Authors: Sophia Lynn
Things were fairly quiet for a few days. She followed up on all of the paperwork that would make sure that Ice Fields couldn't begin doing anything without her hearing about it, and she worked to make sure that she was entirely conversant with the local statutes on libel and defamation.
Grant had been a lawyer for decades, and his contacts, spread all over the city, were turning up plenty of information for her. Ice Fields had a library of films that were supposedly 'true' but instead went on to defame all of the people involved in the worst possible way. They had been stopped before, but it was only after they had been made to stop.
On Friday, after spending her time going over volumes of information, she looked up from her work to see Grant in the doorway of her tiny office.
“All right, you're done,” he said. “I'm taking you out to dinner, because I know for a fact that you've not eaten all day.”
Leah scowled at him. “Are you seriously telling me that I don't work hard enough? Weren't you the one telling me stories about working twenty hours straight when you were a junior partner?”
Grant laughed. “Yeah, but at this point, you're playing a waiting game. Ideally, Ice Fields will move on to some other poor asshole who can't afford people like us to make them stop, and your work will be done. I wanted to say nice work, too, when you talked with Scholl. He's an asshole, from what I've been told.”
Leah shrugged. “Well, he isn't nice, but I don't need him to be. I don't know, Grant, I have all of this to get through...”
“And it will keep until tomorrow morning or even Monday if it needs to,” he said firmly. “Come on. I'm the senior partner, and what I say goes. Get it together and meet me at Dovo in thirty minutes. That's an order.”
Leah looked around at her work and sighed. In her heart, she knew he was right. Scholl had been quiet, and given what they knew of Ice Fields, he might have been frightened off simply by having his prey unexpectedly fight back.
The only issue was that if she relaxed and took the time that she needed to take, she would simply have to sit and deal with Zayn. The sheik had been mostly silent since their charged altercation after her confrontation with Scholl. He had given her the documents that she needed, he had been polite when she called to touch base about the proceedings, and yet...
There was a charged unease between them. She couldn't tell if she were doing it to herself or whether there was something coming from him as well. It felt as if her life was somehow suspended as she waited for whatever happened next to happen.
She couldn't disagree with Grant, though. Whatever happened next, it wasn't something that she could control. She was simply terrible at waiting. She looked at the paperwork, shook her head, and walked out, locking her office behind her.
Dovo wasn't really a place that she would have gone to on her own. It was exclusive, expensive enough that she would have confined herself to drinks and perhaps an appetizer if she were on her own. Instead, she was with Grant, who waved away her attempts to be practical, and insisted on treating her to a full meal.
Over her excellent lobster, she talked about the case, her impressions of Scholl and the measures she was taking to make sure he was never a problem again.
Grant listened, chimed in where appropriate, and finally stopped her. “All right, can you hear yourself?”
“Why, what am I saying?” Leah asked warily. She had been talking for almost twenty-five minutes about the case and what it meant, but she had never forgotten that she was talking to one of the senior partners of her firm. Grant was treating her well, but she had seen him chew out junior partners plenty of times.
“You've got this,” he said earnestly. “You've got everything in hand, Sheik al-Fasi is as protected as we can make him in this regard.
“Sheik Zayn,” she said automatically. “The first name goes with the title in Almira, apparently.”
Grant grinned. “Good. One of the reasons why I thought you'd be a good match for this project is that you're so eager to learn and to meet others. You can bend and move in ways that I and Hiller just can't.”
Leah smiled wanly. She knew that it was high praise indeed from a notoriously demanding task master, but she couldn't bring herself to feel it.
Grant, picking up on her mood, nodded. “You're tired. Take the night for yourself. Do something you actually want to do, not something you're afraid of, all right? Dinner's on me.”
As she walked back to her car after bidding Grant goodnight, she thought about what he meant. He wanted her to act out of desire and not fear, and in many ways, that was a new concept. She had always been the best. She had always been someone who was bent on being at the top. What kept her from failing was a fear of failure.
