She’d rather hoped it would last a while.
“The ‘nice brother,’ as you call me, was doing exceptionally well until I walked in here,” he snapped, his arms going across his chest in the classic, arrogant pose.
Just how many times had she seen that pose in the past ten years? Possibly every time Khalid caught her so much as looking at Abram.
Paige glanced between the two men.
It was incredibly easy to tell they were related, to tell they were brothers actually. If she didn’t know better, she would have sworn they were twins rather than half-brothers. But she did know better. Abram was five minutes older than Khalid, and his mother had delicate blond hair rather than the vibrant red hair of Khalid and Paige’s mother. Khalid and Abram’s father, Azir Mustafa preferred American wives. Kidnapped, terrified American wives.
Abram wasn’t her brother though. He wasn’t even her half-brother. But Khalid refused to see the distinction.
“Neither of you have answered me.” Khalid stared between them, his nostrils flaring in anger.
“I would have thought it was pretty self-evident,” Paige replied archly. “You’re not exactly a virgin, Khalid, so unless that question was simply an exercise in arrogance, then you’re well aware of exactly what was going on.”
“It was a mistake,” Abram said then, the shock of the statement ripping through her consciousness.
Paige swung around to stare at him in disbelief.
“What did you say?”
“It was a mistake,” he repeated as he turned back to Khalid. “It will not happen again.”
She could only stare at him. Disbelief warred with a sense of betrayal as he turned back to her, his expression cool and composed, no hint of the hunger, or need, he’d shown only moments before.
“A mistake?” she whispered, feeling her throat tighten as she felt both Marty and Khalid watching.
How shameful. To have them witness such a rejection. How impossibly stupid of her not to have realized exactly what was coming though. He hadn’t stayed away from her, ensured they were never alone together over the past years for no reason.
“A regrettable one,” he answered. “I apologize to you as well, Paige…”
“Save it.” Flipping her hand out to him dismissively she turned on her heel and headed for the door.
Once reaching the exit she turned back, her gaze meeting Khalid’s as anger burned bright and hot inside her. “If I don’t see you in the morning, then you better tell your hired goons to watch their damned backs because I won’t stay here any longer. And you damned well better have an alternative method of protection because I’m not a child to be locked away. Nor am I too damned stupid to understand what the hell is going on when the situation is eventually explained to me.”
She didn’t give him time to speak. She didn’t want to hear his damned explanations at the moment and she sure as hell didn’t want to see the pity in his and Marty’s eyes. She wanted to get the hell away from all of them.
She was a mistake. A regrettable one.
Her teeth clenched furiously as humiliation washed through her.
He could excuse himself until hell froze over but it wouldn’t change the fact that he wanted her. He had wanted her with almost the same destructive hunger that burned inside her whenever he was around.
He didn’t want to admit it? He wanted to ignore it?
That was just damned fine, because it wasn’t over. She’d seen his gaze. She’d seen what he’d wanted to hide behind that deceptively calm, unemotional mask.
She’d seen the hunger burning so hot, so deep that it possibly went even deeper than her own did. She’d felt it. She’d tasted it in his kiss. He wanted to devour her.
She knew herself that denying it simply didn’t work. When he was done with the denials, when he was finished pretending he didn’t want her to keep Khalid’s little protective instincts calmed, then he’d better be damned careful.
She just might show him exactly how rejection felt.
* * *
As the door closed quietly behind her, Abram almost flinched. The near silence of the action spoke volumes. Had she slammed the door, it wouldn’t have been nearly as effective.
It had been the pain he’d seen in her eyes though, that sense of betrayal that had driven home to him exactly how deeply he had hurt her.
She didn’t understand.
Touching her had been the worst mistake he could have made, because it showed her to be a weakness he could ill afford.
And responding to him eight years before, when his lips had buried between her thighs, had been the worst mistake she could have made.
Even now, Abram couldn’t get the taste of her out of his mind. He couldn’t get her pure, uninhibited response to him out of his system.
