Desert Orchid… Chapter Twenty-Four…

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By CC MacKenzie

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

Chapter Twenty Four

Charisse was shivering and hurting.

God, her shoulder joints screamed.

Nausea roiled in her belly as reality crashed into her brain.

The foul tasting gag in her mouth made her stomach heave.

Her wrists were bound too tight behind her back.

It was dark, but there was a dim light from a candle burning on a ledge carved out of solid rock. She tried to roll to her knees and a fresh wave of nausea washed through her leaving her feeling wretchedly ill and weak.

Slumped against the rock, and desperately battling terror, the deep breaths she took through her nose stung.

The smell of ammonia made her eyes water.

Taking a careful inhale, Charisse tried to work out where she was.

She heard the trickle of running water. And she was cold. Very cold.

Then she understood was in the underground caverns deep beneath the palace.

Her eyes flew around the cave, but there was no sign of Omar.

She shivered.

And then went utterly still as a winged creature fluttered towards the ceiling.

A ceiling that appeared to move.

Her eyes went wide.

Oh, God, bats.

Thousands of them.

A single shudder convulsed her body.

She hated bats.

Telling herself not to freak out, Charisse tried again to roll to her knees and this time she made it.

The earth was packed hard. Somewhere along the line she’d lost a ballet shoe. And that seriously pissed her off. It took her three attempts but she managed to stagger to her feet.

Leaning her aching shoulder against the damp wall of the cave, she tried to get her bearings. She’d never ventured into the cave network alone. Asim had drummed it into her that some of the deepest tunnels, and the caves themselves, were unstable. Before his illness had taken away his ability to walk, he’d taken her into the tunnels to show her a couple of escape routes, should the worst happen. Asim was a great believer in having a disaster recovery plan. Just thinking of him now gave her the strength to channel her thoughts into an escape plan, rather than giving in to the self-indulgence of an emotional meltdown.

However, her sense of direction was skewed. She had no idea which way was north or south. Panic again bubbled and brewed in her mind, in her gut. And then she remembered that if a tunnel was going uphill then she would be going west and downhill she was going east.

With hope in her heart she staggered towards a tunnel entrance. It took her seconds to realise the route ahead was pitch black. Then she turned in a circle and spotted four more tunnel entrances. Which one would she choose? If she took the wrong path, perhaps fell and was injured, no one would ever find her because she couldn’t call for help.

Then the truth hit her.

She was trapped.

Tears burned her throat, made the cave blur and this time terror gripped her lungs and squeezed too hard. Her breath came in horrible little pants.

She staggered back to the thin blanket Omar had left on the ground.

Defeated, she dropped to her knees.

Then in her mind she heard Amir’s voice tell her, ‘If you are lost in the caves or the desert. It is crucial to remain in the one spot. That way you will be found. Trust that the people who love you will find you.’

Closing her eyes she sent a prayer that Khalid would find her.

And now her heart was filled with regret that she’d helped Arabella to leave today. Because if there was one person who had the expertise in these caves and would move a mountain to find her, it was her Arabella.

Then the sound of the shuffle of feet brought her head up, and she listened hard.

The light of a torch came from a tunnel to her right.

Her eyes went wide as a big robed figure appeared.

He stepped into the cave and pulled back his hood.

The bald head was shiny, the skin stretched taut, but the black beard below his full lips took her by surprise.

But those eyes were the same. Small and mean. Beady eyes, black as jet, slid over her from her head to her toes and back again. She read something that looked like desire and an evil that made her blood chill.

“You are awake. Good,” Omar said in a high voice that simply did not match the sheer physicality of his body.

He switched off the torch, placed it on a flat ledge. For such a large man he was very light on his feet. Then he rummaged in a box in the corner and brought out more candles. One by one he took great care to light them and place them around her as if setting a scene. The way he moved, like a dancer, and the way he hummed in his throat seriously creeped her out.

He clapped his hands twice before whirling around to face her.

Charisse pressed her body back against the rock face.

In a smooth move, he whipped the robe over his head.

He was naked except for a loose pair of cotton boxers that once upon a time had been white.

The torso was solid. No flab. But it wasn’t honed and toned either. His limbs were like tree trunks. His wrists were thick, as were his ankles. And he had no neck. The picture that flashed into her mind was one from her childhood books of fairytales, of a troll. His toenails were too long and absolutely filthy.

But it was the thick bulge of his arousal between his legs that made her eyes go wide.

Danger had found her again, the grotesque reality no longer the stuff of nightmares but a wail deep in her psyche. The trembling began in her knees and spread up her torso.

He whirled around and did a strange little skip as he danced towards the box. He poked around again, and this time found a small bottle of blue glass with a corked stopper.

Again he did a freaky little dance as he placed the bottle next to a couple of lit candles on the ledge.

He lifted her up as if she weighed nothing and turned her around.

With deft fingers he untied her wrists.

She cried out with the agony in her shoulders, at the sting of blood flowing back into her fingers.

“Oops, tied your hands too tight. Not to worry.”

The heady scent of halitosis and a body that hadn’t seen soap and water for weeks made her dizzy. But what snapped her back to reality was the squeal of duct-tape. Then his tongue was licking his full bottom lip as he was binding her wrists again, this time in front of her.

Everything happened so fast.

She was sprawled on her belly on top of a flat rock.

And now his heavy body lay on top of hers, his weight pressing her delicate hip bones into solid rock.

It hurt.

His breath hissed in her ear.

And it took everything she had not to scream in her throat.

“I was well on my way to destroying the house of El Haribe, until you came into the great Khalid’s life. The man was weak. Easy to manipulate. Until he married you. And what I am going to do to you will finally, finally, break him.”

He pulled her legs over the edge until her toes touched the floor. The position left her bottom in the air. And Charisse knew exactly what was going to happen to her.

A single heavy swat on her backside made her sob in her throat.

“I was told to bring you alive. He mentioned nothing about you untouched. I like young, virgin, ass. And I bet lover boy hasn’t touched your fine little ass, has he? No, ass is not the great Khalid’s style.”

His thick fingers didn’t fumble as they unbuttoned her jeans, slid down the zip.

Her heart was beating so fast and so hard against her ribs, in her throat, Charisse was sure it might burst. She’d felt terror like this before. And the feel of the heavy body at her back, the way his thick and rock hard erection was pressing down on her, had that dark place come alive in her mind again.

Fluid leaked from her eyes and her nose.

She told herself to be brave, that she’d survived worse.

Now thick fingers hooked into her panties at her hips.

And Charisse closed her eyes tight and braced herself.

 

By CC MacKenzie

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

 

Chapter Twenty Five tomorrow…..

Christine x

Desert Orchid… Chapter Twenty-three…

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Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

 

Hello, my darlings,

There’s a storm coming….

 

Chapter Twenty Three

Storms in the desert were spectacular things.

And this storm was coming fast.

From a high curved balcony in the palace, Charisse turned to the west and watched a silver fork of lightning streak across a sky as black as pitch. Thunder bellowed sending a pounding drumbeat vibrating through the mountains.

An answering shudder rolled through her system, not of excitement, but of dread.

Had she done the right thing?

Two hours earlier she’d helped Arabella leave the white palace. And the place was in an uproar as Sarif interviewed servants and guards, demanding to know how his fiancée had left the palace unnoticed.

Another silver flash had her wince as the air thickened with ozone and the primitive roar of thunder matched the pounding of her blood through her system.

She was on edge as she waited for the storm to build and crash over the land of Onuur, filling it with an alien light. Her fingertips worried the beaded bracelet on her wrist.

This moody introspection had to stop. Depression and dark thoughts were Khalid’s province, not hers.

But yet again, she couldn’t help but wonder if she’d done the right thing?

She was having great difficulty getting her head around the news of her best friend’s pregnancy. But Arabella had been desperate—and Charisse knew all about desperation. Her friend needed her family. She needed time to work out what she wanted for her future. And to decide, without pressure being brought to bear, whether or not she wanted to be a mother. Arabella had, Charisse argued with herself, the right to choose.

And who was she to deny her friend that right?

Arabella was like a sister to her.

However, she understood that Sarif El Haribe would never, ever forgive her for helping Arabella leave him. And if he ever discovered she’d known of a pregnancy, well, the entire family may shun her. Guilt slid up Charisse’s spine to wind a tense knot between her shoulder blades. The family had been so kind and supportive to her. And she knew that by helping Arabella flee she’d let them down. But what choice had she?

Earlier Khalid had watched her with that dead-on stare of his, but had said nothing.

He knew something was wrong—she was unable to hide anything from him.

She also knew that Khalid trusted her to share such important news with him immediately. But by keeping quiet she’d also let him down. Plus, she was more than aware that not telling him would cause a rift between them that might never be healed. A baby in the El Haribe family was a monumental deal. In fact, she’d been wondering if she herself might be carrying a child. Her womanly cycle was a regular one. And it was three days late. Too soon to make an announcement, she decided. Khalid had freaked out over dealing with a few little children, heaven only knew what he’d do during nine months of prospective fatherhood. He’d be demented by the end of it. No, it was better to keep the news to herself, for now. After all it might be a false alarm.

Charisse was so involved with her dark thoughts and watching the fast approaching storm that she was totally unaware of Evil entering her rooms or its arrival at her back.

It all happened so fast.

She smelled him, an unwashed body, before she felt him.

A thick arm whipped around her throat, squeezed tight, cutting off her breath.

Instinctively she struggled, both hands clawing against rough fabric as she battled to drag air into her lungs to scream. Until the cold metal of a gun pressed hard against her temple made her go absolutely still.

“One sound.” Omar’s voice was a high whisper in her ear. The heady scent of halitosis made her gag. “And I’ll blast your brains out of that pretty little head. Be very still and I might let your husband live.”

Obediently, Charisse let her arms fall.

However, her mind was racing. Khalid… he wanted Khalid.

“Well done, Highness,” Omar said, and the crush on her windpipe eased. “If you make a sound I will kill your husband, dear old Yasmin, and those hounds you’re so fond of. You don’t want that, do you?” She shook her head. “Excellent. Now…” He cursed and tightened his grip as Khalid opened the doors to her suite and called out for her.

“Charisse?”

“Not a word,” Omar hissed the warning as he dragged her behind a fat sandstone pillar.

Charisse closed her eyes and sent up a swift prayer for deliverance.

Khalid shoved open double doors and entered her bedroom. She heard him swear under breath even as she was dragged further back into a dark corner. Omar’s gun was aimed at Khalid’s back. Her gut appeared to have been turned to solid ice as she stood there, turned to stone, and hardly daring to breath. She silently begged Khalid to turn away and leave. When he did, and she heard him barrelling down the stairs, she had the feeling she would never see him again. Tears hazed her vision, but she’d rather die before she let them fall in front of the monster who held her.

“Good. Now, come with me quietly. There is someone who wants to meet you.”

The arm was still tight around her throat.

Again, the cold metal of the gun pressed above her ear.

“Who wants to see me?”

Charisse knew exactly who it was but still needed to hear it.

“A father who longs to see his daughter,” Omar said. There was a small sigh of pleasure in a sly voice filled with malice.

“You will never get out of the palace alive,” she told him.

And where were her dogs?

“You just leave that up to me.”

As she opened her mouth to cry out the smell, the sweet taste on her tongue from the cloth around her nose and mouth, made her gag.

And then there was only darkness.

“Are they dead?”

Khalid and Sarif stood over the prone bodies of the wolfhounds slumped on the dirt floor. After an exhaustive search of the palace and the grounds for Charisse and Arabella, they’d searched the ancient tunnel network that ran through the mountain and found the dogs.

Thunder boomed.

The earth trembled beneath their feet.

Dressed in black army fatigues, Captain Bruce Monroe, ex-British Special Forces, patted Rufus on the rump and stood with the easy grace of a ballet dancer.

“Nope. Drugged. This proves the women have been taken. I wonder why they left the dogs alive?” he muttered as if to himself. The music of Scotland lilted in his deep voice.

“Probably didn’t want to deal with blood. Knives are a messy business, a gun without a silencer makes too much noise.” This came from his brother, Lieutenant Wallace Monroe. His strong jaw pistoned as he chewed gum and thoughtfully studied the animals.

The men were tall, well over six foot. It was obvious they were brothers. They both had the lean boned features, the very blue eyes and coal black hair of the Celts. They were armed to the teeth. And Khalid decided they were a couple of mean bastards who could give The Rock  a run for his money. And he was very grateful that they’d arrived just this afternoon, because he for one felt totally out of his depth. He knew he was barely holding it together and was struggling to keep a lid on the crushing fear that something very bad had happened to his wife.

Charisse had disappeared into thin air.

The Monroes hadn’t come alone, they’d brought a hand-picked team of twenty men and now one of their men drew close. He moved like a ghost. Khalid hadn’t heard him approach, and his gaze dropped to the soldier’s feet. He wore some sort of black crepe soled boots that didn’t make a sound. All of them wore the same basic uniform. Black combats, matching long sleeved muscle shirts under a black armoured vest with pockets jam packed with ammunition and devices. They all wore earpieces.

The soldier was grinning as he held out his hand. “Look what I found twenty feet down the main tunnel.”

Bruce Monroe picked up a couple of sparkling tiny glass beads.

When Khalid made a sound in his throat, he looked at him.

“Recognise these?”

“Yes, it’s from my wife’s bracelet. Some school kids gifted her with it a few days ago. She wouldn’t take it off.”

“Sir, there’s a trail of them taking the fork to the left further down the tunnel.”

Khalid made to move, but Bruce stopped him.

“We won’t go running after her without a plan. The maps of the tunnel routes are old but accurate. There are huge cave formations down there. A man with a grenade or explosives could do a lot of damage. My goal is to recover the women, alive. Hopefully, without losing any of my men or any of you. If Omar has them then we need to be careful. He’s managed to give your guys the run-around for weeks. He’s had time to familiarise himself with all the routes in and out of the palace. He’ll have a safe place to hide, probably more than one. We need to be prepared for anything he might throw at us.”

