Dangerous pleasure, p.7
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       Dangerous Pleasure, p.7
 

         Part #12 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
Page 7

 

  The shock was palpable. Marty’s gaze widened and Khalid’s expression suddenly turned icy. He understood the quick anger, the disbelief. They had planned his move from Saudi Arabia for years. To have Abram back out now, at the last moment so to speak, was little more than an insult.

  “You only just arrived,” Khalid finally stated. “You’re not giving Immigration enough time to examine your mother’s birth records as well as your own. Give it time. ”

  Abram gave his head a quick shake. “There is something I must do first, Khalid. ”

  He had known his brother would never understand this move he was being forced to make.

  “And what the fuck could be more important than your life?” Khalid suddenly snarled, the fury cracking past the ice. “Azir Mustafa will never let you live now. Goddammit, Abram, we just killed two of his sons. The black-hearted little bastards he risked everything to protect over the years. ”

  “Abram, my father is certain that your citizenship will be accepted within days,” Marty stated from her fiancé’s side. “There’s no question of it. But if you return, there’s nothing he can do. ”

  He shook his head quickly, tightly. “I have to go back. ”

  “Why, damned you?!” Khalid yelled back at him furiously as rage lit his black gaze once again.

  “Because Paige’s picture was found in the possession of a dead terrorist known to be a part of the cell Ayid and Aman commanded, just hours ago as he attempted to board a plane in Jordan. Your suspicions were right. She’s in danger. And I’m going back to stop it, Khalid, one way or another. I’ve already lost two wives to those bastards. I won’t lose my soul to their ghosts. ”

  Paige. His soul. He’d lost his youth and his heart when his first wife, Lessa had been murdered. His second wife had been forced on him, and losing her and their child had taken the last bit of hope inside him. Their deaths had nearly finished him off. The thought of that innocent life, not yet born, taken so cruelly, had nearly cost him his sanity.

  That child had been his daughter. The daughter he had planned to secretly smuggle out of Saudi Arabia after her birth and send to his brother’s parents. Pavlos and Marilyn Galbraithe would have raised and protected his child as they had their own precious daughter.

  But Paige, God help him, there was no way he would survive her death. It would destroy him. For some reason she had begun to represent something wild and innocent inside him eight years ago. When the future had appeared to be nothing but bleak, furious pain, it was always the image of her that brought him comfort. Her laughter, the sweet warmth that burned in her emerald eyes.

  And from the looks of Khalid’s expression, the complete disbelief and horror burning in his gaze assured Abram that it would destroy him as well. They had both schemed, plotted, and run interference with Azir Mustafa since the day the red-haired little beauty had been born. The birth of the child to his escaped forced bride had sent Azir into a rage that had torn through the Mustafa stronghold like a demon.

  That day, two servants had died, and a third had fled into the desert in fear. The insanity that had begun infecting Azir had only grown since that day, as though it were a trigger of some sort that he had been unable to fight.

  “I was going to send her home in the morning,” Khalid finally stated, his voice a low, rough rasp. “God help me, Abram. I was going to allow her to leave when Abdul’s cousin was unable to learn anything else. ”

  Abdul, Khalid’s manservant, had several cousins that worked within the castle and managed to send along information whenever they heard it. The threats against Paige, in retaliation for Khalid’s killing of Ayid and Aman Mustafa, had begun the moment Azir learned of their deaths.

  He knew Khalid’s weakness, just as he knew those of his other sons. Somehow, Azir had learned years before that Abram had formed a soft spot for Khalid’s little sister. A place inside his heart thathe’d believed was hidden from even the most astute gaze.

  “You can’t allow her to go. ” He’d kidnap her and have her locked up somewhere safe himself if Khalid dared to allow her to leave. “I’ve fought to stay away from her, Khalid, as you ordered. But if you allow her to return to her home, then I promise you, all bets will be off. ”

  He didn’t wait to argue. He turned and walked away. His control was too shaky, he was too frightened for her, too certain that if she was unprotected for even a second, then his father, Azir el Hamid Mustafa would exact his vengeance in the worst way.

  Abram now had no choice but to return. No one yet knew he’d left Saudi to defect from his homeland and to refuse the legacy so tainted by blood, death, and nightmares. Azir Mustafa had become a scourge that even the Saudi government wanted to be rid of. Unfortunately, until Azir revealed the blood on his hands, there was nothing they could do to step in and deflect the misery he created.

  Abram had given up on saving his father light years before. The day he found his wife in a desert shack, bloody, tortured, her face frozen into an expression of such abject pain and horror that it had taken him to his knees. He had known the rapists, the inhuman scourge that had taken her life were the half-brothers he had taught to ride horseback when they were boys. The same that had been such sweet, laughter-filled children before Azir had taken them to his wing of the castle to raise them himself.

  From that day, the change had been overwhelming. As though Azir had known what to do to release the soulless cruelty that existed within them.

  Entering the garage Abram strode for the limo as Tariq, his cousin and coconspirator, stepped from the shadows to open the door for him.

  “It’s time to go now, Tariq,” he stated as he stepped into the back of the limo. “He’ll make certain she’s protected. ”

  “Azir has called the Saudi ambassador several times and he’s demanding they search Khalid’s home for you immediately. ” Disgust filled the man’s voice. “I contacted him after the ambassador contacted me, just after you entered the house. I’ve assured him you’re here to investigate the reasons for your brothers’ deaths and that you are returning soon. He’s certain you’re here to help Khalid escape justice instead. ”

  Tariq didn’t give Abram a chance to comment. He slammed the door shut with latent violence then stalked around the limo to the driver’s side door.

