The Call of the Desert (8 page)

BOOK: The Call of the Desert
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She sucked in a breath when she felt the burgeoning response of his body against her. Immediately there was an exultant rush of blood to her groin in answer. Any thoughts of emotional suicide were fading fast.

And it was then that she noticed they were standing in the middle of the lobby and attracting attention. How could they not? Kaden was six feet four at least, and one of the most recognisable men on the planet. Even if he wasn’t, his sheer good looks would draw enough attention.

He intuited the direction of her thoughts, and his eyes glinted down at her. “I have no problem making love to you here and now, Julia.”

To illustrate his point he pulled her in even tighter and brought his mouth down so close that she could feel his breath feather along her lips. Instinctively her mouth was already opening, seeking his.

He whispered, “We have unfinished business, Julia. Are you really ready to walk away from this? Because I’m not.”

And with that he settled his mouth over hers, right in the middle of that exclusive lobby, in front of all those moneyed people. But for all Julia was aware they might have been in her house. What undid her completely was that his kiss was gentle and restrained, but she could feel the barely leashed passion behind it. If he’d been forceful it would have been easier to resist, but this kiss reminded her too much of the Kaden she’d once known …

His hands moved up to cradle her face, holding her in place while his tongue delved deep and stroked along hers, making her gasp with need.

Eventually he drew back and said, “The reason I booked the room was because I knew I wouldn’t be
able to wait until I got you home. Not because I wanted you to feel like a high-class call girl. Now, we can continue this where we stand, and give the guests the show of their lives, or we can go upstairs.”

Julia’s hands had crept up to cling onto Kaden’s arms. She felt the muscles bunch and move and looked up into those dark eyes. She could feel herself falling down and down. There was no space between them. No space to think. She didn’t have the strength to walk away. Not yet.

Hating herself, she said shakily, “OK. Upstairs.”

With grim determination stamped all over his darkly gorgeous features, Kaden held her close and walked her across the lobby to the lifts. Her face flamed when she became aware of people’s discreet scrutiny, and Julia realised that within the space of twenty-four hours her carefully ordered and structured life had come tumbling down around her ears—so much so that she didn’t even recognise herself any more.

And the worst thing about this whole scenario: she was exhilarated in a way she hadn’t felt in a long time.

For the second morning in a row Julia woke up in an unfamiliar room and bed. But this time there was no pristine Kaden in a suit, watching her as she woke. The bed beside her was empty, sheets well tousled. She knew instantly that she was alone, and didn’t like the bereft feeling that took her by surprise. Their scent mingled with the air, along with the scent of sex. In a flash the previous night came back in glorious Technicolor.

They’d said not a word once they’d got to the room. They’d been naked and in bed within seconds, mutually combusting.

They’d made love for hours, insatiably. Hungering for one another only moments after each completion. Julia was exhausted, but she couldn’t deny the illicit feeling of peace within her. She sighed deeply. She knew Kaden was going to Al-Omar the next day for Samia’s wedding.

Then she spotted something out of the corner of her eye. She turned her head to see a folded piece of stiff hotel paper. She opened it up and read the arrogantly slashing handwriting:
I’ll pick you up at your place, 7.30. K

Julia sighed again. One more night in this strange week when everything felt out of kilter and off balance and slightly dream-like. She’d love to be able to send a terse note back with a curt dismissal, but if last night had proved anything it was that the fire had well and truly been stoked and she was too fatally weak to resist. All of the very good reasons she had for saying no—her very self-preservation, for a start—were awfully elusive at the prospect of seeing Kaden for a last time.

When the doorbell rang that evening Julia was flustered. She opened the door, and once again wasn’t prepared for the effect of the reality of Kaden on her doorstep.

“Hi … Look, I’ve just got back from work.” She indicated her uniform of trousers, shirt and flat shoes. “I need to shower and change. Today was busy, and then there was a problem with the tube line, and—” She stopped abruptly. She was babbling. As if he cared about the vagaries of public transport.

Kaden took a step inside her door before she knew what was happening, dwarfing her small hallway, and said easily, “We’re in no rush. You get ready; I’ll wait down here.”

