Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014
As she inserted earrings of fragile gold into her earlobes, Charisse refused to let the butterflies in her belly morph into bats.
The jewels were tissue thin and dangled like chandeliers to skim her shoulders. She’d tied her hair back to the nape of her neck, and Yasmin had added a matching bracelet to her narrow wrist.
With a critical eye Charisse stood and studied her reflection in the vast mirror leaning against the wall of her dressing room. Delicately applied mineral powder lightly covered her skin, making it appear pearlescent. Smudged kohl lined her eyes, and her mouth wore clear lip gloss.
“I never wear makeup, Yasmin. I don’t see why I need to start now.” Charisse leaned closer into the mirror to inspect her sister-in-law’s handiwork. The fluttering in her heart bothered her—it bothered her a lot. It had been going on all day since The Kiss. “I don’t look like me.”
“You do look like you, only more you.”
“That comment doesn’t make sense.”
“It doesn’t need to make sense, it just is. Now turn around and let me look at you.”
Charisse did as she was told.
Her dress had been specially designed for her by the house of Chanel. It was made of heavy black silk to just above the knee with a high round neck and tight sleeves to her elbows. The neckline, hemline and sleeves were stitched with fine gold and silver embroidered leaves, which matched the embroidery at the hem of narrow legged Capri pants the colour of pewter. On her slim feet were open toed sandals of soft gold leather, which tied at the ankle. A waterfall of tiny gold balls fell from the ankle strap across her lightly tanned feet.
“You look beautiful, habibiti,” Yasmin told her as she placed a slim gold band around her neck.
Since Charisse regarded her supposed beauty as nothing more than a curse, vanity had never been a problem. After all, her looks had brought her nothing but fear, rejection and horror. Unlike most women her age, she never wore artificial enhancements. Until the arrival of Khalid there had been no one in her immediate sphere of influence to tell her she looked sexy or desirable. Why would they? Certainly Asim had taken absolutely no notice of her appearance. He’d taught her, showed her, that her mind was a beautiful and wondrous thing. And he’d encouraged her to voice whatever entered her mind as long as the thought was worth hearing. Their debates on the pros and cons of global communication technology, along with the positives and negatives of social networking, used to rage for days. If something didn’t make sense to her, Asim had encouraged her to unravel the facts, seek the alternative point of view, and to get to the heart of the matter.
To Charisse’s way of thinking Khalid might be a handsome (okay, stunning) man, but he was a man with real issues of character. He might have made a promise to his father and say he was reformed, but she wasn’t buying it.
In her world actions spoke louder than words. His well-documented behaviour, how he’d partied his way through three continents, living and bedding woman after woman, was a recorded fact not fiction. How could he expect her to accept his word that he was happy to give up his way of life, to change the habits of a lifetime, and embrace the polar opposite in just few days? Then rule a country, marry a complete stranger, father a child and live happily-ever-after was too incredible for Charisse to believe. Remembering the passion in his eyes when he spoke of making the oath to his father, Khalid had certainly sounded sincere. But would a promise be enough for an enduring change in his behaviour?
These thoughts and more spun around her brain.
Perhaps the words Asim had written in his letter about her helping Khalid fulfil his potential should be her goal? It sounded arrogant, but if Asim reckoned his nephew had potential, then surely it was up to her to help Khalid realise that the life he’d promised to embrace was now full of fantastic possibilities. That there was nothing he could not do, if he put his mind to it.
If anyone had told her she had an impossible task ahead, Charisse might have argued that no one, not even a spoiled prince, deserved to be tossed onto the scrap heap of life. As far as she was concerned, she’d been given a chance to live a full life, therefore Khalid deserved the same opportunity.
Ultimately, for their relationship to work, it was up to Khalid to make a real effort.
As Yasmin dabbed a light floral scent behind her ears, Charisse had to admit that the signs, thus far, were not favourable. Except, of course, for the amazing sexual chemistry that burned between them. But she understood enough of the human condition to acknowledge the fact that when attraction burned too hot it tended to burn out too fast.
And then where would that leave them?
The common bonds that underpinned a successful relationship were friendship and a deep mutual respect. As for love, well, she didn’t dwell on such a fickle emotion. It was much better to focus on reality rather than to wish upon a distant dream.
But tonight was only about dinner. Nothing more.
She would keep it casual, after all Khalid was a healthy male in his sexual prime and it was only natural that she felt attracted to him. But the trouble was he only had to enter a room and her hormones went crazy.
