All for love 3 series.., p.44
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       All for Love - 3 Series Starters, p.44

           Kris Pearson
 

  She had no clothes, no way of getting in touch with the rest of the world, and probably no job when she got free. Oh, she just had to escape from him. But how?

  She raised her eyes to her reflection in the mirror. What a ridiculous sight she made in his shirt and the swaddling bath towel. No wonder he felt no attraction for her and could treat her with indifference in his bed.

  Why was there nothing else to wear? Surely someone lived in this huge house other than little Yasmina?

  For now, she’d play along with his peculiar game and keep focused on ways to escape. Whatever he said, there was no way she was the least bit important.

  But unbeknown to her, the first of the ransom-demands had been played earlier that evening on the primetime TV news bulletin. Rafiq had watched her in his apartment in the capital as he toweled the moisture off his long lean body after his shower.

  ‘What a little spitfire,’ he’d thought as she faced him down through the screen. Memorable for her exotic fair hair and bright blue eyes—and her feisty reaction to being held captive. It was imperative he kept her hidden, and out of harm’s way; she’d be recognizable to many of the viewers, and all too familiar to Fayez and Nazim.

  No way would he let her fall into their hands again.

  ~♥~

  “Right,” he muttered to himself, wondering how he was going to arrange his strangest ever assignment. Between them they had one shirt, one flimsy robe, his silk boxers, and a pair of trousers.

  Well, the robe was less than useless; he could see right through it, and it had no buttons to keep it fastened around her. Far too tempting a prospect for any red blooded male. Anyway, he’d decided he’d use its sash to bind her to him for the night.

  But his shirt left her exposed right where she needed to be covered. He knew the chances of keeping his hands off her were slim if he nudged against her naked body as he slept. With stimulus like that, some things just came naturally to a man! So she’d better have his silk boxers as well.

  He’d sleep commando in his trousers. He’d slept in worse while they’d been put through hell in the elite training camp at Wadi Bakbar a couple of years ago.

  Decision made, he fingered the pretty sash.

  ~♥~

  Laurel found toothpaste and a toothbrush beside the big marble basin, but no other signs of occupation. She ran the brush under very hot water for a while, decided no bugs could have withstood the heat, and brushed her teeth. She combed her fingers through her hair, used the toilet, and crept out to join him—trying for an air of casual insouciance she was far from feeling.

  He stood on a carved wooden stool removing weapons from the walls.

  “You mistrust me that much?” she gasped.

  “In my line of business, you take every precaution.”

  “That would be the King business or the terrorist business?” she asked in a snide little voice.

  “Both.” His expression stayed hard, and continued to prize the lowest knives and guns off their hooks. He stepped down only once he was satisfied she couldn’t reach anything higher up. He opened the door, placed the stool and the weapons in the passageway, closed the door, locked it, and pushed the key into his trouser pocket.

  “Please don’t lock it,” she begged. She clutched at her pounding head with one hand, and covered her belly with the other as her stomach churned with nausea.

  “You’re not alone in here, Laurel. If the lodge catches fire during the night, I’ll get you out safely.” He reached across and ran his fingers down her cheek, and she jerked her face aside from him.

  “Although I doubt it will be a problem,” he added. “The lodge is stone, and we’ve not had the least whiff of fire in all these years. Take that silly towel off and slip into bed while I use the bathroom.

  “But—”

  “Take the damned towel off. You’ll fry in it. I’ll give you my boxers to wear so you’re decent.”

  She raised her chin and shot blue sparks across the space between them. “That doesn’t leave you very decent.”

  “I’ll sleep in my trousers. I’ve done it before.”

  “Hmmph!”

  He grinned at her reaction. “Disappointed, Laurel?”

  “In your dreams.”

  But she had to admit she was. Somehow. A bit.

  She turned back the sheet and sat. Bounced a couple of times.

  Yes, it was a very nice bed indeed. But now she felt so alert, so wide awake. Two strong coffees and her nap in the other bedroom had her curiously energized.