Julia gulped, and her hand went nervously to her
throat again. But of course the necklace wasn’t there. Every morning she had to consciously remember not to put it on. Self-recrimination at her own weakness made her say curtly, “I won’t be long. There’s fresh coffee in the kitchen if you want to help yourself.”

And with that she fled upstairs and locked herself into her
en suite
bedroom. Lord, she was in trouble.

Kaden prowled through the hallway. From what he could see it was a classic two-up-two-down house, with a bright airy kitchen extending at the back, which was obviously a modern addition. He hated this weakness he felt for the woman upstairs. Even now he wanted to follow her into the shower and embed himself in her tight heat.

Last night had been very far removed from the nights he’d shared with other women. He was always quickly sated and eager to see them leave, or leave himself. But it had only been as dawn was breaking and his body was too weak to continue that he’d finally fallen asleep.

When he’d woken a couple of hours later all he’d had to do was look at Julia’s sleeping body to want to wake her and start all over again. Right now he didn’t feel as if an entire month locked in a hotel room would be enough to rid him of this need.

His mind shied away from that realisation, and from more introspection. It was perhaps inevitable that his first lover should make a lasting impression, leave a mark on his soul. The chemistry between them had been intense from the moment they’d met over that fossil at the city dig. Kaden’s mouth twisted. It had been as if he’d been infected with a fever, becoming so obsessed with Julia and having her that he hadn’t been able to see anything else.

He hadn’t even noticed his own father’s growing frailty. Nor even listened to his father’s pleas until they’d been uttered with his last breath.

With a curse he turned away from the view of the tiny but perfect garden. What was he doing here, in this small suburban house? His movements jerky, he found a cup and poured himself a strong black coffee, as if that might untangle the knots in his head and belly.

He wandered through to the bright and minimalist sitting-room. He wondered, with an acidic taste in his mouth, if this had been the marital home. He couldn’t see any wedding photos anywhere, but stopped dead when he saw the panoramic photo hanging above the fireplace, his insides freezing in shock.

It was a familiar view—one of his favourites. A picture taken in the Burquati desert, with the stunning snow-capped Nazish mountain range in the distance. He had a vivid memory of the day Julia had taken this picture. His arms had been tight around her waist and she’d complained throatily, “I can’t keep the camera steady if you hang onto me like you’re drowning!”

And he’d said into her ear, overcome with emotion, “I’m drowning, all right. In love with you.”

The shutter had clicked at that moment, and then she’d turned in his arms and—

“I’m sorry—I tried to be as quick as I could.”

Kaden’s hand gripped the coffee mug so tightly he had to consciously relax for fear of breaking it into pieces. He schooled his features so they were a bland mask which reflected nothing of his inner reaction to the memory sparked by the picture.

He turned around. Julia was wearing a dark grey silky dress that dipped down at the front to reveal her
delicate collarbone and clung to the soft swells of her breasts, dropping in soft, unstructured folds to her knee. Her legs were bare and pale, and she wore high-heeled wedges. He dragged his eyes up to hers. She’d tied her hair back into a ponytail and it made her look ridiculously innocent and young.

Julia’s body was reacting with irritating predictability to Kaden’s searing look. When she’d walked in she’d noted with dismay that he’d spotted the photograph. It was one of her favourite possessions. Her husband John had used to complain about it, having taken an instant dislike to it, and she’d hidden it away during their marriage. It was almost as if he’d intuited that she’d lost her heart in that very desert. At that very moment.

Kaden indicated behind him now, without taking his dark eyes off hers. “The frame suits the photo. It turned out well.”

She fixed a bright smile on her face, resolutely blocking out the memory of that day. “Yes, it did. I’m ready to go.”

Kaden looked at her for a long moment and then threw back the rest of his coffee. He went into the kitchen, where he put the cup in the sink, rinsed it, and then came into the hall. Julia already had the door open, and allowed Kaden to precede her out so she could lock up.

Like the previous night, she asked him, once in the back of the car, “Where are we going?”

“I thought we’d go to my apartment this evening. I’ve arranged for a Burquati chef to cook dinner. I thought you might appreciate being reminded of some of our local dishes.”

