The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(43) by Susan Mallery
The fabric ceiling stretched up at least ten feet. Carpets were piled on top of each other underfoot. Her toes curled into the exquisite patterns and softness.
Low benches and plush chairs provided seating around carved tables.
Old-fashioned lamps hung from hooks, providing illumination. The faint but steady rumble of a generator explained the flow of fresh, cool air she felt on her face.
“This way,” he said and led her deeper into the tent.
There was a dining area, a huge bed on a dais, and a tub filled with steaming water that nearly made her moan with delight.
She had to resist the urge to dive in headfirst. Instead she tugged off her socks, then glanced down at her filthy T-shirt.
“Good thing I didn’t pack light,” she said. “I think this one is past recovering.”
Murat shrugged out of his robes and left them draped over a low chair. Then, wearing only loose trousers and a white shirt, he moved close and held out his hand.
“What?” she asked.
She took a step back. “I’m not getting undressed in front of you.”
“You forget. I have seen you bare before.”
“That’s not the point.”
Actually, it was exactly the point. Getting naked with Murat around would only lead to trouble. Even talking about it made her body start to react. Tiny pin-pricks of desire nipped at her skin. Her belly felt hollow and hot and an ache took up residence between her thighs.
“I’m perfectly capable of bathing myself,” she said.
“I am offering to help.” His dark gaze caught her and wouldn’t let her go.
“Are you afraid?”
“Murat, I’m not playing that game. Now shoo so I can get cleaned up.”
Instead of leaving, he moved closer. “I am here to help you with your bath, my most stubborn princess. I give you my word that I will make no attempt to seduce you in your bath. I will not make suggestive remarks or touch you in any inappropriate way. Now, take off your clothes.”
Was this how the cobra felt in the face of the snake charmer, she wondered. She didn’t want to listen or do as he said, yet she found herself reaching for the hem of her T-shirt and pulling the whole thing off, over her head. She handed it to Murat.
Her jeans were next, leaving her in a bra and panties. Turning her back on him, she unfastened the former and pushed down the latter. They tumbled to the carpeted ground. Then she stepped into the steaming tub and sank down into the water.
The heat soothed aching muscles. She reached up to keep her hair out of the water, but Murat had moved behind the tub and brushed her hands away.
“I will do it,” he said as he gently coiled her hair, then took pins from a nearby tray and secured her hair on top of her head.
He handed her a bar of scented soap and a washcloth. She breathed in the smell of flowers and sandalwood.
The water was clear, which made her feel awkward about being naked. Murat stayed behind her, and there weren’t any mirrors, so she tried to tell herself he wasn’t really there…watching. Still, as she smoothed the soapy washcloth across her suddenly sensitive br**sts, she felt his gaze on her.
She turned only to find him with his back to the tub. He stood by the wooden dresser, opening a drawer and drawing out a nightgown. Okay, so her imagination was putting in some overtime. Obviously he’d meant what he said. This was just a bath.
Being female and completely comfortable supporting two opposite ideas at exactly the same time, her next thought was one of annoyance. Didn’t he notice that she was naked? Didn’t he find her sexually appealing? Wasn’t he aroused by the situation? They were married, and a man was supposed to want his wife.
She quickly finished washing and wrung out the cloth. Annoyance made her slosh the water as she stood.
“Could you hand me a towel?” she asked.
Murat reached for one and handed it to her. From what she could tell, he barely looked at her naked, wet body. How perfect. Now that he had her, he didn’t want her anymore. Just like a man, she thought as she rubbed herself dry. Fine. She could “not want” him, too.
She wrapped the towel around herself and stepped out of the tub. He passed her a nightgown. The soft, pale silk was unfamiliar, but at this point she was too much in a temper to care. She let the towel drop to the floor and slid the nightgown over her head.
The see-through fabric left nothing to the imagination. The front dipped down nearly to her stomach, and the back consisted of a few lacy straps and nothing else. Ha! As if Murat would care.
She wanted to kick him. She walked to stalk out into the night and scream her frustration to the heavens. What was wrong with him not to react? And more important, why did she care? She didn’t love Murat. Lately she didn’t even like him very much. So why did it bother her that he hadn’t pounced on her like a cat on catnip?
“I’m going to bed,” she said curtly. “Good night.”
“You enjoyed your bath?” he asked from his place just behind her.
“It was fine.”
“You would consider it finished now?”
She turned until she could look at him. “As I’m out of it, dry and dressed, I would go with yes.”
A rush of movement followed the word and she found herself caught up against him as he hauled her into his arms and pressed his mouth to hers.
She had no time to think or react or even feel. His hands were everywhere. Her back, her sides, her br**sts. He kissed her hotly, ravishing her. Somehow she managed to part her lips, and he swept inside with the purposefulness of a man set on claiming his woman.
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