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Magnates: Desert Prince, Bride of Innocence

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«Magnates: Desert Prince, Bride of Innocence» - Линн Грэхем

Three fabulously rich, handsome and ruthless men…Three ordinary girls…Desert prince Jasim bin Hamid al Rais ruthlessly seduced his brother’s child’s nanny! Only afterwards did Jasim discover Elinor really was a naive beauty! Pregnant with his royal baby, Elinor must become Jasim’s bride.Sergei Antonovich, a Russian billionaire, was famous for dating stunning supermodels. But not one was bride material. Sergei saw marriage as a business – without emotion, he sought a wife to bed, wed, get pregnant…and then discard…Lindy was amazed when shipping tycoon Atreus Drakos seemed enchanted by her curves and made passionate love to her. Lindy came down to earth when Atreus revealed she was just his weekend mistress. But she was carrying Atreus’s baby!
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About the Author


Desert Prince, Bride of Innocence

Ruthless Magnate, Convenient Wife

Greek Tycoon, Inexperienced Mistress

Lynne Graham

About the Author

LYNNE GRAHAM was born in Northern Ireland and has been a keen Mills & Boon® reader since her teens. She is very happily married, with an understanding husband who has learned to cook since she started to write! Her five children keep her on her toes. She has a very large dog, which knocks everything over, a very small terrier, which barks a lot, and two cats. When time allows, Lynne is a keen gardener.

Look out for Lynne Graham’s latest exciting new trilogy, available from March to May in Mills & Boon® Modern.

Desert Prince, Bride of Innocence

Lynne Graham


HIS royal highness, Prince Jasim bin Hamid al Rais, frowned when his aide told him that his brother’s wife was waiting to see him. ‘You should have told me that the Princess was here. My family always have first call on my time,’ he admonished.

Jasim was renowned in financial circles for the astute speed and strategy he utilised in the pursuit of profit in the Rais international business empire, and his employees had a healthy respect for their chairman. He was a tough employer who set high standards and accepted nothing less than excellence. His natural survival skills were honed to a fine cutting edge by a challenging family and palace politics. He was a tall, powerfully built man in his early thirties and he was possessed of a degree of dark, devastating good looks and potent masculinity that women found irresistible.

His French-born sister-in-law, Yaminah, was a small, rather homely brunette with a strained set to her rounded face that warned him that she was struggling to control her emotions. Jasim greeted the older woman with warmth and concern. To see her he was keeping a government minister waiting, but his smooth sophistication was more than equal to the task of hiding that fact and he ordered refreshments and asked her to sit down as if time were of no object.

‘Are you comfortable at Woodrow Court?’ His elder brother, Crown Prince Murad, and his family were currently using Jasim’s country house in Kent while they had a brand new English property built to order nearby.

‘Oh, yes. It’s a wonderful house and we are being very well looked after,’ Yaminah rushed to assure him. ‘But we never meant to put you out of your own home, Jasim. Won’t you come down this weekend?’

‘Of course, if you would like me to but, believe me, I am very comfortable in my town house. It is not a sacrifice to stay in the city,’ Jasim responded. ‘But that is not why you are here to see me, is it? I believe something may be troubling you?’

Yaminah compressed her lips, her anxious brown gaze suddenly flooding with tears. With an exclamation of embarrassment and a choked apology, she drew out a tissue and mopped at her overflowing eyes. ‘I shouldn’t be bothering you with this, Jasim—’

Jasim sat down in the sofa opposite her in an effort to make the older woman feel more at ease. ‘You have never bothered me in your life,’ he reproved her. ‘Why are you worrying about such a thing?’

Yaminah breathed in slow and deep. ‘It’s … it’s our nanny.’

His dark brows drew together in a satiric quirk that questioned her tragic tone of voice. ‘If the nanny my staff engaged to take care of my niece is not to your liking, sack her.’

‘If only it were so simple …’ Yaminah sighed, shredding the tissue between her restless hands and staring down at it. ‘She is an excellent nanny and Zahrah is very fond of her. I’m afraid that the problem is … Murad.’

Jasim immediately became very still. His self-discipline was absolute and his lean, strong face betrayed nothing of his exasperation. His brother had always been a womaniser and his lifestyle had got him into trouble more than once. Such a weakness was a dangerous flaw in the future ruler of a small oil-rich and very conservative country like Quaram. Even worse, if Murad was targeting a member of his household right beneath his loyal and loving wife’s nose his behaviour had reached a new inexcusable low in his brother’s opinion.

