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Грэхем Линн

Desert Prince, Bride of Innocence

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THE next morning, while Elinor showered, she turned clammy with horror when she recalled her dialogue with Prince Jasim. Alcohol had made an idiot of her! She should have been more careful about how much she’d drunk. But then it was six months since she had even tasted alcohol, she thought, biting anxiously at her lower lip. Furthermore she had been resentful about the fact that she couldn’t just have a couple of days off when she asked for them and a taste of youthful freedom.

But not so resentful that she wanted to lose her very well-paid job, she reflected worriedly, a job, moreover, which would add solid-gold appeal to her CV when she went off in pursuit of her next position. No, the very last thing she needed now was to get sacked for being cheeky to a prince! She hadn’t even called him ‘sir’ when she’d addressed him and she bit back a moan at the recollection. She was usually so sensible and polite. Why hadn’t she kept her tongue between her teeth? The truth was that she had been in a bad mood and the unhappy combination of his undeniable good looks and fanciability, followed by his cutting criticism, had proved the proverbial last straw. She already knew from hearing Prince Murad erupt when the smallest thing annoyed him that royal egos were eggshell thin and super-sensitive and royal tempers quick to ignite. Prince Jasim would never forgive her for being rude to him and he was certain to complain to his brother.

It was a Saturday and Zahrah had a riding lesson. While her charge was being taught, Elinor usually went riding as well since she was an accomplished horsewoman and the stables contained an enviable selection of mounts. She pulled on her shabby navy breeches, a lemon T-shirt and finally her boots. She was about to leave her bedroom when a knock sounded on the door. She opened it and was startled when a big basket of beautifully arranged flowers was presented to her by one of the manservants.

At first Elinor couldn’t believe the magnificent flowers were for her and she drank in the heady scent of the glorious pink roses with a blissful sigh before she detached the card envelope and opened it.

‘Happy belated birthday wishes and my apologies,


Elinor was stunned. He was apologising to her? He was even wishing her a happy birthday and giving her flowers? Her jaw was ready to crash to the floor in disbelief. She summoned up a misty image of him. As well as being more beautiful than any man had the right to be, Prince Jasim had impressed her as being arrogant, autocratic and very proud. He definitely hadn’t struck her as being the apologising type. In fact she had seen him more as the sort of guy who always had the last word and a disparaging one at that.

But obviously first impressions had been kind to neither of them the night before. It was the first time a man had given Elinor flowers and she was hopelessly impressed and pleased by the gesture because she really had had a lousy, disappointing birthday. Zahrah raced into the room. Bubbling with life, the four-year-old was a pretty child with a mop of silky dark curls and sparkling brown eyes.

‘Morning, Elinor!’ Zahrah carolled, giving her an affectionate hug. ‘Are you coming for breakfast now?’

They went downstairs and Elinor was about to head for the small dining room where she usually ate with the child when Ahmed, the major domo of the household, intercepted her. Zahrah acted as translator and informed Elinor that they were having breakfast with her Uncle Jasim today. They were ushered into the massive formal dining room.

Zahrah let out a yelp of excitement and bowled down the room to throw herself into Jasim’s arms. It gave Elinor a minute to compose herself as Jasim, having thrown down his newspaper, rose from the table to greet their arrival. In the full light flooding through the tall windows, his bronzed aristocratic face was startlingly handsome and once again she discovered that she found it virtually impossible to look away from him. He dominated the room with his powerful presence and she was hooked afresh by a fevered compulsion to study those lean classic features, still driven to try and work out what it was about them that repeatedly drew her attention. Her heart was already pounding, making it hard for her to breathe levelly. Then he smiled down at the child in his arms and the high-voltage force of his charismatic attraction hit her like a rod of lightning striking the ground.

‘Miss Tempest…’he murmured lazily as he swung out a chair beside his own. Clad in tailored riding gear, he looked outrageously elegant and sophisticated. ‘Please join us.’

Elinor had to force herself to walk down the length of the table to join him in a seat a good deal closer than she would have chosen for herself. She was flustered. Butterflies were fluttering in her tummy and she didn’t know what to do with her hands any more. She felt ridiculously like a schoolgirl, self-conscious and silly and awkward, all at the same time. ‘Thank you for the flowers. You were very generous,’ she muttered in a rush, keen to get the acknowledgement out of the way while Zahrah was busy chattering to Ahmed about her favourite cereal.

