Sheikh's Unlikely Desire (10 page)

BOOK: Sheikh's Unlikely Desire
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He glared at her, eyes stormy, but there was a desperation there that Leah couldn't let herself see. If she let herself see it, she might find herself overwhelmed. Then she might believe what he was telling her, and then she would be lost.

“You cannot tell me what is real and what is not,” he said hotly. “The things I feel for you, the things I want to do for you, they are real. I have never felt this way about anyone.”

“I won't allow this to happen,” Leah said dully. “I won’t be left with a broken heart when you leave in a week, a month or even six months. Because, Zayn? It will happen.”

He could hear his defeat in her deadened tones, and he closed his eyes as if he couldn't bear it.

“What will you give me, then?” he murmured. He reached out to touch her face gently, and because she was a weak woman, she allowed it. The soft touch of his fingers made her long for him all the more, and she knew instinctively what a dangerous game she was playing.

“Stay for the night,” she said, giving herself over to that same weakness. “But leave in the morning.”

Something broke in Zayn, but he nodded. He came to lie down beside her, cupping her body with his own. They could have been lovers for a lifetime, but she knew it was just an illusion.

By morning's light, he would be gone. Real life would resume.

She drifted off into a restless, troubled sleep. At some point in the night, she cried, and he soothed her, murmuring to her in Almiran until she rested quietly once more.

CHAPTER SEVEN

 Leah woke up feeling as if she were made of lead. Her bed felt empty. She was aware of Zayn slipping out at some point just after it began to get light, and she supposed that was a mercy, after all. If she had seen him, if she could have touched him, she had no idea what she might have done or how she might have acted.

Instead, he had made it simpler for her, and coward that she was, she was relieved.

She got up, going through the movements of her routine as if she were sleepwalking. She showered, brushed her teeth and made herself eat a slice of buttered toast. She barely tasted it. Leah wondered when Zayn would be out of her system. If he ever would be.

It took her almost an hour to get to her phone. When she did, she blinked to see all of the notifications coming up. Some were from an excited Daisy, which Leah knew she couldn't deal with at that moment, but the next dozen were from Grant. She blinked, because she knew what Grant liked to do on Saturday mornings, and it was never message-bombing his junior partners.

Her stomach was already turning flip flops when she opened the first one.

Call me.

Call me right away.

Montgomery, you need to call me right away.

I need answers.

Call me.

Her heart was already beating fast when she fumbled to call Grant, but then another message came up. This one came from an anonymous email that she didn't recognize, but the topic caught her like a blow right to her chest.

Gotcha, bitch.

 She made herself open the message before she could think twice about it, and four pictures were immediately opened. For a moment, she had no idea what was going on in them, but then the pictures resolved themselves.

Leah was barely able to keep herself from being sick.

They hadn't been alone in that parking lot at Dovo last night. Someone had been there with them, and they’d had a good camera that allowed them to catch everything that had happened. The first picture was simply her and Zayn standing close to each other, but the next three showed them kissing passionately. He had said that he wanted to give her what she wanted, and now that beautiful memory was rendered sordid and ugly by the lens of the mysterious photographer.

Leah wanted to scream, but she couldn't make a sound. Instead, she made herself take a deep breath and then another. She made sure that her hands were not trembling, and then she called Grant.

He picked up immediately, and he didn't bother with pleasantries.

“Have you seen them?” he said flatly. There was a rustle of dishes in the background, as if he had taken her call while he was out with his family.

“I have,” she said, trying to keep her voice as level as she could. There was no use lying to this man.

“All right, give me just a few. Stay on the line.”

She waited as he made his way away from the noise. There was the distinct sound of Grant closing the door behind him, and then a deep breath. “All right, first thing's first. Is that you?”

It was unthinkable to lie to him. She nodded before she remembered he couldn't see her. “Yes.”

“How long?”

“I...”