‘I cannot sack the girl. It would infuriate Murad if I was to interfere. At present I believe it is only a flirtation but she is a very beautiful girl, Jasim,’ his sister-in-law murmured shakily. ‘If she leaves our employ it will only drive the affair out into the open and, you know, Murad really cannot afford to be involved in another scandal.’

‘I agree. The King has no patience left with him.’ His handsome mouth settling into a grim line, Jasim wondered in angry frustration if his parent’s weak heart would even withstand the stress of another upsetting outbreak of bad publicity and scurrilous gossip about his firstborn’s morals.

Would his elder brother ever learn sense and restraint? Why could he never put the needs of his family first? The older man seemed unable to withstand temptation and, this time around, Jasim felt unnervingly responsible. After all, his people had hired the wretched nanny! Why hadn’t it occurred to him to order an embargo on appointing a young and beautiful woman?

His brother’s wife studied him anxiously. ‘Will you help me, Jasim?’

Jasim dealt her a wry look. ‘Murad will not accept advice from me.’

‘He is too stubborn to take advice from anyone, but you could help me,’ Yaminah told him urgently.

Jasim frowned, believing that she overestimated his influence with his brother. Murad had not been the heir to the throne of Quaram for over fifty years without acquiring a healthy sense of his own importance. While Jasim was very fond of the older man, he knew his brother was equally fond of getting his own way, even if doing so meant trampling on other people. ‘In what way might I help?’

Yaminah worried at her lower lip with her teeth. ‘If you were prepared to show an interest in her yourself, the problem would disappear,’ she declared in a sudden burst of enthusiasm. ‘You’re young and single and Murad is middle-aged and married. There can be no comparison and the girl is certain to turn her attention to you instead—’

Distaste at such a suggestion slivering through his lean, well-built frame and cooling his eyes to the darkness of a wintry night, Jasim raised his hands in a gesture that urged restraint and calm. ‘Yaminah, please be sensible—’

‘I am being sensible. Furthermore, if Murad thought you had a fancy for the girl, I’m convinced that he would step back,’ Yaminah asserted doggedly. ‘He has often said how much he wishes you would meet a woman—’

‘But not one on whom he has set his heart,’ Jasim was moved to insert drily.

‘No, you are wrong. Since that … er … unpleasant business with that Englishwoman you were with a few years ago, Murad has been sincerely troubled by the fact that you are still unmarried. He mentioned it only yesterday, and if he believed that you were interested in Elinor Tempest he would leave her alone!’ the older woman forecast with a vehemence that betrayed how desperate she was to win him round to her state of thinking.

His lean, strong face clenching, Jasim was tense. Indeed his bronzed skin had paled across his hard cheekbones, for the episode in his life that she was referring to was one he preferred not to recall. When the tabloid press had exposed the sleazy past of the woman he had planned to marry three years earlier, Jasim had experienced a degree of rage and humiliation over his own lack of judgement that he was in no way eager to recall. Ever since he had remained resolutely single and he now chose women only to warm his bed and entertain him. Lower expectations had led to much greater satisfaction, he acknowledged inwardly.

Although he had immediately discounted Yaminah’s dramatic request for his assistance, however, he remained troubled enough by her visit to want more information about the woman who was the cause of her distress. He instructed his aide to check out the nanny by questioning the staff who had hired her. The initial facts he received later that same morning were disturbing enough to fix his ebony brows into a brooding frown. He studied the small photo of Elinor Tempest: she had long hair that was a particularly vibrant shade of red, a creamy English rose complexion and exotic green eyes. Certainly, even though Jasim had never found that strange colour of hair attractive, his brother’s nanny was at the very least unusual and strikingly pretty.

Worryingly, however, Elinor Tempest had not won an interview for her job by appearing on the select list of trusted nannies advanced by the employment agency engaged for the purpose. Indeed, it was unlikely that the girl would ever have made it on her own merits as she was only twenty years old and had had little work experience. Evidently, Murad had personally put forward the girl’s name and insisted that she be interviewed. That startling fact put his brother’s relationship with the young woman onto an altogether more questionable level. Jasim was taken aback and angered by what he was finding out. How could Murad set up such a situation beneath his own roof? And what sort of young woman accepted a position from a libidinous married man and encouraged his advances? Was Yaminah wrong? Was Murad already sexually involved with his daughter’s nanny?

