His hands slid to her shoulders, gently sliding the sleeves of her robe down her arms until the silk caught at her elbows.

His lips slid from hers, his tongue peeking out to taste the sensitive skin of her neck and sending shivers racing through her body. Paige gasped for breath, a low moan escaping her lips. She swore there was an electric current beneath her skin, brought alive by the touch of his lips as they stroked and kissed their way to her shoulder.

The calloused tips of his fingers moved to the thin strap of her gown, easing it over the curve of her shoulder as his lips continued to play, and to melt her resistance like butter. If there had been any resistance, which Paige was certain she couldn’t have even attempted to fake.

She’d wanted him for far too long, ached for him for too many years to even consider rejecting this touch.

She had never had a man’s touch burn through her as Abram’s did now. She’d never known such abandoned pleasure, or ached to the very core of her body as she did now.

“Abram.” The moaning whisper seemed torn from her as she felt the gown slide down her arms, then past the swollen, heavy flesh of her breasts. “You make my head spin.”

The silk rasped over the tender tips, the sensation surging through her with a wicked rush of ecstatic pleasure as she allowed the words to escape her lips. She knew better. She should hold them back, hold a part of herself back. There was no strength to do so, though.

Her nipples peaked and hardened, rising and falling erratically with her heavy breaths as Abram stared down at them. Paige swore she could feel the very air stroking against her, the invisible currents touching her like a ghostly caress.

“How pretty.” The dark, accented stroke of his voice against her senses had her arching to get closer to him, to feel him touching her breasts in some way, in any way, to ease the ache radiating through her flesh.

She’d fantasized about this. She had dreamed of it.

“What do you want, little hellcat?” His hand moved, his fingers moving over the curveast as her lips parted to drag in air. “What touch do you wish against such pretty flesh?”

Oh God, how was she supposed to deal with this? To handle the sensations that were tearing through her, and the pleasure that made it impossible for her to consider anything but the culmination of the hunger raging through her.

Paige stared up at him, her gaze heavy-lidded as a sense of sensual bravado overcame her.

Her hand smoothed between them, up her stomach to the mound of her breast. Cupping it, she lifted it to him in invitation as his gaze flared in overwhelming hunger. His lips parted, his tongue touching the tip of the tortured flesh.

“Son of a bitch!”

Shock. Horror.

Paige’s head jerked to the side as Abram’s lifted quickly, turning even as he jerked the gowns straps and her robe back over her shoulders to cover her naked breasts.

Khalid.

Her brother stood just inside the doorway, his black eyes almost bulging in shock, his expression, for the briefest moment, slack with complete amazement before it morphed to complete fury.

God, he would show up at the most inopportune time and catch her doing the one thing he’d forbidden her to do years ago.

Don’t mess with Abram, he’d ordered her. Don’t cause such trouble with the only brother he accepted, the only true friend he had ever known. Because it would make enemies of them if Abram took her to his bed.

And what had she done? What had she plotted to do for years? To find herself in Abram’s arms, his lips and hands caressing her. To find herself in his bed, his moving over her, inside her.

Oh hell, Khalid was so pissed.

Slowly, Abram backed away.

Her head turned back and she stared up at him as his gaze turned back to her, his black eyes, darker, more intense than Khalid’s were enigmatic, as Abram straightened her robe over her breasts then began distancing himself fully.

“Go,” he said softly, his tone suddenly remarkably gentle. “You don’t need to be here for this.”

“Paige, what the hell is going on?” Khalid’s tone was coldly furious and striking across Abram’s whispered, though gentle command.

Paige rolled her eyes, stepped back, and finished fixing her gown and robe herself as she turned back to her brother. She couldn’t let herself look at Abram, couldn’t afford to show any weakness now.

Brothers were like wild animals. Show that first hint of weakness and they could be merciless. Rather like an animal at that first scent of blood.

“Get over yourself,” she told him as though unconcerned as she looked behind him and watched as Marty fought to hold back her grin. Khalid’s fiancée was nothing if not laid back and more or less amused by all of them. “What happened Marty? Did aliens kidnap my nice brother again and leave the asshole in its place?”

The “nice brother” referred to his general good mood in the past weeks since he and Marty had become engaged. She’d rather hoped it would last a while.