  Abram watched as he slid behind the wheel, his gaze meeting Tariq’s dark tobacco brown eyes in the mirror.

  “And did he buy it?” Abram had no doubt Azir had. In his mind, no matter what he did, or who he killed, Abram wouldn’t have the strength to walk away from the deserted, blood-drencertain snd of his birth.

  Unfortunately for Azir Mustafa, his son shared few of his beliefs and none of his love for the land that had destroyed so many he loved. Abram had been all too aware that he was the last hope those he loved had of escaping Azir’s cruelty. But only if Abram always remembered to never show his weakness, to never reveal he cared for anyone or anything outside the Mustafa fortress. Showing that affection was guaranteed to ensure, if not their deaths, then the ever-present risk of it.

  “Shall we say he was a bit more than irate?” Tariq said with chilling calm.

  Irate? Azir Mustafa was deranged. The fact that he had allowed his youngest sons’ terrorist partners to take up residence in the Mustafa fortress proved it.

  Jafar Mustafa, son of Azir’s youngest brother, and cousin to both Abram and Tariq, was surprisingly one of the lieutenants within the terrorist cell Ayid and Aman had commanded.

  Abram’s disappointment to learn Jafar was as corrupt as Ayid and Aman had been, went deeper than he’d expected. Once, he’d had high hopes for Jafar. Abram had fought for him to attend college in America, to work with the oil companies rather than joining the insanity Azir was breeding.

  Azir Mustafa hadn’t escaped it. As a matter of fact, he had helped exacerbate the insanity within his sons, and now, he couldn’t accept that they were dead. He couldn’t accep
t that Abram, his eldest son and heir could have defected as Jafar had informed him, or that Khalid, the son he’d given Ayid and Aman permission to murder, had actually survived.

  His sanity seemed to be coming more into question by the day, but the one thing the old bastard hadn’t forgotten was that in less then a month, Abram would turn thirty-six. Then the Saudi king would send his emissary to the Mustafa lands and take Abram’s vow to guide the people and the land to prosperity.

  Azir had, with his determination to protect his youngest sons, managed to force the royal house to cut off all funds and aid to the boundary lands until his legal heir was thirty-six. Those funds had been funneled into the coffers of the very terrorists they were fighting against.

  The king’s punishment had come with one ray of hope for Azir. If Abram would vow to protect and preserve the people in accordance with the law as well as pledge his loyalty to the throne on his thirty-sixth birthday, then money would flow into the Mustafa lands once more.

  In all his crazed determination Azir thought he could then see the dreams of his dead sons completed once that was accomplished.

  It was a vow Abram couldn’t make. But, until he learned why Paige was a target, and how pervasive the terrorists now were in the city he had once called home, he had no choice but to return.

  The fact that his cousin Jafar was ported to have moved into the fortress in the past days to console Azir, greatly concerned Abram.

  Jafar had, until now, managed to fool Abram. He’d gone to college in America, vacationed with the rich and notorious in their playgrounds, and had once, years before, even spoken to Abram about defection himself. That same man had returned to Saudi Arabia three years before, disappeared from the public, and was rumored to have joined one of the newly formed terrorist organizations protesting Western modernization in the Middle East.

  Jafar’s belief that the ills of the Middle East stemmed from America was something that Abram hadn’t expected.

  “I called several contacts and they’ve reported Jafar has brought several more of his men into the castle,” Abram began. “The terrorist who was supposedly killed in Jordan was seen at the fortress two nights ago. He slipped across the border, met with Jafar, and collected a file from Azir. It’s reported to name the target he’s chosen to exact his punishment for his sons’ deaths on. ”

  He had to give it to Jafar. So far, he was a damned sight smarter than Ayid and Aman had been. He did nothing over e-mail, and rarely used the same courier twice when sending out reports or orders to soldiers. There was no way to gather the evidence needed to arrest him, and no way to figure out whatever plans were in the works.

  And that was why Abram was returning. To protect Paige. To protect the last bit of innocence left in his life, the woman he couldn’t get out of his fantasies.

  “Contact Anwar,” Abram ordered him. “Inform him of our arrival time at the landing area and tell him to be prepared to give me a thorough oral report. ”

  Nothing was put on paper. Like Jafar, Abram knew the danger of ever leaving evidence.

  Returning was killing him, but he knew if he didn’t, Azir would strike against Paige, ensuring Abram suffered for it. And if it wasn’t Azir, then it would be the terrorists he had given his allegiance to. Before he left, Abram knew he would have to commit to memory the face of every threat that could return to haunt him, Paige, or Khalid.

  The prediction Khalid had made when he had been no more than eighteen seemed to be coming true.

  Khalid had stated Azir would force his eldest son, his heir, to kill him to escape the Mustafa lands. Khalid had stared into the hot desert sun as he and Abram had been returning to the forest from a hunt and spoken the damning words.

  Abram was finally realizing just how right his brother had been. And God help him, if Paige was harmed he’d also lose what was left of his own sanity.

  He hadn’t touched her until tonight, but in his fantasies, in his dreams, he touched her nightly. He touched her, and he watched as his third touched her. He psessed her, and he watched as his third possessed her.
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