The brilliant ebony eyes screened by dense black lashes rested on her and she honestly thought her heart might stop beating altogether. ‘It was nothing.’

‘I owe you an apology…I was rude,’ she framed.

‘A novel experience for me,’ the prince purred like a sleek panther being stroked.

For a split second Elinor wanted to slap him rather than stroke him for not giving a more gracious response to her attempt to make amends. ‘Nobody ever answers you back? Or quarrels with you?’ she heard herself query.

‘Nobody,’ Jasim confirmed as if that was a perfectly normal state of affairs. He watched her glance up at him from below her feathery lashes, a delicate flush of colour on her cheeks, and thought what a class act she was putting on for his benefit. He could hardly credit that it was the same woman, for no hint of the strident, argumentative redhead he had met the night before was on show. Everything about her this morning from her show of apparent unease to her soft tone of voice and her girlish reluctance to meet his eyes shouted the kind of shy uncertainty and sexual innocence that was most likely to ensnare an older man. No wonder his brother was upsetting his wife over the scheming little slut, he reflected grimly. The act didn’t work quite so well on Jasim. But then he was rather more sophisticated than Murad and better attuned to the liberal sexual mores of Elinor Tempest’s age group. As Yaminah had doubtless intended when she invited Jasim for a weekend while she and his brother were elsewhere, Jasim intended to make full and immediate use of the clear field she had given him.

‘More coffee?’ Jasim snapped long brown fingers with a natural assumption of command that seemed to come as instinctively as breathing to him. On immediate alert, a servant surged forward with alacrity to refresh the coffee cups. Zahrah had been inclined to treat Elinor the same way, until Elinor had taught the little girl otherwise. Even so, Elinor had daily exposure to the reality that members of the Quarami royal family were one step down from Divinity in the eyes of those who waited on them.

‘Tell me why your birthday was horrible,’ Jasim instructed silkily, studying her with those stunning dark eyes and relaxing back into his chair with the confident air of a male awaiting the commencement of the entertainment.

A pulse beating somewhere at the base of her throat and her nerves reacting like jumping beans, Elinor had grown very tense. ‘That wouldn’t be appropriate, sir’

The dense black lashes lifted over frowning deep golden eyes. ‘I decide what is appropriate,’ he told her in immediate contradiction. ‘Talk.’

For an instant Elinor was astonished by that imperious command delivered with the absolute expectation of a male accustomed to instant obedience. It was a relief when Zahrah stole the moment with her nonsensical chatter.

‘You can explain later.’ Jasim delivered the reprieve over his niece’s downbent head. ‘I’m coming down to the stables with you and Zahrah.’

The prospect unnerved Elinor and she looked up at him again and froze at the hungry light in his measuring gaze before hurriedly glancing down at her coffee again. Shock decimated her appetite for her toast, while her tummy performed an enervating series of little somersaults. His close scrutiny might suggest that he found her attractive, but she could not believe that a prince could have developed a personal interest in her and scolded herself for letting her imagination take flight. Perhaps he was more like his kindly brother than she had appreciated and was simply keen to smooth over the unpleasantness of their first encounter.

Ahmed secured Zahrah in a child’s seat in the back of a glossy black Range Rover. Elinor climbed into the passenger seat and watched Jasim stroll round the bonnet. Even with his black hair tousled by the breeze he was as strikingly sleek and beautiful as a bronzed angel. She met his eyes through the windscreen and suddenly she was wildly, hopelessly aware of her own body. Her full breasts felt constrained inside her bra and an odd little clenching sensation low in her pelvis made her shift uneasily in her seat. She was shocked, for she hadn’t realised that being drawn to a man could be such a physical experience, that her body could feel as if it were all revved up for a race. Mortified colour mantled her cheeks. A lean brown long-fingered hand as wondrously well-proportioned as the rest of him depressed the handbrake and the engine fired.

‘Are you fond of horses?’ Jasim enquired.

‘I’ve been mad about them since I was a kid,’ Elinor confessed with a rueful laugh. ‘I started riding lessons at the same age as Zahrah. A neighbour kept stables and I used to go there and help out after school.’

‘Have you ever had a horse of your own?’

Elinor tensed and her face fell. ‘Yes, from the age of nine to fourteen. My father sold her then. He thought the time I spent with Starlight was interfering with my studies—’

‘You must’ve been upset.’