Khalid knew the man was right, but dammit, he wanted Charisse in his arms.

How the hell had this happened?

Now Wallace Monroe spoke in a soft voice.

“If it is Omar who has them then remember that he is the monkey and not the organ grinder. Someone is giving him instructions. My team are monitoring all satellite phone frequencies and radio frequencies. We’ll find them because he’ll need to inform his master that he has the prize. And he can’t do that from within the mountain. He’ll need to break cover to send the signal. And once he does we’ll get him.”

“Unless he uses a radio, or torch at night, or a mirror during the day to send a signal,” Sarif inserted. “This is the desert. We use basic means of communication.”

Wallace nodded and his teeth flashed white.

“We will find them, Your Highness.”

 

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

 

Christine X

Desert Orchid… Chapter Twenty Two…

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Happy Sunday….

Here’s the next chapter, and Sarif’s confused….

Desert Orchid – Copyright

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

 

Chapter Twenty Two

“So, you and Arabella? How did that happen?” Khalid asked Sarif.

He stretched out long legs and kicked back in his ergonomically designed chair. They were in his study enjoying tiny cups of a thick aromatic coffee.

Sarif was dressed in tight jodhpurs, his riding boots dusty. His skin, golden under a loose white robe, glistened with sweat. His cropped hair shone as black as a raven’s wing.And his response to the perfectly legitimate question was a glower as he sipped his coffee.

“Arabella is very upset with me because I announced our engagement. I do not understand her,” Sarif admitted in low growl filled to the brim with deep frustration.

Khalid couldn’t help but grin.

Oh, man. His brother had it bad. And it appeared that things were not all kissy-kissy and lovey-dovey in Sarif land.

Khalid sent him a toothy smile. “What did you do?”

“I didn’t inform her that we would marry until after I told the council.”

Khalid’s brows winged into his hairline.

“Whoa. Arabella has major ninja skills, bro. Like catching a speeding bullet in her teeth.”

His brother didn’t dignify that statement with a response, instead he stared into the liquid in his cup as if it contained the answer he needed.

“She has no choice, she must marry me.”

Intrigued, Khalid studied his brother’s face and realised that Sarif was not a happy man.

“Do you love her?”

His brother’s eyes flicked to his. “What’s love got to do with it?”

Khalid bit his bottom lip, hard.

“According to Tina Turner, a lot.”

Sarif’s cup clattered on the table as he shot to his feet. “You are not taking this seriously.”

“For God’s sake, sit down, Sarif. What is the problem?”

Sarif sat.

He slumped back in the fat leather club chair and frowned in a way that made his hawk like features look lethal.

“She refused my proposal. But now it is a matter of honour. I have told her she does not have a choice.”

Khalid knew that in many ways Sarif was a traditionalist at heart, especially when it came to females.

“You can’t force her, bro. Arabella is a twenty-first century woman. A ball-breaking warrior. You should have seen how she dealt with that bitch of a nurse and got her to talk. She was amazing.”

Now Sarif showed his teeth. “She will make a good queen.”

Khalid nodded in agreement.

“I must admit I was taken by surprise when you made your grand announcement. But once I thought about it, I think you’re right. She’ll be a good partner for you. Plus, she’ll fit right into the family. Charisse adores her.”

Now Sarif smiled, a real one this time.

“As long as Charisse is happy, you are happy?”

Khalid grinned. “You’ve got me there. I’m pussy-whipped.”

“She loves you. You are a very lucky man, my brother.”

“I know. Who’d have thought things would end up like this. When you appeared in London out of the blue, I could have murdered you.”

“Trust me, the feeling was mutual,” Sarif said in a silky voice that made Khalid’s mouth twitch.

“You can’t force Arabella to marry you,” he repeated.

The heat that rose up over his brother’s neck and fired his cheeks made Khalid frown. Sarif never blushed. Seemed there was a lot more to this than met the eye.

“She was chaste. I took something that did not belong to me.”

Khalid blinked. “You forced her?”

“No. As usual we were arguing, it became heated and then we kissed and then… When she cried out in pain, I realised I had breached a part of her that I had no right to.”

Remembering how hard it had been for Charisse to tell him she was a virgin, Khalid took a deep breath. Arabella was at least three years older than his wife, and he found it very hard to believe that a woman with her background was sexually inexperienced.

“She participated but didn’t tell you she was a virgin?”

“Things got out of hand very quickly,” his brother admitted, and again heat scorched his skin. “It is a matter of honour that I make her my wife.”

Khalid gave him a bland look.

“I said it before and I’ll say it again, this is the twenty-first century and things have changed, bro. Arabella is not from our culture and if she doesn’t want to marry you, you cannot force her.”

The atmosphere in the room changed, became tense.

“It is possible she carries my child.”

Khalid’s eyes went wide.

“You didn’t use protection?” The glittering look he received from his brother confirmed the query. “Oh man, you are in deep shit. When will you know?”

“Within days,” the response was clipped. “If she is carrying my child then we will marry as soon as possible.”

“And if she’s not?”

“Then the decision to be my wife will rest with her. As you say, I cannot force her.”

“Whatever happens, you know I am here for you,” Khalid said. And the shock in Sarif’s eyes humbled him. He’d pushed his brother away for too many years. And he realised it was more than time to mend this particular bridge. “You never gave up on me.”

Not used to public shows of affection, as one the brother’s stood and gave each other a man hug.

“Many times I wanted to kick your ass,” Sarif admitted.

Khalid’s nose twitched.

His brother smelled of horse and desert.

“You need a shower. If Arabella gets a whiff of you in this state, she’ll head for the hills. I wish you well, brother.”

Sarif grabbed his head and smacked a hard kiss on each cheek.

“It is in God’s hands.”

 

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

 

Stay tuned….

Christine X

Desert Orchid. Chapter Twenty One…..

 

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Hello, my darlings,

Hope you’re all having a lovely Saturday. We had a surprise when the earth moved with a 4.4 earthquake, the epicentre of which was in Wales. Weird feeling when the house trembled.

Up next in Desert Orchid, a surprise…

 

 

Desert Orchid – Copyright

By CC MacKenzie

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

 

Chapter Twenty One

Later, as she made her way through the palace to Arabella’s quarters, Charisse mulled over the scene with Khalid.

Her husband was a wonderful lover and how lucky was she? But she still hadn’t reached the heart of what had happened to him after the accident. He’d come a long way today and she didn’t want to push it. He’d broken down and admitted his feelings of a soul deep guilt and she instinctively felt he was on the right path to wholeness.

So many questions remained unanswered.

Who had told him he’d been drinking and who had told him his family would never, ever forgive him for it? Perhaps she should to speak to Sarif? If anyone knew what had happened in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy it would be Khalid’s older brother.

Approaching the door to Arabella’s suite of rooms and still deep in thought, initially she didn’t register a woman’s quiet sobs. The sound had her forget protocol, and forget a human being’s basic right to privacy.

Without knocking, Charisse pushed open the door.

Her good friend was curled up in a tight ball on a couch with her face buried in a silk cushion, her shoulders shook as she desperately tried to muffle the sound of her distress.

Seriously alarmed, Charisse closed the door and flew to her side to pull Arabella into her arms.

“What on earth is the matter?”

As Charisse rubbed her back, Arabella went stiff.

Then she heaved a shaky breath and sat up unable to look her in the face.

“Sorry. Just indulging in a pathetic pity party. I’ll be fine in a minute.”

It was the first time Charisse had ever seen Arabella Faulkner anything less than in total control of her emotions, which told her something monumental had happened to her friend.

“It feels as if I haven’t seen you for months rather than weeks. Please talk to me, Arabella, you know I’ll do everything I can to help you.”

Arabella let out a cleansing sigh and shook her head. “No one can help me.”

Charisse wasn’t having that and she wasn’t having the defeatist attitude either.

She took a shot in the dark.

“If you don’t tell me, I’ll ask Sarif. I bet he’s at the bottom of it.”

Arabella looked up and finally met her eyes.

And Charisse was shocked to the core by the utter misery she saw there.

“It’s all my own fault. I’ve been so… stupid,” the last word was sobbed out of her throat, but her friend held it together, just.

Charisse took her hand. “Okay. I must admit I was stunned by Sarif’s announcement of your marriage. Where, when and how did this happen?”

Arabella rose and moved to the tiny kitchen area. She set two glasses on the counter and opened a bottle of white wine. Charisse had never seen her drink alcohol and nodded when her friend poured a glass and handed it to her before pouring her own.

Arabella took a deep sip and looked her straight in the eye.

“In the beginning I didn’t even like him. In fact, I loathed him, and I was certain the feeling was mutual. He treated me like an imbecile. It took me a while to realise that the reason we’re so uncomfortable together was because the tension between us was not animosity but sexual.”

She shook her head and ran her hands through her short hair, clutching it tight in her fists.

“I can’t believe how unprofessional I’ve been. How stupid! The day after you were shot we were in the middle of a heated debate about the best way to tackle the issues happening on a daily basis. He’s so damn stubborn and always believes he’s right! He grabbed me and kissed me as if he wanted to murder me…

“I don’t know what the hell happened. But that kiss fried my brain. And the next thing I know I’m kissing him back and it’s violent and it’s hard and… I bit him on the lip and made him bleed and… the next thing we’re on the floor and… he’s ripped my shirt and I’ve ripped his and we’re naked and… oh, God…”

She leaned on the counter and buried her head in her arms.

The picture her friend had painted made Charisse hum a little tune in her throat that brought Arabella’s head up. “Don’t you look at me like that!”

Charisse let her get away with the tone since it was obvious the girl was not only in distress but clearly in lust with her Prince, and struggling with it.

She cleared her throat. “Hmm, so you’ve connected in a way that’s made you scared. I get that.”

Arabella shook her head, her shoulders slumped as annoyance gave way once again to despair.

“No, you’ll never understand.”

The tone was so broken and filled with too much pain that Charisse realised this was not just about lust and sexual attraction.

“Bella, you know you can trust me,’ she said softly.

Eyes filled with something like agonised regret held hers. “I was a virgin.”

Whoa.

Now that was a shock since her body guard was three years older and so self-contained, strong, and so comfortable in her own skin that Charisse found it hard to believe.

“You’ve never had sex?”

“Yes, I’ve had sex!”

Okay. Charisse knew her knowledge on the subject was weak, but she didn’t get it.

She stared hard at her friend.

“You’ve lost me.”

Arabella gave a groan that sounded like a whine.

“I enjoy sex.”

Charisse gave her a nod of encouragement.

“But not with men,” Arabella said as her eyes met hers.

For a stunned moment, Charisse didn’t know what to say. But Arabella was shaking like a leaf. In the West, the admission might have caused a surprise, but not many people would be bothered or be judgemental. However, in the culture the women lived in this was not good news.

“Christ, Jesus,” Charisse said, borrowing a phrase from Khalid.

Her bodyguard nodded and peered at the liquid in her wine glass. “Couldn’t have put it better myself.”

Charisse took a deep sip of wine and gathered her scattered wits.

“Okay. So how could you have sex with Sarif if he doesn’t float your boat?”

Arabella spun on her.

“How the hell do I know? It’s not as if it’s a switch I can just turn on and off at will. I was born like this. It is not a lifestyle choice,” she almost screamed the words.

And Charisse saw the confusion and the sheer panic in those desperate eyes. She had no term of reference and had the scary sensation of being blind and leading the blind.

“Is it possible to be attracted to both sexes?” Charisse asked carefully.

“God, I’m so sorry to shout at you. It is. I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it. It is what it is.”

“Then unless you love him, you need to tell him you can’t marry him and why.”

Again the whine came in Arabella’s throat.

She went to drink her wine, then poured it down the sink and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge. Opening it with a furious twist of her hand, she drank water straight out of the bottle before she looked Charisse dead in the eye.

“I’m pregnant.”

 

Desert Orchid – Copyright

By CC MacKenzie

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

 

Oh my, didn’t see that one coming….

Chapter Twenty-two tomorrow…..

Christine X

Desert Orchid, Chapter Twenty…..

desertorchid20

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Desert Orchid – Copyright

By CC MacKenzie

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

Chapter Twenty

Khalid studied Jamila’s happy face and felt more at peace with himself than he’d done for years.

Although witness statements were garbled and confused, Amir had highlighted pertinent points on the papers. No matter how Khalid looked at it, the event had been an accident, caused by another boat crossing the bow of his. However, the report also stated that speed had played a part in the disaster. He would have to live with that. At least now he actually wanted to live. For years he’d ridden the path to self-destruction. And his wife—his wonderfully brave wife—had forced him to confront and face his demons head on and deal with them.

He wasn’t stupid.

He knew he still had a long way to go to heal and to find acceptance, but Khalid knew he’d been given a miracle this day.

Now he picked up a photograph of a young Charisse with Amir. Khalid might be uneasy about his uncle’s marriage but there was no doubt in his mind that Amir had adored his very young wife. No wonder, the woman was amazing.

These days he enjoyed their meeting of minds and how Charisse leaped ahead of him in her thinking and how she challenged him.

The sound of a splash caught his attention.

He tenderly placed the photographs on the table and went to find her.

He found her in her narrow lap pool and his first clear thought was, thank you God.

She had an amazing body, which was showcased in a stunning white two piece bikini as she swam in a leisurely crawl.

One of the many wonderful things he loved about her was the way Charisse could relax and switch off. Oh, how he envied her that ability. No matter how hard he tried, he never relaxed. This morning was their first day off from the demands of work, duty, and the people whose lives and issues dominated their waking hours. Now he nudged those duties to the back of his mind.

Today they were just a man and a woman with lives and, God knew, problems of their own.

She turned to him and speared him with a glittering sapphire look. Those fabulous eyes never left his as she rose out of the water, showcasing her glorious body. Bypassing the chair that held her towel, she tugged her hair free of the topknot on her head and it fell in a silver shimmering curtain down her back.

He read desire, demands, in those eyes as she stood before him, her breasts swollen, her nipples tight.

