All for love 3 series.., p.46
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       All for Love - 3 Series Starters, p.46

           Kris Pearson
 

  Laurel murmured her surprise—a small breathy sound which served only to inflame him further.

  “You should not,” he murmured between lingering glides across her sweet mouth, “taste my skin unless you’re willing for me to sample yours in return.”

  He sensed she was on the very point of pulling away. Her whole body quivered. Her heart thumped against his, and she braced her hands to push herself up.

  Something kept her from moving though. His mind raced with speculation as she continued to accept his slow drugging kisses and the slide of his fingers over her nape and into her hair. Finally, almost imperceptibly, she started to move her own lips against his, and a wave of sweet elation washed over him.

  Only through the most rigid restraint did he pull away and settle her down against him again.

  “Is that all you want?” she murmured, sounding confused. His very obvious erection now pressed hard against her hip. She undoubtedly knew what that meant.

  “All I want for now, Laurel. We’re both dead tired. We’ve looked death in the face today. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”

  And there’s no way in hell I can make love to you while you’ve disgusting pictures of the fat Kiwi boy in your mind. I want you clear headed and so turned on that you see only me.

  ~♥~

  She lay resting close against him. Somehow, because it was Rafiq, she didn’t feel so threatened any more. Worse, her body thought making love might not be so bad. There were delicious little flutters happening deep in her belly... a sweet ache in her pelvis and breasts. She closed her eyes and imagined how it would feel if he wanted to kiss her with real passion... to push himself inside her and slide and slide until he was gasping and grunting and went out of control like Gary Gorridge always had.

  And, exhausted, dreamy, and trustingly wrapped in his arms, she fell deep asleep.

  ~♥~

  Rafiq’s inbuilt alarm clock woke him just before dawn, and he tried to slide away from her.

  Laurel lurched awake and blinked in the faint light. “What?” she gasped, rearing away, and then recognizing him. “It’s too early. What’s the time?”

  Rafiq pushed back the covers and stood, wincing as he stretched compressed muscles and aching joints. “Time I was going. I have to get the helicopter out of here before anyone sees it. I intended only to call by very fast last night, check if you were safe, and take the chopper back.”

  She surveyed him with narrowed eyes. “So that’s why you had no spare clothes? Why don’t you keep some here?”

  “The King’s son doesn’t live here. He doesn’t exist. There must be nothing of mine here for anyone to find—just in case. I move in strange circles these days.” He reached out and switched on the bedside lamp.

  “I’ll see if my clothes are dry, then,” she said, levering herself up on one elbow and squinting at the sudden brightness.

  “Forget it—you’re not coming with me. Not today. I’ll be back this evening with some clothes for you.”

  Laurel pouted at that, but he sounded very determined, and the bed was beautifully comfortable, especially now she didn’t have to share it.

  “Let Mrs. Daniels know I’m okay when you collect them?”

  “You’ve missed the point, Laurel. Not your clothes. You’ve disappeared. You need to stay out of sight to buy us some more time yet. That’s why I recorded you three times. One now, one later, one after that.”

  Her breath hitched as the possible time frame sank in.

  “I have a life, Rafiq. I want to live it, thank you!”

  “You’d have no life today without me—think on that,” he snapped back.

  She clapped a hand across her mouth, remembering. “You think they’d have killed me?”

  “After they’d had their filthy way with you. I couldn’t have prevented that without blowing my cover. The only option I had was to get you right away from them.” He rose from bed. “Wait there,” he threw over his shoulder as he prowled barefoot from the room.

  Despite having spent hours in his arms she was still unprepared for the sleek, hard masculinity of his body. Her drowsy eyes slid down the sinuous line of his spine, past the waistband of his crumpled trousers and on down his long legs as he moved away from her. He did not, she noticed, bother to lock the bedroom door after himself once he’d opened it.

  Had their filthy way with me?

  His blunt description suddenly sank in, and she collapsed back against the pillows with shock. They’d have raped her? And Rafiq had known this and got her away from them? He’d worried more about her safety than his own, and for that she was infinitely grateful. Huge shudders ran through her as she thought of what might have happened had he not intervened and rescued her.

