He came to her like a prince out of a fairytale, strong, silent and commanding. The epitome of maidenly longings, Rosalie decided, trying to make herself smile to unwind the tension coiling tight in her chest.
It didn't work.
The sight of him: tall and devastatingly attractive, this time in lightweight beige trousers and another white shirt, weakened her knees. Closer he came, the muffled thud of hooves a vibration on the sand more than a sound. The wind caught his shirt and dragged it back, outlining the lean strength of his torso and wide, straight shoulders. The gleam of dawn gilded his face, throwing one side into deep shadow that accentuated the remarkable angles of his face, drawing the eye to those stunning cheekbones and the severe angle of his jaw.
Rosalie swallowed hard then reached for the water she'd brought. She was parched, her mouth dried by the sight of him and by the sudden longing she experienced. A yearning that was strange and new and appalling.
This was a mistake. A disastrous mistake. But it was too late to leave. He'd seen her the moment he'd ridden down onto the beach. And she had too much pride to turn tail now and leave him wondering why she was scared of him. Especially when she didn't know the answer to that herself.
'Saba'a alkair, Rosalie.' His face was gravely courteous as he inclined his head, his voice the deeply seductive tone she remembered from her dream. She shivered.
'Your pronunciation is excellent.'
'Thank you.' No need to tell him she'd learned her few words of Arabic from her brother-in-law, another local and a man of immense patience with her faltering efforts.
'You slept well?' His scrutiny was intense, sweeping over her like a touch, so the blood heated beneath her skin.
'Thank you, I did,' she lied. 'Only one horse today?' She was eager to change the subject.
He shrugged, drawing her attention once more to the spare power of his torso. She wished she could look away.
'I thought one would be enough for your purposes. But if you want-'
'No, no. That's fine.' It was the magic between rider and mount that she wanted to capture on paper. She turned away, as if to busy herself with her gear, but a sudden movement made her turn back. It was him, Arik, swinging his leg over the horse and dismounting.
'What are you doing?' The words were out before she could stop them. She heard her squeak of horror echo even now as the silence reverberated between them.
His eyebrows tilted up as he looped the reins in his hand. 'I thought that was obvious,' he said and took a single, long step closer.
Rosalie had thought him impressive on horseback, imposing enough to dominate any scene. But that was before he stood close to her, enveloping her with his air of restrained power. She felt his heat, detected again his spicy, natural scent, and more. As she angled her chin up to meet his eyes, she experienced something else, something primal and powerful, a spell that kept her rooted to the spot. She watched him with widening eyes as her pulse thudded a quickening tattoo.
This close she could see his skin gleamed with health, his mouth was slightly crooked, when he smiled it curved up more on the left. And his eyes - she couldn't believe it! Even from less than a metre away they were black as night, gleaming with humour as she struggled to find her composure.
'It's traditional here to seal a bargain with a gesture of trust,' he murmured, 'and our agreement is important to me.'
The flutter of panic in her stomach transformed into an earth tremor of mixed horror and anticipation as he leaned closer. He couldn't mean to-
Strong fingers closed around her right hand, she felt the scrape of calluses as he cradled it in his, then firmed his grip.
'We always shake hands on a deal here, Rosalie.' His words were low, soft, making her lean even closer to hear.
His gaze, dark and unfathomable, held hers and she felt a sensation of weightlessness. For a long moment the illusion held as she stood, enthralled by the heat and promise in his eyes.
Then common sense reasserted itself. She straightened her spine. 'Of course.' She nodded, hoping to seem business-like. Just a handshake. She could cope with that.
But even as she reassured herself, he lifted her hand in his, held it just below his lips so she felt the rhythm of his breath hot on her skin. She blinked.
'But with a lady, a handshake is not enough.'
Was that glitter in his gaze laughter or something else?
No, it wasn't laughter. She just had time to realise it was something more dangerous when his mouth brushed her skin. The kiss was warm, soft and seductive. Her breath hitched as their gazes locked. His eyes were pure black. Black as night, dark as desire. Inviting, beckoning. A blaze of flame licked through her abdomen, igniting a flare that grew and spread like fire in her bloodstream.
She shuddered as his lips caressed her skin, pressing more firmly and somehow, impossibly, finding an erogenous zone on the back of her hand. Her chest heaved as she gasped for oxygen. He paused, so long that she felt warm air feather across her skin as he exhaled once, twice, three times.
At last he lifted his head, but the stark hunger in his face made her want to turn tail and run back the way she'd come.Reviews Behind the Book Return