Her eyes had been filled with such hunger. The long swath of pretty fire-reddened hair cascading around her. Her pale flesh flushed with her need, and those perfect breasts. Those sweet, firm mounds had risen to him, the pale innocently pinkened nipples tight and hard, and responsive to his touch.
Taking her would be like immersing himself in fire. He could see it, feel it.
Iron hard and throbbing in fury at his refusal to take her, his cock had swelled to painful readiness, his balls drawn tight and painful. He couldn’t remember ever having ached with such desperation for a woman’s touch, or needing to touch one as he needed to touch Paige.
“Have you fucking lost your mind, Abram?” Khalid rasped behind him, his voice hoarse with fury.
“Evidently.” Abram turned to him, careful to keep his expression composed, without emotion. “I won’t be berated like a child, Khalid. You’ve known for years the desire that burns between us. You should have only been surprised it took this long to risk my control.”
He inhaled slowly, evenly. Paige hadn’t just risked his control, she had fucking destroyed it.
Yet, he couldn’t blame his brother for his anger either. Paige was Khalid’s little sister; a treasured child that none in her family could see had been a woman for a good many years now.
“This is ridiculous,” Khalid snapped. “You have enough women, Abram. Stay the hell away from Paige.”
Abram glanced at Marty and allowed a somber smile to touch his lips. He well remembered the years Khalid had been tortured and tempted by this woman. The nights his brother had spent simply talking about the delicate little FBI agent trailing him.
“Marty and I are an entirely different matter,” Khalid growled as he followed his brother’s look. “Marty isn’t related to me by blood.”
To that Abram simply had to laugh. “And what blood do I share with Paige, Khalid?” he questioned him. “She is the daughter of your mother, while I am the son of your father. Where do you believe we share blood?”
Khalid could be amazingly stubborn, and attempted to arrange reality to suit him rather than arranging himself to suit reality. It was a fault of his, and one Abram had learned over the years to ignore. Because no matter how Khalid tried, he had yet to force the winds of fate to turn to his hand.
“Both of you need to stop arguing over this. Your main audience has left, so there’s no longer anyone to impress or posture to.” Marty shot them both a disgusted look. She was definitely a woman that believed in speaking her mind.
And she was right. In ways, they had been playing to a perfect audience for years. But as Abram realized now, Paige rarely stayed to listen to the arguments or paid any attention to the undercurrents of tension that existed between himself and Khalid whenever she was around.
Paige had grown tired of the game, though he and Khalid still played it. It gave Abram something to focus on rather than his desire for Paige during those odd times when he could no longer avoid her.
Abram finally sighed wearily. “I didn’t come here to lose my control with Paige, or to argue with you,” he told his brother. “I’m returning in a few hours for Saudi.”
The shock was palpable. Marty’s gaze widened and Khalid’s expression suddenly turned icy. He understood the quick anger, the disbelief. They had planned his move from Saudi Arabia for years. To have Abram back out now, at the last moment so to speak, was little more than an insult.
“You only just arrived,” Khalid finally stated. “You’re not giving Immigration enough time to examine your mother’s birth records as well as your own. Give it time.”
Abram gave his head a quick shake. “There is something I must do first, Khalid.”
He had known his brother would never understand this move he was being forced to make.
“And what the fuck could be more important than your life?” Khalid suddenly snarled, the fury cracking past the ice. “Azir Mustafa will never let you live now. Goddammit, Abram, we just killed two of his sons. The black-hearted little bastards he risked everything to protect over the years.”
“Abram, my father is certain that your citizenship will be accepted within days,” Marty stated from her fiancé’s side. “There’s no question of it. But if you return, there’s nothing he can do.”
He shook his head quickly, tightly. “I have to go back.”
“Why, damned you?!” Khalid yelled back at him furiously as rage lit his black gaze once again.