Charisse had taken control, again. And the feeling aroused as well as left his legs strangely weak.

Khalid buried his hands in her wet hair as he bent his head to whisper in her ear,

“Don’t start something you can’t finish, baby.”

“There’s nothing you can do to me I can’t finish, Rock Star.”

And her mouth aggressively bruised his as he dragged her to the floor.

His hands were everywhere – hard, brutal, and demanding as they took and her body frantically responded.

Her hands searched and found him with a hot, hungry fury as she tore the shirt from his back and put her teeth to his burning flesh.

With a curse, Khalid crushed her soft mouth with his.

He ripped the bikini from her, fast, his hands racing to possess that soft, silky, wet skin. A brutal arousal was obliterating him, agonising, making his hands too hard, too careless, when he should have been taking great care with her.

At last he had her naked beneath him and his breath hitched in his throat as his hands skimmed over her breasts, hips, thighs and calves.

He could smell her, taste her, feel her. Dear heaven, she was so beautiful and Charisse lay there suddenly still, open and ready for him.

Then he gripped her hips and took her with a force that had her scream out his name.

He drove into her hard and fast until there was a blinding fire and Khalid knew he was taking her, himself, to the brink of human endurance and that he wanted, needed, nothing less. And Charisse was with him with every groan, every heartbeat, every thrust until the storm that surrounded them reached a maelstrom, a summit where nothing but oblivion followed and they lay tangled together.

Annihilated.

Exhausted.

Whole.

But he couldn’t move. He could barely breathe as he buried his face in her damp hair. He was trembling, again, he realised with a feeling of utter terror. No woman had ever made him feel like this. Weak. Wanting. Willing. What the hell was she doing to him, he wondered as he tried to inhale.

And then he realised she was trembling, too.

Dear God, had he hurt her?

Khalid lifted his head to look down at her. Her soft skin was marked red and raw where he’d touched her, sucked her. The little bites his teeth had made worried him until he saw the flush of passion over her fabulous face as her eyes, watching him through her lids, were almost closed. And, amazingly, he felt fresh arousal stir. Dropping his face back into her fragrant hair, he took a shuddering breath. He needed a minute to settle himself or he’d ravish her again.

Breathing his name, Charisse ran her fingertips over his strong back, down over his tight ass.

There was something in his eyes she’d never expected to see. Surrender. And she didn’t feel all-powerful, but amazed and drowning in love. A deep, abiding love that made her want to soothe, to care, to nurture this wonderful man.

She burrowed closer. Right into his wide chest and felt his heart beat settle. His short breaths whispering over her cheek levelled off.

When Khalid lifted his head, those grey eyes told her nothing.

“You’re trying to kill me, baby.” He kissed her but kept his lips gentle. “You want me out of control, even violent. Why is that?”

She gave a deep, happy sigh of sheer feminine triumph.

“I did kill you. You lost control.”

“You want me to lose control?”

“Mmm hmm, Rock Star. I want you to lose control when you make love to me every single time.”

Khalid lifted his hand and watched his fingers comb through that silver waterfall of hair, and decided to take her down a peg, or three.

“You’re an amazing woman.” He pressed a gentle kiss to her shoulder, then lifted his head. “But perhaps a little… skinny.”

That contented, cat-got-the-cream look vanished from her face to be replaced by something that looked like shock.

“Skinny?”

She wriggled under him, trying to escape, but he simply pressed his hips into the cradle of her thighs and held her still.

“Yeah, skinny. You’re not exactly ugly, either. In some tribes you’d be regarded as scrawny and bony, not even worth the price of a camel.”

Blink.

Blink.

“Are you saying I’m not attractive?” she demanded in a voice that would melt solid steel.

The woman had absolutely no guile and Khalid couldn’t keep his face straight as he howled with laughter.

Trying to catch his breath, he kissed her, hot and hard then lifted his head to stare into those big hurt eyes.

“Seriously, you scare me at times, you really do. Ah, baby, you’re drop dead fucking gorgeous and you know it.”

Baffled, she shook her head.

“No one’s ever spoken to me like that or told me that I’m beautiful.”

Now it was his turn to blink and he read the truth in her eyes. What had started out as having a little fun and teasing her had turned into something quite different. Yet again she humbled him.

“Then I’ll make it my mission in life to tell you every single day that I love you. You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

Her eyes immediately twinkled up into his.

“Well, considering the number of women you’ve seen that’s saying something. And you’re an incredible lover, Rock Star. I can’t say I’m surprised since you’ve had plenty of practice.”

Again, she’d turned the tables on him and his libido flared which made Charisse’s eyes go wide.

“Ah, well,” she said as she tilted her pelvis and opened her legs wide to let him slide inside her with a little gasp. “I suppose I need to do my wifely duty.”

His laugh turned into a groan as her core gripped him in a burning hot fist.

“Baby, you kill me.”

 

Desert Orchid – Copyright

By CC MacKenzie

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

 

Chapter Twenty-one tomorrow.

Ludlow Hall Sneak Peek coming later…..

Christine X

 

Desert Orchid – Two Chapters tonight, eighteen and nineteen… enjoy…

desertorchid18+19

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Desert Orchid – Copyright

By CC MacKenzie

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

Chapter Eighteen

He was punishing himself.

To turn the screw even more, as a penance for not being open and honest with her, Khalid had made a firm promised to never, ever fall asleep in her arms. Therefore, as he did every night, in the unending hours before dawn, he sat in a chair in the corner of the bedroom, and watched his wife, the love of his life, sleep.

They’d found and shared something very rare today.

He knew he didn’t deserve her.

How could a man like him be given the extraordinary gift of her love?

A man who’d killed two beautiful young girls. Girls who’d been on the cusp of womanhood, who’d had their whole lives ahead of them. Lives snuffed out because of a single act of unutterable selfishness.

He closed his eyes, bowing his head in a shame so deep, so dark, it ate up another little piece of his soul every single day he lived.

Six years ago, life for an El Haribe prince had been good, too good. He’d partied too hard, played too hard, and it had caught up with him in the most brutal way. Hindsight was a wonderful thing. At twenty-four he’d been spoiled, and reckless, and stupid. However, his behaviour, his choices, were his responsibility, not the responsibility of two young girls.

He’d never forgive himself for what happened that day.

Not that he could remember a single thing, and Khalid didn’t know whether to be grateful for that or not. His memory about the preceding two weeks, and a month after the accident, was wiped clean. He’d been in a coma, and was told the memories may never return. But he’d never forget the moment his father had told him Jamila was dead and buried. And so was her best friend, Mia.

Gone.

Killed.

By him.

His mother had been a broken woman, a living ghost, who visited him twice a day in hospital. And he couldn’t bear to see the stun of loss, the suffering, on her beautiful face. He couldn’t bear Sarif’s pity wrapped up in grief, either.

But when he’d been told the hellish truth that he’d been drank alcohol before he’d got into the big growling beast of a speed boat, and had driven two girls to their death, something inside him had died that day, too. He’d asked endless questions of the universe. Why had they died and he lived? He didn’t deserve to live. He certainly didn’t deserve to live and be happy. In the days and weeks after he’d regained consciousness, looking at the faces of his family every day had slowly killed him. He couldn’t stand to see his father’s condemnation, his disappointment, in what his youngest son had become. Of course, his family had forgiven him. Forgiveness was what families do. But he’d pushed them away. And in the process he’d lost himself in bitterness and self-pity.

He’d moved to Europe.

Spent months partying hard in Cannes before moving permanently to London, where he’d partied even harder. Christ, he hadn’t even been able to spend his way to destitution. His paintings shocked many, but they’d thrilled the art world, especially the critics. Who’d have thought it? He couldn’t even fucking ruin himself. He’d made so much money, he hadn’t even touched his inheritance. So he’d thrown himself into the role of the dark desert prince, the reprobate who’d shamed his family and his people.

And he’d had women, plenty of women; he’d banged hundreds of them until even that basic pleasure had dimmed.

Before Charisse, he hadn’t had a woman in over a year. Of course, no one would believe it. Even his own brother had assumed he’d had two women in his bed the night he’d come to London to bring him back home. The women had been models who liked to party, and who swung both ways. So if Khalid wasn’t in the mood to shag one or both, they’d been happy to take care of themselves. And didn’t mind an audience as he painted them. But he’d tired of that scene long ago.

His art had evolved into a contemporary symbolism that the critics drooled over.

Now, he desperately wanted to paint Charisse.

Naked.

Of course, she wasn’t having it.

Another wave of self-loathing crashed over him, and he held his head in his hands.

She loved him, believed in him.

All those years ago, he’d needed someone to believe in him. He’d desperately needed someone to have faith in him during the pain of his hospital days, and during the nightmare months of his convalescence.

He’d no idea what this letter from Amir she’d been talking about meant. How the hell could his uncle have believed in him? Whatever Khalid demanded from Charisse, even her thoughts, she was prepared to share. And he knew, deep in his heart, that she wanted the same from him. She deserved nothing but the truth.

But not yet.

Surely he could enjoy these precious days with her? There was plenty of time to tell her truth about the pathetic excuse for a man that she’d married. And he knew for an absolute certainty that once she learned the exact circumstances around the accident she would never forgive him for killing her sister, an event that had brought disaster and horror to her door.

Charisse stirred in their vast bed, her hand fluttering out to reach for him.

With a sick heart and a dark shadow on his soul, Khalid crept into bed to hold her tight.

She burrowed into his side as he inhaled the scent of her hair, her skin.

With eyes wide open, he just lay there and waited for dawn.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Nineteen

Charisse smiled as Rufus wagged his entire body in a fit of ecstasy as Khalid stroked his shaggy head.

They’d arrived home to Onuur, to the white palace, three hours before.

Boris refused to leave Charisse’s side. Filled with unconditional love, the wolfhound’s hazel eyes never left her face for an instant.

She’d expected a warm welcome from Yasmin and Sheik Abbas, but the tribes had gathered along the mountain plateau, their campfires burning for as far as the eye could see. The peoples of Onuur needed to see their King and Queen.

And now the Sheiks assembled in a meeting room in the palace.

Sarif was chairing the meeting.

He’d taken Arabella’s advice, and brought in a team of ex-military intelligence and specialists who liaised closely with the head of Onuur’s security team.

“Are you ready for this?” Khalid’s sharp eyes found hers, and Charisse nodded as he took her hand.

They made their way from his rooms, through the white palace, to the meeting.

A navy blue silk scarf concealed her hair. The matching sheath she wore fell to her knees. The dress had a high neck and tight long sleeves edged with silver discs at her wrists. The co-ordinating tight pants, and silver flat pumps in butter soft leather, completed the outfit. And outfit designed for her by the house of Chanel.

Her people were worried.

Rurmurs of unrest flew through the tribes, and also tall tales about Khalid. According to those rumours, he was a drunkard and behind the attempts on his wife’s life. Her people needed to see her, in the flesh, to see for themselves that she was not only alive, but happy with her new life.

And more importantly, happy with her new husband.

Khalid looked spectacular dressed in a thwab with a besht, the ceremonial robes denoting status and royalty. As they descended the magnificent staircases, the servants lining the entrance hall bowed low. As the couple passed, it was as if they all let out a collective sigh, and the tension in the palace dissipated. Their relief palpable that their queen was indeed alive and well.

Liveried servants opened huge double doors.

Khalid and Charisse entered the room and all conversation ceased as the sheikhs and Sarif turned to watch them enter. Her gaze wandered over the men gathered around the huge table. For many years Charisse had taken advice from these men. But she’d been Amir’s wife then, and even though she knew they trusted her, the nerves in her belly wound too tight.

Khalid kept a firm grip of her hand as they took their place at the top of the table. Public displays of affection between men and women were frowned upon in their culture. But Khalid waited until she was seated before he took her hand to his mouth and pressed his lips to her cold fingers. And all the while his vivid gaze held hers. Her heart soared as she read the utter devotion and love in his eyes.

She smiled up into his fabulous face.

But more importantly the Sheiks smiled, and so did his brother, Sarif.

Khalid took the seat next to her, and placed her hand in his on top of the table.

Her refused to let her go, even when she raised an enquiring brow.

Her husband’s sharp gaze fell on the Sheiks, and in spite of his words his deep voice held no apology.

“Forgive me, gentlemen. But I almost lost the woman I love twice in the past few weeks. I have no intention of releasing her until I know the threat to her and to Onuur has passed. What news of Omar?”

Sarif nodded to Sheik Abbas who had watched their entrance into the room with the eyes of a raptor.

The Sheik was the elected spokesman for the tribes.

“We have reliable information he is holed up in the mountains of Dhuma. The King is flushing him out as we speak.” His growl of a voice became soft as his eyes settled upon her. “I thank God that you survived the attempts on your life, Highness.”

Charisse inclined her head, squeezing Khalid’s hand to signal she was about to speak.

“If it had not been for the quick thinking and speed of my husband I would not be here with you today. He saved my life. The rumours spreading like locusts on the desert wind must be put to rest. Tomorrow, my husband and I shall travel together to visit certain schools. I miss the children, Sheik Abbas.”

The Sheik looked to Khalid for confirmation, and Charisse knew that was the moment her husband was given his rightful place. Khalid nodded once in agreement, even as he gave a gentle squeeze of her fingers. She hadn’t warned him of her plan to visit the children since she knew he might argue against it. But it was important that they were seen by the people to be working together and caring for her vital projects.

If Khalid didn’t like it, too bad.

If he wanted to punish her later for her decision, so be it.

But now Sarif spoke, “We’ve received more intelligence on Omar’s background. He belongs to a tribe that was banished from Quaram over forty years ago. He is the third cousin of Yusuf Hassam Nazari,” he paused at the collective gasp that went around the room. Nazari was a sociopath, a tyrant, with connections to organised crime, terrorism, and people trafficking. He had a high price on his head. And was believed to be holed up in the Hindu Kush. “Omar was originally trained by the Soviets in brain washing and infiltration techniques. It is most unfortunate that we kept him too close to the heart of our family.”

