Hello, my darlings!
Did you enjoy THE ROYAL WEDDING last Saturday? We loved the whole romance of the special occasion and how much in the love the couple were. Meghan looked radiant in the splendour of the Chapel. I wish them every happiness and know they are going to be a great team.
Speaking of teams, HITCHED TO THE ITALIAN’S final edit is almost in the bag and my editor love-love-loved it. It includes some re-written sneak peeks woven through the torrid tale, and I have the next two outlines fleshed out in the HITCHED TO THE ITALIAN series. My team and I have had the best time coming up with the next two titles and covers. Love my job! I’m also working on OUR RULES.
Here’s the next two episodes of DESERT CAPTIVE. Remember these are not the final version of the story, things will change in the finished version of the book after many rounds of editing.
Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2018
Sarif surveyed Arabella, the woman who within a matter of moments, was about to become his wife.
Her scent, lightly floral and warm woman, seemed to draw him in. The slim hand held in his felt cold and even a little fragile. On her finger she wore a giant diamond solitaire ring that appeared too big for her hand. Even as her fingers gripped his, the knuckles white, the stone glittered with a blazing brilliance. It was a beautiful ring befitting a Queen. His Queen. His. A heat he could do nothing about, no matter how hard he tried, burned in his groin. It was her body, he told himself urgently. There was just something about how slim she appeared in an ivory silk pant suit, an outfit sent to her by Queen Charisse’s couturier in the House of Chanel. Queen Charisse was a good friend to Arabella and soon to be her sister-in-law. His brother, Khalid, and Charisse had been unable to attend this very sudden wedding. Neither had his parents, which was probably just as well because it was not a for-ever kind of marriage and he knew they would not approve of his actions. The entire ceremony was nothing more than the only way for him to legally claim his son.
Now he studied Bella’s set face. Her hair was the color of the true brunette, dark chestnut shot through with brandy. Her face was oval, the cheekbones sharp, the skin clear and fresh and quite lovely. Her mouth was full, the bottom lip might even be called voluptuous. It was a mouth that left him painfully turned on. Aware of his scrutiny, her eyes, dark brown, flicked to his and held.
Hot tendrils of a lust that never faded whenever he looked at her spun through his system.
His attraction to her remained a complete mystery to him.
For the past few days this woman, with her face stony, her responses tense and cool to his attempt to make polite conversation, only made him tense and cool himself. And yet now that held her hand, his whole body was ablaze.
The celebrant officiating the legal ceremony asked her a question and finally she smiled and it lit up her grave face like the sun. In truth, the smile was both wooden and formal. Involuntarily Sarif was amused for no woman had ever treated him the way Bella did, with such utter disdain. Then she turned to him and he studied the clear challenge in her eyes and asked himself if marrying her was worth everything he was sacrificing. Of course it was, his intelligence told him. For the loss of his freedom he had to be practical and work within the British legal system and do anything to gain custody of his son. One way or another marriage to this woman was a step forward in attaining his goal to secure the continued heritage of his family and his name. Both would go a long way to securing a better future for his people.
Silence fell as they both said the words that legally bound them, and he had another flashback to how her tight bare bottom had felt as his hands had gripped her as her long legs had wound around his waist and together they’d attained a dizzy height of bliss he’d never felt before or since.
Now he wondered if her clear unwillingness to even speak to him since they’d made love that one time had stoked a weird sort of craving. Again hunger leapt through his veins because now she was his. The thought of her spread across his vast bed in various different positions shot heat to his groin. He could not remember ever wanting a woman with such violent immediacy. Was it possible that her reluctance sustained his desire? Was he truly the type of man who needed the sort of challenge, Bella truly represented? And why was the truth of her standing next to him and pregnant with his child such a turn on? Wasn’t that a little perverted? A hard line of color streaked his exotic, high cheekbones, and he stood upright and told himself to get a grip.
The celebrant smiled.
“You may kiss the bride.”
Slowly, they turned to face one another.
Now he held both of her hands in his as he stared at the narrow band of gold that signified their joining as man and wife.
In his mind, Sarif promised himself the kiss would be a brief touch of the lips.
But when those clear dark brown eyes gazed unflinchingly, so intently into his, he found his hand raised to brush a stray hair behind her small ear.