‘I was devastated.’ Elinor folded her lips, unable to find adequate words to explain just how shattering a blow that sudden loss had been to her. Her father had not even warned her of his intentions and she had not got the chance to say goodbye to the horse she’d loved. Starlight had also been her last link with her late mother and her only real friend, the one element in her wretchedly unhappy teen years that had kept her going through thick and thin. ‘But she was still a young horse and I’m sure she went to some other girl to be absolutely adored all over again.’

‘It sounds as though your father was very strict,’ Jasim remarked, keen to extract more information from her. He was not at all surprised that the very first thing she should tell him should be a sob story guaranteed to paint her in a sympathetic light.

‘Too strict.

After that, I wasn’t allowed any interests at all outside school. It was a relief to leave home,’ Elinor admitted ruefully, thinking of the release of no longer having to live daily with constant wounding criticism and reproaches for her unacceptable exam results. Although greater maturity had enabled her to appreciate that she had simply been an average student rather than a completely stupid one, her father had made her feel like a hopeless failure at the tender age of sixteen years and her self-esteem had still to recover from his abrasive style of parenting.

Jasim’s sculpted sensual mouth tightened as once again she confirmed his suspicions about her true nature. He recalled the widening invitation of her expressive and artful eyes as she met his gaze, the revealingly taut points of her nipples that were currently showing through her T-shirt. She was certainly very responsive and he found her inability to conceal her reaction to him very, very sexy.

A decent parent, however, would naturally have sought to impose restrictions on so free-spirited a daughter, he reasoned, expecting to feel disgusted at the mounting proof of her probable promiscuity. Instead he tensed at the heavy arousal stirring at his groin and cursed the ready sexual heat that afflicted him in Elinor Tempest’s company. Only sexual satisfaction would take care of that problem and he had no intention of practising patience, nor even the suspicion that patience would prove necessary. Mindful of his niece’s presence, he concentrated on not thinking about how thoroughly Elinor would be persuaded to ease the demands of his high-voltage sex drive.

‘I’ll give you a tour of the stud farm,’ Jasim drawled.

As they were early for Zahrah’s lesson, Elinor made no protest and indeed her interest quickened at the prospect of a special viewing in the owner’s company, because although she often visited the stables to ride she had stayed away from the stud. It was a large impressive operation housed in immaculately maintained buildings, complete with all-weather gallops and paddocks, and it was heavily staffed. The manager hurried out of the office to greet Jasim. The resident vet and other senior staff soon joined them. Keen though she was on horses, the dialogue soon ranged beyond Elinor’s knowledge with talk of racing prospects and recent wins on the turf. Some way through it, she left to check that Zahrah’s horse was saddled up. The little girl’s instructor arrived soon afterwards.

‘Will you be taking Amaranth out?’ the groom asked Elinor then.

‘Yes, please.’ A huge smile on her face, Elinor went to greet the big brown gelding impatiently shifting in his box as he recognised the sound of her voice. She petted him and led him out. It had taken a month of regular visits for the head groom to trust her with the more lively mounts. The freedom to ride pretty much whenever she liked and without cost was yet another good reason why she wanted to hang on to her job.

In the midst of trying to disengage from his staff, Jasim saw her ride out and his ebony brows shot up. ‘You let the nanny ride Amaranth?’ he demanded in a tone of censure.

‘Elinor is well able to control him, Your Highness,’ the head groom responded. ‘She’s a terrific rider.’

At that moment Jasim received the perfect opportunity to see that truth for himself as she spurred the spirited gelding towards a fence, soaring over it with a grace and ease that impressed even him.

Elinor heard the thump of pursuing hooves and turned her head. On the back of his powerful black stallion, Mercury, Jasim was catching up on her fast. Her chin came up and she urged Amaranth on in a flat-out race across the lush rolling acres of parkland that made Woodrow Court such a paradise for a horse lover.

Jasim was stunned that she had the nerve to challenge him, for he had expected her to come to a halt and wait for him. He rarely rode in female company because women tended to cling to him like superglue and chatter and flirt continually, behaviour that interfered with his relaxation. In comparison, Elinor gave him the opportunity to chase her and he appreciated that her control of her mount and her skill were worthy of his respect.

