Dangerous pleasure, p.11
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       Dangerous Pleasure, p.11
 

         Part #12 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
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Page 11

 

  “This is my fault,” he whispered as he stared around the apartment again, aware of Marty as she rose quickly to her feet and crossed to him.

  “Khalid, this isn’t your fault any more than it’s Paige’s,” she protested. “You could only keep her confined for so long. She lasted longer than either of us thought she would. He would have been waiting, no matter the circumstances. ”

  His arms went around her, the need for her comfort like a beast raging inside him.

  He had failed his sister.

  “When Mother brought her home from the hospital, I stared at this ugly, red-faced little piece of a thing, and I swore I would protect her. ” A dagger was digging into his soul. “I swore she would not know what my mother had known. That she would not face that hell if I lived and breathed. And now, he has her. ”

  “Then Abram will have her. ” She pulled back just enough to glare up at him. “Khalid, no matter what you believe about your brother, he will protect Paige. You know he will. ”

  “What I believe about my brother. ” He sighed as he met her gaze. “I believe Abram is a good man, Marty. But even good men have their faults. And his fascination with Paige bothers me. He’ll fight against Azir until hell freezes over, and he’ll walk away from that land without a backward look, but he’s still a product of the desert and how he was raised. ”

  “Khalid, you know Abram would never do anything to hurt Paige. ”

  He shook his head. “But he’ll end up hurting her just the same. If he can get to her before Azir kills her. ”

  And that was his nightmare.

  The enmity between Khalid and his father was at a breaking point. Khalid had gone to one of the reigning princes and the Saudi ambassador concerning Azir’s sanity and Ayid and Aman’s attack against him. And he knew it was a matter that was being investigated. Azir would know it as well. He had his own spies within the monarchy, and his own ways of gaining information.

  Thank God Abram hadn’t officially defected after Ayid and Aman had been killed. If he had, there would have been no one there to protect Paige.

  “It’s been about two hours since I found the door open and Paige gone,” Daniel stated. “We have all the airports covered and we’re checking all the private planes on the ground. There are officers checking out the private landing strips as well. ”

  Khalid shook his head. “They were in the air within thirty minutes or less of having taken her. She’s gone, Daniel. ”

  And it was his fault.

  He looked down at Marty again, misery crawling through his body as guilt raked sharpened talons across his heart.

  “I need to contact Abram. ” He sighed. “I can only do that from the house. The satellite link we’ve established can only be made from one location and only at certain times of the day. ” He checked his watch as Marty moved back.

  Catching her hand with his he looked around the room once again. “It will be another two hours before I can send the message to Abram. Until then, I can still get ahold of a few contacts I have in Saudi and see what can be done. ”

  “Someone needs to tell your mother and Pavlos,” Marty reminded him gently. “They’re flying into D. C. tonight. We should be there when they arrive. ”

  His mother had been worried. She had been certain Azir wouldn’t wait much longer to attempt to take Paige, and she had been right.

  God, this was going to kill her.

  Fragile, gentle, his delicate mother may not survive if her daughter never returned home to her.

  He breathed out heavily.

  “We’ll meet them,” he told her. “After I send a message to Abram. Let’s get back to the house. ” He turned to Daniel. “Lock up the apartment. Check with her neighbors and see if they heard anything. We may not be able to catch them, but hopefully we can track down whoever helped them. They couldn’t have pulled this off without help. ”

  Daniel nodded, then paused. “I’m sorry, Khalid,”he said, his voice low. “This happened on my watch, and it shouldn’t have. I take full responsibility for it. ”

  “As Marty said, he would have found an opportunity eventually,” he stated, though a part of him blamed the investigator/security consultant. It had been his job to protect her and to ensure no gaps were open in her security.

  It was a no-win situation though. Sooner or later, it would have happened, Khalid knew. Everyone had to blink eventually.

  Holding Marty’s hand, Khalid turned and headed for the door. He was almost there when something caught his eye. A glimmer of gold on the floor.

  Stopping, he bent and picked up the delicate little hoop with its fragile, dangling chains attached to tiny gold feathers.

  The earrings Abram had sent to her for her twenty-first birthday.

  He grimaced at the thought.

  He’d fought to keep them apart over the years, even knowing it was doing little good, and that the day would come when nothing could stop it.

  It wasn’t that he believed Abram would hurt her, or even that he wouldn’t be good for her. It was simply that Khalid knew his brother, and he knew, after the deaths of his first two wives, any lover he had would suffer the ultraprotective possessiveness Abram would feel.

  Independence would go to hell along with the hearts. Abram wouldn’t be able to control himself, and all that dark, tortured hunger inside him would become a ravening beast in the face of Paige’s determination.

  And this was where Paige would struggle.

  There was no hunger strong enough, no love vital enough and no woman with enough patience or enough understanding to stand against a man determined to lock her away from the world.

  Khalid had always feared that was exactly what Abram would attempt to do with the fiery independence that was so much a part of Paige.

  And there wouldn’t be a damned thing he could do to save her from it.

  4

  She was so screwed.

  That was the first thought that drifted through her mind as Paige’s eyes blinked open and she found herself in an unfamiliar room.