And then as he touched her, the sudden tremble in her body, shook him to the core.
He bent his head and inhaled the scent of her shampoo.
Slowly… agonizingly slowly… his mouth touched hers and he brushed his lips back and forth across the full softness of her bottom lip.
Her shaky exhales came in short, ragged breaths.
The barely there touch of his mouth against hers felt like heaven.
It felt incredible.
His eyes fluttered shut.
His big body shivered.
The moan from her increased his easy exploration of her mouth. Pleasure charged through his system like a jolt of lightning and he nearly orgasmed right in front of witnesses.
His body needed more.
He needed more.
Their bodies, as if magnetised, moved closer until pressed together, but still felt too far apart.
Only the low cough from someone behind him, brought Sarif back to his senses.
He blinked, and lifted his head until their mouths reluctantly parted.
When she tasted her lips, he found himself mirroring the move.
Her taste was like honey.
He couldn’t help it.
Still holding her hands, he rested his forehead on hers.
“Well, well, well,” he muttered under his breath, his eyes locked on hers. “Seems we still have that carnal lust between us. Interesting how one can abhor a person and yet feel attraction, isn’t it?”
Her face paled as if he’d slapped her, but he wasn’t at all sorry.
The last thing he wanted her to believe was that he was a romantic fool.
No point in letting her get too comfortable in this short relationship.
And he most definitely didn’t want her to know that she had any sort of power over him.
Hands down, he’d just had one of the most erotic moments of his adult life.
Maybe being forced to marry Arabella Faulkner had a silver lining.
He wanted her.
She wanted him.
When it came to her keeping the promises she’d just made to him, the fact was he didn’t trust her an inch.
However, maybe they’d both get something unexpected out of the farce she was prepared to play.
After all, it wasn’t as if she could get pregnant when they had sex.
That boat, as the old saying went, had already sailed.
Bella settled into a corner of the gilded limousine with police outriders whisking them to the airport and a Quarram Royal jet. Queen Arabella. If the whole thing wasn’t so utterly ridiculous, she’d actually find it funny. She studied Sarif’s lean, darkly handsome face. He looked so different from the man she had first met in Onuur. He was proud of his country and his heritage. Yet, he hadn’t worn his national dress for their marriage, something which had surprised her. Now he wore a sharply tailored suit with the style and flair of one born to such formality. Exquisitely tailored in a fine dark grey wool and silk blend, the cut of the suit outlined his broad shoulders and wide chest and enhanced his lean hips and those long powerful legs to a T.
For some reason, her body seemed to tremble like a tuning fork in his illustrious presence, and that seriously irritated her. The truth might be hard to swallow, but the fact was that no matter how much he angered or annoyed her, it appeared he still fascinated her. A voice told her she was emotionally treading on dangerous ground and to take care. However, the voice was unable to stop her temperature rising along with her heartbeat. Pregnancy had sensitized her breasts to the point where they felt constricted by her bra. She pressed her slim trouser-clad thighs together, fighting a losing battle to control the growing heat at the heart of her.
“If you keep looking at me like that I’ll have to do something about it,” Sarif said in a silky voice that held both a threat and a promise.
Bella’s cheeks burned with a mortification that made her want to slap herself.
Jeez, what the hell was wrong with her?
She was acting as if she had a starring role in a romance novel and that this marriage was for real.
Then she found herself saying, “You started it. You kissed me first.”
“In your culture it is expected of the groom to kiss the bride. And anyway, you kissed me back.”
She shut her eyes tight.
She had kissed him back and loved every single minute of it.
“We sound like two bickering children,” she muttered.
“We are both suffering from nothing more than an overwhelming chemical reaction, which has caused an unwanted attraction and an equally unwanted sexual frustration between us,” he said thickly. “I have never gone without sex for so long. In the last two weeks I have had enough cold showers to last me three lifetimes.”
That frank response set her cheeks on fire, a tide of mortification washing up over her neck and face. Her gaze evaded those blazing grey eyes in a face that looked as if it was carved from stone. Something compelling went tight low in her pelvis, a contracting thread of a very physical yearning that was powerful enough to shatter her already frayed nerves.
What the hell had happened to her legendary professional cool?
She was renowned for keeping calm in a crisis.
Well, she was so far from calm right now it wasn’t funny.