Charisse felt Khalid stiffen and glanced up at his face. He would make a wonderful poker player because his face looked as if it was carved from granite and forcibly reminded her of the first time she’d met him in her apartments.

Sarif continued, “The plan was to kill Charisse, to bring dishonour upon the house of El Haribe. To divide the loyalty of the tribes resulting in civil unrest. Not just in Onuur but throughout the lands of Quaram and Dhuma. Powerful interests have their eyes on our mineral and oil wealth. With the death of King Amir and my father’s continued ill health the jackals decided to strike.

“Unfortunately for them, my brother is a good man and a strong King. My father’s health is improving each day. As for myself, I am to marry Miss Arabella Faulkner.”

Good God.

How Charisse kept the shock of the announcement from her face, she never knew, and by the statue sitting next to her, this was the first Khalid had heard of it.

Of course she was thrilled to have Arabella as a sister-in-law. But she’d seen absolutely no sign of an attraction between Sarif and Arabella. None. Arabella’s family tree was immersed in military service to her country going back generations, all the way back to the Duke of Wellington’s time. With her military contacts and family’s power base in the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America, what a power couple she and Sarif would make. And the children of such a union would be a force to be reckoned with in the foreseeable future.

The approval of Sarif’s announcement eased the tense atmosphere in the room.

Sheik Abbas stood.

Those sharp eyes met Sarif’s. “I know I speak on behalf of everyone here and offer my congratulations, Highness. Miss Arabella Faulkner is a strong woman whose bravery and loyalty to the people of Onuur knows no bounds. May you be blessed with many sons.”

He turned to Khalid and Charisse and added, “May the whole house of El Haribe be blessed with many sons.”

Which, Charisse knew, was the Sheik’s polite way of saying, ‘Get on with it making those sons.’

 

Five days later, Charisse and Khalid had settled into a routine of sorts.

He was too quiet.

Brooding, she decided, as she eyed him over breakfast in her apartment. Today he wore black jeans and a buttoned down white shirt, and as ever, his feet were bare. She noticed he had splotches of bright green paint on his right foot.

He hadn’t spent a single night in her apartments, preferring to make love with her in his big bed in his studio. However, Charisse had made it a rule that they eat together at an allotted time for breakfast and dinner.

His most recent low mood had manifested itself in a lack of sleep, irritability and monosyllabic answers, which only seemed to intensify the longer Omar remained at large.

Khalid was more than aware that those big blue eyes watched him, and analysed him.

A rigid daily routine had never worked for him in the past. And it sure as hell wasn’t working for him now. It wasn’t how he rolled. He knew he was frustrated, overtired and wired. Working for twelve hours straight on yet another portrait of Charisse had mashed his brain. He was obsessed with her. Add in the too many duties he had to perform each and every day and his art was not going well. And he lay the blame for that firmly at her door. He’d never lived with a woman twenty-four-seven before and he found the way he had no space to do his own thing hard. Very hard. Plus, the way she’d insisted he stop whatever it was he was doing to meet her for breakfast and dinner at a designated time played merry hell with his creativity—which meant he found it well-nigh impossible to get back into the creative flow each day.

To eat with her shouldn’t be that big of a fucking deal.

After all, Charisse never asked him for anything.

Not once had she asked him for help, for support.

Not even for a kiss or a hug.

He frowned.

And now he wondered what that meant.

She never undermined his position in the palace. However, another unpalatable thought struck him. She didn’t need him. And that hurt. Charisse was a young and beautiful woman, in a ruthlessly male culture, who worked diligently on behalf of her people. With Charisse, the people came first. Everything she did, including marry him, was for the good of her people.

She was clever, kind, and utterly selfless.

And while he wasn’t in her intellectual league, neither was he kind.

He was utterly selfish, and concerned only with how events impacted him.

Now he tried to remember one time when life, the world, hadn’t revolved around his art, his pain, his needs, his guilt.

He didn’t deserve her.

She’d be much better off without him. Much better off married to a man who would be a better ruler, a better husband, a better father to the child she must bear.

The thought of another man touching her, kissing her soft fragrant skin, loving her, broke something deep within him. But surely putting her needs and Onuur’s needs, before his own, was the ultimate act of selflessness? Surely giving her up for her own good is what a real man would do?

In the early hours of this morning he’d been working on her portrait, staring into those amazing blue eyes as they stared right into him. He’d known then that the time had come to do what was right, for once. Charisse had taught him so much in such a short time. How to love a person with all of his heart. And for that he’d be forever in her debt.

He closed his eyes.

Christ, he was so fucking tired.

“This won’t work between us,” he said now.

Lifting a cup of coffee to her lips, Charisse halted. “What won’t work?”

The way she gave him big innocent eyes seriously irritated him.

He glowered and glared.

“You. Me. Us. This,” he snapped.

“Need a hug?”

“I need a divorce.”

The male ego, Charisse decided and not a little annoyed, was a monstrously fragile thing.

She knew he was overwhelmed.

She got that.

But she’d be damned if she was about to put up with him behaving like a five year old.

“No.”

“No?”

“I think there’s an echo in here,” she muttered into her cup.

His eyes narrowed. “You’re not taking this seriously.”

“Believe me, I am.”

“You won’t have a choice. If I want a divorce, I’ll get a divorce.”

“No.”

He threw his napkin on the table and stood towering over her.

“I want out. I want my life back. I don’t want to live on a dusty rock in the middle of the damned desert.”

She took another sip of her coffee, watching him over the rim of the cup. “It’s not going to work, you know.”

“What isn’t?”

“The little meltdown you’re having. I’ve got your number, Rock Star. And it won’t work.”

Temper flashed in those dark eyes. “I don’t love you. I’m over it. Over us. Over all… this.”

The words hurt, and they hurt bad.

But she reminded herself to keep calm.

“Ha ha ha.” She stood and moved into him to give him the hug he so badly needed. “That’s okay. I have enough love for both of us.”

“Didn’t you hear what I said?”

He rubbed his cheek against her hair and Charisse breathed a little sigh of relief.

“Yes, kiss me.”

He kissed her.

Lifting his head, dark eyes stared down into hers.

“I’m no good for you.”

The words were said in a sulky tone that made her bite down hard on her bottom lip.

She’d seen that look in his eyes before.

Then she had a lightbulb moment—the school children.

For some reason, he’d been terribly nervous touring three schools.

“You are very good for me. You’re having a small crisis of confidence. It will pass. You’ll be fine. They were just little children.’

“Yes, but there was hundreds of them.”

“They loved you. Especially the little girls.”

Now he lifted her hand to run his fingertips over her wrist, over the bracelet the children had given her. It was made from cheap little glass beads, hundreds of them. And because the simple gift had been made with love it had meant more to Charisse than diamonds.

She hadn’t taken it off.

He shook his head.

“It was the look in their eyes that killed me. They looked at me as if I was their sun and their moon.”

“Too much pressure, Rock Star?”

He gave a big sigh. “What if I let them down?”

“What if you don’t?”

Again she hugged him and decided now might be the time to surprise him.

Her fingers had been itching for days just waiting for the right opportunity to give him her gift. The only time he appeared to relax was while making love. Last night, he’d thought she was asleep before he’d left their bed in the middle of the night to paint. Again.

“I have something for you,” she told him in a cheery voice.

Ignoring a scowl that would sour milk, Charisse rose and left the room, returning with a large flat rectangular package.

She sat on the edge of a couch and patted the cushion next to her.

“Come over here, Rock Star, and open it.”

With a reluctance that made her lips twitch, he rose.

His brows came together as he sat next to her.

“It’s not my birthday,” he growled.

She smiled. “No, does it need to be your birthday for you to receive a gift?”

He blinked, and she read a genuine bafflement in those vivid grey eyes.

“I suppose not. I rarely receive anything unless the giver desires something in return.”

Well then, that explained a lot.

“Beware Greeks bearing gifts?”

She watched him carefully as she tucked her jean clad legs under her. Charisse found his reluctance to accept the gift interesting and wondered if he was getting wind of her anxiety because she knew her gift had the potential to blow up in her face.

He picked it up.

“What is it?’ Khalid asked and weighed it in his hand. “It’s not heavy.” He gave it a little shake. “Solid,” he said and sniffed the paper.

Amazed by his reaction, she stared at him.

“Are you always like this?” she demanded to know.

Eyes wide, she folded her arms and caught a reluctant gleam in his grey eyes. A reluctant smile tugged the corner of his mouth. He placed the parcel on the coffee table, leaned back and stared at it with a frown.

She’d had enough of this.

Charisse knelt on the sofa, gripped his chin and forced him to look at her.

“Open it!”

Keeping his eyes on hers, he tore open the brown paper, and looked down into the deliriously happy face of his dead sister.

Silence.

Charisse felt her breath hitch in her throat as all the blood drained from Khalid’s face. His knuckles went white as he snapped the wooden frame. Beads of perspiration appeared on his forehead and top lip.

A shuddering rough gasp escaped from his throat.

On shaky legs, Charisse rose and went to pour him a brandy. For shock. No, she decided, water would be better. She wouldn’t re-enforce a bad habit. After pouring him water in a glass, she sat next to him, keeping her tone reasonable and voice soft, and hoped to hell she knew what she was doing.

“Here, take a sip.” Gently taking his cold hand in hers she wrapped his fingers around the glass. “A wonderful character, wasn’t she?” Charisse ran a finger down Jamila’s cheek on the photograph and flinched at the filthy expletive Khalid spat as he got to his feet.

“Why would you do such a thing?” he roared.

He hurled the water glass against the wall.

It smashed into tiny pieces.

The dogs immediately moved to her side.

Fury, despair and pain flushed his cheeks and darkened his eyes.

One hand still gripped the broken photo frame, his other arm he held tight across his belly as if in pain.

Those grey eyes, tortured now, found hers.

The incredible agony she read there meant she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t swallow.

“Why would you hurt me like this?” he whispered.

Charisse studied him, determined to remain calm, very careful to keep pity and her love for him at bay. Six years of pent-up grief was bound to implode.

All she knew was that he needed to release the pain.

She shook her head.

“I am not hurting you, Khalid.” And she kept her eyes pinned to his. “Why do you not honour her memory?”

His head whipped back as if she’d struck him.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

Anger was a good sign, she decided, and reminded herself to stay strong.

“There is not one photograph of her anywhere in the palace in Dhuma. No one talks about her or even mentions her name. It’s as if Jamila never existed.”

Khalid placed the photo gently on the table.

Then he spun around and hauled her to her feet.

Eyes dark as pitch lasered into hers.

“Perhaps because their hearts are broken!” He shook her until her teeth rattled. “Perhaps they can’t bear to be reminded of their loss. Perhaps it’s too damned painful to remember!”

Charisse met his pain head on with her own.

“Of course it is painful. It’s supposed to be painful, Khalid. She’s dead. And when you love someone so deeply, a part of you dies with them, too. That is perfectly normal.”

She flinched as his hands fisted.

His temper sparked and spat in dark eyes drowning in torment and fury.

So much suffering was reflected there that her heart broke for him.

His hands held her arms too tight.

“You have no conceivable idea of how I feel. How dare you use your psychobabble on me?”

Charisse jerked her arms free and faced him.

“Come with me,” she commanded.

His wife spun on her heel and Khalid found himself following her through the apartment.

With a flourish she flung open enormous double doors and stood back.

He didn’t want to take a step forward.

But by the way her chin lifted, by the way her eyes dared him, he entered.

The space was light and airy and the ultimate feminine sanctuary.

His feet sank into a soft carpet of ivory wool, and the room smelled of flowers and warm woman.

Taking centre stage was a huge bed strewn with white silk pillows. Its vast headboard reached the ceiling, carved ornately from wood, and painted white. All set under a dramatic tiered chandelier of dripping crystal.

“It’s a bedroom.” He stalked around the room. Surely she wasn’t considering sex at a time like this? He turned to her. “Am I supposed to be flatt…”

He stopped dead.

With his heart battering against his chest, he stood rooted to the spot and stared at the opposite wall. At a huge black and white photograph of Jamila and her best friend Mia taken a couple of months before he’d… he’d killed them.

He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think.

My God, they looked so happy.

Mia held a huge lizard in her hands, and their expressions brimming over with gleeful delight.

Charisse sank to the edge of her huge bed, and let out a deep sigh.

“I love that picture. I remember the day it was taken as if it was yesterday. It was a school trip to the zoo.” She gave a soft laugh. “Our housemistress, Miss Brown, was terrified of reptiles. She was behind the camera, as you can tell by their naughty expressions.”

Khalid squeezed his eyes tight and felt something rise up and snap and release inside him. He was beyond pain.

He fell to his knees, rolled onto the floor and curled into a tight ball.

The sound of an animal keening in tortured agony sounded in the room and he realised it came from himself.

Strong, determined hands placed a pillow under his head and a blanket over him. One of those strong hands gripped his. And Khalid clung to it like a drowning man going down for the last time.

He had no idea how long he lay there weeping, it might have been hours, but at last the sea calmed.

For the first time in his life he felt—anchored.

Throughout it all Charisse never stopped stroking his hair.

His throat felt raw and his voice hoarse as he spoke, “I killed them.”

Charisse pressed her slim body into his back, her arm slipped across his waist to hold him tight.

He clung on to her hand for dear life.

“What do you remember?” she whispered.

At last Khalid’s shuddering breathing steadied and Charisse knew they were only in the calm of the eye of the storm.

“The weather was glorious. A perfect Mediterranean day in May. No wind. The girls were so excited posing in their bikinis, like super models, they said. No longer girls, not quite women.” He gave an unsteady laugh. “I remember Sarif saying Papa had already decided to chain Jamila to her room. She wasn’t getting out again until she was thirty. That she would give us all grey hair. And I remember Mama rolling her eyes.”

The sob caught in his throat squeezed her heart, but she’d started this, so she would finish it.

“What happened next?”

“The boat was new. A Sun seeker, fast, shiny, sleek. Mia leapt aboard first saying it smelled new. Like a new car.”

