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Authors: Burning Love

Nan Ryan (25 page)

BOOK: Nan Ryan
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Sharif s dark eyes opened.

He muttered expletives. He cursed his body’s immediate and automatic response to the graphic recollection. The blood rushed into his groin, causing an inevitable expansion there, then hammered upward and spread an almost suffocating heat throughout his body so that he could hardly breathe.

His face a mask of torture, Sharif rolled to a sitting position. He clenched his jaw and ground his teeth. He shook his head to clear it. He willed her to disappear, to leave him alone, to let him go.

He forced himself to remember exactly who she was. And he knew well.

He knew all about Miss Temple DuPlessis Longworth. He had studied her.

He knew about the Delaware family estate, Edgewater, with its Greek Revival, eight-columned white mansion and the vast lawn that ended at the river’s edge. He knew she had been expelled from Sophie Newcomb in her senior year. Jailed with Susan B. Anthony for leading a suffrage march on the capital—embarrassing her father, Walter Wilson Longworth, then President Cleveland’s secretary of the interior and at the same time pleasing her mother’s brother, James DuPlessis, chief operator of the powerful engine that generated the family fortune, the DuPlessis munitions empire.

He knew she was intelligent, willful, and sought after by the most eligible bachelors in Europe and America. He knew she collected male hearts without even trying and discarded them as she might discard a gown she’d worn but once. He knew that she tired of a suitor the moment the poor chap fell in love with her.

He even knew about the poet.…

Grinding his teeth, Sharif reached for his discarded suede trousers, withdrew from a pocket the spent brass shell casing he always carried. He held it in his hand, stared at the telltale stamp on its end.

Du-P

It did no good.

The beguiling vision of Temple would not fade away.

Sharif’s face darkened with the sudden startling realization that it would
never
leave him.

He knew in that instant that now and tonight and tomorrow and for all the rest of his life, he would hold that vision of Temple. And he knew as well that it was not just his groin she tugged at.

It was his heart as well.

The Sheik trembled.

Temple and Tariz returned to camp
at mid-morning. The fierce desert heat had cut short their ride, and Temple was glad. She was more than a little anxious to get back to the village.

As soon as she pulled up on Toz, hauling him to a stop, she leapt off his back and dashed into the tent, hoping to find Sharif there.

The tent was empty.

Temple made a face, then laughed at herself for being so foolish. Sharif was never in the tent at this hour. He was, after all, the Sheik, the leader of large scattered tribes of men who constantly commanded his time and attention. He was, understandably, busy. She could hardly expect him to drop everything and come rushing back to spend the day in idle pleasure with her.

Still very much aglow with sweet satisfaction, Temple passed the remainder of the morning recalling—with smiles and shivers—the thrillingly passionate night she’d spent with the handsome Sharif. Already looking forward to the magical moment when she would again be in his arms, Temple moved about the tent, touching things that belonged to the Sheik.

A shirt was tossed over the back of a chair in the bedroom. She picked it up, pressed it to her face, and inhaled the faint smell of shaving soap and the French cigarettes he favored. She sighed and rubbed her cheek against the collar. She laid down the shirt, went to the tall ebony chest, and picked up some black pearl studs that were scattered carelessly on its polished top. She closed her palm around the studs and held them in her hand for a time before placing them back where she’d found them.

She was tempted to open one or two of the chest drawers and look inside, but she checked herself. Instead she turned away and strolled over to the massive bed, which was now neatly made. It looked more inviting than ever. Temple smiled, thinking how incredibly sensual it would be to make love atop the shimmering black silk counterpane with all the black and white bolsters and pillows stacked up against the tall headboard.

Noon came and went with no sign of the Sheik.

The rosy blush of bliss had faded from Temple’s pale face and her wonderful sense of well-being had begun to dissipate. Mindless euphoria had given way to speculative worry. Conflicting emotions now warred within her. Left alone with too much time to think, she had started to suffer growing pangs of guilt and remorse. Terrible doubts assailed her.

The long, hot afternoon dragged by torturously, and with each passing hour Temple became more upset, more contrite, more angry with herself. Rebelling now against the constant flood of fresh memories that caused her cheeks to burn and her heart to throb, she began to pace and ponder and scold herself for what she had done.

She was appalled.

It had seemed so right at the time. Now she couldn’t believe that she had—of her own free will—gone eagerly into the Sheik’s arms. And into his bed. She had done absolutely scandalous things with him and had gloried openly in the shocking intimacy they’d shared. She had experienced an ever-changing kaleidoscope of new emotions she’d never known herself capable of. With each penetrating possession of her body, she had become immersed in waves of ever escalating ecstasy that were frightening in their intensity.

Oh, God, what had she done?

Temple’s hands rose to her face to press her burning cheeks.

Sharif was an Arab. To him every woman was a slave, including her. He was a lawless barbarian who had abducted her! He was holding her prisoner against her will in this remote desert village, for God’s sake. And she had let him make love to her! How could she have been so stupid, so unforgivably weak!

She knew full well what a cold, uncaring man he was. Last night had meant nothing to him. She was merely a convenient diversion, a balm to his boredom. Worse, if he happened to be bored and wanted her right now, this minute, he had only to come to the tent and take her.

But if she wanted him, what could she do about it? Nothing. Not a thing. She couldn’t go to him. She couldn’t ask him to take her in his arms. She couldn’t summon him back to the tent and command him to make love to her.

She was to give him everything and ask for nothing?

“No!” Temple spoke the word aloud. “Oh, no, you don’t,
El Siif!
You may be the feared Sword of Arabia, but I’ll be damned if you’ll hoist
me
on your big bad blade again!”