Charisse gave Yasmin a poor excuse for a smile and pressed the flat of her hand to her stomach. “I feel sick with nerves.”
Yasmin merely cocked her head, took her hand to lead her to the door.
“You have nothing to worry about. My nephews’ behaviour has been a welcome surprise. They’ve been very polite and respectful to me.” Charisse zoned out the older woman’s voice as they left the apartment and entered the elevator with Arabella bringing up the rear. Her sister-in-law appeared not to notice her lack of a response as she added in a sly tone, “And they are both incredibly handsome, don’t you think?”
Over Yasmin’s head Arabella sent Charisse a wicked grin as her dark-brown eyes danced into hers.
That grin made Charisse narrow her eyes. “Why are you not dressed?” she demanded to know. “I’m certain I invited you to join us for dinner this evening.”
He bodyguard gave her wide eyes.
“Did you? I don’t remember. Perhaps another time,” Arabella said in a silky voice that didn’t fool her queen for a moment. She knew her bodyguard regarded the invitation to dine with the princes as a break of protocol. Arabella had a stubborn streak a mile wide. However, as far as Charisse was concerned, Arabella had disobeyed a direct order. But before she could respond, they entered the formal reception room to find both El Haribe Princes waiting beside the magnificent fireplace of black marble. Logs crackled and flames danced in the grate. The nights were cold in the mountains. And Charisse was aware that her bodyguard had snapped to attention at her side.
Khalid strolled towards them like a big black cat, his eyes scanning Charisse from head to toe and back again. A smile of appreciation, of approval, tugged the corners of that marvellous mouth. He was dressed in a suit of dark grey silk with a white shirt and no tie. His glossy hair was tied at the neck accentuating his slashing bone structure. He looked like a rock star.
Without hesitation he moved in to take both her hands in his and brought them to his lips. All the while those penetrating eyes pinned hers. The familiar scent of his cologne mingled with the clean male heat from his body. The smell of him wound around her heightened senses, and her throat went bone dry.
He bent to kiss her, his breath burning a path across her cheek as he whispered in her ear,
“You look amazing.”
Before she could respond, he’d taken her hand in his while the other snuck around her narrow waist and pulled her into his side in a possessively masculine gesture that weakened her knees.
“Sarif, meet Her Royal Highness Queen Charisse,” Khalid drawled in a way that made her cheeks burn along with an overwhelming urge to run for her life.
Prince Sarif El Haribe sent his brother a bland look before his dark eyes, sharp and watchful, met hers.
Charisse realised she’d been holding her breath wondering what kind of reception she’d receive from the eldest of King Abdullah’s sons. But Sarif was kindness personified as he took her hand from his brother and bent to press his forehead to her fingertips.
He straightened and returned her hand into his brother’s keeping.
“My pleasure. I am so sorry for your loss. My uncle was a very private, a very unique, man.”
Sarif’s accent was British rather than American, although she picked up the slight transatlantic drawl in his speech, too. He was as tall and certainly as charismatic as his brother, but she didn’t receive that strange hum of attraction when she held his hand as she did with Khalid.
Her eyes stung as she returned his smile. “Thank you. Amir was a wonderful man.”
As Yasmin exchanged greetings with Sarif, Charisse found herself towed to a low couch.
Khalid tucked her into a corner and sat next to her, his big body turned towards hers and his arm stretched across the back of the couch, effectively blocking her in. His hand found hers and her eyes rose to meet his as again he took her fingertips to his lips.
Not used to public displays of affection, she couldn’t help the heat that scorched her neck and her cheeks.
His little chuckle of delight made her bite down hard on her bottom lip.
Her eyes flew to his and the proprietorial look in those eyes seriously unnerved her.
What they talked about over dinner she never knew since her entire being was too aware of Khalid. Of the stroke of his finger over the back of her hand. Of his solicitous attention to her every need. An attention that had Yasmin beaming benevolently upon them. But his behaviour left Charisse feeling terribly trapped and claustrophobic.
Swallowing her growing anxiety about the way she was being treated in public, Charisse wondered if the night would ever end. But Sarif spoke directly to her now and she paid attention to the conversation realising it was about literacy, specifically adult literacy.
More than delighted to discuss her favourite topic, she leaned over the table and for many minutes she forgot all about Khalid, forgot all about her overwhelming attraction to him, forgot all about wedding plans and her future as she explained the programme of mobile education centres, which had Sarif firing questions.