All she wanted to do was get the man naked.
Worse, she knew he felt exactly the same way.
The bloody hormone apocalypse strikes again, she thought savagely.
“You were late. I thought you were going to jilt me at the altar,” he said now without a lick of humor in his voice.
“Don’t think I didn’t think about it.”
“What changed your mind?”
Now might be the perfect time to tell him she knew he held her brother captive.
She was sorely tempted to wipe that smirk off his gorgeous face.
However, for once her professional common sense prevailed.
If she tipped her hand too soon, Sarif would discover that the British Secret Service knew too, and that would put the success of their rescue plan at risk. The last thing she wanted was to put her brother in even more danger, so she kept quiet. For now. Let Sarif be the one to confess his many sins and explain himself to her. She looked forward to hearing his reasoning behind her brother’s imprisonment. Knowing Sarif it was bound to be interesting.
“As you said yourself, London is dangerous. I only want what’s best for my baby and to keep it safe,” she said at last.
He sat there with his attitude one of a Lord of all he surveyed.
Including her, she reminded herself.
The man was in superb condition.
He was long and lean.
Swept back ebony hair, brooding brows.
A firm don’t-mess-with-me mouth.
“Do you really?” he asked in that horrible silky voice she was coming to detest.
“Of course I do. I’ve no idea why you would think anything else.”
“This is neither the time nor the place to have that conversation,” Sarif told her as the limousine came to halt at the airport.
After that, the chance for any private dialogue ceased until they were whizzed through passport control onto the vast jet.
Once settled in a comfortable chair of the softest leather, and treated like a Queen by the crew, even then, she had no opportunity to ask him just what the hell he meant by that statement. When it came to wanting what was best for her child, as far as he was concerned, what was there to talk about? Obviously, he had no idea that she had no intention of either staying in Quarram long term or of leaving her child behind either.
If Sarif ever discovered she had another agenda, he’d make sure her life wasn’t worth living, and he’d take their child.
She knew he would.
And he might be all laid back and casual about sex, but she wasn’t.
Contrarily, she now wished she hadn’t been a virgin when they’d had sex, that she’d been more experienced in that regard.
As the jet engine roared for take-off, seemed even the air-traffic controllers pulled out all the stops for His Majesty, Bella knew she had just burned many bridges of a personal nature.
Her parents hadn’t come to the wedding, for the simple reason she hadn’t invited them.
What was the point of dragging them to a ceremony that not only meant nothing, but she’d need to explain herself and her actions to her father when she returned to the UK with a baby boy?
As the plane levelled out, she watched Sarif stalk out of a door, which held some kind of office where he’d had a pow-pow with a skinny little man who’d kept giving her the side-eye as soon as she’d stepped onto the aircraft.
Now Sarif strode down the red carpeted walkway towards her.
He had a face like thunder.
Bella reckoned that stick up his ass must hurt—a lot.
Maybe she’d give it a twist.
He stopped by the chair, offered his hand.
“Now we are out of British air space, on this plane we are on Quarram sovereign territory. Come with me.”
Something about they way he looked at her, as if she was a bad smell beneath his noble nose, should have warned her.
Later, she’d bitterly regret giving him her hand and allowing herself to be led like a lamb to the slaughter.
No one took any notice of them as he towed her through the office and that horrible little man who didn’t even raise his head to acknowledge her existence.
Interested in the way the plane was designed, with a sort of private apartment constructed at the rear, she said nothing as he led her past a sitting arrangement and through to what was obviously a luxuriously appointed double bedroom.
“Sit,” he ordered, pointing to the bed.
Heart pounded at the thought of being ravished by this man, because why would he bring her here in the first place?
He closed the door, locked it, and turned to face her.
Back resting against the door, he crossed his arms.
“How much is my son worth to you?”
Stunned, she stared at him.
“I’m sorry, you’ve lost me.”
“How much? Ten million? Twenty million? Fifty million? Name your price.”
Feeling as if someone had smacked her on the head with a hammer, she shook her head.
Who the hell was this man?
“Let me get this straight. You want to buy my child?”
“No. I already have my son safely on this plane and almost in my country where he will stay. You may not leave until after my son is born. I am asking you how much it will cost to get you out of my son’s life.”
