The Call of the Desert (6 page)

BOOK: The Call of the Desert
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“I can tell that you’re going through exactly what I went through when I woke. And, yes, every second of it happened for real.” The voice was dry, mocking, and not a dream.

Julia’s eyes flew open and she squinted in the bright light. Mercifully the sheet was up over her breasts. She pulled it up higher and could see Kaden now, standing at the window, looking gorgeous and pristine in a dark suit, drinking nonchalantly from what looked like an espresso cup.

He gestured with his other hand to a small breakfast table. “There’s coffee there for you too, and some orange juice and a croissant.”

Her stomach churned. It was excruciating to be facing Kaden like this. She’d been so
easy
. She came up on one arm and bit her lip, looked down. Her eyes were watering, and she couldn’t tell if it was from the bright sunlight or looking at Kaden. The storm from last night had well and truly passed, and already the bitter recrimination was starting.

What on earth had she been thinking? Had one thunderstorm rewired her entire brain?

He moved forward then, and put down his cup. He came closer to the bed. Julia sat up awkwardly. Kaden’s eyes were very black and intense on her, and already she could feel the heat of renewed desire deep within her.

“I’m here until the end of the week, when I have to fly to Al-Omar for Samia’s wedding. I’d like to see you again, Julia.”

Julia didn’t know what to make of the maelstrom that erupted inside her at his words. She’d been expecting him to tell her casually to let herself out of the apartment when she was ready. “You want to see me again?”

He shrugged, oozing insouciance and an ease with this morning after situation. Another indication of the urbane seducer he’d become. “I don’t see why not. I think we have unfinished business … why not finish it?”

Julia’s mouth twisted. “You mean have an affair for a few days and then walk away?”

His mouth thinned. “It doesn’t have to be as crass as that. You can’t deny the attraction is as strong as ever. Why not indulge it to its natural conclusion? I don’t see it lasting for longer than a few days.”

That warm spread of desire suddenly cooled. Julia sat up straighter, pulling the sheet around her carefully. She felt seriously dishevelled and at a disadvantage in front of Kaden like this. She attempted her haughtiest look. “I’m extremely busy this week. I don’t know if I have time to fit in an …
affair
.”

Kaden’s face became mocking. “I don’t plan on spending the
days
with you, Julia, I was thinking more along the lines of the evenings … and the nights.”

Instantly she castigated herself. Of course he wasn’t talking about having
conversations
. She stood up, clinging onto the sheet like a lifeline.

“It’s a crazy idea, Kaden. Last night was …” She bit her lip. “It should never have happened.”

He strolled closer, and Julia would have moved back if she could—but the bed was at the back of her legs. Up close to him in her bare feet, she was reminded of how huge he was—and how utterly gorgeous. Once again the juxtaposition between the boy and the man
was overwhelming. But his hands were shoved deep in his pockets, and she sensed an underlying tension to his otherwise suave manner.

He took one hand out then, and touched his knuckles to her chin. She gritted her jaw against his touch. His dark eyes roved her face and she couldn’t make out any emotion. It made her wonder at the depths this civility hid from her.

Steel ran through his voice, impacting her. “Well, it did happen, Julia. And it’s going to happen again. I’ll pick you up from your house this evening at seven.”

And with that he stepped back and strolled away.

Julia’s mouth opened and closed ineffectually. She couldn’t get over his easy arrogance that she would just fall in with his wishes. “You …” she spluttered. “You can’t just seriously think that I will—”

He turned at the door. “I don’t think, Julia. I
know
.” He arched a brow. “I believe you said you were busy this week? You’d better get a move on. You’ll find your clothes hanging in the closet. Help yourself to whatever you need. One of my cars will be waiting outside. You will be taken wherever you wish to go.”

Kaden turned and left the room, shutting the door behind him. He didn’t like the way he’d just had to battle to control himself enough not to topple Julia back onto that bed and take her again. And again. She’d looked tousled and thoroughly bedded, and far too reminiscent of memories he’d long suppressed. And he was
still
ignoring the voice in his head urging him to walk away, to forget he’d seen her again. He
should
have been able to leave last night as a one-off, an aberration. But he couldn’t do it.