Perched on the edge of her dining chair, and using her hands to express her enthusiasm for her pet project, Charisse spoke, “The point is that our people are nomads. They pack-up and travel to who knows where, but the Sheiks keep in touch with our education centres and mobile health centres via satellite technology powered by solar energy. If there’s one resource we have plenty of it is the sun. Of course things change, but when the tribes arrive in Onuur we have in-depth records of births, deaths and marriages, which make it reasonably simple to plan ahead.”
“So bringing the tribes into the twenty-first century, into the cities and towns is not where you see growth?”
“For many years Asim studied the histories of our peoples. As I said, they are nomads and often do not adapt well to city living. Asim firmly believed it was up to each tribe to decide how they wanted to live. It is not for us to force our technology and modern ways upon them. Surely that’s the whole point of being free? To be free to choose their own destiny? Therefore we decided to take education, support and medical help, to them. The key was to gain the trust of the men but more importantly, the women. Even though they defer to their men folk, women are the most forward thinking and open minded people among the tribes. We’ve sent four bright students, girls, to Oxford this year and many more to medical school in the United States and the United Kingdom, funded by those countries, and the students are all determined to return home to help their people.”
Enthusiasm gleamed in Sarif’s dark eyes as he leaned forward and he was about to speak when Charisse became aware of strong fingers massaging the sensitive skin of her neck in a possessive gesture that made her breath hitch in her throat.
“I believe we have a department of education who oversees all projects,” Khalid drawled in a silky voice that had her heart kick against her ribs. He continued, “Charisse promised to show me the gardens, particularly the orchids. And with the moon full this evening, I cannot think of a more romantic setting for me to woo my future wife.”
By her jolt of surprise, Charisse hoped it wasn’t obvious that she’d made Khalid no such promise.
Sarif bowed his head and sat back, deferring to his brother.
Khalid stood, took her hand and Charisse realised she had no choice but to go with him as Sarif wished them goodnight.
They strolled through the palace, out into the cool night, and into the garden.
And Charisse was acutely aware that Khalid El Haribe was not a happy man.
The tension rolling off him in waves made the jumpy nerves in her tummy wind even tighter. Something had upset him. Even though she wracked her brain, she couldn’t imagine what on earth she’d said to make him so angry.
Leading the way past a magnificent fountain trickling water through many rock pools, she sank to the edge of a wide bench made of cool marble. Tipping her head back to study the night sky, she wondered what on earth was the matter with the man she’d promised to marry,who now paced back and forth like a big black panther.
Hands thrust into his trouser pockets, Khalid stood before her and glowered and glared into her face.
“Just what the hell was all that about?”
Charisse was tired.
She was stressed.
And she was, she realised, seriously ticked off with his appalling attitude.
Her chin came up.
“You’ve lost me. Your brother and I did nothing more than exchange ideas about his education programme in Quaram, comparing it to the one we’ve implemented here in Onuur.” Her eyebrows rose. “What’s the matter, Khalid? If you’re not the centre of the known universe you simply throw a little temper tantrum and interrupt a serious conversation about vulnerable people?”
And realised immediately that those dark eyes had narrowed into slits.
The way his mouth went tight, she realised they were going to have a scene.
Oh, God, she hated scenes.
Then annoyance with him, and with herself, that she’d even consider appeasing a person who was behaving like a spoiled and indulged child, Charisse decided it was just too bad if Khalid didn’t like the truth because he’d better get used to it.
Okay, her legs felt like rubber and her stomach lurched.
But she forced herself to get over it.
Her hands rested on her hips and she spread her legs.
“What the hell is your damned problem?”
Khalid blinked twice.
And simply stared at someone who’d morphed from a shrinking violet into a spitting kitten and who was looking at him entirely without fear.
What had happened to the shy, retiring, broken-hearted widow?
The woman standing before him now looked as if she could rip out his heart.
Those big blue eyes stared into his in a way that made his lungs tight and he found himself trying very hard not to laugh.
God, she was simply amazing, standing there looking ready to punch him and seriously annoyed that he’d interrupted her cosy little chat with his brother.
And that thought brought his mind back to how he’d felt sitting between them like a lemming listening to his brother and Charisse discuss things that had made him feel increasingly uneasy.
The realisation now hit him that he’d felt uncomfortable because Charisse and Sarif spoke the same language. They cared desperately about their people and the way they lived their lives. They worried about what was best for them and how to help them prosper.
And yes, he was honest enough with himself to admit that the way his brother and his future wife had connected did make him feel somehow… inadequate.
But was it their fault that he felt somehow less than they were?