“Because Paige’s picture was found in the possession of a dead terrorist known to be a part of the cell Ayid and Aman commanded, just hours ago as he attempted to board a plane in Jordan. Your suspicions were right. She’s in danger. And I’m going back to stop it, Khalid, one way or another. I’ve already lost two wives to those bastards. I won’t lose my soul to their ghosts.”
Paige. His soul. He’d lost his youth and his heart when his first wife, Lessa had been murdered. His second wife had been forced on him, and losing her and their child had taken the last bit of hope inside him. Their deaths had nearly finished him off. The thought of that innocent life, not yet born, taken so cruelly, had nearly cost him his sanity.
That child had been his daughter. The daughter he had planned to secretly smuggle out of Saudi Arabia after her birth and send to his brother’s parents. Pavlos and Marilyn Galbraithe would have raised and protected his child as they had their own precious daughter.
But Paige, God help him, there was no way he would survive her death. It would destroy him. For some reason she had begun to represent something wild and innocent inside him eight years ago. When the future had appeared to be nothing but bleak, furious pain, it was always the image of her that brought him comfort. Her laughter, the sweet warmth that burned in her emerald eyes.
And from the looks of Khalid’s expression, the complete disbelief and horror burning in his gaze assured Abram that it would destroy him as well. They had both schemed, plotted, and run interference with Azir Mustafa since the day the red-haired little beauty had been born. The birth of the child to his escaped forced bride had sent Azir into a rage that had torn through the Mustafa stronghold like a demon.
That day, two servants had died, and a third had fled into the desert in fear. The insanity that had begun infecting Azir had only grown since that day, as though it were a trigger of some sort that he had been unable to fight.
“I was going to send her home in the morning,” Khalid finally stated, his voice a low, rough rasp. “God help me, Abram. I was going to allow her to leave when Abdul’s cousin was unable to learn anything else.”
Abdul, Khalid’s manservant, had several cousins that worked within the castle and managed to send along information whenever they heard it. The threats against Paige, in retaliation for Khalid’s killing of Ayid and Aman Mustafa, had begun the moment Azir learned of their deaths.
He knew Khalid’s weakness, just as he knew those of his other sons. Somehow, Azir had learned years before that Abram had formed a soft spot for Khalid’s little sister. A place inside his heart that he’d believed was hidden from even the most astute gaze.
“You can’t allow her to go.” He’d kidnap her and have her locked up somewhere safe himself if Khalid dared to allow her to leave. “I’ve fought to stay away from her, Khalid, as you ordered. But if you allow her to return to her home, then I promise you, all bets will be off.”
He didn’t wait to argue. He turned and walked away. His control was too shaky, he was too frightened for her, too certain that if she was unprotected for even a second, then his father, Azir el Hamid Mustafa would exact his vengeance in the worst way.
Abram now had no choice but to return. No one yet knew he’d left Saudi to defect from his homeland and to refuse the legacy so tainted by blood, death, and nightmares. Azir Mustafa had become a scourge that even the Saudi government wanted to be rid of. Unfortunately, until Azir revealed the blood on his hands, there was nothing they could do to step in and deflect the misery he created.
Abram had given up on saving his father light years before. The day he found his wife in a desert shack, bloody, tortured, her face frozen into an expression of such abject pain and horror that it had taken him to his knees. He had known the rapists, the inhuman scourge that had taken her life were the half-brothers he had taught to ride horseback when they were boys. The same that had been such sweet, laughter-filled children before Azir had taken them to his wing of the castle to raise them himself.
From that day, the change had been overwhelming. As though Azir had known what to do to release the soulless cruelty that existed within them.
Entering the garage Abram strode for the limo as Tariq, his cousin and coconspirator, stepped from the shadows to open the door for him.
“It’s time to go now, Tariq,” he stated as he stepped into the back of the limo. “He’ll make certain she’s protected.”