Her hands clenching into tight fists at her sides, her chin lifting, Temple felt her fiery independence surfacing. She was, in case he had forgotten, Temple DuPlessis Longworth. In twenty-five years no man had ever had the upper hand with her and no man ever would. No pagan sheik could beckon her to his bed as if she were a slave.

Temple’s placed her hands on her hips, and her green eyes snapped with renewed defiance.

So she had made a mistake! So what! That’s all it had been. She was human, and she had made an incredibly foolish mistake in a moment of weakness. The deed was done, and she couldn’t undo it, but she had no intention of paying for it forever.

She would simply forget it. It would not be repeated. She would see to that. She had come to her senses, thought things out, and had reached a decision. And having done so, she began to relax a little and finally even to smile.

She would, she decided wickedly, make the arrogant Arab aware of just exactly who possessed the power.

It was not he.

It was she.

She would prove it. To him and to herself. She would make him want her. She would make him desire her again, then coldly refuse him. She would not, she promised herself, allow Sheik Sharif Aziz Hamid to
ever
touch her again.

The long afternoon finally drew to a close. The sun had begun to set. And still no Sharif.

Darkness fell.

The dinner hour rapidly approached, and Temple, by now on pins and needles again, was dressed for the evening in a stunning gown of alluring black lace. She had chosen it from the half dozen dresses Rhikia had brought for her to pick from. The gown was daring and sexy. The sleeves were long and tight on her arms, coming to delicate points at her wrists, and the bodice was fitted and high throated.

But beneath the black lace, the flesh of her arms and shoulders and back were totally bare. An insert of black moiré taffeta lining the tight bodice covered her bosom, but just barely. The swell of her breasts was clearly visible above the inset, the pale flesh made all the more enticing by the covering of provocative black lace that enhanced but did not conceal.

Her long hair, shimmering with healthy highlights, was dressed elaborately atop her head. Circling the delicate column of her throat—less than an inch above the band of her tight lace collar—was a narrow black velvet ribbon. A large perfect black pearl was suspended from the ribbon, resting in the hollow of her throat.

On her feet were black satin dancing slippers, and underneath the narrow skirt of her black lace gown, sheer black stockings hugged her slender legs. Saucy black lace garters, circling each pale thigh just above her knee, held the stockings in place. She wore no petticoats beneath the slim-skirted gown. No chemise. No corsets. No stays. Nothing but a pair of shockingly skimpy French drawers fashioned from tiny bits of black satin and lace.

She had carefully, calculatingly made herself look as seductive as possible, and she only hoped that the Sheik would find her utterly irresistible. She wanted him to look at her and want so badly that he hurt!

Temple’s brittle resolve crumbled considerably well before the Sheik’s return. While the agonizingly long minutes of waiting ticked away, she began once more to vacillate. She bounced back and forth between fierce determination to resist him no matter what and unabashed longing to have him hold her in his arms at any cost.

Nervous, unsure just exactly how the evening would unfold, Temple checked her appearance in the mirror one last time, turning her head to the side, lifting her chin, critically examining and appraising. She touched the luminous black pearl at her throat. She swept a nervous hand up the back of her sleekly dressed blond hair. She tugged gently at the snug midriff of her evening gown, urging the paneled bodice to slip lower so that a greater expanse of her breasts was covered only with teasing black lace.

At that moment the Sheik walked in.

Temple turned about quickly, and her breath caught in her throat. He nodded his head almost imperceptibly. His cold glance touched, then dismissed her. If he even noticed her appearance, he didn’t show it.

Temple’s heart sank and she stood there stiffly as he went directly to the bedroom. She paced nervously while a bath was brought for him and a flurry of activity took place as a white-clothed table for two with heavy silver and fragile china was swiftly set up. Soon the tub was taken away, lamps were turned down, candles on the table were lighted, and silver-domed platters of food were brought in.

As suddenly as they had appeared, the servants disappeared and Temple was left alone in the candlelighted room, waiting. Uncertain. Jittery.

Seconds seemed like hours.

Then the Sheik stepped through the curtains, and at the sight of him a momentary weakness seized her. He too was dressed all in black. He wore a perfectly tailored tuxedo, the fine fabric of the jacket stretching appealingly across his broad shoulders. The shimmering black satin of the jacket’s wide lapels was further emphasized by the narrow bands of satin going down the outside of each long leg. The sharp crease of the black trousers broke at exactly the right spot on the instep of his shiny patent-leather shoes. An ebony dress shirt with a pleated front was of the finest Egyptian cotton and was fastened with studs of black pearl, the same black pearl studs she had held in her hand earlier the day. Matching pearl cuff links adorned his wrists, and when he raised his hand, the Burma ruby, caught in the candlelight, flashed brilliant red fire. His night black hair, in need of a cut, was brushed straight back and curling over his shirt collar. His face was smoothly shaven, the tiny curved scar beside his lip starkly white against the darkness of his skin.

Temple stared at the tall, handsome Sheik, and all resolutions were instantly forgotten.

She wanted the Sheik.

She wanted him with a passion that made her blind and deaf to logic and reason. She wasn’t the power. He was. And she wanted to be in his arms again, to surrender to that awesome strength, to awaken all that latent desire. She wanted—had—to make love to him tonight no matter the consequences.

The pulse in her throat throbbed. She could hardly draw a breath, and she couldn’t think clearly.

The only thing of which she was absolutely certain was that she couldn’t wait to have his beautiful bronzed hands on her again, to feel those long tapered fingers touching, caressing her.

All over.

BOOK: Nan Ryan
13.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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