For the first time in his life Khalid had to admit that he was responsible for his own feelings.
All these thoughts and more raced through his mind as he stood staring down at the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, and so did something else.
A heavy stone of fear settled in his gut.
Fear that he’d never measure up to his father, his mother, his brother and his future wife.
Fear that he’d fail again to be a man, a good husband, a good father and a good son made something like panic grip him by the throat.
Jesus, what had made him think he could do this?
Watching him very carefully, Charisse narrowed her blue eyes into slits now as she stared up at him, and Khalid had the deeply uncomfortable feeling that she could read his mind.
“I do believe you’re jealous,” she murmured.
He opened his mouth to refute the outrageous suggestion because it had been crystal clear to him that although his brother and Charisse were evenly matched intellectually, they were not remotely attracted to one another.
But then again, surely it might sound better to appear jealous rather than insecure?
There had always been a competitive sibling rivalry between him and Sarif, which brought into his mind the one thing that had seriously annoyed him.
“You were the one who said you would much rather marry my brother, remember?”
Her eyes never left his as she frowned now and said nothing for an unremitting moment.
And all the while those narrowed blue eyes never left his.
Again, he had the spooky feeling she was reading his mind.
Charisse, Khalid was coming to realise, was one sharp cookie.
“You don’t want it, do you?”
Confused, he blinked.
“The country, the people, and me. You don’t want us. Do you, Prince?”
Deliberately testing him, Charisse had made the tone insulting.
She didn’t miss the spark of sheer temper in his dark eyes, quickly hidden, but she noticed something else, too. The hand in his trouser pocket was fiddling with what appeared to be worry beads.
Khalid was nervous?
And he hadn’t once participated in the education debate with his brother.
Let’s see what you’re made of, Khalid.
“You are nothing but a party animal who’s made a career out of avoiding any semblance of responsibility for himself, his family and his country. Drinking and whoring are hardly the requisite skills for running a country. And by your behaviour this evening, you’ve just proved to me that the ability to discuss serious issues is beyond you.”
For a moment Charisse thought she’d pushed him too far, but the stunned shock on his face made her reckless.
The time had come to shove him over the edge.
She took a step towards him.
He took a step back.
“If you were me, Prince, and had a choice, how would you feel about marrying a whoring tom-cat like you?”
Completely thrown by the face of an angel with the voice of the Devil, Khalid shook his head to clear his thoughts.
One minute she’d been pleasant and purring to his brother, the next she was hissing and spitting at him. Plus, she had unerringly put her finger on the crux of the matter.
He gave her a tight little smile.
“Of course, you are correct. I wouldn’t choose me over Sarif, either. However, in the spirit of plain speaking, you still haven’t explained to me how a sixteen year old was paid over three million Euros to marry a man old enough to be her grandfather?”
Their eyes clashed with mutual loathing.
When she remained silent he simply shrugged.
And then unwittingly hammered another nail into his own coffin.
“Now who’s the whore?” he drawled.
Unrelenting grey eyes bored into hers.
Khalid studied her with an intensity, a focus, Charisse found terribly disturbing.
Then he turned to walk away.
But a righteous anger burned the very marrow in her bones.
How dare he call her a whore?
“Coward!” she yelled at the top of her voice.
He stopped dead.
Very slowly Khalid turned and now those furious eyes found hers.
A shiver of apprehension slid down her spine as that deep voice drawled,
“What did you just call me?”
Later, she’d wonder what had possessed her as sheer temper won the struggle with common sense.
Trembling, she dug her fingernails into the palms of her hands as the air around them crackled and sparked with their joint fury.
She lifted her chin. “I said you are a coward. And if you ever call me a whore again, I will make you very, very sorry.”
In one stride he stood before her and it took every ounce of courage she had not to step back or turn and flee.
He might be bigger, stronger, and breathtakingly gorgeous, but she refused to let him intimidate her.
If he hadn’t smiled like a big hungry tiger and looked at her as if she was dog dirt she might have just held onto her temper. But since he did both, her arm swung back and the sound of the crack of her fist against his hard jaw reverberated around the garden.
His head jerked back and Charisse gasped as agony lanced up her arm and into her shoulder.
“You little witch. You hit me!”
Stunned, Khalid pressed his fingertips to his lip, checked out the blood, and stared at her as if she’d lost her mind.
Wondering if she’d broken her fingers, Charisse saw with something like horror those eyes go black with utter fury.