Sounding a little strangled, Julia answered, “That sounds nice.”

And it was. Julia savoured every morsel of the delicious food. She’d always loved it. Balls of rice mixed with succulent pieces of lamb and fish. Tender chicken breasts marinaded for hours in spices. Fresh vegetables fried in tantalising Burquati oils. And decadent sweet pastries dripping with syrup for dessert, washed down with tart black coffee.

“You haven’t lost your appetite.”

Julia looked across the small intimate table at Kaden. He was lounging back in his chair like a sleek panther, in a dark shirt and black trousers. She felt hot, and her hand went in that telling gesture to her neck again. She dropped it quickly. “No. I’ve never lost my healthy appetite.” She smiled ruefully and the action felt strange. She realized she hadn’t smiled much in the past few days. “That’s why I run six miles about three times a week—to be able to indulge the foodie within me.”

Kaden’s eyes roved over her. “You were definitely a little … plumper before.”

There was a rough quality to his voice that resonated deep inside Julia. She could remember Kaden’s hands squeezing her breasts together, lavishing attention on the voluptuous mounds.

“Puppy fat,” she said, almost desperately.

Abruptly she stood up, agitated, and took her glass of wine to go and stand by the open doors of the dining room, which led out to an ornate terraced balcony overlooking the city. She needed air and space. He was too intense and brooding. The tension between them, all that was not being acknowledged about their past history, was nearly suffocating. And yet what was there to say? Julia certainly didn’t need to hear Kaden elaborate again on why he’d been so keen to see the back of her …

She heard him move and come to stand beside her. She took a careful sip of wine, trying to be as nonchalant as possible, but already she was trembling with wanting him just to take her in his arms and make her forget everything. One last night and then she would put him out of her mind for good.

“I want you to come to Al-Omar with me for Samia’s wedding.”

Julia’s head whipped round so fast she felt dizzy for a moment. “What?” she squeaked, “You want me to come … as your date?”

He was looking impossibly grim, which made Julia believe that she hadn’t just had an aural hallucination. He nodded. “It’ll be over by Sunday.”

Julia felt bewildered. She hadn’t prepared emotionally for anything beyond this night. “But … why?”

Kaden’s jaw tightened. He wasn’t sure, but he was damn hopeful it would mean the end of his burning need to take this woman every time he looked at her. And that it would make all the old memories recede to a place where they would have no hold over him any more. That it would bring him to a place where he could get on with his life and not be haunted by her and the nebulous feeling of something having gone very wrong twelve years before.

He shrugged. “I thought you might enjoy meeting Samia again.”

Julia looked at Kaden warily. His expression gave nothing away, but there was a starkness to the lines of his face, a hunger. She recognised it because she felt it too. The thought of
—whatever it was between them—lasting for another few days out of time was all at once heady and terrifying.

She’d once longed for him to come after her, to tell her he’d made a mistake. That he
love her. But he hadn’t. Now he wanted to spend more time with her. Perhaps this was as close as she would ever get to closure? This man had haunted her for too long.

She stared down at her wine glass as if the ruby liquid held all the answers. “I don’t know, Kaden …” She looked back up. “I don’t know if it’s such a good idea.”

Kaden sneaked a hand out and around the back of her neck. Gently he urged her closer to him, as if he could tell that her words were a pathetic attempt to pretend she didn’t want this.

“This is desire—karma—unfinished business. Call it what you will, but whatever it is it’s powerful. And it’s not over.”

Kaden’s hand was massaging the back of her neck now, and Julia felt like purring and turning her face into his palm. She gritted her jaw. “I have to work tomorrow. I can’t just up and leave the country. I’ll … have to think about it.”

His eyes flashed. Clearly he was unused to anything less than immediate acquiescence. “You can do whatever you want, Julia. You’re beholden to none. But while you’re thinking about it, think about

was Kaden removing the wine glass from her hand and pulling her into him so tightly that she could feel every hard ridge of muscle and the powerful thrust of his thighs and manhood. Cradling her face in his hands, he swooped—and obliterated every thought in her head with his kiss.

BOOK: The Call of the Desert
7.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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