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One Hot Desert Night(5)

By:Kristi Gold

Both the question and the gesture caught her off guard. "Thanks, and I've never been married."

"Are you currently involved with anyone?"

Somehow the interviewer had become the interviewee. "I was involved  briefly with a colleague, but that's been over for a while now."

"The man who apparently drove you to seek out your sister."

He presented the comment as a statement, not a question, leading Sunny  to believe he knew much more about her than she knew about him. "You're  right in a manner of speaking. How did you learn that?"

"Rafiq mentioned this to me when I inquired about you."

She'd expected her sister had been the messenger, not the king. "What else did he say?"

"He warned me to stay away from you."

One more shock in a series of several. "Seriously? Does he think I have the plague or homicidal intent aimed at men?"

He almost cracked a smile. "Do you?"

"No, I do not, and I have a hard time believing Rafiq believes that, either."

A slight span of silence passed before he spoke again. "The king  believes you are too great a temptation for a man such as myself."

"Oh, I see." And she did, very clearly, even if his expression remained  unreadable. "He thinks that if you attempt to seduce me, I'd be too  vulnerable to resist. Clearly, he doesn't know me at all." Or at least  the woman she used to be.

"Perhaps that is what he believes, but I do not view you as a vulnerable woman."

The compliment and the flower earned him a few points, even though she  did inexplicably feel somewhat defenseless around him. His mystery and  aura of power threw her mentally off-kilter. "I'm happy we've  established I'm not some simpering Southern belle who needs saving."

"I do not understand the term Southern belle, but I do believe you are a highly sensual woman."

She loosened the chokehold she had on the poor plumeria. "What brought you to that conclusion?"

He slipped his hands in the pockets of his slacks and failed to look  directly at her. "You are passionate about your work. You have put  yourself in danger many times for the sake of your career."

She forced away the sudden terrifying images, with great effort. "Rafiq told you details about my occupation, too?"                       


"No. I perused your network's website."

She should probably be a bit wary that he'd conducted an internet  search, but she was actually curious. "What prompted you to look me up?"

He sent her a fast glance, giving her a drive-by view of his damnable  dark eyes. "When we spoke in the foyer today, I was intrigued by you."

She couldn't fault him since she'd felt the same about him. "Maybe I should search the net so I can learn more about you."

"You will find nothing."

Apparently he worked deep undercover, or he could be attempting to  divert her from discovering information he preferred she not know. "In  that case, tell me about yourself. The man, not the soldier."

He streaked a palm over the back of his neck. "I am the only child of a sultan who resides in Dubai with my mother."

"Considering how well you handled Cala tonight, are you sure you don't have a secret baby hidden away like your cousin, Adan?"

As he glanced her way, some unnamed emotion reflected from his eyes then  disappeared as quickly as it had come. "I have no children."

"Then you have a gift."

He continued to focus on the path and not her. "Children are a gift. Too often they are used as pawns during war."

He'd probably witnessed unspeakable acts in his tenure as a soldier.  That could explain why he'd seemed so sullen after Cala returned to  Zain. She did find it odd that with his royal lineage, he would choose  the military as his occupation and serve a country that obviously wasn't  his homeland. "How did you end up in Bajul?"

"Adan and I attended the same military academy in the United Kingdom,  though I was three years ahead of him. After I graduated, he encouraged  me to consider joining him in the armed forces. My father gave his  blessing, as well."

"You evidently didn't pick up the British-speak like Adan. In fact, you  don't really have an accent at all, and your English is perfect."

"I am required to know many languages."

"How many?"


Incredible. "Do you fly jets, too?"

He shook his head. "No. I am strictly involved in ground forces."

She lifted the flower to her nose and drew in the wonderful scent. "If I  were in the military and had my choice, I'd definitely learn to fly.  Piper, on the other hand, hates planes. Ironic that she would marry a  pilot."

"Reason is not always present when human emotion is involved."

How well she knew that. "Since I'm positive you can't be all work and no  play, do you have any hobbies? Any interests beyond your job?"

"I have a weakness for beautiful women such as yourself."

Had she'd known she'd walk right into the typical playboy trap, she wouldn't have asked. "You don't get out much, do you?"

"Do not question my ability to recognize beauty," he said. "However, I do find humility very attractive."

False flattery would get him nowhere, especially since she hadn't felt  attractive in quite some time. "I personally find arrogance  off-putting."

Finally, he smiled-a small one-but a smile all the same. "Do you believe me to be arrogant?"

"I believe you're the kind of man who uses compliments to your advantage."

As they neared the palace entrance, Rayad paused beneath one of the  lights lining the walkway, giving Sunny a good look at his handsome  features, particularly his expressive eyes. "I am simply a man who  speaks the truth," he said.

She hugged her arms to her middle, the flower wilting in her grasp. "Would that be all the time or only when it's convenient?"

"I am forced to withhold some information for security reasons. Yet when  it comes to my attraction to a woman, I have nothing to hide, and I  find I am extremely attracted to you."

She suspected many a woman had willingly given him anything he'd  requested with only the crook of his finger and a come-hither look. She  had no intention of doing that for many reasons. "Please explain to me  how you could even remotely find me attractive after knowing me such a  short time."

"Attraction is at times immediate, and oftentimes without explanation."

She couldn't exactly argue since she had to admit she found him  illogically attractive, as well. And that in itself could be dangerous.  "You're referring to physical attraction."

"That is the bait that encourages two people to explore the possibilities."

As Rayad studied her face, his gaze coming to rest on her mouth before  trekking back to her eyes, she could imagine several possibilities.  Tempting possibilities. Inadvisable and unattainable possibilities in  light of her recent past.                       


Forcing herself back into reality, Sunny pointed the posy at the double  doors. "Since it's getting fairly late, we should probably call it a  night. Sleep well."

He inclined his head and narrowed his eyes. "Do you sleep well, or do nightmares plague you?"

Her entire body tensed with the fear he knew more about her than she'd first assumed. "Why would you believe I have nightmares?"

He leaned back against the stone ledge behind him and folded his arms  across his broad chest. "I know you have seen carnage in your line of  work. And with that carnage comes images that haunt you in dark and  daylight."

Somewhat relieved he evidently didn't know everything, she wanted  desperately to deny his accurate assumption. But she sensed he possessed  an expert ranking when it came to character study, and therefore chose a  partial lie. "I've had a few bad dreams, but it's not an every-night  occurrence."

"Then you are fortunate," he said.

She took a step toward him in an effort to better read his reaction. "I take it you speak from experience."

He lifted his shoulders slightly in a shrug. "I am not immune to dreams that disturb my sleep."

"Then you've seen your share of horrors."

"Many in the past, and I expect more in the future."

Sheer curiosity to dissect this enigmatic man drew her to his side. "At  the risk of sounding idealistic and illogical, I don't understand why  the world has to be that way."

"Evil," he said, a strong cast of anger in his tone. "I have seen  unspeakable acts forced on innocents by those with no conscience."

"So have I." She had been the victim of that very thing, though she  refused to see herself as a victim. "It has made me rethink my career  choice. I'm considering returning to the States when I go back to work."