  He returned moments later with one of Yasmina’s kitchen knives and hacked carefully through the rope around her shaking wrist.

  “You’re safe now Laurel,” he said more gently, bending to kiss her skin where the rope had left its plaited imprint. “They can’t get you. And by now some of our people have probably got them.”

  “Where are your dinky little clippers?” she quavered.

  “I buried them so Nazim and Fayez wouldn’t find them when they searched me.”

  “Searched you?” Her eyes shot wide open.

  “Of course. They weren’t stupid. They saw me using them when I cut up the rope to bind you. They would have wondered if I’d cut you free as well. Hopefully they thought you took them.”

  It was that more than anything else which finally convinced her he was serious. She nodded her acceptance and dropped her gaze from his.

  He saw the change in her. Perhaps now she would give him a measure of her co-operation?

  “Eat, Laurel. Rest. Don’t go wandering in the desert. Can I trust you that far?”

  Her lips twitched. “Yes, My Lord Rafiq.”

  She said it with resignation, but at least she said it. A delighted smile tugged at his lips.

  “Hang some of those up to pass the time once I’ve gone,” he suggested, jerking his head at the small pile of guns and knives outside the bedroom door.

  “Hang the nasty things yourself,” she said. “And,” she added naughtily, “surely you’ll need your shirt? You said there were regulations about flying half naked.”

  She knelt up in the bed and started to slip the buttons through the buttonholes as slowly as he’d done the evening before.

  His eyes followed every movement of her hands as they dropped lower and lower to reveal the valley between her breasts and then her narrow waist.

  Finally she lost her nerve and turned her back on him. He pulled the shirt down her arms in a long soft caress, pushed her blonde hair aside, and dropped a chaste kiss between her shoulder blades. She never knew what it cost him to keep his hands off her curvy bottom, so tautly displayed in his black silk shorts as she bent away from him to hide her breasts.

  Chapter Nine — Rafiq Returns

  Ash Winthrop, his 74-year-old face unused to anything except Brut aftershave and occasionally remembered smears of sunscreen, eyed the makeup girl’s collection with horror. A rampant stallion was nowhere near as terrifying as a big soft brush full of face powder. He’d choose flailing haunches and steel-shod hooves over ‘colorless’ lipstick any day.

  But if this was the way to possibly track down Debs and get to meet his unsuspected grand-daughter, then he’d endure the process somehow. Heaven knows what poor little Laurel was enduring, handcuffed and hot and helpless.

  “There—that’s just evened out your skin tones a little and disguised the odd worry line,” the makeup girl said as she removed the tissues she’d tucked into his collar to protect his shirt. “You’ll be fine.”

  He peered into the mirror one last suspicious time and rose from the chair.

  “Thank you,” he said. My grand-daughter would be about your age. That’s what all this bother is about.”

  “I’m sure you’ll help find her. Best of luck.”

  A bossy yo
ung man with an alarming haircut led him through to the green room and eventually the studio. Ash stopped, thunderstruck, as the reality of what he’d lost wrenched at his heart. They’d enlarged one of his photos of Debs and projected it so it filled half the wall behind the interview chairs. On the other half was a shot of Laurel from the ransom demand—matching in every way except for the red cap. Apart from the graininess of the older shot they could have been the same young woman.

  He clutched at his chest, breathless for a moment. The world had stolen both his darling daughter and his unknown grand-daughter, but hopefully not for much longer. He squared his shoulders for the ordeal ahead. He was going to get his girls.

  ~♥~

  Yasmina knocked on the bedroom door and waited for Laurel to invite her in. The master had sometimes brought his ladies out to the lodge to swim or ride, but never before had he invited one to stay the night.

  He was a handsome and powerful man with an undoubtedly healthy libido. There were certainly women in his life, so his old nanny presumed he confined his lovemaking to the city apartment. He’d granted this foreign girl very special treatment though. Yasmina was mightily intrigued.