“The ‘nice brother,’ as you call me, was doing exceptionally well until I walked in here,” he snapped, his arms going across his chest in the classic, arrogant pose.

Just how many times had she seen that pose in the past ten years? Possibly every time Khalid caught her so much as looking at Abram.

Paige glanced between the two men.

It was incredibly easy to tell they were related, to tell they were brothers actually. If she didn’t know better, she would have sworn they were twins rather than half-brothers. But she did know better. Abram was five minutes older than Khalid, and his mother had delicate blond hair rather than the vibrant red hair of Khalid and Paige’s mother. Khalid and Abram’s father, Azir Mustafa preferred American wives. Kidnapped, terrified American wives.

Abram wasn’t her brother though. He wasn’t even her half-brother. But Khalid refused to see the distinction.

“Neither of you have answered me.” Khalid stared between them, his nostrils flaring in anger.

“I would have thought it was pretty self-evident,” Paige replied archly. “You’re not exactly a virgin, Khalid, so unless that question was simply an exercise in arrogance, then you’re well aware of exactly what was going on.”

“It was a mistake,” Abram said then, the shock of the statement ripping through her consciousness.

Paige swung around to stare at him in disbelief.

“What did you say?”

“It was a mistake,” he repeated as he turned back to Khalid. “It will not happen again.”

She could only stare at him. Disbelief warred with a sense of betrayal as he turned back to her, his expression cool and composed, no hint of the hunger, or need, he’d shn only moments before.

“A mistake?” she whispered, feeling her throat tighten as she felt both Marty and Khalid watching.

How shameful. To have them witness such a rejection. How impossibly stupid of her not to have realized exactly what was coming though. He hadn’t stayed away from her, ensured they were never alone together over the past years for no reason.

“A regrettable one,” he answered. “I apologize to you as well, Paige…”

“Save it.” Flipping her hand out to him dismissively she turned on her heel and headed for the door.

Once reaching the exit she turned back, her gaze meeting Khalid’s as anger burned bright and hot inside her. “If I don’t see you in the morning, then you better tell your hired goons to watch their damned backs because I won’t stay here any longer. And you damned well better have an alternative method of protection because I’m not a child to be locked away. Nor am I too damned stupid to understand what the hell is going on when the situation is eventually explained to me.”

She didn’t give him time to speak. She didn’t want to hear his damned explanations at the moment and she sure as hell didn’t want to see the pity in his and Marty’s eyes. She wanted to get the hell away from all of them.

She was a mistake. A regrettable one.

Her teeth clenched furiously as humiliation washed through her.

He could excuse himself until hell froze over but it wouldn’t change the fact that he wanted her. He had wanted her with almost the same destructive hunger that burned inside her whenever he was around.

He didn’t want to admit it? He wanted to ignore it?

That was just damned fine, because it wasn’t over. She’d seen his gaze. She’d seen what he’d wanted to hide behind that deceptively calm, unemotional mask.

She’d seen the hunger burning so hot, so deep that it possibly went even deeper than her own did. She’d felt it. She’d tasted it in his kiss. He wanted to devour her.

She knew herself that denying it simply didn’t work. When he was done with the denials, when he was finished pretending he didn’t want her to keep Khalid’s little protective instincts calmed, then he’d better be damned careful.

She just might show him exactly how rejection felt.


The door closed quietly behind her, Abram almost flinched. The near silence of the action spoke volumes. Had she slammed the door, it wouldn’t have been nearly as effective.

It had been the pain he’d seen in her eyes though, that sense of betrayal that had driven home to him exactly how deeply he had hurt her.

She didn’t understand.

Touching her had been the worst mistake he could have made, because it showed her to be a weakness he could ill afford.

And responding to him eight years before, when his lips had buried between her thighs, had been the worst mistake she could have made.

Even now, Abram couldn’t get the taste of her out of his mind. He couldn’t get her pure, uninhibited response to him out of his system.

Her eyes had been filled with such hunger. The long swath of pretty fire-reddened hair cascading around her. Her pale flesh flushed with her need, and those perfect breasts. Those sweet, firm mounds had risen to him, the pale innocently pinkened nipples tight and hard, and responsive to his touch.

Taking her would be like immersing himself in fire. He could see it, feel it.