He squeezed her hand even harder, turned to lie on his back and stared unblinking into the ceiling.

Charisse leaned on her elbow, head on her hand. Her other hand was still gripped by his.

“It was just the three of us. Omar was to follow on another boat. The girls waved to Sarif and my parents standing on the dock. They’d posed for photos with Sarif telling them to behave like ladies.” He frowned, eyes staring unseeing at the ceiling as his mind took him back to what he remembered of that day. “Jamila said, ‘This is pathetic, Khalid. Go faster.’ Mia just laughed. I pushed the throttle and the bow rose, it kicked forward. We were laughing and cheering…” Tears now ran into his hairline. His eyes met hers. And she read the heartbreak, the confusion.  “I don’t remember. I woke up in hospital.” He squeezed his eyes tight shut. “I killed them.”

“Why do you feel that? It was an accident.”

He turned to her and stared into her eyes. “Why didn’t I see the resemblance when we met? You are so like Mia.”

Khalid read utter trust, sympathy and empathy in those deep blue eyes.

And knew he didn’t deserve it.

“I’d been drinking,” he admitted the truth.

Charisse jerked back, eyes wide and cool, and it broke his heart to see the shock and the anger. “How many?”

“I can’t remember.”

“If you can remember conversations, then clearly, you must be able to remember how much alcohol you had to drink?”

Khalid frowned now and shook his head.

“I don’t know if I can remember conversations or if that’s what I was told was said.”

Charisse held his gaze.

“Okay. Let’s think about this logically for a moment. Would your parents or your brother permit you to go out in a powerful boat with their most precious possession if they thought for a moment you’d been drinking? It doesn’t make sense!”

He shook his head.

She rose to her feet.

“Stay right there. I’ll be back in a moment.” Turning to the wolfhounds who were watching them from the doorway, she made a hand signal and issued the instruction, “Guard him.”

Khalid lay on his back staring at the fan on the ceiling lazily stirring the hot air and thought of the days and weeks after the accident. He’d been doped with morphine for a broken collar bone, six cracked ribs and a fractured skull. He could have sworn a voice told him he’d been drinking. That he’d killed those children. That his family would never forgive him.

His hand fisted now, what was the point of going over and over it all again?

Charisse entered the room carrying a thick file.

She dropped on the floor beside him and gave him a very level look.

“Take that expression off your face, Khalid. And stop thinking.” She kissed him on the nose. “You think too damned much. Didn’t anyone give you the basic facts?” Flicking through documents and muttering to herself about stubborn fools, she pulled out a sheaf of papers.

“Here we are. Your blood tests. Hospitals do these as a matter of routine after any accident,” she said as if talking to an imbecile. She pointed to a line which stated blood alcohol level. “What does it say?” She demanded and watched him read the result.

He sat up as she raised her eyebrows and a small weight lifted from his heart.

He cleared his throat, “Nil.”

Charisse crossed her legs into the lotus position and flicked her fingers in a ‘come here’ gesture.

“Speak to me, Rock Star. If this fact is telling you in black and white that you were sober, why did you think you were drinking? If you look at the results more closely there is no trace of substance abuse. Not even an aspirin.”

“I’ve never touched drugs.” He read through the documents then lifted his head and stared into her face. “Where the hell did you get these?”

“Amir demanded copies of everything. He went over each fact with me.” She tucked her hair behind her ears. “It helped me deal with acceptance.” Then she rubbed her nose and didn’t quite meet his eyes. “And forgiveness.”

His dark eyes snapped to hers. “You blamed me?”

“In the beginning, for a while, yes, I did.”

He rose and tugged her to her feet.

His hand cupped her chin.

As he pressed his mouth to the side of hers, he felt her tremble as she continued,

“Mia’s death was a catalyst for a chain of events that brought me here. I blamed you for many things.”

His hand smoothed the skin on the back of her neck and he pulled her closer, stared down into those amazing blue eyes and saw the truth there.

“But you don’t blame me now. Why is that?”

“Facts. I have the truth. It was an accident, Khalid. There were witnesses.”

Khalid took a step back, but kept hold of her hand and those dark, intense eyes stayed on hers.

“I don’t deserve you.”

Charisse pulled her hand from his as jumpy nerves danced in her gut.

She read guilt in those dark eyes.

And she knew this still wasn’t over.

“Tell me, Khalid. Did you love your sister?”

His eyes narrowed fractionally and she could see his brain trying to figure out where the conversation was going.

“Very much.”

“Were you a good brother?”

His eyes never left hers and she read the truth. “Yes,” he said.

“Did she love you, adore you?”

He blinked. “Yes.”

Charisse moved to stand before the vast black and white photograph on the wall and stared into those beautiful, happy faces, and continued,

“How would Jamila feel, do you think, if she knew you were punishing yourself? Would she be proud of how you refuse to accept any happiness in life? How you refuse to give and receive true love? Is a life of misery what she would want for you?

“Do you want to know what I think?” she continued, turned and looked him dead in the eye. “I think she’d be ashamed of you, Khalid, and desperately, desperately sad.”

The flash of pain in those dark eyes told her she’d shocked him.

He stood as if turned to stone.

A voice warned her he’d had enough, but she moved to a beautifully carved small bureau.

“I have many other photos of the girls in albums here. Why don’t you sit and go through them and the documents? Take all the time you need.”

He didn’t move, didn’t say a word.

Backing out of the room, she was babbling and had no idea why, which made her nerves jump even more and her stomach clutch even harder. “I’ll be out here if you need me for anything.”

Charisse closed the doors and puffed out a breath.

It was the look in his eyes that had unnerved her.

Dark, demanding and predatory. And… tempted.

Boris looked exactly like that when he’d spotted a roasted chicken when cook’s back was turned. If Charisse had not given him a warning look, the wolfhound would have swallowed it whole.

That same temptation was in Khalid’s eyes, too.

He was tempted to do something to her and she didn’t want to begin to think of what that might be.

And she realised he hadn’t answered her initial question.

The medical records had not been sealed.

The results clear for anyone who’d wished to check them.

Who had told him he had been drinking?

She sighed.

Something was still very wrong.

Underneath that sophisticate, sexy shell, her husband was so incredibly vulnerable.

And why did that make her feel as weak as a newborn puppy?

Analysing the situation with her own unique brand of logic, Charisse couldn’t decide whether she liked or feared his vulnerability. Maybe both? How confusing was that?

Exercise, that’s what she needed.

It would clear her mind.

 

 

Desert Orchid – Copyright

By CC MacKenzie

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

 

Chapter Twenty coming tomorrow…. will Khalid ever find peace?

 

Christine X

We’re over half way in the story…. Desert Orchid, Chapter Sixteen.

desertorchid16

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Hello, my darlings,

You know, sharing these chapters has brought the original story back to life for me in a way that’s been amazing. I wrote this in 2012-13 and published the story in 2014. My writing has come a very long way since then…. The next chapter has intimate scenes, but I’ve left it as I wrote it….. enjoy…..

 

 

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

Chapter Sixteen

Khalid couldn’t tear his eyes away from hers.

Blue eyes shone into his filled with compassion and complete trust, with total faith, in him.

And his heart torpedoed into his mouth.

She was delusional.

What the hell had he been thinking, declaring himself like that? And because he loved her so desperately it hurt, he knew he couldn’t do this to her or to himself.

Earlier, they’d agreed to have nothing but the truth between them. But the girl standing before him—and she was a girl—could never be woman enough for him.

With her past, how could she be?

For too many years, he’d had sex whenever and wherever he wanted it. Plus, he’d only had sex with experienced, beautiful women; models, actresses and socialites who shared his sexual appetites and needs. But having sex with the woman he loved would be so very different. Even though he’d only touched her once, it had been amazing.

Wonderful.

Unbelievable.

However, he had needs.

Dark desires that Charisse, so sheltered and protected, had no conception of.

The flat of her hand slapped his bare butt, hard.

And the feel of it, the sound of it shook him right out of his introspection.

His eyes found hers and she slapped him again, harder.

Or did she really have no conception of dark desires?

His eyes narrowed on her flushed face as she gazed up at him. And he remembered the silver scars on her bare bottom. The memory of how mortified and embarrassed she’d been when he’d seen them slid like a snake into his mind. It struck him that his wife was ashamed of her body. She was ashamed of what had happened to her. And because Khalid lived with shame every single day and understood the agony of it, he found it intolerable that Charisse should suffer, too.

He could do nothing about his own shame, but he could do plenty about hers.

She trembled as she kept perfectly still with her arms wrapped around his waist, her big eyes on his, and he could almost see that clever brain of hers working out her next move.

Was it possible he was being played?

Being manoeuvred by an expert into exposing the black heart that lived at the core of his being?  If true, then she had no idea who she was dealing with here. He could almost see the white puffy clouds depicting her dreams of a happy-ever-after in her poor deluded little mind. Charisse wanted a fairytale happy ending and it seemed she’d cast him as her prince.

In truth, he was her worst nightmare and she didn’t even know it.

Anger with himself, but mostly with her, for making him wish for something he could never have, roared into his psyche.

A harsh laugh almost escaped from his throat and he shook his head.

She loved him, did she?

He took a step back, and her hands dropped to her sides.

She cocked her head and narrowed her eyes as she watched him.

Khalid could see by the stubborn set of that chin that she was prepared to fight for him, and with him, until he came around to her way of thinking. To persuade him that he was the man she thought he was.

Well, whatever she wanted would never happen.

Time for a wake-up call.

He kept his voice dangerously low. “You think you’ve got me all worked out. Don’t you, darlin’?”

He strolled around her.

She didn’t move so much as a muscle as the atmosphere in the room plummeted and grew too tense.

She turned her head, looking over her shoulder as he stood behind her. Those big blue eyes appeared confused as she frowned.

Then she opened her mouth as if to speak.

Christ, the scent of her made his mouth water.

He bent his head to growl in her ear, “I haven’t finished speaking.”

Her shocked gasp had him nod.

Oh yeah, he knew why he was so stunningly furious with her.

The little fool wanted to change him.

She’d decided to mould him into the man she wanted, rather than accept him for the man he was.

Well, it would be a cold day in hell before that little fantasy happened.

She was trembling.

But she wasn’t afraid of him.

Not yet.

“These clothes make you look about twelve.” His hands gripped the tissue thin silk of her top and ripped it in two. The fabric floated to her feet. “I don’t want a girl as a wife. I want a woman,” he whispered in her ear.

The matching panties went the same way.

Her response was a convulsive shudder, as a tidal wave of goose bumps rose over her clear skin.

Walking slowly around her naked body, Khalid took a good long look at the woman he was going to make his in ways she’d never dreamed of.

And his body went rock hard.

To torture himself even more, he stood behind her and counted each silver scar on her tight little bottom. Twenty-three. And his heart ached as he imagined what she’d gone through. Dear God, how much she had suffered. But she didn’t need his sympathy. No. What she needed was her own… acceptance.

The sly voice, a constant companion who resided deep within his psyche, now rose to whisper the words, ‘You did that.’ And God help him, his hand trembled as he swiped perspiration beading on his top lip.

And then he studied the raw flesh where the bullet had grazed the bottom of her ribcage. The black, purple and green bruise, already turning yellow at the edges, as it stretched up towards her armpit and down in a path of pain to her jutting hipbone.

Again the sly voice taunted, ‘Where were you when she was shot?’ And bile rose into Khalid’s throat. His eyes then counted the bruises on her arm where the nurse had injected her, where the doctor had fought to save her.

Yet again the sing song voice in his head spoke, ‘Love? You don’t know the meaning of the word.’

Now the room spun as his heart rate spiked.

Lastly, he absorbed how terribly thin she’d become, and that voice in head showed no mercy. ‘You did that.’

Khalid’s jaw clenched so hard to stop his moan of pain it was a miracle his teeth didn’t shatter. A slimy worm of sweat slid down his spine.

He stood in front of her, about three feet away.

Her big blue eyes were wary now as they searched his.

He read a cocktail of emotions, including confusion and a growing dismay. But the biggies were arousal and lust.

Oh yeah, Charisse liked this.

She liked being dominated.

Even if, intellectually, she knew she should stand up for herself and calling him to account for his behaviour. Khalid read precisely how she felt by the expressions crossing that fabulous face and by the way her eyes flicked over his body lingering between his legs, and by her body’s response to his tone, to his words.

Her nakedness hid nothing as he studied her with the eyes of the artist, of the connoisseur.

That beautiful face was flushed now.

Those sweet nipples budded so hard they actually pulsed as her breath came out of her throat in hot little bursts. Her heart was beating so fast against her ribs, it reminded him of a tiny trapped bird he’d held in his hands once as a boy. But it was the arousal glistening between her legs that had him nod once in satisfaction.

Well, well, well.

Who’d have thought it?

She pressed her thighs together as the tip of her tongue licked her full bottom lip.

Her hands clenched into fists at her sides as she stood absolutely still under his intense gaze.

Now he narrowed his eyes.

“You need to be taught a lesson. Why do you think I didn’t come to you after the night I broke your hymen, Charisse?” Before she could speak, he interrupted, because he could read her thoughts running across that wonderfully expressive face. “That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. I didn’t come to you again after the night I made you mine. And that annoyed you, frustrated you, and pissed you off. Didn’t it? It didn’t occur to you that I was giving you time to heal, did it? I know exactly what you were thinking, because I know women. And I understand how you tick.

“You were angry because I left you aroused and alone night after night. Weren’t you, my little queen? You were so angry that you kept the truth from me about Omar. You went out into the desert at night. You met with a man without me and without my permission. You kept secrets from me about your childhood, about who you are and what happened to you. And for that you will be punished.

“And I can tell by the look in your eyes that you still do not quite understand what I’m saying. So let me spell it out for you, my little queen. You belong to me. You are mine. When I say jump, you say, How high.”

Her splutter of choked laughter broke the tight chain he’d kept on his self-control.

She found the situation funny, did she?

Not for long.

“Lie on the bed on your stomach. Now,” he ordered.