  Unless it was the prospect of spending the whole night sharing the bed of a man who had a body to rival anything in Hollywood? A man who’d promised to behave with honor, but who still teased her as though he mightn’t.

  As soon as he left her alone, she unwound the towel and tossed it onto the floor, pulled her shirt down, held it closed for dear life, twitched up the bedcover, and tried to relax.

  Rafiq was not long returning. He reached for the sash of the robe.

  “Give me your wrist, Laurel, if you please.”

  She drew her hand most unwillingly from under the sheet and thrust it out at him. He passed one end of the sash around it, pulled it firm and double-tied it.

  “Not too tight?”

  “Bearable.”

  He laughed, switched on a shaded lamp beside the bed, then turned off the main light. The ambiance of the room became much softer, warmer, and sexier, making all sorts of trembles and tremors run over her skin. Hot one moment. Shivery cold the next.

  “I can’t do this,” she said in a small defeated voice.

  He sent her a sharp affronted glare. “You’re in my care. I promise you’ll be safe.”

  He sat. The mattress dipped beneath his weight, and she drew a swift breath. Rafiq pulled the covers up and settled his shoulders back into the pillows stacked against the carved and leather-paneled headboard.

  Laurel glanced sideways. The sight of all that smooth dark skin against the pale bed linen shocked her. He looked entirely naked.

  “So,” he said, lowering his hands to his trousers.

  She flinched as she heard the zipper scraping down, and turned horrified eyes up to his. “Didn’t you do the swap-over in the bathroom?”

  “Never thought of it,” he said. “Oh well...”

  He eased the trousers down his legs, wriggling to get them past his butt. The covers slid southwards, and she glimpsed his flat coffee colored belly with its stripe of fine hair. And then much more hair. She wrenched her eyes away again, having no wish to see more.

  He continued to heave and toss around until he was able to draw his trousers from under the sheet and throw them out onto the bedcover.

  “Stage one complete,” he said. “Now for stage two.”

  Beside him Laurel knew she must look petrified.

  “No need to panic. I’m sure you’ve seen a naked man before,” he added.

  Yes, she had—but only one, and those experiences had been shocking and degrading. She had no wish to see another naked man ever again.

  She managed to shrug as though such a thing meant nothing to her, but deep inside all the old dread boiled up.

  Rafiq resumed his wriggling routine. The covers dropped lower. She grabbed them back. His legs slid against hers as he worked the boxers down towards his feet. His knee was warm and hard, his calf silky with hair.

  And then he pushed the thin shorts right off and swept them up across her unseen thighs.

  Laurel almost died, knowing she was now in bed with a man wearing nothing but a sexy grin.

  “Not quite the way I expected today to end,” he said, looking far too amused as she grabbed for the shorts and tried to decide where her legs were supposed to fit. She wasn’t going to lift the bedcover up so she could see. Or he could see.

  She felt around his warm soft shorts, distracted again by the scent of his skin. He smelled delicious across the tiny distance now separating them. Freshly showered, freshly dressed. If he’d been anyone else s
he might have wanted to bury her nose right against him and just enjoy.

  Her overloaded brain insisted on wondering if he’d like her scent in return. Real rose petals and exotic soap had to be better than nervous perspiration and the bone deep fear that must have pumped off her in the van as he held her beneath him.

  Not that it mattered in the least, of course. She was certainly not trying to attract him. The absolute opposite in fact. She wanted nothing to do with a man who behaved as brutally as he did.

  Was that a leg hole? She pushed a foot through. It felt okay. After further poking about, both her feet seemed to be in the right places. She tugged the shorts up and breathed out the big gulp of air she found she’d been holding in.

  Much better. Except now her most intimate part was caressed by silk that had been pressed against his most intimate part just moments before. It felt absolutely thrilling and unnerving to know that.

