The Sheikh's Heir(10)

By: Sharon Kendrick

Warfare put many pressures on a man and perhaps the greatest of those was the absence of sex. For so long now he had sublimated his fierce sexual appetite in battle that it had become almost habitual. In some ways he welcomed it, for not only did it channel his energy into fighting, it also made him feel powerful. It gave him strength to know that he could subdue the weaknesses of the flesh. Yet how could he have forgotten what it felt like to be in thrall to his senses? And how could he not but thank a fate which had conspired to put him alone with a beautiful and eager young woman?

He looked around. The corridor was empty and bare of staff. Should he take her here and risk discovery? Or simply give her a taste of what would inevitably follow—the teasing brush of his lips over hers, the butterfly caress of his fingers over her jewel-covered breasts?

Yet he recognised that this tumble-haired brunette was a challenge, and that only fuelled his hunger, for he loved to conquer and to tame. That was his default mechanism. A way of inflicting control onto a life which had been filled with chaos.

Now that his anger had dissipated, there remained only desire. He remembered her defiance and the way she had struck him and his heart began to thunder. How it would please him to see her subdued. To hear her begging him to enter her, her fiery spirit temporarily silenced by her hunger for him!

His eyes were drawn downwards to see the way she had wriggled a restless-looking foot and he gave a slow smile, for he could read women as well as he could read his beloved falcons when he raced them over the desert skies.

‘Your feet are aching,’ he observed softly.

Ella’s eyes widened, momentarily disarmed by the lazy question in his. Had he read her mind? And what was it about this quiet corner of the palace which made her feel as if they had been suddenly cloaked in a quiet intimacy, so that she responded to him frankly? ‘My shoes are killing me,’ she admitted.

‘Then take them off. Isn’t that what Cinderella is supposed to do?’

The words were faintly erotic and Ella opened her mouth to protest, but when she thought about it, why not? Loads of women shed their shoes at parties. Some even secreted a pair of pumps in their bag. She made as if to bend but before she could move Hassan was there before her, crouching down to slide off both her high heels with a dexterity which made her think he might have done that kind of thing before. Briefly, he ran a thumb across her cramped toes and they gave an appreciative little wriggle before he put them down to meet the delicious coolness of the marble floor.

He straightened up, his black eyes mocking as they looked at her. ‘Better?’

Ella nodded. Sure, her feet now felt comfortable and free, but stupidly she was missing his touch. Because hadn’t it felt like some kind of delicious intimacy to have the sheikh’s fingers on her toes? She forced a smile.

‘Much better,’ she said.

He handed her the shoes. ‘Are you heading back to the party?’

Hooking her fingers through the glittery slingbacks, she shook her head. She couldn’t possibly go back now, and not just because she had left the ballroom in such dramatic circumstances. She just couldn’t face any more of this wretched partying, supposedly celebrating an engagement which nobody seemed happy about. Except for the happy couple, presumably.

‘No. I think I’ll call it a night. I need to organise a car to get back to my hotel.’

‘I’ll walk you back to the main entrance.’

Ella’s heart raced as fear and desire fused into a molten ache at the base of her belly. It was something to do with the way he was looking at her, her sudden awareness of how close he was. Close enough for her to be able to inhale his distinctly masculine scent, just as he’d done on the dance floor. And to remember him sliding the shoes from her feet like some old-fashioned fairy tale, in reverse. Because wasn’t the prince supposed to put the shoe on? She felt the rapid thunder of her heart. ‘No, honestly. I’ll be fine.’

His eyes narrowed. ‘You know where you’re going, do you?’

For the first time she became aware of her surroundings, of the dim silence of the cool corridor, in a network of passageways which all seemed to look exactly the same. She suddenly realised that there were no sounds of revelry drifting towards them and that they must be miles away from the other guests. But then she’d run like the wind, hadn’t she? Running to escape him wearing too-high heels which explained her aching feet and why she now found herself in some unknown corner of a strange palace.

Should she brazen it out? Tell him that she’d find her own way back and she didn’t need his help, thank you very much? That would be the most sensible thing. To walk away with her pride intact, and with some sort of uneasy truce having been reached between them. ‘I’ll be fine.’

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