Temper flared in her eyes, scorched her cheekbones.

It took her a couple of beats, but she lifted her chin and staring straight ahead, walked past him with a sexy sway of her narrow hips. Her scarred bottom, the buttocks high and tight reminded him of a perfectly ripe peach. He caught the floral scent of her shampoo, her skin and her warm, womanly arousal.

She lay on her belly in the middle of the vast bed, her faced turned towards him.

Picking up a small bottle of essential Bergamot oil and a couple of pillows, he knelt on the bed beside her. Big eyes, wary and watchful, flicked between the oil, the pillows, and back to his face.

The way her fabulous brows rose an insolent fraction made his hand itch to warm that pert little bottom.

He enjoyed sex play. And he enjoyed rough sex. But Khalid realised that he could never, ever, physically hurt the woman he loved. There were other ways to show her who was in the driving seat in this relationship.

His body ached so hard for her that the pain of it had him take a deep breath.

He tipped the oil into the palm of his hand, and all the while her small white teeth gripped her full bottom lip. The scent of citrus spun in the air. And he was delighted to see that insolence was now replaced with interest. She didn’t have a clue what was about to happen to her, and he kept his desperate need to take her hard and fast under tight control.

She was so slight and fragile. He counted the bones of her vertebrae, and suppressed a crazy desire to press his mouth to each one from her neck to her tight little backside. But he refused to permit himself to be distracted by what needed to be done here and now.

Later there would be plenty of time to play.

“Lift up your hips.”

She did as he asked and he placed the pillows underneath her pelvis, which elevated her backside to just the right angle.

“You have a hang-up about your scars. Am I right?” He poured more oil into the palm of his hand, and placed the bottle on a bedside table.

Charisse turned her head and gave a low mewl sound in her throat as she watched his hands warm the oil. And she couldn’t look at her scars. He could tell by the way her eyes flinched, by the infinitesimal nod of her lovely head.

Well, he wasn’t having that.

Tonight was going to be a steep learning curve for his stubborn little queen.

“You have a pretty ass,” he growled.

Indeed, it was very pretty. He should know, since he’d seen and painted hundreds.

He continued in a conversational tone, “Now, let me lay out the ground rules. You will tell me if anything hurts. This position should keep pressure off your wound. But if it hurts, you tell me immediately. Say, “‘Yes, Khalid.’”

Heat scorched her neck, her face. And he wasn’t sure if it was temper or mortification. Probably a mixture of both.

“Yes, Khalid.” Her voice was the merest whisper as she closed her eyes.

“Eyes open, Charisse. You’re need to learn how watching me what I do to you will give you pleasure.”

He didn’t give her a chance to prepare or give her a hint of what was coming.

His hand itched to spank her until that tight little bottom glowed.

Lifting his hand to swing, he stopped, and shook his head.

He couldn’t do it.

Not while she was recovering from being shot.

She jerked at the initial touch of his fingertips on her pert bottom. But then he carefully added pressure as he massaged her buttock cheeks with firm fingers, soothing, pressing the oil into the scars which were now bright silver against the glow of her skin.

The low growl deep in his throat brought her shimmering eyes to his.

“The animal who did this to you is a walking dead man,” he swore.

Her voice was the merest whisper, “Why are you doing this?”

“You are not comfortable with your body. The scars shame you. By the time I am finished with you tonight, you won’t care. And you’ll realise that what evil did to you does not define you as a woman.”

The entire time he spoke, his fingertips kept massaging the taut muscles of her bare bottom. He wasn’t gentle. And then he felt her relax as her body pulsed with a different type of tension. Arousal. His thumbs became tender as they stroked down the slippery cleft between her legs, and she trembled.

“On your knees. Use the pillows to cushion your chest,” he said softly.

A tiny sob, quickly swallowed, was the only sound she made as the love of his life did as he asked. Her face had gone radioactive, and his heart nearly broke for her and for everything she’d been through.

His fingers slid over her perineum through the slick flesh of her labia and around the hard swell of her girl boner, ensuring he never once touched the frantic pulse of her clitoris. She would orgasm when he allowed it and not before.

For many minutes he tortured her with pleasure, all the while denying her that ultimate release.

She groaned before turning to look over her shoulder, to watch him stroke and massage her flesh. And she no longer cringed, but her eyes burned with arousal as they stared into his. He took a deep breath of relief at what he saw in those vivid blue depths.

Acceptance.

Trust.

Love.

Result.

“Put your shoulders on the pillows and turn your face towards me. Does your wound hurt?” All the while his fingers, slick with oil and her juices, explored the slick heat between her buttocks.

“No,” she breathed the word.

“You’re doing great, baby,” he told her in a soft voice. Her full bottom lip trembled in a way that made him feel like a complete bastard. “I’m going to make you come now, darlin’.”

Charisse couldn’t believe what was happening to her body.

“Oh, God.”

Khalid’s fingertips never stopped their firm rhythm as they pressed relentlessly into the muscles of her buttocks, circling in a hypnotic way that made her want to close her eyes and simply feel. The merciless pressure of arousal deep in her womb was a combination of pleasure and pain. With every inhale the scent of his body, clean and healthy and male, and mingling with the citrus scent of the oil, only added to the pleasure.

She took a deep, shuddering breath.

Her nipples were throbbing, so screamingly sensitive, and yet he hadn’t touched them. Her body was so aroused that she knew as soon as he touched the slick flesh of her secret places she would orgasm. The man knew exactly how to warm her bottom without hurting the too tight flesh. Yes, she’d nearly wept in stunned mortification to have herself exposed to him like this. She felt too vulnerable. But just enjoying the sensations of his touch made her womb clench and release a fluid that made her moan long and loud.

Khalid gave a deep laugh that made her make the sound again.

How on earth did he do that to her?

“That’s it, baby,” he whispered softly. “Just let yourself go.”

His thumbs gently slid between the lips of her swollen flesh and shamelessly she opened her legs wider to give him better access to the spot that throbbed and swelled for his attention. His thumb snaked around the hood of that screaming little bead and she shuddered as every single muscle from her toes to her scalp spasmed.

Just that touch triggered the most intense orgasm of her life.

Charisse buried her face in the pillow and screamed so long and so loud that it echoed through the high ceiling carved out of sheer rock.

Khalid lifted her in his strong arms.

He sat on the edge of the bed and held her tight.

Her body was still shuddering with aftershocks.

She held on tight to him and wept into his naked chest.

The self-loathing she’d clung to and how she’d never been able to look at her scars without feeling physically ill, along with the ultimate betrayal by the person who’d brought her into this world, a person who was supposed to protect her, all those complex emotions exploded through her system and threatened to devour her very soul.

She wept for the girl she’d been before death had robbed her of her sister, of her mother.

She wept for the broken girl who had arrived in Onuur.

And God knew she wept for the woman she’d need to become for the husband she loved with all her heart.

All Charisse could do was to hang onto the man who’d forced her to confront and accept the physical consequences of the darkest time in her life.

She had no idea how long she wept.

It could have been minutes or hours, but when she raised her head to look at the man who’d refused to let her hide from her demons and still held her tight, the expression of self-loathing on his fabulous face nearly stopped her heart.

With unsteady fingers, she swiped the tears from her face.

“Khalid. Look at me.”

He did and she’d never seen eyes so bleak as they stared into hers.

“Do you see what kind of man I am? Even though you’re sore and still healing I can’t keep my hands off you. Do you know what I want to do to you? I want to ride you hard, and ride you fast. This is why I didn’t come near you.” He pulled her into his body, rested his cheek on top of her head. “I can’t trust myself around you.”

His voice shook with something like desperation as he rubbed his cheek on her hair. His erection, rock hard, dug into her hip. And even though she’d had an amazing orgasm, her body still ached from a lack of completion she now knew only he could give her.

“I want you. I need you inside me,” she whispered.

His big body shuddered as he inhaled the scent of her hair. “It’s too soon. I’ll hurt you.”

And Charisse knew she had to find the courage to do what must be done.

With a shaky breath she rose to her feet to walk with a sinuous swing of her hips to a low backed couch.

As she bent over the wide arms of the couch, she heard him groan.

Praying to God that her voice didn’t wobble, she looked at him over her shoulder.

“Khalid. Do your husbandly duty.”

Husbandly duty?

For a stupefied moment, Khalid could do nothing but stare at her.

What had happened to the sobbing woman in his arms?

Hadn’t he opened her eyes to the kind of man he was?

But no, yet again she had taken control.

The little witch.

Then the naughty girl wiggled her bare bottom, rolling her hips in a way that electrified his groin. Even more blood surged between his legs, tightening his boys so hard he thought he was going to disgrace himself.

Perhaps he could do this?

Perhaps he could take her from behind, taking care not to thrust too deep?

He stood and moved to stand between her spread legs.

Bending over her, his arousal pressed between the cheeks of her buttocks.

Taking the long plait of silver hair in one hand, he wrapped it around his wrist.

Gently bringing her head up, he brought his mouth to her ear and immediately the scent of her had him close his eyes tight.

She smelled fabulous.

“Husbandly duty?” he purred.

His erection nudged the slick heat between her legs.

“Yes! I want your child in my belly, my husband,” she whimpered.

Her words made something in his chest squeeze tight. They almost unmanned him as he found her hot, wet, entrance and slid inside, inch by inch.

She gasped, and turned her head inviting him to take her mouth.

He didn’t need to be asked twice. His mouth, and tongue, and teeth erotically plundered hers, and she gave as good as she got. And he shuddered. She was so unbelievably tight, so hot.

“Am I hurting you?” he panted, fighting a war of attrition to stay absolutely still.

“No,” she gasped again and tried to push her bottom back against him.

He kept a firm grip of her hip to hold her firm. Then bending his knees, he pushed his pelvis forward and back, forward and back, until he went further, deeper, and he hit the sweet spot deep in her channel. She screamed with pleasure as she tried to arch her back but his grip held her fast.

“More, harder,” she cried.

But Khalid gritted his teeth. He dare not let himself go. In his determination not to hurt her his big body tremored. Her body was pulsing, fisting around him to squeeze so hard he sobbed out a breath. He’d never, ever, felt anything like it. Through a brute force of will, he kept the pace slow and steady. It nearly killed him. Hard sobs broke from his throat with every single shuddering thrust of his hips. And Charisse was in just as bad a state. A part of his brain registered the amazing fact that their breathing had synchronised.

The abrupt clench of her core muscles contracted around him so strongly his eyes crossed. And an orgasm so deep, so powerful had her catch her breath before she came apart with a wail that triggered his own release. His own orgasm had him roar like a bull as his boys tightened too fast and her body gripped him even tighter drawing him further into her slick heat to milk him until he had nothing, nothing, left to give.

How the hell he lifted her and carried her to their bed he never knew because his legs were boneless.

He was shivering, as if gripped by fever.

Laying her carefully on her uninjured side, he stroked a trembling hand gently down her hip before tucking his arm under her breasts and holding her close, spooned against him.

Pulling the comforter over them, he inhaled the scent of her hair, of her warm, sexy body, of Charisse.

Emotions, too many to deal with, stung his eyes, burned the back of his throat.

Christ, he found it hard to think, hard to speak.

He cleared his throat. “Tell me I didn’t hurt you.”

Alarmed, at first he thought she was crying, then he sighed in relief when he realised she was laughing. “It’s been a big day. I drank champagne. You carried me in your arms. A nurse tried to kill me. I got married. Flew in a spooky helicopter to James Bond’s holiday home. You gave me a massage. And if I’m not pregnant with triplets after that it will be a miracle.”

A huge wave of emotions battered him again.

But as he inhaled the scent of his woman, Khalid knew he must be nothing less than honest with her. “I am not an easy man to live with,” he admitted in a gruff voice.

She wiggled her bare bottom against his groin in a way that made him groan.

Then she gave a tired but happy little sigh to settle snugly in his arms.

“It’s been a breeze so far.”

 

 

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

 

LOL!

I’d forgotten how much fun, in spite of everything life had thrown at her, Charrise could be!

Tomorrow, Chapter Sixteen……

Christine X

Thank you so much for the love for No Rules…..

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27 January 2018

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Omg I have read this in one go. I love cc characters ,and the other cast that make an appearance Nico,Bronte,sophia, marvellous.what of oliver and Ana bannana beautiful wedding just what she wanted. Love the scene in the doctors with Ana and oliver so funny tickled my funny bone. Just wish there wasn’t such along period between books. But I know you can’t hurry the creative process. Well done thumbs up for this one can’t wait for taniths story. Xxxxx

3 February 2018

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I must admit I was a bit apprehensive to read this book because I didn’t know Chloe but boy am I glad I did. I loved her so gutsy a good Ludlow female. I will be reading it again and again. CC has done it again. Wonderful!

8 February 2018

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Brilliant. I Love CC’s writing and books and this excelled as always. Totally recommend.
5.0 out of 5 starsNo Rules is an understatement!
29 January 2018 – Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
All the rules were thrown out and turned upside down, which made for so much fun. I can’t let go of these characters, Serge worked his way into my heart and squeezed so hard I laughed and cried at the same time. I blame it on the hand lingering and that noble penis….I need to know more, what’s ahead for them now that he has found love for the first time.
5.0 out of 5 starsPassion and humor!
30 January 2018 – Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
C C Mackenzie’s latest installment into the Ludlow Nights series is captivating. No Rules is the story of Serge Morretti and Chloe Rucker. Chloe has gotten herself in a bit of a hole she is trying to dig herself out of. Serge is into his family business and vying for a position on the board that seems to come with strings attached. They strike a deal to help each other reach their goals. Will it work? Follow these characters on their journey of ups and downs. C C Mackenzie writes with passion and humor in this series. Highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 starsLove.
27 January 2018 – Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I must say that each time I read one of CC’s books I’m filled with joy. I love the way all the stories intertwine and the connections with each character grow. I’ve especially enjoyed this book because of Serge and his ‘noble penis’. He’s so hellbent about showing that he’s not being a good man that he doesn’t realise he’s already a good man. And perfect for Chloe who needs him to help her stand. At least that how I feel. I also love that Ms CC always includes a lesson within her stories. She just slips it in so neatly and its absorbed easily. I’ve enjoyed this series and cannot wait for it to continue. Now on to my second read of this book 😊
A fake engagement?
A fake relationship?
A one-night stand turns into a deception of monumental proportions?