  “Yes?” came a small voice.

  She pushed the door open to find Laurel reclining against the pillows with the sheets pulled high around her neck.

  Yasmina carried in the beautifully set tray and lowered it onto a chest beside the bed. She’d prepared Earl Grey tea in the Queen’s favorite Royal Doulton teapot, small sugar-crusted ball-shaped biscuits, and spicy nut-filled envelopes of crisp pastry. How long it seemed since she’d last done this for her old mistress.

  She gathered up a stray bath towel from the floor and took it out to the laundry, returning with Laurel’s washed and iron jeans, T-shirt and underwear. She placed the pile of neatly folded garments on the end of the bed next to the beautiful embroidered robe—her most prized possession.

  What a shame the master’s lady didn’t speak Sounamese! Yasmina itched to know why and how she’d arrived out of thin air. And why she wore such plain and practical clothing, too. Her own daughter and grand-daughter had much prettier things.

  She’d brought her precious souvenir from the Queen across to the lodge so Laurel would have something to wear while her clothes were drying. How many times had she seen Her Majesty in that beautiful gauzy robe? It brought back floods of wrenching memories of the happy family she’d served with eager obedience until eleven years ago. The huge tragedy of their deaths still hung in the air all around her. Only the young master remained, and that was a miracle she often thanked her God for.

  Last night he’d been in the mood for games; he’d covered his lady up with his own shirt, and then she’d hidden her legs with the towel. Hopefully they’d enjoyed removing them later in privacy...

  ~♥~

  Somewhere in the late afternoon Laurel heard a powerful vehicle swoosh to a halt outside the wall. Should she be frightened?

  A door slammed shut and Rafiq strode through the gate, impatience and anticipation etched in every line of his tall body. “Laurel,” he bellowed.

  She stood from where she was resting, half hidden in the shade of a feathery Casuarina tree. Yasmina had kept her well supplied with food and juice. Her husband Malik had produced a pile of ancient magazines, including several very old French Vogues which surely must date well back into Rafiq’s mother’s time. She’d found them curiously absorbing. The glamorous people portrayed in the glossy pages were far removed from anyone she’d ever met... any life she’d ever lived.

  Rafiq visibly relaxed when he noticed her in the shadows.

  “I rejoice you’re here,” he said, taking her by the elbows and pulling her up hard against him. He dropped his dark head and nipped her bottom lip.

  She gasped. On her indrawn breath she could taste his musky dangerous masculinity, his absolute possession. Somehow, late in the strange magic night his kisses had been permissible, but she’d expected daylight would evaporate the dream to dust.

  His mouth wandered to her top lip, enclosed it, sucked gently, slid softly away. Every one of her nerve-ends purred. “So you have seen sense and not tried to escape again.”

  “I’ve been biding my time and hatching a plan,” she countered, still overcome by his sudden presence.

  He drew back from her, his imperious face like thunder. His dark brows pulled down in a ferocious frown. His long nose flared with a very equine snort. His black eyes scorched her. He was once again close to the man who’d scared her witless in the bunker, and she didn’t like it.

  She poked him in the ribs. “Only kidding,” she said, hoping he’d lighten up.

  “Not a subject for jokes.” He allowed her a very slight smile.

  “So where’s your helicopter?”

  “I gave it back. I bought another car the same as Malik’s so any surveillance will show nothing untoward.”

  “You bought another one to match?”

  He shrugged as though it was of no importance.

  “I bought you clothes as well. Come and see.” He led her out to the big white SUV and its cargo of bags and boxes.

  “How long do you think you’re keeping me here?” she wailed as the sheer quantity of his purchases sank in.

  “Two weeks?”

  “Two weeks! What am I supposed to do in this godforsaken place for a fortnight?”

  He straightened and drew an affronted breath. “It’s a lovely place, a peaceful place. And I bought you books in English,” he added, unloading a small carton of the latest releases and thrusting them in front of her to inspect. “We can ride, and swim. And relax,” he added in a softer voice.

