Dangerous pleasure, p.27
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       Dangerous Pleasure, p.27
 

         Part #12 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
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Page 27

 

  The nicker of a horse had her eyes turning to the exit and the group of men and horses awaiting them.

  Three of the riders instantly jumped from their mounts, holding their reins loosely as an older rider dismounted and waved them toward the horses.

  “My nephew sent the message that Azir’s guards and the Matawa are preparing to leave the castle. ” The rider moved quickly to Abram, handed over a rifle and a handgun holstered on belted leather.

  Looping the belt around his neck and under his arm, Abram grabbed the rifle and looped it over the pommel of the saddle before turning and quickly gripping Paige’s hips to help her onto the horse standing next to his.

  “Do they have a direction they suspect we’re riding to?” Abram asked quickly as Paige took the reins he pushed quickly to her.

  “To the mountains. ” The rider spat to the ground after speaking. “Ride hard and beat them there, but they may still get there before extraction. ”

  He was American. The sound of the Texas accent surprised her.

  “Good luck,” he called out as Abram kicked his heels into the horse’s flanks and they galloped from the cavern into the crisp, clear predawn night.

  The thunder of horses’ hooves echoed around her, drowning out the sound of her heart raving in her chest.

  Abram took the lead and Tariq rode at the rear, keeping Paige between them. If it hadn’t been for her they wouldn’t have to run like this and the Matawa wouldn’t be chasing them with such charges.

  Of course, if Azir hadn’t kidnapped her, none of this would have happened either.

  “Yassir is positioning his men to track Azir’s head hunters. ” Tariq called into the communication headset he wore. “He’ll let us know if they head our way. ”

  “He’ll head our way,” Abram assured him. “There are only a few usable locations for extraction and they aren’t that far apart. ”

  They could pray and fight to get there first, but other than that it was out of their control, and that terrified her.

  The lack of control in both her emotions and responses to Abram when it came to her safety was terrifying. She had been an independent woman with a job, a future, and the ability to make decisions for herself. To risk death over such an idea was a nightmare to her.

  Just as the furious race through the night would become, she was certain.

  “They’re heading this way, Abram,” Tariq announced as they neared the base of the mountains that rose before them. “Yassir received confirmation from his spy among Azir’s guards. The Matawa commander received a call and they’ve changed direction. ”

  Abram suddenly veered toward the more shadowed edge of the trail, his curse searing the night.

  “They have watches. ” Tariq snapped. “Possibly snipers. ”

  “Azir doesn’t have any snipers and I doubt the Matawa do. But Jafar would have them. ”

  “Would he give the order to fire?” Paige’s voice trembled, not as much in fear this time, but in rage.

  If she survived this then she would kill Jafar herself.

  “I don’t know. ” They were forced to slow the horses to a hard trot rather than a gallop.

  “We’ll take the next turn to the longer trail up the mountains,” Abram told them. “And this, boys and girls, is what sucks about these mountains. We have no trails for the mountain wheels. ”

  “Wouldn’t need them if we didn’t have to deal with the assholes in our family,” Tariq grunted.

  “Lucked out there, didn’t we?” Abram agreed as he turned his horse to another trail.

  “I wouldn’t call it luck. ” Paige interjected, a morbid sense of black humor overtaking her. “I think you managed to get on God’s bad side that week, boys. ”

  Silence met her observation for a second before Tariq gave a mocking chuckle echoed by Abram.

  “We manage to stay on someone’s bad side all the time,” Abram agreed. “It only began there. ”

  It was a brief sense of lightness in the tension that grew from the battle just to stay alive. They moved farther up the face of the mountain along a curve that placed the jagged, sharp peaks of the huge boulders between them and their previous position.

  Abram was trying to block any sight of a sniper’s rifle, Paige thought.

  “Jafar has joined them,” Tariq announced, his voice suddenly heavy. “He’s moving along a trail that will catch up with us before the Matawa and Azir’s soldiers. He’s riding in with a dozen men. ”

  Abram picked up the pace despite the danger to the horses and to them.

  “Extraction ETA is coming up,” Tariq assured him. “We’ll be cutting it close. ”

  “I didn’t necessarily want to simply cut it close,” Abram growled.

  Damn, this was going to hell in a handbasket, he thought, just as Azir had planned. This had been what he was working for all along. Not necessarily Abram’s escape, but definitely ensuring that both Tariq and Paige were made aware that Azir held his fate in the palm of his hand.

  He would kill himself first, Abram decided. And he would be damned if he left that land for Jafar to take over with his terrorists. He had recourse if he was forced to make that vow. Azir and Jafar would find out just how far he was willing to go to ensure they were destroyed if Paige and Tariq didn’t make it out of here alive tonight.

  “Yassir has made contactxtraction,” Tariq reported. “Their ETA is on time and they’re moving into the area. They’re coming in opposite the Matawa but Jafar’s men will have a view. ”

  “Tell him to proceed, lights black, night sensor engaged,” Abram ordered. “We’re the smallest team on the mountain and we’re starting to get nervous. ”

  Tariq relayed the information as Abram glanced back at Paige, her face so pale it was easily seen in the darkness.

  “We’ll make it,” he promised her, even as he prayed he could keep that promise.