NO RULES ticks all the boxes.
Full of fun and laughter and scorching hot luv’in, this standalone sexy as sin romance set in the Ludlow Nights world, with a swoon worthy hero and feisty heroine, will make you laugh and cry out loud.

No more wild nights. No more wild women.

Serge Morretti’s wild ride through life may have to come to an end, but less partying
means more time to devote to making more money, including winning over the octogenarians who run Morretti Enterprises. Seems if Serge wants to take his rightful place on the board—he needs a wife—and he’s got a grand plan. But when his world collides with a beautiful blonde at his best friend’s engagement party, where’s the harm in one more wild night?

Chloe Rucker’s coping with a few problems just now.
After her drink is spiked, compromising pictures of her are being held for ransom…and a wedding-obsessed family who are driving her crazy.
Her life may be a disaster, but she’s certain of one thing.
She isn’t impressed by silver tongued devils, especially one with dark laughing eyes. She certainly isn’t looking for a sexy fling with a notorious playboy, no matter how big a deal he thinks he is to the rest of womankind.
Chloe doesn’t do casual.
But maybe just this once…

Nico, Bronte and Sophia Ferranti, among others from the Ludlow cast, all make appearances in this standalone page turner.

Thank you again for all the support!
My editorial team and I are beyond thrilled you enjoyed Serge and Chloe’s rocky road to love.
Love,
Christine X

Are all y’all ready for another Desert Orchid chapter? Read on, my darlings…..

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There are many things I love about my readers. They’re kind, have a fabulous sense of humour and fun. And they simply adore a brooding bad boy……

Enjoy…..

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

Chapter Fifteen

The outrageous bathroom of their bedroom suite had walls of Italian marble and floor-to-ceiling mirrors.

Khalid rested his palms on the ivory walls of the shower and let five jets blast his body. The sting of the force of the water was just what he needed to give himself a reality check. What the hell did he know about running a country? What the hell did he know about being a husband? His first weeks in the role of King of Onuur had been an unmitigated disaster. Instead of bringing stability and peace, he’d unwittingly brought chaos to the palace, heartbreak to the country, and to the woman he loved. Guilt slid a sharp blade deeper into his soul and his conscience. By selfishly following his art, he’d let his people down. But worse, he’d let Charisse down, too.

The scent of liquid soap, ginger and spice, rose to mingle with the steam, as he lathered his body.

His father had made it clear, crystal clear, that he must put his country and his wife before his God given talent to paint. If he’d put his duty before pleasure, then he’d have son Charisse’s trust. She wouldn’t have felt the need to go riding out into the desert in the middle of the night to meet Sheik Abbas. She wouldn’t have been shot.

Khalid closed his eyes tight shut as the memory of her lying in the dirt, bloody and broken entered his mind.

Her beloved horse Diablo was dead.

And he knew by the way her mind wandered at times, by the way her eyes became deep blue pools of terrible sadness, that her heart was broken. Not once had she wept about her loss or made a fuss. Charisse appeared to have the enviable ability to accept her lot in life.

He closed his eyes against the sting of soap as he massaged shampoo into his scalp.

Try as Khalid might to remain optimistic for their future, to quiet the inner critic who whispered sly words in his mind, the truth again hit him hard.

A truth that was a bitter pill to swallow.

He wasn’t good enough for her.

Oh, he might talk big to his parents and his brother, demanding that Arabella Faulkner bring in an elite counter insurgency team. But what the hell did he know about military tactics or special operations? His brother was the trained military man who dealt with the security side of keeping the El Haribe family in power.

Then he’d gone and compounded his sins by telling Charisse he loved her.

And God bless her, she’d told him she loved him, too.

The love in her eyes for him had terrified him even as it made his heart fill with a tremendous happiness. However, they still hadn’t discussed the incident in their past that had brought them to this point. Namely, the accident that had changed both their lives.

And had changed the behaviour of her father.

Somehow the right moment hadn’t arrived for them to talk.

Khalid let the pounding water rinse the shampoo from his scalp, and admitted he’d avoided the topic, and so was Charisse.

Christ, who could blame her?

Alone in the shower with only himself for company, Khalid admitted that he didn’t want to have that conversation with her.

He needed memories that were too painful for both of them to bear, to remain exactly where they belonged—in the past.

What was the point of digging up old hurts, old fears, when they should live in the moment and cope with events that demanded their attention now.

By the way she’d looked at him today when they’d promised themselves to each other, he knew that she expected him, trusted him, to deal with whoever threatened her and their country. And for a crazy moment as they’d exchanged vows, he’d believed he could do it, too.

But now all his personality flaws and past failures rose high on a wave of self-doubt. A wave so powerful it drowned the fragile shoots of his self-belief.

What the hell had he been thinking?

Overwhelmed by the sense of too many emotions from the past and present colliding, an oil slick of anxiety that he didn’t have a fucking clue what he was doing lay too heavy in his gut.

Sarif had told him that he would have a strategy in place after Khalid and Charisse returned from their honeymoon. The main thing was to keep her out of harm’s way.

However, in reality Khalid felt that the past was repeating itself. He’d permitted his family to clean up his mess. Again. And he was running away from his responsibilities. Again.

On the other hand, he needed to keep his wife—God, his wife—safe.

His hand slapped off the water.

Khalid grabbed a white towel of thick cotton from a heated towel rail.

Heart heavy, he wrapped the towel around his hips, and wandered into their bedroom.

Junah had helped Charisse prepare for him.

Using a hand towel to rub his hair, he kept a careful eye on the woman who was his wife.

She sat on the edge of the bed looking perfectly relaxed and for some reason that fact bothered him.

Well, he wasn’t relaxed.

He felt like shit.

Tension rose from his shoulders, up the back of his neck.

At the moment his wife was busy rubbing ointment on the livid bruise on her hip.

The sight made him take a deep inhale of breath.

He could actually count her ribs.

And her fragility not only scared him—it annoyed him.

It annoyed him, a lot, because everything, everything, that had happened to her was all his own fault.

She winced as she touched a tender spot.

Her white teeth bit down hard on her bottom lip.

After placing the pot on the bedside table, she turned to him. Blue eyes studied him from his toes to the top of his head until they stayed on his. Now she was perched on the bed wearing a tiny pair of panties in ivory silk along with a matching top with shoelace straps. Her glorious hair was confined in a single loose plait that hung down her back to her slim waist.

As ever her delicate beauty made his heart ache.

And he wondered now if falling madly in love with the sister of the girl he’d killed was a sick sort of Karma. That the universe was ensuring that he would suffer the loss of the one he loved more than life, of Charisse, as payback for his past mistakes, for his recklessness.

He knew he needed to talk to her about his past. To tell her truth of what he’d done, eventually.

What then?

How on earth could she remain married to him knowing it was his actions and his choices that day that had killed her sister?

Not for one second did Khalid entertain the idea that Charisse might be capable of forgiveness.

How could he, when he’d never forgiven himself?

Then the reason for why she’d married him became crystal clear in his tortured mind.

Charisse had married him out of a sense of obligation. Out of a sense of duty to an old man and a country that had given her shelter when she’d needed it most. Amir and the people of Onuur had embraced Charisse and loved her. And in return, Charisse had embraced and loved them, too.

Khalid just couldn’t imagine Charisse ever divorcing him or turning away from the people of Onuur, no, she’d never do that. But once she learned the real story about Khalid’s part in the accident, would she turn away from him?

How could she not hate him?

And what then?

What if he lost her?

What if their love turned to hate and they ended up imprisoned in a relationship destroyed by a lack of trust?

The demons that had haunted him for too long returned—in force.

Then a little voice whispered that perhaps it might be better not to tell her what he’d done, after all ignorance was bliss? It was all in the past. And it might be an idea to let sleeping dogs lie, so to speak.

He shook his head.

No.

If the last six years had taught Khalid anything it was that hiding from the truth, living a lie, ate a little bit more of a man’s soul every single day. He needed to be true to himself and because he loved her, he needed to be true to Charisse, too. And that meant being honest with her, and being his authentic self.

Even if it meant he lost her forever.

Dark thoughts swirled in a confused mix as a strange wave of unreality swept over Khalid.

He was the king of a country he knew nothing about. With a populace who regarded him with distrust and suspicion. And who could blame them? And now he was married to a beautiful woman he adored. A woman who thought she loved him. But a woman who was also in terrible danger.

And he wondered how the hell all this had happened to him in less than a month.

Taking a deep but agitated breath, he closed his eyes.

Khalid El Haribe knew how women ticked.

After all, he’d had plenty of them.

He was good with beautiful, funny, intelligent women.

Now he opened his eyes to study Charisse.

But not one of them could touch the fabulous creature who now lay back against a waterfall of white pillows on his big bed.

No.

Their bed.

Her big blue eyes smouldered —clearly, there was no other word for it—as she curved her spine and stretched like a sleek, lazy kitten. All long limbs and soft skin. The scent of her, floral bath oil, and aroused woman spun around him.

“I have been waiting for you,” she purred deep in her throat in a way that fired his groin.

And for the first time in his life he felt a lack of confidence with a woman.

He tried to disguise the tremble of his hands as he rubbed his hair with the towel.

“That’s what I love about you, baby. You get straight to the heart of the matter.” He ran his fingers through damp hair and watched that secret little smile play on her fabulous mouth as her gaze went hot as she followed the movement of his fingers.

She may not have liked his hair in the beginning, but she loved it now.

“You look gorgeous, Rock Star.”

His lips twitched.

Ah, it appeared Charisse was channelling her inner goddess to make it crystal clear she wanted him.

“You’re good,” he told her, his voice deep with an emotion he couldn’t name. He felt that emotion burn in his throat, behind his eyes. And then he realised it was the way she stared at him. He read desire and something that looked like possession.

“Better believe it,” she said.

He swallowed, realising something about her made him nervous.

Why the hell did he feel nervous?

“What happened to the shy and retiring Charisse?” he wanted to know, playing for time without a clue why.

Those amazing blue eyes narrowed now as she studied his face.

“She’s madly in love. And she needs her man.”

He cleared his throat as her soul stealing smile squeezed his heart.

“Now you’re scaring me,” he admitted, becoming increasingly alarmed as perspiration snaked down his spine.

Those blue eyes went to slits as she turned onto her side and leaned on her elbow.

“That’s the first lie you’ve ever told me.”

Shit.

She was a mind-reader now?

Actually, he was feeling terribly unsettled, off-balance, edgy.

Then the truth struck him.

Charisse had managed to take complete control of the situation, and he wasn’t sure he liked it.

Then she sat, assuming the yoga position sukhasana and straightened her spine.

She looked absolutely fabulous sitting there like a princess, proud and regal as those blue eyes stayed on his as if seeing right into his soul. And again he wondered what the hell was the matter with him?

“You don’t want to love me. Do you?”

 

 

He went absolutely still.

By Khalid’s frozen expression Charisse knew her shot in the dark had hit the mark.

A few short hours ago, she’d been sitting in the garden of the Royal Palace in Dhuma talking to Queen Janaan. Then she’d been swept up in the moment in Khalid’s arms. Someone had attempted to kill her. And Khalid, in the grip of volatile emotions, had told her that he loved her and they’d shared one of the most special moments of her life.

They’d married with only Arabella and his family at witnesses.

Now they were in some fantastic mountain hideaway.

But she’d known, from the moment he’d entered their bedroom, that something was very wrong. Since they’d arrived his mood had plummeted from a suppressed excitement to self-absorption and introspection. That brooding look she knew and loved so much was back in his eyes. And she realised the devils that haunted him, rode him too hard, were back. She could tell by how his strong jaw clenched and that fabulous mouth narrowed. And his mother’s words spun into her mind, reminding her that it was her duty as his wife to distract him.

Khalid, Charisse realised now, was great in a crisis. His love for her had overcome any self-doubt. Once he’d set his mind on a path, nothing changed it. He’d been assertive. And she suspected that he’d surprised himself, as well as his family.

But now he’d had too much time to think. Too much time to begin to doubt himself.

Why, Charisse wondered, had she thought she could handle this man?

She didn’t doubt him and had believed his words when he’d told her he loved her.

However, at the moment he didn’t look particularly happy about it.

In fact, since he’d declared himself and all through the brief wedding ceremony, he’d given the impression of a man who was about to walk the plank and be tossed into a shark infested sea.

Struggling to keep the wobble of dismay from her voice, she kept the tone friendly.

“I believe in you. Amir believed in you. Remind me to show you his letter to me when we return to Onuur.”

Those grey eyes turned dark.

His eyes now burning with an emotion she couldn’t read.

“Why?”

His tone was not at all friendly, and she swallowed the need to yell at him, to demand to know why he was spoiling such a special moment for them.

Instead she jerked her chin up, and met his stare head on. “Why what?”

“Why do you want to show me his letter?”

“Because I love you. Because I want no secrets between us.”

He glared at her even as his face went white.

And she was reminded of a disgruntled dark angel, all the way from the top of that glossy coal black hair to his bare feet.

His deep voice was almost a growl, “Love! I wasn’t expecting love. I don’t do love.”

The angry frustration in his voice, with himself, made her grin.

And suddenly Charisse felt a hell of a lot better.

Poor Khalid, he was totally devastated.

In a good way.

Her grin grew into a huge smile.

The warning flare in that dark gaze didn’t prevent her giving him big eyes.

“Oops,” she said.

He ran his tongue over his top teeth.

“Oops?” he repeated in a silky voice.

“Mmm hmm. You’re scared of your feelings for me.”

Something like anger flashed in his eyes as he tossed the towel and stood before her in all his naked glory. His gaze burned into hers and she recognised he was standing before her stripped not just physically, but emotionally as well.

