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One Hot Desert Night(10)

By:Kristi Gold



"The desert and my land."


"Perhaps tomorrow would be better."

She called on her wit to cover the unsettling excitement. "Would we be traveling by camel?"

He released a low, sensual laugh that acted on Sunny like a potent  aphrodisiac. "All-terrain vehicle. We could journey there during the day  and return late into the evening."

She would be an absolute fool to agree. "Maybe that wouldn't be wise."

Taking her by the shoulders, he turned her to face him. "It would be  very wise. The place I wish to take you is a healing sanctuary."

This time she laughed, a cynical one. "Honestly, my heart isn't that broken."

"Perhaps your soul is."

This conversation made little sense...unless... "Has Piper said something to you about my reasons for being here?"

"Yes, but you should not direct your anger at her."

Oh, but she would. "Piper had no right to tell you about the..." Even now she had trouble saying it. "What I went through."

He tenderly tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear. "If you feel it  necessary to blame someone, then blame me. I sought her out to confirm  what I suspected after our time in the garden."

She wasn't that transparent. Or was she? "I don't know how that's possible."

"I know the signs of trauma," he said. "You exhibited them several times, though you attempted to hide them from me."

She sighed. "Okay, I admit I've been jumpy since the incident. But I'll be fine. I just need a little more time."

He raised a brow. "Are you certain?"

Not exactly. "I've been told the memories will eventually pass."

"Allow me to assist you," he said as he cupped her jaw. "Allow me to  take you to this safe haven. I expect nothing more than your company."

If only she could believe he had honorable intentions. If only she  wasn't waging her own war between accepting his friendship and wanting  to feel whole again. To regain her inherent sensuality. Her trust. "I  promise I'll think about it and give you an answer tomorrow."

He looked resolute. "You will go."

"You are entirely too confident."

"I know you better than you believe, Sunny. You once longed for  adventure, yet your understandable fear prevents you from pursuing that  which you desire. Let this journey be the catalyst to return you to who  you once were."

Such a lofty goal. "You sincerely believe that will happen in one day?"

"With faith comes great reward, if you are open to all possibilities."

She was open to a lot of things, namely a kiss, yet she couldn't gauge  how she might react. If the way he studied her mouth was any indication,  she might find out. Instead, he took a slight step back and thrust his  hands in his pockets.

"We should return to the reception," he said. "Otherwise, what I am considering could very well offend you."

"And that is?"

"I wish to kiss you, yet I do not wish to contribute to your discomfort due to my own cravings."

Hearing the words melted her resolve to stay strong and not succumb to  his charms. Knowing he wanted her gave her unexpected courage. "I  wouldn't exactly be uncomfortable, and I certainly wouldn't take  offense. But I might regret it."

He smiled halfway. "Do you not trust my skill?"

She worried he had too much skill. "Oh, I trust you on that front. But  how do I know you're not the kind of man who kisses and tells?"

His expression went suddenly somber. "Whatever transpires between us will remain between us."

Oh, heavens, she was going to do it-invite him to put her in a lip-lock.  She had to know how it would feel. How she would feel. "In that case,  show me your skill."

Keeping his arms to his sides, he leaned forward to press his lips  against hers, making a brief pass, then another, as if testing the  waters. Then, as if she'd become someone else, Sunny wrapped one hand  around his neck, signaling she needed more. He answered that need by  delving into her mouth with the soft glide of his tongue.

Skilled was an enormous understatement. The man was an expert. A kissing  prodigy. She wanted to be closer to him, feel his arms around her. Yet  when he drew her into an embrace, Rayad inadvertently triggered a series  of frightening images from deep within her psyche-suffocating  recollections that caused her to break the kiss and wrest away.

"I'm so sorry," she muttered around her labored breathing. When she  noted the disappointment in his expression, she felt the need to  explain. "This has nothing to do with you. It's me."                       


He narrowed his eyes and nailed her with a serious look. "What did your abductors do to you?"

"It's not what you're thinking." But it so easily could have been, had  she not had the good fortune to get away. "It's about the confinement."

He streaked a palm over the back of his neck. "My apologies for crossing a boundary I should not have crossed."

The sincerity in his tone touched her deeply, and led her to believe he  truly was a "nice guy." "Rayad, I wanted you to kiss me, but I have  serious issues due to the kidnapping. Maybe I'll tell you a few details  tomorrow."

He couldn't mask his astonishment. "Then you will come with me?"

Rescinding her agreement seemed prudent. The urge to say "yes" won out over all her concerns. "All right. You win. I'll go."

He looked entirely too satisfied, and gorgeous. "We will leave before  dawn so that we will have enough time to enjoy our day together."

Spending even a few hours in his presence seemed extremely appealing.  "Then I suppose we should say good-night now so I can join my sister for  dinner and get to bed a little earlier than planned."

"As much as I would like to stay with you a while longer, I will escort you back to the soiree for the evening meal."

After they returned to the hallway in silence, Rayad gently clasped her  hand, turned it over and kissed her wrist. "You will not regret your  decision to spend the day with me."

She sincerely hoped not. "I guess I'll see you in the morning, bright and early."

"That will be my pleasure."

He turned and started away then paused and faced her again. "Bring a swimsuit with you."

That could pose a problem on several levels. "What if I didn't pack one?"

He brought out his best smile, and it was oh so good. "Then I suppose we will have to improvise."

With that, Rayad walked away, one hand in his pocket, the other dangling  at his side, looking every bit the debonair devilish sheikh turned spy.

Sunny did own a swimsuit, and she'd brought it along. She also owned a  scar she'd worked hard to hide. To most, it probably wouldn't appear  that hideous, but it could lead to hard questions. And tomorrow she'd  have to decide whether she would tell Rayad Rostam everything.

* * *

For the second time in two days, Sunny's dear sister had arrived at her  suite to deliver a morning greeting, only this time she wasn't alone.

Piper stood in the corridor outside the guest suite with a sleepy baby,  dressed in blue footed pajamas, resting on her shoulder. "I'm surprised  you're up at this hour," she said as she breezed into the room. "I was  walking this fussy little guy and thought I heard you stirring."

Sunny didn't care that Piper had stopped by or knocked loud enough to  disrupt her sleep, had she been sleeping. She did have some measure of  concern over what her twin would see. And after she saw it, the  questions would start rolling in. Lots of questions. "Just thought I'd  get an early start with my day."

When Piper laid little Sam on the unmade bed, the baby rolled to his  belly with his knees bent beneath him, popped his thumb in his mouth and  stuck his bottom in the air as if he wanted to show off the  cartoon-airplane appliqué strategically positioned there.

So cute, Sunny's first thought. Such a big responsibility, her second. A  responsibility she didn't welcome at this point in her life. Maybe  someday she'd change her mind on her own without any pressure from those  who believed it was past time for her to settle down.

As Piper turned from the bed, Sunny purposefully shook off the unwelcome  recollections of her last argument with Cameron. But she couldn't shake  the fact her sister was bound to see the evidence of her plans.

And no more had Sunny thought it, Piper did it-shot a look straight at  the open bag set on the divan. She brought her attention back to Sunny,  her blue eyes wide with surprise. "Are you going somewhere?"

She could lie, or she could play the avoidance game. "I'm not leaving permanently, if that's what you're asking."

"Are you going on an assignment?"

"In a manner of speaking, but it's not work-related."