Iron hard and throbbing in fury at his refusal to take her, his cock had swelled to painful readiness, his balls drawn tight and painful. He couldn’t remember ever having ached with such desperation for a woman’s touch, or needing to touch one as he needed to touch Paige.

“Have you fucking lost your mind, Abram?” Khalid rasped behind him, his voice hoarse with fury.

“Evidently.” Abram turned to him, careful to keep his expression composed, without emotion. “I won’t be berated like a child, Khalid. You’ve known for years the desire that burns between us. You should have only been surprised it took this long to risk my control.”

He inhaled slowly, evenly. Paige hadn’t just risked his control, she had fucking destroyed it.

Yet, he couldn’t blame his brother for his anger either. Paige was Khalid’s little sister; a treasured child that none in her family could see had been a woman for a good many years now.

“This is ridiculous,” Khalid snapped. “You have enough women, Abram. Stay the hell away from Paige.”

Abram glanced at Marty and allowed a somber smile to touch his lips. He well remembered the years Khalid had been tortured and tempted by this woman. The nights his brother had spent simply talking about the delicate little FBI agent trailing him.

“Marty and I are an entirely different matterght="0em"D; Khalid growled as he followed his brother’s look. “Marty isn’t related to me by blood.”

To that Abram simply had to laugh. “And what blood do I share with Paige, Khalid?” he questioned him. “She is the daughter of your mother, while I am the son of your father. Where do you believe we share blood?”

Khalid could be amazingly stubborn, and attempted to arrange reality to suit him rather than arranging himself to suit reality. It was a fault of his, and one Abram had learned over the years to ignore. Because no matter how Khalid tried, he had yet to force the winds of fate to turn to his hand.

“Both of you need to stop arguing over this. Your main audience has left, so there’s no longer anyone to impress or posture to.” Marty shot them both a disgusted look. She was definitely a woman that believed in speaking her mind.

And she was right. In ways, they had been playing to a perfect audience for years. But as Abram realized now, Paige rarely stayed to listen to the arguments or paid any attention to the undercurrents of tension that existed between himself and Khalid whenever she was around.

Paige had grown tired of the game, though he and Khalid still played it. It gave Abram something to focus on rather than his desire for Paige during those odd times when he could no longer avoid her.

Abram finally sighed wearily. “I didn’t come here to lose my control with Paige, or to argue with you,” he told his brother. “I’m returning in a few hours for Saudi.”

The shock was palpable. Marty’s gaze widened and Khalid’s expression suddenly turned icy. He understood the quick anger, the disbelief. They had planned his move from Saudi Arabia for years. To have Abram back out now, at the last moment so to speak, was little more than an insult.

“You only just arrived,” Khalid finally stated. “You’re not giving Immigration enough time to examine your mother’s birth records as well as your own. Give it time.”

Abram gave his head a quick shake. “There is something I must do first, Khalid.”

He had known his brother would never understand this move he was being forced to make.

“And what the fuck could be more important than your life?” Khalid suddenly snarled, the fury cracking past the ice. “Azir Mustafa will never let you live now. Goddammit, Abram, we just killed two of his sons. The black-hearted little bastards he risked everything to protect over the years.”

“Abram, my father is certain that your citizenship will be accepted within days,” Marty stated from her fiancé’s side. “There’s no question of it. But if you return, there’s nothing he can do.”

He shook his head quickly, tightly. “I have to go back.”

“Why, damned you?!” Khalid yelled back at him furiously as rage lit his black gaze once again.

“Because Paige’s picture was found in the possession of a dead terrorist known to be a part of the cell Ayid and Aman commanded, just hours ago as he attempted to board a plane in Jordan. Your suspicions were right. She’s in danger. And I’m going back to stop it, Khalid, one way or another. I’ve already lost two wives to those bastards. I won’t lose my soul to their ghosts.”

Paige. His soul. He’d lost his youth and his heart when his first wife, Lessa had been murdered. His second wife had been forced on him, and losing her and their child had taken the last bit of hope inside him. Their deaths had nearly finished him off. The thought of that innocent life, not yet born, taken so cruelly, had nearly cost him his sanity.

That child had been his daughter. The daughter he had planned to secretly smuggle out of Saudi Arabia after her birth and send to his brother’s parents. Pavlos and Marilyn Galbraithe would have raised and protected his child as they had their own precious daughter.