Repugnance engulfed Jasim. His strong principles revolted against such a sordid association in the vicinity of his innocent sister-in-law and niece. He had already learnt to his own cost that the royal status and oil wealth of the Rais family made both him and his brother targets for the most unscrupulous gold-diggers, eager to use their guile and their seductive bodies to enrich themselves. Murad had already suffered several blackmail attempts that had required police intervention. Yet, once again, his brother was recklessly running the risk of an explosive scandal, whose aftershocks would reverberate all the way home to Quaram and rock the very foundation of the monarchy.

There and then, Jasim reached a cool and snappy decision. When a crisis arose he liked to deal with it quickly. His firmly modelled lips compressed, he lifted his dark imperious head high. He would spend the weekend at Woodrow Court and size up the situation. One way or another, he would rid Yaminah’s household of this calculating little slut who was threatening everything that he held dear …

‘My word, what came over you?’ As Louise took in Elinor’s fashionable appearance her pale blue eyes rounded with surprise below her brown fringe. ‘You usually dress like somebody’s granny!’

Elinor winced at that blunt condemnation, her bright green eyes veiling. She supposed her lifelong reluctance to be bold in the fashion stakes dated back to her father’s poisonous attacks on any garment that outlined her curves or showed her knees. A university professor and an unrepentant intellectual snob, Ernest Tempest had always been a ferociously critical parent to his only child. Only now that she was living away from home was Elinor able to spread her wings and relax, but she was the first to admit that, but for the encouragement of a shrewd and attentive saleswoman, she would not even have dared to try on the garment, never mind buy it.

Elinor strove to recall the mirror reflection that had reassured her earlier that evening. The dress’s neat fit had seemed to emphasise her willowy curves but it did display a generous length of her shapely legs. Beneath her companion’s critical gaze, Elinor raised an uncertain hand to its glittering beaded neckline.

‘I just fell in love with it.’

Louise rolled her eyes and said drily, ‘Well, you can certainly afford to lash out in the fashion stakes these days. How is life in the royal family of Quaram? You must be stacking up the cash in an offshore account by now.’

‘You must be joking,’ Elinor hastened to declare. ‘And it isn’t money for jam. I do work extremely long hours—’

‘Nonsense! You’ve only the one kid to look after and she’s at nursery school,’ Louise protested as she thrust a tumbler full of liquid into Elinor’s hand. ‘Drink up! You’re not allowed to be a party-pooper at your own twenty-first birthday bash!’

Elinor sipped at the sickly sweet concoction even though it wasn’t to her taste. She didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot with hot-tempered Louise, who was quick to see any form of alcoholic sobriety as a personal challenge. Both women had trained as nannies at the same college and remained friends afterwards, but Elinor was uneasily aware of the undertones in the atmosphere. It had taken months for Louise to find a decent job and she had very much resented Elinor’s good fortune in the same field.

‘How is work?’ Louise prompted.

‘The prince and his wife often go abroad or spend weekends in London and I’m left in full charge of Zahrah at Woodrow, so time off—or the lack of it—is a problem. In fact sometimes I feel more like her mother than her nanny,’ Elinor confided ruefully. ‘I attend everything on her behalf … even the events at her school.’

‘There’s got to be some drawback to all that lovely cash you’re earning!’ Louise commented tartly.

‘Nothing’s ever perfect.’ Elinor shrugged with the easy tolerance of someone accustomed to an imperfect world. ‘The rest of the staff are from Quaram and speak their own language, so it’s quite a lonely household to live in as well. Shall we get going? Our transport awaits us.’

When Prince Murad had realised it was her birthday, he had presented Elinor with free vouchers for an upmarket London nightclub and had insisted that she make use of a chauffeur-driven limousine to travel into London. The same vehicle would also waft her home at the end of the evening.

‘A twenty-first birthday only comes once in a lifetime,’ Zahrah’s father had pointed out cheerfully. ‘Make the most of being young. Time moves cruelly fast. On my twenty-first, my father took me hawking in the desert and instructed me on what I should never forget when I became King in his place.’ A wry expression had crossed the older man’s visage. ‘It did not occur to me then that thirty years on I would still be waiting in the wings. Not that I would have it any other way, of course; my honoured father is a very wise ruler and any man would struggle to follow his example.’

Prince Murad was a benevolent man, Elinor acknowledged reflectively. She admired the older man’s strong sense of the family values of love, trust and loyalty. After her mother’s death when she was ten years old, Elinor’s upbringing had conspicuously lacked such sterling qualities and she was still feeling the pain of that loss. If only her own father had had an ounce of the prince’s warm and kindly nature!