She shook her head. What did she even want? The thought of Zayn, his smile, his strength and his scent, drifted through her mind. She realized that she had been preventing herself from thinking about him all week, but it hadn't lessened his pull on her.
She got in her car, and she was just getting ready to start it when some movement in the parking lot caught her eye.
There was a young drunk woman dressed in red surrounded by a group of men dressed in black. Leah tensed, wondering if she would have to call the police, but abruptly she recognized the men. It was Zayn and his honor guard, and before she could stop herself, she was out of the car and striding toward the group, her heels making a decisive click on the pavement.
“What's going on here?” she asked briskly.
Zayn looked startled to see her, but he also looked relieved. That relief shifted over to warmth a little more readily than Leah was comfortable with, but she made herself focus.
“I thought we were going to a party,” the girl pouted. “I thought he liked me!”
“Are you all right?” Leah asked the young woman, never taking her eyes off of Zayn.
“Yeah, but I thought we were going to a party.”
“What did she have?” she asked, looking at Zayn. The young woman didn't look as if she were in any shape to be answering questions.
He shrugged. “She met us in this parking lot as we were going to enter. I cannot tell if she actually knows me or if she simply thinks we would be fine friends.”
Leah scowled instinctively, but she turned back to the girl.
“Okay, honey, talk to me, okay? What did you have? Just alcohol, or something else?”
The young woman rolled her eyes. “Jus' vodka. I'm fine, I wanna have a good time. I want to go to a party...”
Leah bit her lip. Regardless of what she wanted, the woman was obviously out of her head. She didn't want to put her in a cab with no way to tell if the driver was on the up and up, and she couldn't just leave her here.
She was getting ready to haul her back to her own car and take her home herself when another two women came up.
The woman in red perked up, waving. “Hey Shelly! Hi, Amber!”
One of the women shook her head. “Goddamn it, Brooke, you're a menace. Come on, we should have gone home an hour ago...”
“You know her?” asked Leah.
“Yeah, we're her roommates.”
“Okay, can I see some ID real quick? I don't want to be a hard ass, but she's not doing so hot.”
Confirming that all three women lived at the same address, Leah gratefully handed Brooke over to her friends. “Keep her out of trouble,” she called, and turned to see Zayn watching her with amusement.
“You didn't have to do all of that,” he observed.
Leah smiled a little. “There's a lot of trouble a drunk girl can get into if she's not careful. What would you have done?”
He shrugged. “Had Azim or one of his men take her home, if she could tell us where it is. Still, thank you. That was something that I was not looking forward to handling.”
Leah wasn't sure what made her grin at that. “Oh? Beautiful girl in red who wants to go to a party? I thought that might be fun.”
He rolled his eyes. “I prefer my company able to stand upright, thank you.”
Leah started to answer, but she realized that Azim and his men had fallen back. Some were keeping an eye out; others had picked up their phones to play with. She and Zayn were effectively on their own in the parking lot.
“I also like my company to be small, sweet, utterly ferocious, perfectly passionate, and lovely...”
Leah felt a hot blush come up to her cheeks. She knew that she should put a stop to this. She should simply respond lightly and brush him off. He was still a client. Even more than that, he was someone who could grow to be a friend. She knew she should brush it off.
Instead, she sighed, reaching her hand out to him blindly.
As if they had been together for years, he took her hand in his, bringing it up to his lips. She felt the dry brush of his lips over her knuckles, making her shiver a little in the Los Angeles heat. There was nothing greedy about that exchange. There was no lust, just a beautiful sweetness that made her shiver.
“What do you want, Leah?” he asked softly. “If you do not tell me, I cannot give it to you. And please believe me when I say that I very, very much want to give it to you...”
She moaned a little at his soft words. The sound was needy, startling her, but perfectly describing how she felt for him, the strange emotions he woke in her.
Do what you want, not what you fear.
Leah took a deep breath, summoning up more courage than she thought she had. She had never been this vulnerable with another person before. She had never felt so open or so full of anticipation.