Ignoring the pain in her hand, and with her heart hammering in her throat, Charisse decided she’d lost her mind. There was something about him that seemed to bring out the worst in her. She’d never struck another human being in her life. A horrible mix of guilt, shame and sickness burned in her throat.
But the time had come to make a stand.
She refused to back down now, because if she lost the battle for consideration from him this evening, she’d lose the war in the long run.
“And I’ll do it again in a heartbeat if you don’t begin to show a little respect,” she yelled at the top of her voice.
The look in his eye made her want to flee for her life.
Something must have shown in her face because he actually growled the words,
“If you run I’ll catch you and things will be even worse for you, my little wildcat.”
Her terrified heart pumped even more adrenaline through her system, but pride rode to her rescue. And that pride made her chin jerk. Her nostrils flared as her eyes clashed with his.
“Lay one finger on me and you’ll be sorry. You’re nothing but a big blowhard and a bully. And you can’t take it when someone smaller and weaker and smarter stands up to you.”
He grabbed the hand that had struck him to check out her fingers, which were already swollen.
His touch made the strange ache low in her belly get worse.
Charisse couldn’t tear her eyes from his split lip.
Oh God, what had she done?
Those dark eyes narrowed now on hers.
“You think hitting me is the best way to earn my respect?”
Of course she didn’t, but Charisse would rather lie naked on hot coals than admit it.
Her whole body was trembling now and she cursed herself for it as their eyes battled and all logical thought evaporated.
“I hate you.”
He flashed her the predatory smile that seemed to press every single hot button in her system.
Her hand fisted in his.
“Fuck it,” he said.
For a big man he moved fast, and Charisse found herself slung over his shoulder like a bag of coal and marched through the garden and into the palace.
Her hair had come loose and dangled over her hot face.
Khalid held her knees close to his chest as her fists battered his strong back.
It was like hitting solid rock.
Her cheeks went nuclear as a weird sort of dark excitement fought with fear and rage.
“Put me down you frog-faced baboon!”
The flat of the hand that connected with her bottom landed hard enough to hurt, a lot.
Her howl of utter fury coincided with a deterioration in her language that was frowned upon even in the gutter.
Sarif, Yasmin and Arabella all entered the hall, and watched with wide-eyed interest as Khalid strode past them carrying a queen who had apparently lost all sense of decorum.
“I don’t think that is the best way to endear yourself to your future wife, Khalid,” muttered Sarif as he folded his arms and leaned against a wide sandstone pillar to catch the show.
His brother merely growled.
“It appears her impressive education is sadly lacking in discipline,” came the clipped response. A response that had her small fists ineffectually pummelling his back.
Charisse’s blonde head snapped up. And her wild eyes settled with something like evil relief on Arabella.
She pointed to her bodyguard.
“Shoot him!” she commanded in her best queenly tone.
Then completely ruined the effect as she blew a strand of blonde hair out of her face.
And she almost screamed in frustration when her friend, her protector, simply shook her head.
“Nope. I never get involved in domestic disputes. And you’ve forgotten every single move I taught you.”
What had Arabella taught her?
Charisse desperately tried to recall a single self-defence move, but her loss of temper meant her brain was refusing to co-operate. So instead of thinking, she gripped the silky black tail of her tormentor’s hair and pulled with all her might.
His howl of pain was music to her ears.
However, retaliation came down swift and hard on her backside.
Her cry echoed through the vast hall.
“That was such a girly move, Highness,” Arabella called out in disgust.
Sarif sent Arabella slitty eyes as Yasmin grinned behind her hand.
“Oh my! She never really had a proper childhood, you know. It’s so lovely to see my darling girl having fun.”
“Yeah, they’re nothing but a couple of crazy kids,” Arabella muttered.
They all watched as the elevator door closed behind a seriously steamed Khalid, and a Charisse promising a slow and painful death.
Entering his rooms, Khalid kicked the door closed and slid his future wife down his body so slowly that her shocked gasp echoed the ache of his own physical response.
With her small feet dangling off the floor, he held her close, hip to hip, his hand to her tight little ass pressing her soft body against a rock hard erection. Rolling his hips in a way that made her gasp again, big eyes stared into his before flickering to his mouth. And even as the heat of mortification burned her cheeks, he watched her temper drain away to be replaced by an honest regret that made his chest tight.
“I’m sorry I hit you,” she whispered.
Her hands slid up his arms to grip his shoulders.
Any residual anger with her leaked away to be replaced by a dark desire.
Again, she’d shown a lot of courage.