While Louise squealed with delight at first sight of the luxurious limousine, Elinor was thinking instead about her father’s lifelong lack of interest in her. No matter how hard she had studied, her exam grades had never been good enough to please him. He had often told her that he was ashamed of her stupidity and that she was a severe disappointment to him. Her decision to become a nanny had outraged him and he had called her ‘A glorified nursemaid, nothing better than a servant!’ The dark shadows of those unhappy years had for ever marked her and she often felt as if she had no family at all. After all, her father had remarried without inviting her to his wedding and seemed to prefer to act as if he were childless.

‘I was reading an article about Prince Murad in a magazine,’ Louise remarked. ‘There were hints that he has quite an eye for the ladies and that he’s had affairs on the side. Watch your step with the old boy!’

Elinor frowned. ‘Oh, he’s definitely not like that with me—he’s more sort of fatherly—’

‘Don’t be so naïve. Ninety-nine per cent of middle-aged men are lechers with young attractive women,’ Louise derided with a scornful smile. ‘And if you remind him of your mother …’

‘I don’t think that’s very likely,’ Elinor interrupted in some amusement. ‘Mum was small, blonde and blue-eyed and I don’t look one bit like her.’

‘Whatever.’ Louise shrugged. ‘But if you didn’t remind him of your mother, why the heck did he offer you—a total stranger—the job of taking care of his precious daughter?’

‘It wasn’t quite as easy as you make it sound,’ Elinor fielded uncomfortably. ‘The prince put my name forward, but I went through the same recruitment process as everybody else that applied. He said he wanted to help me out because my mother once meant something to him. He also thought I’d be young enough to appeal to his daughter as a companion. And don’t forget that his wife only speaks Arabic and French, so my fluent French comes in very useful. I agree that getting the job was an extraordinary piece of good luck for me but there was nothing more sinister to it.’

Louise was still staring stonily at the younger woman. ‘But would you sleep with him—if he asked you?’

‘No, of course I wouldn’t! For goodness’ sake, he’s almost as old as my dad!’ Elinor objected with a shiver of distaste.

‘Now if it was his brother, Prince Jasim, you wouldn’t be shivering,’ Louise quipped. ‘There was a picture of him in the same article. He’s sex on legs: over six foot tall, single and movie-star handsome.’

‘Is he? I haven’t met him.’ Elinor turned her head away to look out of the limo at the well-lit city streets. Louise’s persistence and murky insinuations had annoyed her. Why were people always so willing to think the worst? Elinor would not have dreamt of working for Prince Murad and his wife if there had been anything questionable in the older man’s attitude towards her. Anyway, an unfortunate incident during her months of previous work experience had made Elinor very wary of flirtatious male employers.

‘A shame that the brother who’s going to be King one day should be short, balding and portly,’ Louise commented snidely. ‘Although plenty of women wouldn’t let that get in the way of their ambition.’

‘The fact that he’s married would be enough to deter me,’ Elinor replied very drily.

‘It’s got to be a shaky marriage though, with only a little girl to show for all those years he’s been with his wife,’ Louise insisted. ‘I’m surprised he hasn’t divorced her when there’s no male heir for the next generation—’

‘But there is an heir—the prince’s younger brother,’ Elinor pointed out.

‘He has to be the real catch in the family, then.’ A calculating glint shone in Louise’s gaze. ‘But after three months you still haven’t met him, even though you’re living in his house with his relatives, so that’s not too promising.’

Elinor didn’t waste her breath pointing out that falling in love with an Arab prince hadn’t done her late mother, Rose, any favours. Rose had met Murad at university and they had fallen head over heels in love. Elinor still had the engagement ring that Murad had given her mother. The young couple’s happiness had proved short-lived, however, because Murad had been threatened with disinheritance and exile if he married a foreigner. He had eventually returned to Quaram to act the dutiful son and do as he was told, while Rose had ended up marrying Ernest Tempest on the rebound. The marriage of two such ill-matched people had proved deeply unhappy.

‘You haven’t got any foreign travel out of the job either,’ Louise reminded her sourly. ‘At least I got ten days out in Cyprus with my family.’

‘I’m not that fussed about travelling,’ Elinor heard herself lie, her irritation at her companion’s snide remarks and put-downs strong enough to make her wonder why she had bothered to maintain such a one-sided friendship.