  And his most intimate part now lolled at ease only an arm’s length away. Or maybe it was standing to attention like disgusting Gary Gorridge’s used to? She closed her eyes and willed those hateful scenes away.

  Too much time ticked by. Her nerves screamed. Did she have to beg Rafiq to put his trousers back on? He’d made no immediate move to.

  “You’ll have to help me with this.”

  Her eyes snapped open again. Help him with what?

  Not on your life, pig.

  But to her considerable relief he meant the other end of the sash. He held out his arm. She reached over with fumbling fingers and tied it around his wrist, double knotting it as he had around hers.

  And at last he grabbed the trousers from on top of the cover and pushed them down into the bed.

  “This is impossible,” he complained after thrashing about for a while and apparently achieving nothing. Laurel shook with silent giggles until he reached out and switched off the lamp. Then her giggles died, and she watched in horror as he stood silhouetted beside the bed in the faint glow of the moon. He stepped into the pants. A huge spike of flesh reared out in front of him, and all the terrible memories of Gary Gorridge returned to swamp her brain again.

  Somehow Rafiq managed to stuff his hugeness away and haul the zipper up.

  So now she wasn’t in the company of a naked man—instead he was a dangerously aroused one. She wondered which was worse as she scrambled to her far edge of the bed and lay stock still, as distant from him as she could be without tumbling out onto the floor. How was she ever going to sleep?

  Chapter Seven — In the Sheikh’s Bed

  Twenty minutes slid by. Laurel had never felt more awake. As she lay there beside him in the darkness, every sense became acute. The soft old bed linen smelled of lavender. Palm fronds swished about in the breeze, sounding quite close to the bedroom window. The glimmer of light from outside sometimes dimmed as clouds floated across the moon but she could always see Rafiq’s dark outline against the pale linen, and hear his quiet breathing. To her great relief he kept his word about making no move in her direction.

  She’d never shared a bed with a man before. This was new territory. Not that this was ‘sharing a bed’ in any accepted sense. She was being held captive. Against her will. By a man who’d done terrible things to her only hours earlier.

  Terrible things like treating her gently. Helping her to escape. Providing her with something to drink and directions to safety.

  The thoughts buzzed around in her head like blowflies in a bottle, and she found it difficult to keep up her resentment towards the man who had—perhaps—acted more chivalrously toward her than anyone else in her life.

  But really, what a ridiculous position he’d put her in. Insisting she share his bed. Tying her up as though she couldn’t be trusted. Lying beside her in the pulsing darkness and taking no notice of her.

  She flinched at the last strange idea her brain had conjured up.

  Of course she wanted him to leave her alone! But although he’d left her body alone, her mind was another matter. There he kept intruding outrageously, and Laurel had the sneaking suspicion it was far more her fault than his.

  Even without touching him, her skin detected his heat flowing across toward hers. And he’d not fallen asleep either; his breathing sounded deep and regular, but somehow not quite deep and regular enough to assure her he’d dozed off. He wasn’t snoring or snuffling in the least—just lying there breathing.

  Spicy cologne drifted from his skin and dark hair. Sometimes it overcame the faint lavender fragrance on the sheets. She’d hated the smell of him in the van, but maybe his scent was tied so closely to that terrifying situation, and the bag and the handcuffs and his strong dominating body, that nothing would have smelled good then. Now she found it exotic and right for him.

  Although, she had to remind herself yet again, he was still a disgusting terrorist who kidnapped women and held them against their will. She was not in the least attracted to him. Of course she wasn’t. How could she even be thinking such ridiculous thoughts?

  The shadowy bedroom was well lit by moonlight once her eyes accustomed themselves to the night. It was a hard, terrifying, masculine room. Who’d want guns and knives on their bedroom walls? The vague silhouettes of the highest ones were visible where he’d left them. Just as visible as his silhouette against the pale pillow if she turned her head again. She sighed and rolled over; yes—there he was.

  “Not asleep, Miss Kiwi?” His voice washed over her like a husky caress in the intimate darkness.