“Azir has called the Saudi ambassador several times and he’s demanding they search Khalid’s home for you immediately.” Disgust filled the man’s voice. “I contacted him after the ambassador contacted me, just after you entered the house. I’ve assured him you’re here to investigate the reasons for your brothers’ deaths and that you are returning soon. He’s certain you’re here to help Khalid escape justice instead.”
Tariq didn’t give Abram a chance to comment. He slammed the door shut with latent violence then stalked around the limo to the driver’s side door.
Abram watched as he slid behind the wheel, his gaze meeting Tariq’s dark tobacco brown eyes in the mirror.
“And did he buy it?” Abram had no doubt Azir had. In his mind, no matter what he did, or who he killed, Abram wouldn’t have the strength to walk away from the deserted, blood-drenched land of his birth.
Unfortunately for Azir Mustafa, his son shared few of his beliefs and none of his love for the land that had destroyed so many he loved. Abram had been all too aware that he was the last hope those he loved had of escaping Azir’s cruelty. But only if Abram always remembered to never show his weakness, to never reveal he cared for anyone or anything outside the Mustafa fortress. Showing that affection was guaranteed to ensure, if not their deaths, then the ever-present risk of it.
“Shall we say he was a bit more than irate?” Tariq said with chilling calm.
Irate? Azir Mustafa was deranged. The fact that he had allowed his youngest sons’ terrorist partners to take up residence in the Mustafa fortress proved it.
Jafar Mustafa, son of Azir’s youngest brother, and cousin to both Abram and Tariq, was surprisingly one of the lieutenants within the terrorist cell Ayid and Aman had commanded.
Abram’s disappointment to learn Jafar was as corrupt as Ayid and Aman had been, went deeper than he’d expected. Once, he’d had high hopes for Jafar. Abram had fought for him to attend college in America, to work with the oil companies rather than joining the insanity Azir was breeding.
Azir Mustafa hadn’t escaped it. As a matter of fact, he had helped exacerbate the insanity within his sons, and now, he couldn’t accept that they were dead. He couldn’t accept that Abram, his eldest son and heir could have defected as Jafar had informed him, or that Khalid, the son he’d given Ayid and Aman permission to murder, had actually survived.
His sanity seemed to be coming more into question by the day, but the one thing the old bastard hadn’t forgotten was that in less then a month, Abram would turn thirty-six. Then the Saudi king would send his emissary to the Mustafa lands and take Abram’s vow to guide the people and the land to prosperity.
Azir had, with his determination to protect his youngest sons, managed to force the royal house to cut off all funds and aid to the boundary lands until his legal heir was thirty-six. Those funds had been funneled into the coffers of the very terrorists they were fighting against.
The king’s punishment had come with one ray of hope for Azir. If Abram would vow to protect and preserve the people in accordance with the law as well as pledge his loyalty to the throne on his thirty-sixth birthday, then money would flow into the Mustafa lands once more.
In all his crazed determination Azir thought he could then see the dreams of his dead sons completed once that was accomplished.
It was a vow Abram couldn’t make. But, until he learned why Paige was a target, and how pervasive the terrorists now were in the city he had once called home, he had no choice but to return.
The fact that his cousin Jafar was reported to have moved into the fortress in the past days to console Azir, greatly concerned Abram.
Jafar had, until now, managed to fool Abram. He’d gone to college in America, vacationed with the rich and notorious in their playgrounds, and had once, years before, even spoken to Abram about defection himself. That same man had returned to Saudi Arabia three years before, disappeared from the public, and was rumored to have joined one of the newly formed terrorist organizations protesting Western modernization in the Middle East.
Jafar’s belief that the ills of the Middle East stemmed from America was something that Abram hadn’t expected.
“I called several contacts and they’ve reported Jafar has brought several more of his men into the castle,” Abram began. “The terrorist who was supposedly killed in Jordan was seen at the fortress two nights ago. He slipped across the border, met with Jafar, and collected a file from Azir. It’s reported to name the target he’s chosen to exact his punishment for his sons’ deaths on.”