She took a deep inhale of breath, and let fury rule.
“There is not a chance in hell that I would ever abandon my child.”
Sarif shifted to sit back on a small love seat with an hauteur that was, she realized, not at all contrived. It was an innate part of him, probably from birth. Breeding. That was it. Something told her it would still be a part of him as he took his last breath, which if he kept up this type of behaviour his last breath wouldn’t be long coming.
The contempt corrupting his fine mouth was a grotesque thing.
“Give it up,” he spoke in that slow drawl that she was seriously coming to loathe.
“If you felt like this about me, why on earth did you bring me here?”
He was on his feet so fast, she reared further back on the bed.
“Why?” he roared like a bull.
His complete loss of control, his temper, made her shrink back.
“You were prepared to KILL MY SON, woman. My heir.”
“Utter nonsense,” she returned, her voice sharp.
Those dark brows rose above icy grey eyes.
“I have photographs of you attending an abortion clinic in early pregnancy.”
For about ten seconds, she stared unblinking at the wall over his shoulder, her brain working fast.
When the penny dropped, she studied him and reckoned he’d lost his tiny mind.
He certainly looked as if he had by the way he stared at her now, as if she was beyond evil.
“Actually, you’re quite wrong about that, it was a clinic…”
“Where they kill babies,” he ground out.
She slowly shook her head, wondering how the hell he’d managed to twist the facts in his mind.
“No,” she said in a soft voice. “There are times when a pregnancy goes wrong. Perhaps the baby dies in the womb. Or there’s a genetic issue with one or both parents or even the fetus itself and life is not viable.”
“The place is not a normal ante-natal unit,” he stated. “Why were you there if not to discuss ending your pregnancy?”
He’d never believe her, she realized with something like panic gripping her throat.
“I was sent there to be tested for a genetic anomaly that runs in my family,” she whispered, and just knew what was coming.
“And if you had found that anomaly, what then?”
“Then there would have been a discussion about whether life was viable… or not.”
One black brow rose.
And she knew, she just knew, that she’d lost this man’s trust forever.
If there was one thing she understood about his culture it was that a baby boy was the most precious thing to a man. Even if the child was not perfect in every way, that child was loved and adored.
Then again, when it came to her family, there was a very good reason her brother was very precious to her parents. Before she was born their first child, a son, had died at ten months with the rare genetic condition mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. Nothing could be done to save him. Even worse, the joining of her parents DNA had caused the condition in the first place. It had been vital to Bella’s peace of mind that she discover if she’d inherited a gene mutation too. Her relief at being clear had been a heady time of joy for her.
“And you did not think to reach out me at that time, or did you believe I did not have a right to know?”
He had a point, she reluctantly agreed.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t give you a thought. I was sick as a dog. My brain just wasn’t functioning logically and I was terrified of bad news. When the tests results were normal, I focused on me and the baby. I made sure I ate properly and got plenty of rest. That’s it.”
He stood, towering over her.
His scent alone was a potent reminder of the time they’d come together, rutting like wild animals.
All those thoughts and more had heat flood her neck, her cheeks.
And her heart sank at the look on his face for her.
“It doesn’t matter. What matters is that as far as I am concerned you were prepared to destroy my child, my son, if you thought it was necessary. I believe everything written in a thorough report of your movements by people I trust, people who are loyal to the throne of Quarram and the El Haribe family. As for your motivations, I do not believe you. You betrayed me and for that betrayal you will pay.”
Now she stood.
“That is not true.”
“To me you are merely a reluctant incubator. Make no mistake. My son will be born safe and well. And then you will be thrown out of my country.”
At that moment Bella knew that in this mood, he’d never believe her side of the story no matter how hard she tried to make him see sense.
Sarif was a man with a plan, and she had no idea what was coming next.
He was stubborn.
He hated her.
She hated him.
In spite of the mutual hate-fest whirling around them, a low throb of lust deep in her belly shocked her.
How in the world could she be attracted to a knuckle dragging Neanderthal?
How did any of this make sense?
When he turned on his heel, unlocked the door and banged it shut, Bella sank to the edge of the bed and just stared into space.
She took time to re-live the drama of their entire conversation.
A woman couldn’t be strong all the time.
Sometimes she needed to be alone
and let her tears fall…
Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2018