The sheikhs secret love.., p.34
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       The Sheikh's Secret Love Child, p.34
 

         Part #2 of The Sheikh's Baby Surprise series by Holly Rayner

  ***

  At long last, the car stopped. Through the window, Juliette could see a rambling estate laid out along the hillside, with a gleaming palace in the center. It must be white during the day, she thought, but now it was awash with the orange of the sunset.

  Then she saw Nico standing in front of her window, opening the door and offering his hand to help her out. She let him help her, and was again caught up with the view before her.

  She stared at the palace, so focused that she didn’t even notice the cab driving away. The cab wasn’t important. Nothing was important but this view on this night. They were close to the sea, here, and she could hear the waves crashing below.

  The only blemishes on the gorgeous building were a series of scaffolds.

  “See? Surprises aren’t so bad,” Nico chuckled, seeing her enchanted expression.

  “Oh, I don’t know. I wouldn’t call this a surprise, exactly,” said Juliette, suddenly all business. She wished she had a cocktail glass or a wine glass to swirl her drink in and take a victorious sip, just to make the point really land.

  His confused face was enough, though.

  “What do you mean?”

  “I mean, I thought you might be taking me here. This is one of the buildings that my company is renovating.”

  And now she wished she had a drink so she could fortify her courage a little bit. For a split second, she thought that he wasn’t buying it. But then he smiled.

  “What a coincidence!” he said, at last. “I brought you here because, up until today, this was the site I was working on!”

  A pit opened up in the bottom of Juliette’s stomach. This place presented a minefield of ways to blow her cover. If Nico had worked at the site, there were a hundred ways she could give herself away. Not the least significant of which was even just being asked her company name. She was skating on thin ice.

  It was time for a redirect.

  “So you brought me here to show off? The scene of the lifesaving, oh you hero of the workers?”

  He tutted. “Oh, so suspicious. No, I didn’t come here to show off myself. I came here to show off that.”

  With that, he pointed up at a patch of grass near the top of the gardens.

  “I thought we could watch the sunset from there,” he said, already moving.

  “But that’s behind the walls. That’s inside the grounds!” she protested.

  Nico shrugged, and smiled. Then, he turned and lifted himself easily onto the brick wall that ran the perimeter of the estate. There he sat, straddling the top, offering his hand to help her climb up as well. “The sun is already setting. I didn’t realize how long we stayed at the bar. We’d better hurry.”

  She should think more about it, she knew. She should stop, and consider her options. But the effect of the alcohol, and the attractive man, the magic of the night that she knew was going to be her last full night in Italy was too much to think about. She stepped towards the wall, reaching her hand up to meet his, and he grabbed her with his strong arm and pulled her up and over to the other side.

  They walked quickly through the gardens. Juliette tried not to show that she didn’t know her way at all. She noted that, though she had been lying about knowing this place, Nico certainly hadn’t. He knew the path like he had been walking it all his life.

  The path up the hill was steep, though, and in the growing dimness of the night she was afraid of stumbling. Without having to say anything at all, though, Juliette felt his arm wrap around hers.

  They made it just in time to see the most glorious flares of the dying sunset. As Juliette lay down in the grass, propping herself up by her elbows, she could see the stars beginning to come out above them.

  It was breathtaking, and not just because she was still panting slightly from the steep climb. It was worth the risk of trespassing, if nothing else.

  They sat there for a long time, watching the day end. There were no words that could describe it, but then, it didn’t need describing. They were there. Juliette felt more truly present in that moment than she ever had. And with that joy came a pang of regret that her last few years here hadn’t all been spent this way, in the presence of this beguiling man.

  “Was this enough of a surprise for you?”

  His words caught her off guard, piercing the stillness of the darkening evening.

  She laughed a little. “It’s quite enough for me, yes.”

  “Good,” he murmured. And then he laid back, so he was looking right up at the stars.

  Juliette hesitated, not wanting to lose the view of the ocean. But, she reasoned, if she closed her eyes she could still hear it. And if she breathed in deep she could still smell it.

  So she laid back, feeling a little thrill as she miscalculated, and her shoulder landed on top of his. She hadn’t meant to lay that way, but she didn’t move, either.

  “Stars are funny,” she said, half under her breath, and not really expecting him to answer. But the low rumble beneath her was welcome when he did.

  “How so?”

  “They’re always the same. They’re the same here as they were in the States when I was growing up. The buildings are different. The people are different. The food is different. The language is different. But the stars are the same.”

  She felt him adjust so that he could line up their hands and interlace his fingers with hers.

  “And that’s a good thing?” he asked. “Or a bad one?”

  She shook her head, and then found that her head lay most naturally when it was facing towards his. She could see his face, now, in profile. He was so close. She could smell his hair. The scent was fresh and clean and masculine, and it mingled with the musk from his skin after a long day.

  “I’m not sure,” she said.

  They lay like that for a while. A few times, Juliette opened her mouth to say something. But it was always a flirty quip, or a question that felt inconsequential. Nothing worth breaking the sweetness of the near silence, or drowning out the gentle crash of the waves far below and the steady rhythm of his breath.

  It had been a long day. The stress of the last-minute hand in had taken its toll on her before she’d even met Nico. And then the walk, and the date, and the climb up to this little lawn, combined with the sheer excitement of her deception and his magnetic pull… It all came crashing down on her. She found herself beginning to slip away. She found herself blinking slowly, heavily, in line with the ins and outs of Nico’s breathing.

  “Juliette.”

  She woke with a start, not realizing she’d drifted all the way off. His voice had been gentle, just loud enough to rouse her from a surprisingly deep sleep. She mumbled something that she hoped he understood, because she certainly didn’t.

  “This is no place to fall asleep,” he said. “Do you want to see the inside?”

  And, in an instant, she’d shed all notions of sleep.

  “Inside the house?”

  Her heart started to race.

  “Why not?” he asked, though she could tell from his tone that he had deduced she was uncomfortable with the idea. His eyes were the strangest sparkling mix of excitement and concern. “You said your company was managing the renovations, didn’t you?”

  For a moment, she thought he might know the truth, but she retraced the steps of her lie. If he did know, why wouldn’t he have told her?

  “Just because it’s a construction site doesn’t mean it isn’t still someone’s home…” she said. But it wasn’t enough, she could tell. So she tried another tactic. “You were just fired from here today. How would it look if you got caught sneaking around?”

  That seemed to make up his mind for him—but not in the way Juliette had hoped.

  He rose to his feet effortlessly and slipped something out of his pocket. Juliette squinted, trying to make out the object that was gleaming in the moonlight.

  “If they didn’t want me to come back here, they really should have taken away my key.”

  She couldn’t quite
tell, but she could swear that she saw him wink again. But she didn’t have a chance to speculate. He wasn’t going to give her time to sit there hedging her bets and trying to get out of it. He was reaching out his hand to help her up. And it was take it, or refuse it.

  So she took it.

  All her life, Juliette had been good. She’d followed the rules and done what she was told. Why shouldn’t she have one night to be a little wild? After all, she was already fleeing the country the next day. She might as well do something worth fleeing the country for.

 
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