The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(52) by Susan Mallery
“Thank you for telling me,” she said at last. “I appreciate knowing the truth and I promise to honor your confidence.”
He dismissed her with a flick of his wrist. “Even the street cleaners know the truth. There is no confidence to keep.”
She told herself he felt embarrassed by his past and that was why he treated her so casually.
“You asked me once what I learned from my first marriage,” he said. “I’m grateful I never loved her.”
His pain was so clear to her, she could have traced the still bleeding soul wounds. She saw the child who had been thrust into a frighteningly adult world and left to survive without comfort or affection. She saw a young man coming to terms with his sexuality in full view of an interested nation. She saw a husband who, despite his claims to the contrary, must have secretly hoped for someone to finally love him and share the burden of his office only to find himself rejected and then humiliated by his new wife. She saw a determined leader—a lion of the desert—alone. Untouched by kindness or love.
Without considering the consequences of her actions, she rose to her feet and crossed to stand in front of him. She wrapped her arms around him and rose on tiptoe to kiss him.
He grabbed her upper arms and thrust her away from him. “I don’t want your pity,” he growled, his eyebrows drawn together, his mouth a straight line.
Despite his obvious irritation, she smiled. “Malik, you inspire many emotions in me—mostly anger and frustration. I promise, I’ve never once felt pity.”
“Then why do you come to me now, after I’ve told you about the whore who was my wife?”
She slid her hands under his jacket and again pressed a kiss to his forbidding mouth. “Because you’re finally more man than prince. While the prince is scary and annoying, the man is very appealing. I would like to kiss him before he changes back.”
His expression softened and he placed his hands on her waist. “I’m not annoying. I’m considered charming and an enjoyable companion.”
“Yeah, right.” She gazed into his eyes and watched the first flickering flame ignite. “So, do you want to talk all night or could I interest you in something a little more physical?”
Dark eyebrows raised slightly. “Are you propositioning me?”
Malika knew that making love with Liana again would be a mistake. While he kept Liana at a distance, he knew that he was safe. But if he allowed himself to touch her again, to be with her, to claim her, then he knew that he would be forced to expose himself in ways he never had before. And once he’d allowed the light of Liana inside himself, he could never again be content to survive in emotional darkness.
So, even as her mouth pressed against his and he felt himself growing aroused and ready, he resisted. If he held some part of himself back from her, he thought he might be able to contain his growing need. If he could channel the energy and make it all about sex, they would both survive.
Yet, even as he attempted to hold himself apart, to keep his mind clear and his touch impersonal, he felt the fire growing. It burned through his reserve, melting the edges of his being until they blurred and connected with the wonder that was Liana.
He cupped her face, then moved his hands to her hair. He unpinned her tiara, then freed the long strands from her elegant hairstyle.
“You were magnificent tonight,” he murmured as he kissed her soft cheeks, then her mouth. She tasted sweet and hot. Her lips welcomed him with nipping kisses, her tongue stroked against his, making it impossible for him to maintain his distance.
“I was terrified,” she whispered between kisses. “All those people staring and waiting for me to say or do something wrong.”
“No.” He raked his fingers through her long hair and kneaded her scalp. “They were watching because they were envious. All the women admired you and all the men wanted you. Tonight when they make love with their wives, they’ll imagine you in their beds.”
She drew back and looked at him—her blue eyes were bright with a combination of passion and laughter. “I don’t think so. I’m willing to admit that I clean up pretty good, and the dress was amazing, but I was just—”
He claimed her mouth to silence her. He plunged his tongue inside her, relearning the secrets of her mouth, her taste, her heat. He pulled her closer and she trembled in his embrace.
“You were everything,” he breathed. “Perfect and lovely. You are my wife.”
He felt her shiver. “Malik, do you have any idea what you do to me?”
He knew because he felt the same uncontrolled passion growing inside himself. As much as he wanted to jerk up her dress and sink himself into her right now, he wanted to make it last between them forever. He wanted to touch and taste every inch of her body. He wanted to lick her all over, then have her do the same to him. He wanted to dip his tongue into her waiting heat and have her take him in her mouth, then he wanted to be on top of her, plunging home, claiming her, marking her. He wanted to spill his seed in her again and again until her body had forgotten what it was like to be with any man but him. He wanted to brand her with his kisses and his touch until she existed only for him—as he would exist only for her.
He kissed her mouth, then moved lower—trailing a damp path down her throat and onto her chest. The sweet taste of her skin made him hungry for all of her. With fingers that weren’t as steady as they should have been, he lowered the zipper of her dress and pushed the velvet off her shoulders and down to her waist.
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