Amaranth ran out of steam by the lake and Elinor reined him in and dismounted below some trees. Jasim was talking on a cell phone as he rode up on Mercury. He slid down to the ground with effortless grace and watched her remove her riding cap, releasing the piled up mass of her hair in a silken tangle of luxuriance and stretching in a movement that delineated every curve and ensured that her generous little breasts strained beneath her T-shirt. Although he was convinced it was a deliberate move to attract his attention to her body, that cheap little trick still worked on him. Indeed desire knifed through him, making him hot and hard within seconds. Conscious of the reality that the breeches would conceal nothing, he peeled off his cap and strode over to the edge of the lake, willing the tumult of his rampant hormones back under control. He was furious and knocked off balance by a loss of self-discipline that he had not experienced since the years of adolescence.

Elinor looked across the lake and rejoiced in the early summer lushness and the natural beauty of her surroundings. Although she sometimes felt isolated at Woodrow, she had no desire to exchange the countryside and the sense of well-being it gave her for the noise and buzz of the city.

‘You’re an excellent rider,’ Jasim murmured levelly.

Helpless amusement sparkled in her green eyes as she sensed that she had irritated him. ‘You’d have beaten me hollow on Mercury if I hadn’t had such a head start.’

His keen attention was welded to her. He wasn’t used to being teased and he was so bone-deep competitive that he was accustomed to coming first in every field of his busy life. Even his best friend could not have called him a good loser. Yet confronted by the captivating mixture of mischief and artless innocence that momentarily shone in her smile, his exasperation vanished. He was seeing, he told himself harshly, what his brother had to see in her. Even though it was undoubtedly a fake front put on to attract, it was also indisputably effective when a guy as cynical as he was about women started questioning his view of her.

Her skin warming below the intensity of his stare, Elinor drank in the fresh air and decided that being alone with Jasim in such circumstances was likely to cause the kind of talk that would only damage her standing in an old-fashioned household. ‘I’d better get back. Zahrah’s lesson will be over soon.’

‘Her nurse is coming down from the house to collect her. I’ve ordered refreshments for us…ah, there they are now.’

Her lower lip had fallen away from the upper as she turned to follow his gaze and saw an estate Land Rover trundling towards them across the grass. ‘You ordered refreshments for us…to be served out here?’

His satiric sable brows pleated. ‘Why not?’

His disregard of the obvious was superb and he managed to magnify her awareness of the huge inequality between them. She was also taken aback that he should re-organise her day by calling in her charge’s nurse to take care of her when she herself could perfectly have done so. After all, looking after Zahrah was her job. But her surprise had been replaced by pure amazement at his casual announcement that refreshments were to be served in the middle of the park at his request. He saw nothing strange in the indulgence, she realised, for, like his royal brother, expecting immediate fulfilment of his every command was as normal to Jasim as disappointment and compromise were to her.

Staff emerged from the vehicle at the double and an array of hot and cold drinks, china, glasses and snacks were laid out while an exquisite wool rug was spread across the grass. Elinor, who had dimly expected a picnic-style metal mug to be thrust into her hand, was nonplussed once again. Jasim drank only water. She watched his sensationally attractive face hollow as he drank and swallowed, noticed how the sunlight glimmered across his hard bronzed cheekbones and reflected off black hair that the breeze had ruffled into faint curls. Her throat felt tight. Seated on the rug while he lounged back against the tree with the pure animal fluidity that distinguished his every move, she sipped awkwardly at her coffee in its elegant china cup.

‘Now you can tell me why your birthday was a disappointment,’ Jasim decreed.

‘I hoped you would forget about that comment,’ Elinor confided.

Jasim flashed her a mocking smile that tilted her heart on its axis and made her feel so warm that she was momentarily afraid that she might spontaneously combust. Unable to take her eyes off him, she explained about the nightclub tickets, while wondering why his handsome bone structure seemed to tighten when she praised his brother’s kindness.

‘Murad is a very generous employer.’ Her admission was yet another nail in her coffin as far as Jasim was concerned, as he saw in it good reason for Yaminah’s concern. He could not credit that such favouritism could be innocent, or that its recipient had not deliberately flirted and coaxed her way into his brother’s notice and regard. He even understood why Murad had put a family limo at her disposal. His brother had naturally wished to ensure that she came back to Woodrow at the end of the evening.

‘Yes, but I’m not that fussed about nightclubs,’ Elinor admitted. ‘I never meet anyone anyway, I’m far too tall for most men—’

‘But exactly the right height for me,’ Jasim inserted softly, his dark accented drawl roughening the vowel sounds in a way that sent a responsive quiver down her taut spinal cord.

Perturbed by that personal comment, Elinor reddened. ‘Well, I find being this tall an embarrassment.’