“Come home with me,” she whispered. “Be with me tonight.”
Zayn's eyes darkened, terribly conflicted, but when he reached over to touch the curve of her cheek, that doubt was gone. “I will. Of course I will.”
He spoke with Azim for a moment, and then he went with her to her car. It reminded her of the first ride they had taken together just a week ago, what they had spoken about and how that day had ended. She drove in silence, but she was aware of his presence by her side as if he were solid granite, an immovable thing that could outlast any silence in the world.
It struck her as she drove that there was nothing idle or complicated for him about her driving, the way there was with so many men. He respected her skill, and now it was simply a service that she was performing.
A tiny voice in the deepest corners of her heart reminded her that she’d had dreams her whole life, dark desires that had never been touched until she met this man. There was so much to him that she wanted, so much about him she was afraid she needed.
She kept her mouth shut, afraid that it would all come tumbling out. She couldn't reveal herself to him like this. It was enough that she had come to him. She didn't think she could let him take more than she had already offered him and remain truly herself.
Leah took a deep breath and shook her head. This was nothing more than what it was, a pleasurable interlude that had a beginning and an end, and at the end of it, she would be unchanged.
Almost as if he could detect her fears and nervousness, he reached across the space between them, resting his hand lightly on her thigh. “Be at peace,” he said, his voice as soft as a whisper of silk. “You are chasing yourself in circles, and that will not serve me or you well.”
In another situation, she would have bridled at a man telling her what she had to do. Right now, however, she heard his calm command and underneath it, the regard he had for her. Instead of getting angry or losing her temper, she took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“There. There is my fine beauty. That's good.”
It occurred to her that he likely calmed his horses like this. Far from offending her, a part of her did calm. She let the calm suffuse her body, allowing it to open her up.
She guided her car into the garage of her condo, and the moment she put the car into park, Zayn took full control. With a gentle but completely dominant hand, he undid her bun, letting her auburn tresses fall down around her face. For a moment, he admired the fall of red, and then he twisted his fist into the loose hair at her nape.
He held her perfectly still as he came in for a kiss. She had kissed him before, but there was something different about this kiss. Passion, but more than that, an evaluation of who she was and what she was. She could feel herself being weighed in that investigating kiss and knew she’d been found entirely worthy when he pulled back, his green eyes shining.
“I've never seen a beauty like yours before,” he murmured, his voice husky with desire. “I mean to possess it, all of it, tonight. Do you understand?”
Leah nodded. Right now, she wanted nothing more than to submit herself to him utterly. There was nothing she would deny him.
He let her lead him up to her condo. It was neat and clean, but there was no personality to it. If Zayn noticed the lack, that she had never made a home for herself, he didn't say anything.
“Will you serve me tonight?” he asked, his voice throbbing with need for her. “Will you give me all of yourself with a clear mind and a willing heart?”
“Yes,” she murmured. “I swore to serve you before, and nothing has changed now.”
The smile on his face was beautiful, equal parts desire and victory. She was a victory to him, she realized, the strange woman who denied him at every turn until she fell into his arms at the last.
“Such a beautiful prize I have before me,” he murmured softly, looking her over. “I want to see it. Take off your clothes.”
Her hands flew to the buttons of her throat, but his large strong hand covered her. “Not quickly. Slowly. I want to savor what is being offered to me.”
Leah's breath came faster as she nodded. She had dreamed of this, too, and her hands slowed.
Button by button, she undid the front of her blouse. His eyes were dark, following her movements with a keen hunter's eyes. Every inch of pale flesh that she revealed only made him burn hotter.
She kicked off her shoes and peeled off her stockings before sliding her slacks down her legs. She was short, but they were shapely, and she liked the way his eyes traced their curves. Now she stood in her black underwear, pausing to let him see everything she was. In the dim light, she felt like an ancient prize, indeed, something taken from a far land and brought before this enigmatic, handsome man.