He had to give it to Jafar. So far, he was a damned sight smarter than Ayid and Aman had been. He did nothing over e-mail, and rarely used the same courier twice when sending out reports or orders to soldiers. There was no way to gather the evidence needed to arrest him, and no way to figure out whatever plans were in the works.
And that was why Abram was returning. To protect Paige. To protect the last bit of innocence left in his life, the woman he couldn’t get out of his fantasies.
“Contact Anwar,” Abram ordered him. “Inform him of our arrival time at the landing area and tell him to be prepared to give me a thorough oral report.”
Nothing was put on paper. Like Jafar, Abram knew the danger of ever leaving evidence.
Returning was killing him, but he knew if he didn’t, Azir would strike against Paige, ensuring Abram suffered for it. And if it wasn’t Azir, then it would be the terrorists he had given his allegiance to. Before he left, Abram knew he would have to commit to memory the face of every threat that could return to haunt him, Paige, or Khalid.
The prediction Khalid had made when he had been no more than eighteen seemed to be coming true.
Khalid had stated Azir would force his eldest son, his heir, to kill him to escape the Mustafa lands. Khalid had stared into the hot desert sun as he and Abram had been returning to the forest from a hunt and spoken the damning words.
Abram was finally realizing just how right his brother had been. And God help him, if Paige was harmed he’d also lose what was left of his own sanity.
He hadn’t touched her until tonight, but in his fantasies, in his dreams, he touched her nightly. He touched her, and he watched as his third touched her. He possessed her, and he watched as his third possessed her.
He heard her screams of pleasure, watched her emerald eyes darken in ecstasy, and heard her beg him for release. And he woke with his dick so painfully hard, the need to possess her so strong, that no amount of masturbation could ease the hunger.
“Abram, are you sure about this?” Tariq asked as he turned the limo from Khalid’s drive and headed for the private airport. “It’s not too late to change your mind. Go back, convince Khalid to allow us to protect Paige ourselves. If Azir and Jafar refuse to give us peace, then we’ll kill them ourselves.”
As a plan, it was simple, perfect, and it would complete the dark stain spreading across his soul.
“And we’ll always know we were the ones that killed him,” Abram reminded him. “His murder would unleash secrets both of us would prefer were never known, Tariq. We return, learn of their plans against the throne and Paige, take them to the emissary before he arrives in Mustafa lands, and allow the government to take care of him from there.
“The lands will be repossessed by the government. Azir will either be beheaded for treason or placed in a facility for the insane until his death. Either way, our secrets remain secret, and we’ll have a much better chance of safety when we return.”
“That or certain death,” Tariq stated tightly. “Mustafa lands are drenched in as much blood as their hands. They’re saturated in it. The name is synonymous with nothing but death, greed, and such cruelty against our women that neither of us have known anything but shame since the day our mothers committed suicide. I don’t know how we’ve refrained from killing that old bastard before now.”
“Because we’ve always known that we would have only one chance at happiness, Tariq. I won’t allow him to win by taking that from me.” Abram stared out the limo’s darkened windows to the sliver of light beginning to filter through as dawn edged in.
This was how he felt. Hope was there, edging into the shadows when he’d learned he would have to return to ensure Paige’s safety. She was his. Since the death of his first wife so long ago, Abram had known very little hope. He couldn’t turn away from it, he couldn’t allow Azir to risk it.
“There are very few of our men left,” Tariq reminded him. “Only those who hadn’t yet been able to slip over the borders. I managed to contact four, and they’ll see if they can find the others.”
“We’ll have to make do.” Abram glanced at the mirror and met Tariq’s gaze again. “We have no other choice, Tariq. We will have to make do, and we will have to succeed.”
Because defeat meant not just his death, but Khalid’s, Marty’s, and Paige’s. He would kill Azir himself before he would allow that to happen.
Copyright © 2011 by Lora Leigh Inc.