“How long?” Grant asked sharply. “For the love of god, Montgomery, I need to know.”

“Since the night he got here,” she said, feeling a dull rush of heat rising to her face. It broke something inside her to have to talk about this with Grant, but she knew he was right. They were firmly in damage control mode.

Grant swore long and inventively at her statement. “All right. All right. That's what I need to know. Bryce hasn't seen these pictures.”

Leah flinched. “Were they sent...”

“As far as I can tell, they were only sent to me. I don't know who else has them. It sounds like you got them, and after that, who knows.”

“Thank you for not showing them to Bryce.”

Grant snorted. “Trust me, I'm doing myself a favor more than I'm doing you one,” he said bluntly. “If Bryce saw this, he'd have you out on your ass before you could flinch. This is serious shit, Montgomery. You crossed a line.”

“I know.”

“I should damn well hope you know. And even worse, you did it where everyone could see.”

Leah could feel a small curl of rebellion roll up inside her. The idea that her indiscretion would have been better if she had simply been more secretive made her angry. Still, she didn't say anything.

 “So far, they're just showing us that they've got this,” he said. “They're not tipping their hand, but I think we both know where they're going for this one.”

“They're going to want to get this in front of a judge,” she said, her voice deadened. “They want to argue that they have a case...”

“Which they don't, unless we withdraw it.”

“I'm not going to do that,” Leah protested.

The sound that Grant made might have been a laugh at one point or another. “That's the threat, Montgomery. If you don't withdraw it, you'll find that particular photo set following you around for the rest of your career. If Bryce sees it, your gown and consequences be damned. What Scholl seems to think is that you have the power to make Zayn back down. Is that actually something you can do?”

Leah felt the ground open up underneath her. Her mouth had suddenly gone dry.

“If you can make him back down, you're going to want to do it,” Grant said. “We keep his cash, maybe not as much of it, but we don't get dragged down into your muck.”

Leah flinched again. Grant had always liked her and respected her, but this seemed to have broken something about their relationship.

“I can't,” she said. The moment the words were out of her mouth, she knew they were a lie. She knew from the way that Zayn touched her, the way his eyes let her see right down to the depths of his soul, that he would trust her. If she said they needed to back down, he would have faith that she was doing the right thing.

“You can't make him back down?”

“No,” Leah lied. “If I try to talk him down, he's going to pull something disastrous, and then we'll all be in my muck. You don't know him, Grant...”

“And you do. Yeah, I can see that.” Grant's voice was sharp enough to burn, but Leah had had enough.

“Yes, I do know him,” she said sharply. “And I'm still the same person that you gave this case to last week. Nothing has changed since you saw that picture, and nothing is different now.”

“Now wait just a goddamn minute...”

“No, you listen,” she snapped. “Are you taking me off the case?”

There it was, thrown down like a leather glove for a duel. Somehow, it was the image of Zayn in her mind that gave her strength. She was his, and she knew what her duty was. He hadn't chosen her because of her looks or his appetites. He had chosen her for her strength, and now she knew that it was true beyond a shadow of a doubt.

“What are you asking?”

“Is this still my case or not? Simple question, Grant.”

There was a pause, and she could feel the gears in Grant's mind turning. “You're still on it.” He said it with reluctance, but she would take it.

“Then it's still mine to handle,” she said. “That means that I'm saying thank you for your advice, Grant, and thank you for stopping that email from getting to Bryce. However, seeing as this is my case, I will proceed as I see fit.”

There was a long pause on the other end of the line. Leah wondered if she had pushed it too far, but there was nothing that she would take back. Either Grant and Hiller and Hiller in general had faith in her, or she should simply beat Bryce to the punch and offer her own resignation.

Finally, Grant sighed, and she wondered if she heard a faint note of regard there. Perhaps their relationship wasn't a total loss.

“Don't mess this up, Montgomery. You might not be the only one who takes the fall.”