He was well aware that he’d just acted like some medieval
autocrat, but the truth was he hadn’t wanted to give her a chance to argue with him. To have her tell him that she was refusing to see him again, or point out again that this shouldn’t have happened. He might have appreciated the fact that this was the first time a woman was clearly less than eager to share his bed if he’d been able to think past the urgent lust he still felt.

Standing in front of Julia just now, he’d not been able to think beyond the immediate future. He’d had a vision of being in London for the next few days, and the thought of not seeing her again had been repugnant.

He tried to rationalise it now. Their desire was clearly far from sated, but he had no doubt a couple of nights would be more than enough to rid himself of this bizarre need to reconnect with an ex-lover.
An ex-lover who almost had you in such thrall that you forgot what your priorities were
.

Kaden scowled, but didn’t stop. By the time he reached his waiting car his face was as dark as thunder, tension vibrating off him in waves.

Minutes later Julia was still standing looking at the closed door, clutching the rumpled sheet, her mouth half open. And to her utter chagrin she couldn’t drum up anything other than intense excitement at the thought of seeing Kaden again. Even after he’d so arrogantly informed her that it would suit him to have an affair while he was in London, to fill his time. Pathetic.

Last night ran through her brain like a bad movie, and all she could remember was the wanton way she’d succumbed to his caresses over and over again. The way she’d sought him out, her hand wrapping around him, eager to seduce him.

She groaned out loud and finally stumbled towards the bathroom. That was nearly worse. His scent was heavy in the air, steam still evident from his recent shower. She could see that glorious body in her mind’s eye—naked, with water sluicing down over taut, hard muscles and contours.

She tore off the sheet and turned on the shower, relishing the hot pounding spray, but try as she might she couldn’t stop older memories flooding her brain, superseding the more recent and humiliating ones. Pandora’s Box had been well and truly opened. All she could think of now were the awful last weeks and days in Burquat. Even under the hot spray, Julia shivered.

A few weeks before she’d been due to return to England to complete her studies, Julia and Kaden had returned from a trip to the desert where they’d celebrated her birthday. She’d been so in love with him, and she’d believed that he’d loved her too. He’d
told
her he loved her. So why wouldn’t she have believed him?

But, as clear as if it was yesterday, she could remember watching him walk away from her when they got back to Burquat. For some reason she’d superstitiously wished for him to turn around and smile at her, but he hadn’t. That image of his tall, rangy body walking away from her had proved to be an ominous sign. She’d not seen him again until shortly before she was due to leave Burquat.

That very night it had been announced that the Emir wasn’t well, and so Kaden had in effect become acting ruler. Heartsore for Kaden, because she’d known he was close to his father even though he’d been a somewhat distant figure, she’d made attempts to see him. But she’d
been turned back time and time again by stern-looking aides.

It was as if he’d been spirited away. Days had passed, Julia had made preparations to go home and there had still been no sign or word from Kaden. She’d put it down to his father’s frailty and the huge responsibility he faced as the incumbent ruler. She’d never realised until then how different it would have been if he had already been ruler. Much to her shame, she hadn’t been able to stop the feeling of insecurity growing when there was no word, even though she’d known it was selfish.

A few nights before she’d been due to leave, Julia had given in to the urging of some fellow archaeology students and gone out for a drink, telling herself it was futile to waste another evening pining for Kaden. She hadn’t been used to drinking much normally, and all she could remember was standing up at one point and feeling very dizzy. One of her colleagues had taken her outside to get some air. And it was then that he had tried to kiss her.

At first Julia had rejected his advances, but he’d been persistent … and that awful insecurity had risen up. What if Kaden had finished with her without even telling her? What if he wasn’t even going to say goodbye to her? Even stronger had been the rising sense of desperation to think that Kaden might be the only man who would ever make her feel whole, who would ever be able to awaken her sensuality. The thought of being beholden to one man who didn’t want her terrified her. The way she’d come to depend on Kaden, to love him, had raised all her very private fears and vulnerabilities about being adopted … and rejection.