  “We’re coming up on the clearing,” Tariq stated. “Yassir has lost sight of Jafar and his men. ”

  “They’re close then, aren’t they?” Paige guessed, her gaze tracking the darkness as the first, weak rays of dawn began moving in.

  “I have a feeling they’ve been close from the beginning,” Abram stated as he watched the shadows closely.

  Dawn wasn’t far away. Extraction should arrive within minutes of the gathering legate, revealing the presence.

  “Ten minutes,” Tariq stated quietly. “We’re almost home free. ”

  “Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Is that not your American saying?” Jafar stepped from the shadows as Abram brought his horse slowly to a stop.

  “Let it go, Jafar,” Abram warned him. “Look at it this way, with me gone, you can control the province. ”

  Jafar hooked his fingers in the leather belt he wore over his tunic and watched Abram carefully.

  “Ah yes, a perfect plan but for the fact that within two weeks the province reverts back to the regime if you are unable, or unwilling, to accept control of it. And you cannot appoint a successor for at least ten years in the event you have children. ”

  Abram leaned his arms on the pommel of the saddle and regarded his cousin assessingly.

  “There is that,” he agreed. “But perhaps you could have ensured the vow was made at the very least if you and Azir had not dragged the Matawa into this. ”

  Jafar grimaced. “That was not a decision I made but one Azir jumped into when he learned Pavlos and Marilyn Galbraithe were preparing to travel to the American embassy in Riyadh to protest the kidnapping of their only child, Paige Galbraithe. And I do believe our king himself must have been threatening repercussions against Azir despite the Matawa’s protestations of your sexual deviancy. ”

  Abram dismounted slowly, the knowledge that they weren’t going to escape unless he managed to diffuse Jafar uppermost in his mind.

  He’d wanted to leave Saudi Arabia
without shedding blood; he especially hadn’t wanted to shed Jafar’s blood.

  It didn’t look like he was going to be able to get out of it.

  He looked around at the men materializing behind their leader.

  “You’ve wanted to know if you could beat me for years now, Jafar,” he said.

  “This I have. ” Jafar nodded with a pleasant smile. “And always you have denied me this opportunity. ”

  “Let them go. ” Abram nodded to Paige and Tariq, ignoring their sudden protests. “And I’ll give you the opportunity. ”

  “What are you going to do, Abram?” Paige whispered desperately. “You can’t do this. ”

  He kept his gaze on Jafar’s thoughtful face.

  “Where is this a benefit?” Jafar drawled. “Your escape simply for the pleasure of the fight? This will bring me little comfort when the land of my father is taken by the king and we are asked to leave. ”

  Abram nodded slowly. “I see your point. Let’s make it worth both our time and blood then. You let Paige and Tariq go either way. If you can beat me until I cannot stand then I’ll stay, take the vow, and give you the ten years to ensure your possessions. ”

  Jafar’s brows raised in surprise. “And if you can beat me to the point I cannot lift myself?”

  “Then you ensure my escape when the extraction team arrives. Even against Azir and the Matawa. ”

  A smile touched Jafar’s lips.

  “Abram, please,” Paige whispered behind him. “Please don’t do this. ”

  “Does your woman not have faith in your ability to win?” Jafar laughed.

  “I don’t have faith in your ability not to cheat!” Paige shot back.

  Abram winced at the savagery in her voice as she spoke, and at the insult she delivered to Jafar.

  “Strangely, neither do I. ” Jafar laughed as stared back at Abram. “Are you willing to risk this?”

  12

  Abram couldn’t say that he had ever felt another person’s pain or fear until now. His flesh

  prickled with a deepening, dark sensation as he felt Paige’s grip tighten. Her breathing was louder than before, the anger that had been brewing inside her was building.

  If she’d had a gun Abram feared she would have planted a bullet in Jafar’s head the moment he revealed himself. Her hatred of him was becoming absolute.

  “A trade then?” Jafar chuckled. “Are there any rules?”

  “Let’s keep it interesting,” Abram suggested, almost looking forward to the coming fight. “Fists, elbows, or knees only. Just as we did when we were boys. ”

  They hadn’t fought since they’d reached adulthood. The battles that they faced in their lives had made their familial grievances seem petty in comparison.

  Jafar stepped forward, his thumbs hooking into the belt loops around his lean hips as Abram shed the coat he wore.

  Before leaving the fortress he’d dressed in jeans, a thermal undershirt, denim overshirt, and leather hiking boots. He was not just prepared for the cold desert night, but marginally protected as well.

  The clothes were well worn and comfortable, soft and relaxed.

  Jafar paused and stared at the clothing almost longingly before giving a little sigh and stretching his shoulders.

  “Abram, you are mad,” Tariq hissed. “He always beat both our asses when we were boys. ”

  “We are not boys any longer. ” Abram gave a tight, anticipatory smile as he stepped away from one cousin to face the other man. “And I have a reason to win. ”

  There was no posturing and no preliminaries. They went right at each other, fists flying, snarls erupting from their lips and pure male testosterone fueling each punch.

  He had been needing this. A chance to beat some fucking sense back into his cousin since the day he’d realized Jafar was fighting alongside Ayid and Aman.
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