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One Hot Desert Night(6)

By:Kristi Gold



"You will never be happy."

She faced him, leaned a hip against the wall and rested her elbow atop the ledge. "You're very bold to make that presumption."

Finally, he turned toward her and made eye contact. "I know your kind.  You live for adventure and the thrill of chasing the story. You said in  your biography you choose to ignore danger to seek the truth."

Damn the internet. "Yes, I did, but I'm not sure I feel that way anymore."

He gave her a look of surprise laced with suspicion. "Has something happened to change your attitude?"

The question had hit too close to home. If not careful, she might start  confessing. "Burnout, I guess you could say. And it's definitely time  for me to retire. If I'm lucky, this little jaunt through the  snake-ridden garden has tired me out enough to drift off fairly quickly.  Thanks so much for the companionship. I truly enjoyed it."

When Sunny turned and started away, he quickly clasped her hand. The  sudden action caused her to wrest away and turn toward him, a knee-jerk  reaction she'd developed since the attack.

"I do not wish to harm you," he said in a tempered tone.

She shivered slightly. "I know, and I apologize for my jumpiness. Just a  little fallout due to the job. I've learned to always be on guard."

He pushed off the wall and approached her, leaving a scant few inches  between them when he stopped. Then without warning, he reached out and  pushed a tendril of hair from her cheek. "I find you very captivating,  Sunny McAdams, and I hope I have the pleasure of speaking with you at  length again."

"That's definitely a possibility," she said then hooked a thumb over her  shoulder. "But if I don't get some rest, the next time you see me I  might be babbling like a mad woman."

He smiled again. A fully formed smile that lessened the intensity in his  eyes, but not his appeal. Not in the least. "Should you require  assistance during the night, I am residing in the room next to yours."

That fact certainly wouldn't do a darn thing for her insomnia. "Thank you, but I'll be fine. I'm sure I'll see you tomorrow."

"That would be my pleasure."

The way he'd said pleasure-in a deep, sensual tone-prompted some fairly  sexual images in Sunny's muddled mind. And long after she left Rayad to  settle into bed, she allowed them to fully form-only to have horrendous  memories interrupt the welcome bliss.

She wondered if she would ever move past her fears and resume a normal  life. If she would ever forget the harrowing experience. If she would  ever be able to trust a man again.

For some reason, she truly wanted to trust Rayad Rostam, but she wasn't certain she could.



                       
       
           



       

 Three

He had never met a woman who recoiled at an innocent touch...until  tonight. Rayad had pondered Sunny's reaction as he stripped off all of  his clothing and stretched out on his back on the bed, naked.

He had wanted to kiss her and would have attempted it if not for her  response. She had not necessarily been repulsed, but she had been  afraid. He suspected that fear stemmed from a recent experience. He had  seen it in her eyes, heard the wariness in her voice when he had asked  about her decision to return home. Unless he knew the cause of her fear,  he could only speculate. Yet he truly believed Sunny would not be  forthcoming with that information. In that regard, she was very much  like him, withholding details due to a lack of trust. However, one  person would mostly hold the answers he sought.

Though he should wait until morning to question Piper, Rayad's thirst  for the truth drove him from the bed. He retrieved a guest robe from the  closet and slipped it on before entering the hallway. He strode through  the corridors and sprinted up the staircase to the living quarters.  Once there, he paused and attempted to discern which room belonged to  Adan and his new bride. Fortunately, a meek-looking, dark-haired woman  walked out one door to his immediate right and met his gaze, obviously  surprised to find a nearly-naked man standing in the hallway.

After recognition dawned in her expression, she bowed her head slightly and muttered, "Your Highness."

He tightened the sash on the gaping robe. "I need to locate Sheikh Adan's room."

"At the end of the hall," she said, keeping her eyes averted as she  pointed to her right. "But they do not wish to be disturbed. That is why  I am tending to the young prince tonight."

If he retained any decorum whatsoever, he would take his leave. This  mission was too important. "I will make certain you are not held  responsible for the disturbance."

With that, he headed to the designated quarters without glancing back.  Once there, he rapped twice on the wooden surface and waited. He had  almost given up when the door creaked open to reveal his disheveled  cousin, also dressed in a robe. "Bloody hell, Rayad," Adan muttered. "I  hope you tell me we've gone to war, the only excuse I will accept for  you showing up here in the middle of the night."

"There is no war, but I must speak to your wife."

"My wife is not presentable at the moment, and why would you need to speak to her?"

"I need to inquire about her sister."

Adan narrowed his eyes. "If you are entertaining thoughts of garnering  permission to seduce Sunny, discard them now. She does not need to have  you hounding her under the circumstances."

Perhaps he could bypass Piper after all. "Which circumstances would those be?"

"She was thrown over by some bastard and has suffered a severe broken heart. Those were my wife's exact words."

Siblings had been known to withhold truths from one another before, as  it had been often with his cousins Adan and Zain. Or perhaps in this  matter a wife was withholding information from her spouse. "And you are  certain Piper is not concealing other details pertaining to her sister?"

He presented a stern scowl. "I have no reason not to believe what she told me. Now what is this all about?"

"I sensed there is more to Sunny's sabbatical than the end of a relationship when I was with her this evening."

Adan took on a murderous expression. "Define when I was with her."

"We took a walk together in the garden."

"And where, Rayad, did you end your walk?"

He realized exactly what his cousin was implying. "We ended the walk in  the garden, and that is when I realized she has unexplained fears."

"Of what? You?"

"Indirectly, yes. When I attempted to touch her-"

"Where did you attempt to touch her?"

"Her hand."

"Are you bloody sure you didn't reach a bit higher than that?"

Adan's question echoed loudly through the hallway and apparently  disturbed his bride, who suddenly appeared in the doorway. "If you two  don't lower your voices, you're going to wake the entire palace,  including our son and the twins. What in heaven's name has you both so  worked up?"

Adan pointed at Rayad. "This cad made a pass at your sister."

His wife seemed surprisingly calm. "She's an attractive woman, honey."

Rayad felt the need to defend his honor. "I only attempted to take her  hand, yet her reaction to that innocent gesture has led me to believe  she has possibly suffered a recent trauma."                       
       
           



       

"I told him it was a traumatic breakup," Adan said. "With the soundman."

Piper frowned at her husband. "He's a cameraman, Adan, and what kind of reaction are you referring to?"

"She startles easily," Rayad answered. "It is as if she is fearful of many things."

Piper's gaze briefly faltered. "That's understandable considering she  throws herself into some fairly precarious situations due to her job."

Her lack of eye contact, coupled with the slight tremor in her voice,  served to support Rayad's suspicions. "I have seen this behavior before  in those who have experienced violence in some manner. It can be  indicative of post traumatic stress disorder."

Adan raised a brow. "It is probably indicative of your penchant for making unwanted advances on an unsuspecting woman."

He despised having his honor questioned. "I never force myself on  unwitting women, Adan. And you have no cause to make accusations. At one  time you were much worse in regard to making advances."

Adan took obvious offense over the affront. "I have always been noble when it comes to the fairer sex, cousin."

Patience waning, Rayad glared at him. "As have I, cousin."

"Rayad's right," Piper interjected, drawing both their attention.

Adan regarded his wife with a confused expression. "Forgive me, Piper,  but you haven't known Rayad long enough to make that character  judgment."

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