The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(38) by Susan Mallery
“I know the kind of woman I am, and I know what men say about me.” She tossed her braid back over her shoulder. “I’m smart and intimidating. Not beautiful, not sexy. Cleo’s the man magnet in this family.”
“You’re not giving yourself enough credit.” He found her damned sexy, although he couldn’t tell her. Not without creating a different kind of trouble.
She shook her head impatiently. “Get real. My dissertation was on the changing face of society as demonstrated by feminist writers in the last quarter of the twentieth century. I doubt that makes you think of sweaty sheets. It’s just impossible. I’m never going to find someone who wants me.”
She’d gone from angry to vulnerable in a heartbeat. He could handle the former, but not the latter. Her slumped shoulders and bleak expression made him want to pull her close and offer comfort. A dangerous proposition, he reminded himself. He was the hired help—nothing more.
“You’ll find him,” he told her. “The right guy is out there.”
“How will I find him? And where is he? If you have any names with you, please feel free to pass them along.”
She started to get to her feet. Involuntarily Rafe grabbed her wrist to hold her in place. The second his fingers touched her soft skin, he knew he’d made a really big mistake. Especially when she looked at him and he saw the questions in her big eyes. Questions and desire.
An answering spark leaped to life inside of him. His self-control deserted him, leaving him hungry. There was only one way to satisfy his appetite. Only one way and with one woman…
She breathed his name, the single syllable giving away more than she realized. He heard the anticipation, the wanting. It increased the fire inside of him, burning away the last of his resistance. Before he could come to his senses and head for the open desert, he pulled her close.
She melted against him. Her arms came around his neck as he hauled her onto his lap. He shifted so that he could lean against the base of a date palm. The right side of her chest pressed against his. She was hot, sweet and more desirable than any woman he’d ever known. At that moment he felt as if he would die if he didn’t kiss her.
So he did. He moved his lips against hers, exploring what he’d discovered before, listening for the sound of her breath catching, pleased when her fingers trembled. He licked her lower lip. When she parted, he slipped inside, teasing her, tasting her, taking her deeply, insistently. She didn’t shy away or protest. Instead she strained toward him, circling his tongue, then closing her lips around him and sucking gently.
Need shot to his groin, engorging him to the point of discomfort. He swore silently, knowing this was a game he couldn’t win. Not with her.
But she tempted him beyond reason. One of his hands lay on her thigh. He moved his palm along the outside seam of her slacks to the curve of her hip. From there he slipped to her rear. He squeezed the roundness, then eased her into a straddling position with her feminine center resting directly on his need.
It was an unbearable combination of pleasure and pain. He couldn’t help grabbing her hips and rocking her against him. Her body moved easily as they found a rhythm that made them both gasp. She cupped his face and continued to kiss him. Tension made her shudder. He could feel her arousal growing, not to mention his own. The second he began calculating the distance to a more private location, he knew he’d crossed the line. He grabbed her around the waist and lifted her off.
Zara was caught by surprise. She flashed him a hurt look. “You can’t be stopping now.”
“I have to.”
He stood up and turned his back on her. He ached with desire. Every inch of him throbbed in time with his rapid heartbeat. What the hell was wrong with him? He never allowed himself to get pulled off course during an assignment. In other circumstances, this sort of distraction could get him killed. He knew better.
“I’m sorry,” he ground out. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
He sensed her moving and turned to see her scrambling to her feet.
“Don’t make it worse by apologizing,” she muttered. “I don’t understand what the big deal is. There’s obviously a huge attraction between us. No one has to know that we explored it.”
“It’s not that simple. I have a responsibility to protect you, even from yourself. And if that’s not a good enough reason, then try telling yourself that these sorts of things have a life of their own. Do you really want to read about your personal life in the tabloids?”
“That would never happen.”
He didn’t bother responding. Zara was new to this world, but he wasn’t. He’d seen the disastrous consequence of an ill-timed affair.
“You’re making me crabby,” she told him. “I hate being crabby. Not to mention confused. I want things with you I’ve never wanted with anyone else. Worse, I’m telling you that and even acting on the impulses. This is so not me. What’s going on here? Is it being in Bahania. Is it the water or maybe early signs of senility?”
Rafe didn’t have an answer. Or maybe he didn’t want to see the truth. He and Zara generated a lot of attraction between them. The heat was dangerous to both of them.
She put her hands on her hips. “Should I assume your silence means you don’t have an answer, either?”
“Not one that makes sense.”
“How helpful is that?” She sighed. “Everything about this situation is unfamiliar. I’ve actually teased you about kissing me. I never do that.”
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