He placed his fists on his hips.

“My feelings for you make me feel weak. You terrify me, and I hate it. Why did you go out into the desert in the middle of the damned night? Why didn’t you tell me? Don’t you understand you don’t get to make those kinds of decisions without me? We’re in a relationship here!” His voice cracked and he showed his back to her for a couple of heaving breaths before spinning around. His eyes burned into hers. And what she saw made her heart beat too fast. “Goddamn it! You don’t get to make the rules. If we’re to do this thing, then we do it together. If anything were to happen to you…” He took another deep breath, and his voice broke. “I couldn’t bear it, Charisse.”

His chest heaved as she read the honest truth in his dark eyes, heard the pain in his voice.

He was so terribly scared.

But not just of love, she realised, but of losing her, too.

Her eyes glued to his, she rose and went to him.

Standing before him, she wrapped her arms around that amazing warrior’s body, all lean and muscled. She tipped back her head to stare into those stormy grey eyes. Even though his fierce erection pressed into the soft flesh of her belly, he didn’t touch her.

His fists were clenched at his sides, the vein in his neck beat a frantic tattoo.

“You know, it’s going to be wonderful being married to you. It’s so wonderful to know that the man I love loves me back to the point where I can drive him crazy. I will be your anchor, a calm place for you to be, in the storm of life. We will build a strong, deep foundation for our marriage.” She pressed her lips to that wide chest, an illicit thrill ran up her spine as she felt him shudder. “You know, people do say that from commitment comes great strength and freedom. And I believe that is very true.”

Her palms rubbed soft circles of comfort on the warm skin of his back, and his big body shuddered again.

Lifting her head, she stared up into his face.

Heat scorched those magnificent cheekbones.

“I am not good enough for you.” His deep voice was hoarse, as if the words were torn from his soul.

Staring into his eyes, she realised that he absolutely believed every single word.

A sudden fury burned in her blood, leapt into her throat.

Sliding a hand into his scalp, she gripped his hair and tugged his face down to hers.

“Where the hell do you get off making a decision like that? Who are you to judge what’s good enough for me? How dare you talk like that about the man I love.”

He blinked.

Then he gazed at her with eyes filled to the brim with a cocktail of mixed emotions.

Among them she read a deep shame, suffering and a heavy guilt that broke her heart.

 

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

 

Tomorrow is Chapter Sixteen, and it will be edited since it’s a love scene.

Christine X

On a snowy and windy night, settle back and enjoy Chapter Fourteen of Desert Orchid…..

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Hello, my darlings!

The wind has icy teeth this evening, and it’s snowing. It’s at times like this I could do with the hot desert sun. Here’s Chapter Thirteen, and Khalid’s reached the end of his tether…..

 

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

Chapter Fourteen

Three hours later, Khalid sat on a couch in his parent’s sitting room, his aching head in his hands, while a heated debate raged around him.

He stood.

He’d had enough.

“Quiet!” he roared. His father, mother, brother and Arabella Faulkner simply stared at him as he continued, “Thus far I’ve followed your advice. I brought Charisse here believing the palace was secure. I don’t care how the nurse got through your precautions. The point is that security, even here, is compromised. This is the second attempt on her life and there will not be a third. Do I make myself clear?”

Arabella took a deep breath, gave him a single nod of her head.

Bravely, she stepped closer to put forward her argument.

“To attack her here, in the palace, means the issue that faces us is much bigger than anything we could have imagined. We need to bring in specialists. I have contacts from my time in the military. Good men from the United States and the United Kingdom special forces. Men that we can trust and know how to deal with what we are up against.”

“How did you get the name of the traitor from the nurse?” Khalid wanted to know.

Arabella’s brown eyes went flat and cold. “Sodium Thiopental. She sang every tune we wanted to hear.”

King Abdullah merely nodded.

“So, the nurse is Omar’s niece. And both come from a tribe banished from this land many years ago.”

Khalid knew his history. In Arabia forty years was not a long time to hold a grudge. When his father ascended the throne, times had been deadly with feuds among the tribes. The desert sands had run red with the blood of the fallen. Hatred was an emotion passed from generation to generation. And from what had happened today, their enemies would never give up until they had attained their goal. The death of Charisse.

But why?

Why not go after his father, his brother, or even himself?

“If this is revenge for past sins, why attack Charisse? She is beloved by her people,” he spoke his thoughts.

Arabella responded, “To destabilise the region? We only have the woman’s point of view. She was acting on instructions and has no idea who is behind the assassination attempt or why. We can theorise all we like. But the person we need is Omar.”

Khalid gave her such a fierce look, she blinked. “Bring in whomever you need to help us. But find him,” he ordered. The tone was a dismissal. Arabella bowed her head and strode from the room.

“I suspect the attempt on Charisse’s life was a last ditch attempt to stop the wedding,” Sarif said.

Khalid shook his head.

“None of this makes any sense. Surely her father is aware that we will hunt him down and destroy him like a rabid dog?”

His mind seethed over different scenarios, which he knew were a waste of time until they had facts. Now was the time for action.

He turned to his father. “Has the imam arrived to perform the wedding ceremony?”

His father nodded.

Khalid continued, “Then we will be married immediately.”

His family simply stared at him.

“What has Charisse got to say about this?” his mother demanded.

Khalid looked at her. “Charisse,” he said. “Will do as she is told.”

And was that respect in his mother’s eyes? He couldn’t care less. His priority was to keep his woman safe.

Sarif’s dark eyes met his. “Then what?”

“Then I get her the hell out of here. Somewhere secure. And somewhere she can heal. Arabella Faulkner will fly us out tonight.”

He moved to leave, but his mother placed her hand on his arm.

“Where are you going?”

Khalid shook his head. “I cannot tell you that. The less people who know our whereabouts the better.”

His mother jerked back as if he’d slapped her.

Face white she spoke in a shocked whisper, “You don’t trust us?”

Taking her in his arms, Khalid hugged his mother tight, and stared over her head into the stunned faces of his father and brother.

“Of course I trust you. With my life. But we’ve been betrayed twice. There will not be a third time.”

Dressed in black jeans, a matching cashmere sweater and warm jacket to keep out the chill of a desert night, Charisse found herself bundled into the rear passenger seat of an unusual looking helicopter.

A helicopter painted matt black.

Under strict instructions from Khalid, Arabella had packed all the supplies they’d need and checked the aircraft herself.

Dressed in black jeans, sweater and boots, Khalid slid into the seat next to Arabella and indicated Charisse wear the headphones he handed her.

He turned to her, his eyes so dark and intense that her heart beat too fast in her chest.

“Can you hear me?” His voice came, crystal clear, in her ears.

She nodded and was relieved to see her husband smile.

This gorgeous, vigorous and young man was her husband.

She still couldn’t quite believe it.

They’d been married in a ceremony put together so fast, her head still spun. After his declaration of love for her, and his kisses, she’d naturally assumed their wedding night might have been consummated under candlelight. Instead, she was about to be flown away to a secret location.

But then this was Khalid. He never ceased to surprise her.

And by the way his family had behaved, they’d been astonished by the new take charge Khalid, too. His father’s and brother’s eyes held a deep respect for Khalid that Charisse had never seen before, and her own heart swelled with pride for him. If some good came out of this unholy mess, if Khalid and his family became close again, then perhaps it was all worth it.

The information from Arabella that the attempts on her life may not be personal, but rather, an attempt to destabilise the whole region didn’t make sense in Charisse’s opinion. But the El Haribe’s were in contact with their allies, and specialist help, something about black ops teams, had already been despatched from the United States and the United Kingdom.

Her life, Charisse decided, had turned into something from an action movie. Assassins, political intrigue, blood feuds, and the hard truths of her own past, all swirled together in her mind. And even though Khalid had insisted that taking her away to recover and have a honeymoon at the same time was the right thing to do, she couldn’t help the feeling burning in her belly that she was running away.

Her dark thoughts were interrupted by the whine of the helicopter as the rotor blades spun. And then they were airborne. Charisse had never flown in a helicopter at night. The weather was clear, no cloud, and she realised the light from the moon highlighted the horizon. At first Arabella flew west, towards Sarif’s kingdom of Quaram. But once she’d flown the aircraft over the mountains, it dipped sharply and turned east.

Khalid spun to Arabella, his eyes narrowed and dark. “What are you doing? This isn’t part of the plan.”

She handed him a thick envelope.

“Staying under the radar. Queen Janaan and I had a long chat. She came up with a location that no one will ever think to look for you. Read it.”

Although he didn’t look happy, Khalid whipped out a tiny penlight, tore open the envelope, pulled out thick parchment and read. Charisse watched him shake his head as a big grin spread over his wonderful face.

He turned in his seat, dark eyes twinkling into hers. “You’re gonna love this.”

Arabella spoke in their ears, “Her majesty is a very clever woman.”

Bemused, Charisse asked, “Where are we going?”

Khalid shook his head. “Wait and see.”

Charisse gave him a dark look. She was beginning to find the lack of control over her destination, her future, and any say in what was happening in her country incredibly frustrating. Very soon she was going to have words with her husband. Just who the hell did he think he was?

“Care to share?” Charisse asked.

Her icy tone had his brows shoot into his hairline.

Khalid opened his mouth, but Arabella shook her head, her eyes totally focused on the task at hand. “Not over the radio, please. The hills have ears.”

He shrugged. “Okay. Just sit back and relax.”

Easier said than done.

But Charisse did as she was told.

The only light in the helicopter was from the radar screens, and Arabella took it nice and easy. No one spoke for the next forty-five minutes.

Then the aircraft lingered at the front of a wall of sheer rock, it went up-up-up, until they dipped over the edge into a wide valley surrounded by a mountain range. It was pitch black as the helicopter hovered.

Arabella turned on a flashlight on the undercarriage of the craft and waited. Then lights flickered on the floor of the valley below illuminating a scene straight out of a James Bond movie. There appeared to be a very large landing pad below a huge property built into the side of the mountain.

They landed.

Once the helicopter rotors ground to a halt, Khalid helped her out. It was just as well his strong arm supported her waist because Charisse felt the world tilt.

“What on earth is this place?”

Arabella tossed her a grin but said nothing, before she shouldered a huge back-pack and trundled out a metal case on wheels from the helicopter.

Khalid held her close, placed a gentle kiss on her forehead that had the blood fizz in her veins.

Dark eyes glittered into hers. “It was built during the second world war as an emergency communications centre for the allies. My father re-fit the building for my mother as a place to escape the stresses and strains of court life. Here, they can chill out, and take time to simply be together.”

Movement sensors had more lights flicker on as Arabella led the way into what looked like a vast cave. But once they entered, wide steps carved out of the rock led up to what appeared to be an ultra-modern concrete box.

Releasing her, Khalid moved to assist Arabella heft the luggage before leading the way up the stairs. They stepped through a vast oak door and entered a fantastical space with high ceilings. The room smelled of candle wax and fresh flowers. Low lights shed a gentle glow on a huge open plan sunken sitting room. Large couches covered in butter-soft leather the colour of treacle, three of them, surrounded a vast coffee table set in front of an open fireplace. Logs flickered lazily in the open hearth. On the right-hand side, one wall was made of glass from floor to ceiling. The constellations glittered with millions of stars in a velvety black sky.

Then Charisse jolted in shock as two grey-haired servants, their eyes wide, materialised from a side door. They’d obviously been woken by their arrival. Khalid immediately went to greet them.

The elderly man’s rheumy eyes lit-up as he recognised his prince.

He smiled, showcasing a mouth with the grand total of three white teeth.

Then he bowed deeply.

Khalid stepped forward. “Faris and Junah, please meet my wife, Charisse, Queen of Onuur,” he said a low voice.

Charisse moved to shake each bony hand. Their eyes were now filled to the brim with an emotion that caught her throat. The love they had for Khalid was clear to see. Then they bowed again and scurried after Arabella to help unload the helicopter.

Feeling strangely shy to be alone with him for the first time since their wedding, which was ridiculous, Charisse took her time to calm her nerves as she explored the immense room hollowed out of sheer rock.

She turned to him. “It’s amazing. Do they look after this huge place on their own?”

Khalid stepped into her, and all the while dark eyes never left her face. Those eyes missed nothing, she realised, as he took her hand and brought it to his mouth.

“They came thirty years ago. And stayed.”

She blinked. And couldn’t help the little shiver that ran up her spine.

“They never left?” Her voice sounded too high. She cleared her throat. “You mean they’re trapped here?”

He shook his head, sent her a slow smile. “They are brother and sister. My parents took them in after they had been shunned by their tribe. They were born with no vocal cords. A birth defect. They are very happy here.”

Charisse’s soft heart broke for the siblings. Even though Dhuma was a forward thinking country, among the desert tribes some things took longer to find acceptance. Communication, the singing of songs, and in particular the telling of stories were the way histories were kept alive. To have members of the tribe who couldn’t speak would be a severe handicap to their ability to survive. And certainly marriage, having a family of their own would have been impossible.

“Can they read and write?”

Khalid nodded. “Yes.” Again he took her hand, and the way his eyes went dark and intense as they met hers had her heart skip in her chest. “Let me show you around.”

Together and with her hand held tight in his, Charisse walked with Khalid into a new future.

 

Desert Orchid – Copyright

By CC MacKenzie

Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014

Published by More Press

ISBN 9781909331075

The right of C C MacKenzie to be

identified as the author of this

work has been asserted by her

under the Copyright Amendment

(Morals Rights) Act 2000

This work is copyright.

Apart from any use as permitted under

the Copyright Act 1968, no part

may be reproduced, copied, scanned,

stored in a retrieval system,

recorded or transmitted,

in any form or by any means,

without the prior permission

of the publisher.

This book is a work of fiction.

Names, characters, places and

incidents are either a product of

the author’s imagination or are

used fictitiously. Any

resemblance to actual people

living or dead, events or locales is

entirely coincidental.

 

Thank you for the amazing feedback. We’re not half way through the book. A lot more to come…..

Christine X