Jasim stretched down a hand. ‘Stand up. Let me see you.’

Setting down her cup with a noisy rattle that betrayed her confusion, Elinor clasped his hand and he levered her upright. For a long timeless moment eyes as dark as liquid oil, richly enhanced by inky, spiky lashes of inordinate length, inspected her hectically flushed face. She leant her hips back against the tree trunk for support because her knees felt wobbly.

‘You have fabulous long legs,’ Jasim murmured, lean fingers brushing curling strands of rich red hair back from her brow. ‘Glorious hair and a mouth that is a temptation to any red-blooded man.’ His attention dropped in emphasis to the generous swell of her lips and so caught up was she in the power of the moment that she trembled. ‘From the first instant I saw you I wanted to kiss you—’

‘You were furious with me,’ she contradicted, even though she was locked to the allure of his gorgeous eyes.

‘It didn’t stop me wondering what you would taste like.’ Jasim was so close that she could barely breathe until he finally lowered his proud dark head to satisfy his curiosity.

It was a good few months since Elinor had been kissed. But never, ever had she been kissed as Jasim bin Hamid al Rais kissed her. His sheer passion blew her away. His tongue delved and dipped between her readily parted lips with sensual skill and explicit eroticism. A slow, almost painfully sweet ache awakened between her slender thighs and a slight gasp escaped her. Her nipples pinched into taut tingling buds that pushed painfully against the scratchy lace cups of her bra. Her hands clutched his shoulders to keep her upright. He rocked against her and she felt the raw urgency of his arousal and exulted in his response to her with an earthiness that startled her. All of a sudden she was finding out what it was to really want a man, and the strength of that longing shook her back into an awareness of what she was doing.

Almost the instant she reclaimed her sanity, she pulled away from him, turning to hide her face, shaking hands flying up to rake her hair out of her eyes and brush her swollen tingling mouth as if she still could not credit what she had felt. ‘Sorry, this isn’t right,’ she muttered unevenly.

Jasim went from surprise at the apparent rejection to bleak amusement at what he saw as a clever ploy by an experienced woman. There was nothing more tantalising to a man than a brief taste of forbidden fruit followed by a maidenly show of reluctance. He too preferred the thrill of the chase to an easy surrender, but the urgency of his arousal had almost persuaded him to forget the game of sexual entrapment he was engaged in playing.

‘How is it wrong?’

‘I work for your family…we’re worlds apart. How many reasons do you need?’ she retorted in a surge of grudging candour, for the last thing she wanted to do just then was make it easier for him to walk away from her.

Jasim decided to give her what he knew she must want—the encouragement to ditch her designs on his brother and concentrate on him instead. He went in for the kill with words that were the virtual antithesis of his usual cool, uncommitted approach to her sex. ‘I find you incredibly attractive and I am not a snob. My great-great-grandfather was a poor but proud man when he took the throne of Quaram. I have known many women but I have never felt like this before. We must explore what is between us.’

Her troubled green eyes switched back to him and clung to his lean dark features. She craved that visual contact and wanted to trust in what he had said, but at the same time she was terrified of getting hurt as her mother had been in a fairy-tale romance that had swiftly crumbled and led to a lifetime of unhappy comparisons and regret.

‘I don’t think your brother would approve and I value my job,’ Elinor framed uncertainly.

His shrewd dark-as-charcoal eyes glinted as he received what he deemed to be her most honest answer yet. Which brother was she to place her trust in? After all, she wouldn’t want to fall between the proverbial two stools and end up with neither man in tow. He reached down and closed his hands firmly over hers. ‘I promise you—you will come to no harm with me.’

And that heartening vow reverberated through Elinor while Jasim made easy conversation about horses on the ride back to the stables. Nothing but trouble could come from an ordinary person trifling with royalty, she told herself fiercely, but she could still taste him on her lips and she couldn’t help reliving the heady excitement of that stolen embrace. Zahrah was already with her nurse when Elinor reappeared and she saw the older woman note in surprise that Jasim was with her and stare. She wondered if her mouth was as swollen as it felt and she flushed brick red with discomfiture. He insisted that she travel back to the house with him, another mark of conspicuous favour that embarrassed her.