  If she thought her suite at her brother’s home was too expensive and opulent, then it was nothing compared to where she found herself now.

  In000000">The room was huge, at least twelve feet tall with several motorized fans turning lazily overhead and creating the slightest breeze.

  She was laying on a huge bed, its comfort unlike anything she had known before. Beneath her naked body she could feel the excellent grade and cool perfection of the silk sheets.

  Laying over her was more silk, the sheet against her flesh airy and cool while the ultra-thin cashmere throw laying on top of her added a measure of warmth.

  Looking around, she saw velvet upholstery on the chairs next to a fireplace, and what appeared to be a silk-covered chaise lounge positioned at the side of the room. There were large pillows tossed in front of the hearth in differing sizes and in different expensive materials.

  The windows were high and arched with wooden shutters pulled closed against the sunlight. The slats in the shutters allowed the fragile, heated rays to slip in and pierce the dim light.

  White stone walls peeked out from behind several large tapestries, reminding her of the ancient castles she’d visited in England.

  Stone floors were covered here and there with matching tapestries, and in front of the fireplace lay what appeared to be a thick, cashmere rug.

  Swallowing tight, Paige felt the gummy, sticky feeling of her mouth. She wondered how long she had been unconscious as she fought to keep her hysteria under control.

  If she didn’t concentrate on something else, then she wouldn’t make it. She collapsed into a heap of pure hysterical fear.

  Because she knew exactly where she was. She’d heard her mother describe this room so many times it was burned into her brain.

  This was the room she had lived in during her stay when she wasn’t locke
d in Azir’s bedroom. She ate in this room, wept in this room, and plotted her escape from this room.

  She was in the Mustafa stronghold on the Saudi Arabian and Iraqi borders. A wasteland of unproven ground, where even oil didn’t reside.

  Nothing of consequence lived here, as she had heard Abram and Khalid say, except the people who had been born here, worked here, and eeked out their living here.

  The fortress had been built centuries before, the castle a mix of both Middle Eastern and English influence well before the days of the Knights Templars and the holy wars.

  She had seen pictures of it. Khalid and her mother had put together a map of sorts of the castle and the outlying areas around it.

  There were ways to escape; Paige just had to find them.

  Terror was crawling through her now. She hadn’t believed Azir Mustafa would retaliate against Khalid. He’d threatened before. How many times had Paige been locked behind protective walls because Khalid and Azir were feuding again, or because Azir had, in one of his periods of insane fury, threatened to kidnap Paige’s mother and bring her back where he believed she belonged?

  There had been too many times to count. And he’d never done it before. Evidently he had grown tired of simply threatening.

  He had actually managed to kidnap her, and evidently Abram had no idea. If he knew, he would have been there when she awoke, she told herself. He wouldn’t have allowed her to face this alone.

  Now he had her. A monster.

  Her chest tightened, her throat nearly closing with fear and tears as she fought against it. She wasn’t going to allow him to see her cry. It was a sign of weakness, and like any jackal, she couldn’t allow Azir Mustafa to see her weakness. Or her fear.

  Pulling the sheet and throw closer around her nakedness as fear began to send shudders through her body, Paige’s breath hitched as she pushed back her screams.

  She was stronger than this, she assured herself. Azir Mustafa would be looking for fear. And he might have her now, but not once Abram found her, or learned she was there, which would be as soon as Khalid contacted him. If he hadn’t already.

  No. Her hands tightened on the sheet and throw convulsively. If Khalid had contacted Abram then Abram would be here. He would be assuring her everything was going to be okay. He would be finding a way to get her home. And he really needed to get on that. Sometime before her heart burst from terror.

  She was naked, in a bed. Breath hitching, gasping from her lips she began to check her body, to feel between her thighs. Desperation was an oily stain across her mind as she checked her body, praying to God she hadn’t been raped, because she knew Azir Mustafa wasn’t above drugging a woman to rape her.

  There were no signs of it, but the fact that she was naked, that someone had undressed her to bare skin while she was unconscious was a violation as well. It made her feel helpless and out of control and that terrified her.

  She’d always sympathized with her mother for what she’d gone through with Azir. She’d hated the bastard for it. But now, she understood much better exactly how her mother had felt, and she was scared.

  She should have listened to Khalid and not left the house. If she had just stayed in place, this wouldn’t have happened. At least not yet. Not this way.

  Every time she ever refused to listen to him, she had paid for it. That was why she hadn’t fought against him as hard as she could have when he first had her taken to the house by Daniel Conover. Because she knew Khalid wouldn’t have done it without good reason.

  Rising from the bed she moved around the room, searching for the clothes that had been taken from her. Her jeans and shirt, her underclothes. Her shoes. Oh God, she really needed her shoes. How was she supposed to escape without running shoes?

  Se couldn’t bear to be naked as she was. She felt too exposed, despite the sheet and throw she had wrapped around herself. The material didn’t even begin to be protective. Not that clothing would have been.

  She couldn’t bear to feel this helpless. That was what Khalid didn’t understand, and what she could never tell him. She had only been this helpless once before in her life and the memories of it sent a surge of terror racing through her again.
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