He hung up, but it was better than she was expecting. He would keep her secret at least a little longer. He wouldn't force her out.

Leah's mind was whirring with nerves and fury. She made herself look at the pictures on her phone again. Someone had taken them intending to make something that was very dear to her dirty and polluted.

It stung to think of someone watching them do something that was the next thing to sacred, but she made herself see those pictures for what they were. They were a moment when she had given herself to Zayn. She had offered herself to him body and soul.

Leah was unsurprised when she saw the formal request for a hearing in front of a judge to determine the fitness of her cease and desist order. They would be in front of a judge on Monday morning, unless, of course, as the note said, she wished to withdraw her complaint?

Leah thought about responding, but she shook her head. There were some things that were best done in person, and after all, she lived in LA. There was nothing that producers understood quite as well as theatrics.

She stalked to her bedroom, stripping off her robe to find her most severe clothes. She was dressed entirely in black silk, her tall heels giving her a formidable martial air. She was just getting ready to walk out when something caught her eye.

The green scarf that Zayn had used to restrain her arm the night before was thrown over the mirror of her vanity. When she saw it in the morning light, she could see that the green was nearly the exact same color as Zayn's eyes. For a moment, in the middle of what had been a truly terrible morning, she smiled.

“All right,” she said to herself.

She took the scarf off of the mirror and knotted it neatly around her neck. Instead of softening her look, it made her feel as if she was wearing armor. She was protected, even if Zayn wasn't there.

She was on her phone when she got to the garage. She had contacts all over town, and she used them now. Inside of ten minutes, she knew what she needed to know, and she roared toward the highway.

Across the street, Azim looked up, startled and chagrined. He pulled out after her, cursing her driving skills, but he still managed to flick the call button on his phone.

“Sheik Zayn, I have news.”

***

Peter Scholl was a man who liked his luxury, and on a lazy Saturday, he enjoyed going to an exclusive little spa that was held back from the real bustle of LA life. Leah had heard about the place before, and she knew that she would never be able to talk her way past the desk. However, she didn't have to. All she had to do was wait.

She was surprised by her own calm. She held her phone in one hand, glancing down at the pictures from time to time. He thought he could force her away. He thought she would be cowed by something that by all rights, she should have been extremely proud of.

He was going to have to think again.

He exited the spa's doors, looking as cheerful and self-satisfied as she had seen him look. It was all too easy to imagine the way that he had sent those photographs off to her with their demeaning message. It was too easy to imagine him looking at what he thought was a job well done and then going off for a well-deserved treat.

Leah didn't hesitate. She got out of her car and stalked toward him, reaching him just as he got to his car. He was taller than she was, and he jumped when he saw her closing in. Quickly, however, he covered with smarmy good cheer.

“Ah, Ms. Montgomery, what a pleasure to see you today.”

“It really isn't,” she said, an icy smile on her face. She could see the secret lasciviousness in his eyes, the way he thought she was destroyed pleasing him beyond all measure. He didn't know what she was thinking at all.

“I see you've received my message,” he said smoothly. “Some of my friends, you know, they're amazing photographers. I hate to see good talent go to waste.”

“I don't see attempted blackmail as a talent that needs to be cultivated,” she said bluntly.

She had the satisfaction of seeing his face crumple a little before he regained his composure.

“And yes, you heard right, I said
attempted,”
she said. Her voice was level, but she could hear the snarl in it.

“There's nothing illegal about those photographs,” he said defensively, and Leah laughed.

“Don't I know it,” she replied. “And that's why it's your government-given right to do whatever you want to do with them. Send them off. Send them to my employers. Send them to my cousins and my family. Send them to my friends. I don't care. I'm not backing down.”

“This will destroy your career,” Scholl said, sounding utterly dumbfounded. “Who's going to hire you if they know you slut around with your clients? If they think that you're just an extra thrown in for clients with exotic tastes?”

BOOK: Sheikh's Unlikely Desire
13.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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