The memory of how she’d ordered her bodyguard to shoot him tickled Khalid’s highly developed sense of humour.
“I’m sorry for calling you a whore,” he said, studying her face. “When you’re ready, you must tell me the story of how you met my uncle.”
He didn’t miss the flash of anguish in those blue eyes, even as a dimple appeared next to her full mouth. “One day, I will.”
The scent of her, the feel of her soft body in his arms, made his breath hitch.
Now he slid her down until her feet hit the floor.
And he cupped her chin to tilt her head back.
He kissed her with care, since he wouldn’t put it past her to bite his split lip.
But she returned the kiss just as tenderly, and in a way that calmed the anxieties spinning in his overactive brain.
He pulled back to study the expression in her fabulous eyes.
“Promise?” he asked.
Again he didn’t miss the ghost of pain in those blue eyes.
However, the chattering gremlins of self doubt that lived in his mind taunted him that he wasn’t good enough for Charisse. That everything he touched he destroyed and everyone he’d ever loved in his life was now gone or hated him. Since he’d given up booze sleep eluded him. These days he was lucky to get two or three nightmare-filled hours a night. To cope he’d buried himself in his art. His agent was going to be over the moon at his creative output. And even if he said it himself, some of the new work was the best he’d ever done.
Charisse stared up at him, wrapping her arms around his waist, as her big blue eyes held his.
“Speak to me, Rock Star. I can almost hear the wheels spinning in that overactive brain of yours.”
The feel of her soft body pressed against the hardness of his made the breath hitch in his lungs. All negative thoughts fled as his groin swelled in response.
Of course he could do this.
With Charisse in his arms he could do anything.
His big hands cupped her beautiful face and tilted her head back as his eyes searched hers. “What did you just call me?”
Her cheeky grin reminded him of a child caught with its hand in the cookie jar.
A grin that ripped his heart wide open. And Charisse stepped right in.
“When I first saw you I thought you looked like a Rock Star.”
His mouth twitched as he stared into her lovely face, and Khalid decided he could live with that. “Yeah? Which one? Chris Martin, Bon Jovi?”
She gave him a dead on stare and said, “Nope. Alice Cooper.”
Shock made him simply blink at her before he roared with a laughter that made her grin up into his face.
“You little devil!”
He desperately wanted to make love to her and make her his.
But something in her eyes, something that looked like trust, made him take a step back.
The time had come to put his money where his mouth was.
She wanted, demanded, his respect. And despite the fact that he’d thought she was someone only looking out for number one, his intuition told him he’d been wrong about her. Charisse had no idea she already possessed his respect.
However, he needed her respect, too.
They’d had their first real fight and got through it relatively unscathed. Plus, the fact she was openly teasing him told Khalid she might be learning to like him and he didn’t want to do anything to spoil the precious moment.
And he also understood that she wanted him to talk to her, to open up to her.
“I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Before we met I had no idea what you looked like or how old you were,” he admitted now. “After everything I’d heard about you I thought you were a woman with her biological clock ticking. I was praying you didn’t have a squint and had all your own teeth.”
She threw her head back as her delighted laugh bounced of the high ceiling and echoed around the room.
“Poor Khalid, you had no idea what you were getting yourself into.” Then her eyes went serious as they held his. “Why did you agree to do this if your heart is not in it?”
He didn’t attempt not to understand her and spoke from the heart.
“Because it’s a chance for me to right a wrong.”
After staring at him for an endless moment, she nodded, pressed her cheek to his chest and gave him a hard hug that brought a lump to his throat.
He stroked her hair.
Her voice was soft and low.
“That’s as good a reason as any,” she whispered.
The heady scent of her hair mingled with a hint of jasmine and warm, sexy, woman.
Her soft breasts pressed against him and as her nipples pebbled he prayed for the strength to deny his aching arousal.
He pulled back and took her hands in his.
“Let me walk you to your rooms.”
And his heart leaped at the flash of bitter disappointment in her blue eyes.
For a man used to having anything he wanted, when he wanted it, denying himself the instant gratification and release of plunging into her willing body was a salutary lesson in self-restraint.
Later, as he strolled through his rooms and stripped to his skin, Khalid hit the shower and turned it as cold as it could go. And all the while he pumped his aching shaft in his tight fist until he gasped out his release.
But it wasn’t enough.
Charisse was under his skin.
She was in his blood.
And he wondered now how long he’d be able to refuse himself the pleasure of that soft, sexy, body.
Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014
Chapter Seven tomorrow…..