  “In the desert?”

  “In my oasis. So you really have been a good girl and not gone exploring?”

  She shook her head. “I was a bit too tired.”

  “Too much desert marching and cliff climbing?”

  “Not enough sleep!”

  “And whose fault was that?”

  “Yours, absolutely. Locking me up like that, and then tying me up and... unsettling me.” She dropped her eyes from his, knowing she’d be pink with an unwanted blush in a few seconds. Already the heat rushed up her neck.

  Rafiq set the books down, cradled her face in his hands, and tilted it up toward his.

  “Unsettling you?” he murmured. “You can’t begin to imagine how ‘unsettled’ I was, Laurel. Holding you in my arms all night... telling you personal things I’ve told no-one else... needing to justify my behavior to you.” He heaved a deep sigh. “Entrusting you with secrets I should not have let slip. My life is now in your hands.”

  “I won’t tell anybody.”

  “No—because you’ll be hidden away here, and I shall accompany you all the time until it’s safe for you to leave Al Sounam.”

  “But my job? I love it—I can’t just walk out on Mrs. Daniels and the children.”

  “You’ll be compensated.” His voice was flat and unemotional. “It’s far too dangerous for you to stay in Al Sounam. Your face has been on our top TV channel’s main news bulletin. People will remember you. It was quite a performance you gave—you were no meek little captive. You spat like a hellcat, and you were wonderfully photogenic.”

  “I was terribly annoyed.”

  He collapsed into laughter and pulled her against his chest, turning her head so it lay just under his chin. He tugged gently at her pony-tail.

  “Terribly annoyed,” he repeated. His hands smoothed down over her back, stroking and soothing her. “Laurel, I have seen other people in the same situation. They are petrified, and silent, and shocked—and they try to be co-operative and conciliatory. You fought us with no thought for your safety. You were magnificently angry.”

  “I suppose I was very silly.”

  “I suppose you were too... but you made great TV. And that’s one of the reasons why you must leave my country. You’re too identifiable. You’re now a target for the insurgents. They hope you’re dead, but if you’re
seen—and heaven forbid, captured again—they’ll make you talk.”

  “No!”

  “Yes. Easily. And that will lead them to me and to our other undercover operatives. We’ve put nearly two years of work into this particular cell. Long, slow, careful work. We’re so close. If your freedom has to be curtailed for a few weeks and you get deported to the other side of the world afterwards, that’s a very small price to pay.”

  She glanced up at him, eyes intent on his for long seconds. “Are you in danger too?”

  “That’s my choice, and I’m trained for it.”

  “So how much longer will you do this awful work?”

  “It’s not awful, little one—it’s vitally important to my country. And I shall probably do it until I’m dead, or until they are.”

  “The Nazims and the Fayezes and all their friends?”

  “They kill and they maim and they destroy order. Car bombs... land mines... horrible deaths for people who don’t deserve such things. You have no idea in your peaceful homeland how bad it can be in this part of the world. We don’t want them hiding in Al Sounam while they regroup to do more evil in the neighboring lands.”

  Suddenly he twisted his head back to stare at the sky, and listened, alert as a wild animal. “They’re looking for you,” he said, tugging her in through the gate and under the dark Casuarina tree again.

  Seconds later she sensed it too—the faint beat of helicopter rotors.

  “Have you heard this before?” he demanded. His fingers gripped her arms hard enough to bruise them.

  She shook her head, trying not to flinch. Surely he was exaggerating? But as they listened, the engine note changed as though the machine had altered direction.

  “You’re sure, Laurel?”

  “Absolutely sure. Of course I’m sure—I would have thought it was you coming back here. I’d have noticed that.”

  “Stay right here. Out of sight.” He released her and made a dive toward the vehicle again. She watched as he pushed the bags down between the seats and threw a travel rug over them.

  “They’ll never see those,” she scoffed. “And what if they do?”

  He strode the few steps back to her and pulled her against him again. She felt the steady thumping of his heart through the hard wall of his chest and the thin fabric of his shirt.

 
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