That afternoon, Elinor clung to her usual schedule and took Zahrah out shopping and then on to a newly released children’s film showing at the local cinema. As was usual on a Saturday, they ate a light supper in the nursery. She gave Zahrah her bath and tucked the little girl into bed afterwards with a fond hug. Too enervated to settle for an evening by the television, she put on her swimsuit, donned a towelling robe and headed downstairs to the indoor swimming pool. When Zahrah’s parents were in residence she didn’t like to use the facility unless she had Zahrah with her, but with the couple away she felt there was no harm in doing so. The pool complex was huge and spectacular, complete with a stunning waterfall and underwater jets, and a spa to one side of it.

Emerging from the lift, Jasim was impressed when he saw that Elinor was already waiting in the water for him. This was not a girl who let moss grow over an opportunity, or who was prepared to run the risk of a man losing interest from lack of exposure to her available charms. He watched her slide from the bubbling spa into the main pool, giving him a ravishing display of her slender but curvaceous body sheathed in tight purple stretchy fabric that left little to the imagination. The ripe swell of her firm little breasts and the heart-shaped femininity of her derriere were wonderfully visible and would have awakened any man’s appreciation. But Jasim resented the powerful pull she exerted over him and thought that the look of surprise and self-consciousness she then assumed at first glimpse of him was an award-winning effort. What an actress she was! How many other men had she practised her wiles on? Nobody knew better than Jasim that once a woman got a man weak with lust, she could convince him of virtually anything. Bitterness assailed him as he recalled his own past.

Elinor didn’t feel right staying in the pool when Jasim was in it as well. After all, it was his house and his pool and she couldn’t help worrying that the other staff would think she was throwing herself at their prince if they saw her there, daring to share the same water as royalty. She climbed out and pulled on her towelling robe.

Jasim swam over to the side and heaved himself out. Water streaming in rivulets from the taut contours of his lean bronzed body, he approached her and lifted a towel. ‘Why are you leaving?’

‘I just think it’s wiser,’ Elinor mumbled tautly, trying not to let her attention linger anywhere it shouldn’t while he towelled himself dry. She was grateful that he favoured loose shorts rather than body-hugging briefs.

Dark golden eyes smouldered over her and lingered on her pouting mouth. ‘For whom? You want me too. Don’t deny that this feeling is mutual.’

The very boldness of that statement struck hot colour into her face. She tied the sash on the robe with clumsy hands. He spoke with such terrifying confidence, and even though it scared her, his complete assurance drew her like a bonfire on an icy day. ‘But it’s not enough,’ she protested, still trying to get a grip on a situation that felt as though it were flying fast out of her control.

Jasim closed his hands round her narrow wrists and drew her firmly to him. ‘This is only the beginning…’

And she fell into the depths of the hot, hungry kiss that followed like a novice swimmer with a suicide wish as she sank deeper and deeper out of her depth. One feverish kiss led hotly into the next. He crushed her mouth with devastating urgency and her excitement rose and rose until she was shaking and shivering against him, her body on fire with her craving for more.

‘This is not the place for this, but you are irresistible,’ he breathed thickly against her reddened lips. Bending, he scooped her off her feet and carried her into the lift.

She had never been in the lift before, for it travelled only to the master bedroom to facilitate the early-morning swims that the owner of the house apparently enjoyed. He set her down beside the giant divan bed and pushed the loosened robe off her slim shoulders so that it fell in a heap round her bare feet. She looked up at him with sensually stunned eyes, the swollen contours of her strawberry-pink mouth like a magnet reeling him back down to her again.

‘We can’t do this!’ she exclaimed, pushed to the edge of panic by the intimacy of the bedroom. She thought she had been very naïve in failing to appreciate that he might expect her to go to bed with him without further ado.

He tugged her hand down to the front of his wet shorts where the fabric was moulded to the massive width and length of his erection. ‘Please…I won’t be able to sleep for wanting you.’

And Elinor could have withstood almost any other response but, even as he plunged her into agonies of self-conscious embarrassment, that roughened sensual appeal thrilled her to the core of her being and touched her to the heart. When had any man ever wanted her like that? When had she ever contrived to rouse such a storm of desire? Far more often than she cared to recall she had been made to feel freakishly tall and unfeminine. Meeting his smouldering dark golden eyes, she rejoiced in his need for her and suppressed the voice of reason urging caution and restraint at the back of her mind. Hadn’t she always been sensible and controlled? Was there any real harm in taking a risk for once? Especially when she was falling for him like a ton of bricks: she affixed to that last thought, eager to be daring and worthy of such a passion as his. This might well be the only time in her life when a man called her ‘irresistible’…


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