He
couldn’t
be the only one who would ever make
her feel anything again, she’d determined. So she had allowed that man to kiss her—almost in an attempt to prove something to herself.

It had been an effort in futility from the first moment, making instant nausea rise.

And that was when she’d seen Kaden, across the dark street, in long robes and looking half wild, with stubble darkening his jaw. She’d been so shocked she hadn’t been able to move, and then … too late … she’d started to struggle. Kaden had just looked at her with those dark implacable eyes, and then he’d turned and left.

The following day the death of Kaden’s father had been announced.

Only by refusing to move from outside the state offices had Julia eventually been allowed to see Kaden before she left the country a few days later. She’d stepped into a huge, opulent office to see Kaden standing in the middle of the room, legs splayed, dressed in ceremonial robes, gorgeous and formidable. And like an utter stranger.

She’d been incredibly nervous. “Kaden … I …” She’d never found it hard to speak with him, not from the moment they’d first met, but suddenly she struggled to get two words out. “I’m so sorry about your father.”

“Thank you.” His voice was clipped. Curt.

“I … I’ve tried to see you before now, but you’ve been busy.”

His mouth thinned. “From the looks of things you’ve been busy yourself.”

Julia flushed brick red when she remembered her tangled emotions and what they’d led her to do. “What you saw the other night … it was nothing. I’d had a bit too much to drink and—”

Kaden lifted a hand, an expression of distaste etched on his face. “Please, spare me the sordid details. It does not interest me in the slightest how or when or where you made love to that man.”

Julia protested. “We didn’t make love. It was just a stupid kiss … It stopped almost as soon as it had started.”

Kaden’s voice was icy. “Like I said, I’m really not interested. Now, what was it you wanted to see me about? As you said yourself, I’m very busy.”

Julia immediately felt ashamed. Kaden was grieving.

“I just … I wanted to give you my condolences personally and to say … goodbye. I’m leaving tomorrow.”

A layer of shock was making her a little numb. Not so long ago this man had held her in his arms underneath a blanket of stars and said to her fervently, “
I love you. I won’t ever love another woman again
.”

Nausea surged, and Julia had to put her hands against the shower wall and breathe deep. She hadn’t thought of that awful evening for a long time.

And yet it wouldn’t go away, the memory as stubborn as a dark stain. She could remember feeling compelled to blurt out, “Kaden … why are you behaving like this?”

He’d arched a brow and crossed his arms. “Like what?”

“Like you hardly know me.”

His face had been a mask of cool civility. “You think six months of a summer fling means that I
know
you?”

Julia could remember flinching so violently that she’d taken a step backwards. “I didn’t think of it as a fling. I thought what we had was—”

He had slashed down a hand, stopping her words, his face suddenly fierce. “What we had was an affair, Julia. Nothing more and nothing less than what you were engaging
in with that man the other night. You are not from this world.” His mouth had curled up in an awful parody of a mocking smile, “You didn’t seriously think that you would ever become a permanent part of it, did you?”

Of course she hadn’t. But her conscience niggled her. Deep within her, in a very secret place, she’d harboured a dream that perhaps this was
it
. He’d even mentioned his London apartment. Bile rose as she acknowledged that perhaps all he’d meant by that was that he’d give her the role of convenient mistress.

Horror spread through her body as the awful reality sank in. It was written all over every rejecting and rigid line of his body. Everything she’d shared with Kaden had been a mere illusion. He’d been playing with her. A western student girl, here for a short while and then conveniently gone. Perfect for a summer fling. And now he was ruler, a million miles from the carefree young man she thought she’d known.

Shakily she said, “You didn’t have to tell me you loved me. You could have spared yourself the platitudes. I didn’t expect to hear them.” And she hadn’t. She truly hadn’t. She knew she loved this man, but she hadn’t expected him to love her back … and yet he had. Or so she’d been led to believe.

Kaden shrugged and looked at a cuff, as if it was infinitely more interesting than their conversation. He looked back at her with eyes so black they were dead. “I went as far as you did. Please don’t insult my intelligence and tell me that you meant it when
you
said it. You can hardly claim you did when within days you were ready to drop your pants for another man.”

BOOK: The Call of the Desert
12.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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