  “Are you surprised?”

  “Relax and drift off, Laurel. After what you went through today you need to rest and recover.”

  “It was you who put me through it.” She drew a deep angry breath. “Do you seriously think I can just forget an experience like that?”

  “Fayez identified the wrong woman.”

  Laurel puffed the breath out in a sharp sound of disapproval. “And just as well. Poor Maddie would have been terrified. She’s barely eighteen. Still living at home.”

  “And you’re so much older?”

  She heard the taunt in his voice, but chose to ignore it. “Twenty-three. And I’ve had to be much more independent than she has.”

  “You left home early?”

  Left home? Where was home...?

  “My mother died when I was five,” she said, still feeling the hurt those words always stirred up. “She wasn’t married so I became a foster child. Moved on several times. You get harder after situations like that.”

  “Yes...”

  His voice held sorrow, and she realized that he, too, had lost his home and family. But why should she sympathize? He’d kept her here against her will. He had no right to—no matter how often he claimed her life was in danger, and that other people’s safety also depended on her remaining out of sight. He’d given her precious few details as to why.

  “So who brought you up?” he asked, breaking into her fractured thoughts.

  “I wasn’t brought up, I was dragged up,” she muttered. “In other people’s homes, paid for by the Government. Given food and clothes. Sent to school.” She fell silent, and it was some time before she spoke again. “I think my mother was ill. I have memories of her being often in bed. And in hospital before she died.”

  “And your father? De Courcey sounds like a French name?”

  “He was a sailor, or so she said. Maybe already married to someone else. Perhaps he never existed. It’s just the name on my birth certificate.” She turned slightly toward him. “I don’t remember my father. She might have made him up—she didn’t seem to have a proper family.”

  Laurel still remembered the shame of it at school. No ‘real’ parents to attend sports days or end of year prize-giving evenings. No Granny and Grandpa to go and visit at weekends and talk about with school friends on Mondays.

  She tossed restlessly and felt a gentle tug on the sash that joined them.

  “Sorry,” she said. “Anyway, I stayed longest at the last home. Mr and Mrs Gorridge. That’s why I can’
t stand being locked up. They locked me up all the time.”

  ~♥~

  Rafiq heard the tremble in her voice. Fury? Pain? He found he wanted very much to enfold her in his arms again and comfort her, but in the intimacy of his bed this was no longer possible. On the floor, with her in tears, it had seemed permissible—indeed, necessary. But now? No way in hell!

  “And no-one came to rescue you?”

  “It was for my own good. No-one knew beside them.”

  “Locked up why? What had you done?”

  “Nothing. Grown up. Got a bit prettier, I suppose. They locked me up because of their son, Gary.” She moved in agitation, and again the sash tugged tight between their wrists. “I was fourteen. Not very confident.”

  A wave of protectiveness rushed through him, swamping every other emotion. “And the son did what exactly for you to deserve this?” he asked, struggling to keep his voice calm.

  “He was big. Mr Gorridge was big, too. Big and fat.”

  Rafiq sensed she was shuddering; the mattress shook.

  “Gary was out of control,” she added a few seconds later, once she’d apparently gathered her courage again. “Full of teenage hormones on the rampage. Wanted sex. Wanted sex all the time, with me. So they locked me up to keep me safe.”

  Rafiq stayed silent for long moments as he battled with his outrage.

  “They should have locked him up,” he finally grated.

  “They did. He smashed his bedroom door down. Twice. They couldn’t let that happen all the time. I could see that. So locking me up was the second best option.”

  “Not for you.”

  “No,” she agreed in a small sad voice.

  “Every day?”

  “Mostly. Unless he had football practice.”

  Rafiq swore under his breath.

  “But what was worse...” she added after a thrumming silence. “He used... to knock on my window while I was locked in. Lots of times. And I had to look out through the glass to stop him knocking because it made Mrs Gorridge angry if she heard him banging and banging.”

 
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