In the exclusive club they were treated to free drinks on the strength of Prince Murad’s vouchers, which was just as well as they could never have afforded to pay the high bar prices. Elinor reminded herself that it was her birthday and tried to shake off the sense of disappointment that had dogged her all week.

Her job was a lonely one and she often craved adult company; she knew that she needed to make the most out of a rare night out. Although she had the use of a car, Woodrow Court was deep in the Kentish countryside and within easy reach of few attractions beyond a small town. Zahrah’s parents travelled a great deal and preferred to leave their daughter at home rather than disrupt her schooling. As a result, Elinor had found her own freedom severely curtailed, as when her employers were absent they expected their nanny to be in constant attendance on their child. Elinor was travelling back to Woodrow Court in a limo later because leaving her charge in the care of the household staff overnight was not an option the prince was willing to allow. Even so, after being exposed to Louise’s bitter comments, Elinor was no longer feeling deprived by the fact that she had been denied the chance of a girlie sleepover.

‘You’re already getting the eye,’ Louise sighed enviously.

Elinor tensed and refused to look in the same direction. She found socialising with the opposite sex a challenging and often humiliating experience. She was unusually tall and made six feet even in modest heels. Guys happy to chat her up while she was sitting down wanted to run once she unfurled her giraffe-long legs and stood up to tower over them. Men, she had learnt from her awkward adolescent years when she was frequently a wallflower, preferred small dainty women at whom they could look down and feel tall beside. She knew she had an attractive face and a good figure, but neither counted for anything against her ungainly height. While men noticed her, they rarely approached her.

Some hours later she said goodbye to Louise, who had picked up an admirer. Elinor, on the other hand, had experienced a particularly painful evening when a young man had come up to her table to ask her to join him and then snarled, ‘Forget it!’ the instant she’d got up and he’d realised in horror that he barely reached her shoulder. He and his mates had heckled her and sniggered for what remained of the night as if she were a freak at a sideshow. As a result, she had had a little too much to drink to power the nonchalant expression she’d been forced to put on to conceal her misery.

She heaved a deep-felt sigh of relief when the limo turned down the long, winding, tree-lined drive to Woodrow Court. It passed between the towers of the imposing arched gatehouse entrance into a gravelled courtyard that stretched the length of the magnificent Tudor house. It struck her that there were more lights burning than usual. She climbed out and the cool evening air went to her head as much as the alcohol had earlier. She sucked in a sustaining breath in an effort to clear her swimming head and struggled to negotiate a straight path to the front door that was already opening for her.

Her steps weaved around a little as she crossed the echoing hall. A man was emerging from the library and her attention locked straight on to him. He was a stranger and so absolutely beautiful that one glance deprived her of oxygen and brain power. She came to a wobbly halt to stare. Black hair was swept back from his brow, bronzed skin stretched taut over his high slashing cheekbones, arrogant nose and aggressive jaw line. There was something uniquely compelling about his lean, arrestingly handsome features. He had gorgeous eyes, dark, deep set and bold, and when he stepped below the overhead chandelier they burned a pure hot gold. Her heart started to hammer as if she were sprinting.

Jasim was not in a good mood. He had not been amused when he’d arrived for the weekend only to discover that his brother and sister-in-law and even his quarry were all out and unavailable, making his presence as an interested onlooker somewhat superfluous. ‘Miss Tempest?’

‘Er … yes?’ Elinor reached out a trembling hand to brace herself on the carved pedestal at the foot of the massive wooden staircase. He had a gorgeous face that inexplicably continued to draw her attention like a powerful magnet. She just wanted to stare and stare. ‘Sorry, you … are?’

‘Prince Murad’s brother, Jasim,’ he breathed, surveying her with forbidding cool, in spite of the powerfully masculine interest she fired in him.

He immediately wanted to know if she looked at his brother in the same awestruck way. Any man might be flattered by a woman looking at him with a wonder more worthy of a supernatural being. In the flesh, Elinor Tempest was, he already appreciated, a much more dangerous entity than he had ever imagined she might be. In a dress that hugged the sensual swell of her breasts and revealed her incredibly long legs, she was out-and-out stunning. Hair that had looked garishly bright in the photo was, in reality, a rich dark auburn and a crowning glory that hung in a luxuriant curling tangle halfway down her back. Only the finest emeralds could have equalled the amazing green of her eyes. With that spectacular hair, those wide eyes and a lush pink mouth set against flawless creamy skin, she was literally the stuff of male fantasy. It was a challenging instant before Jasim, universally renowned for his cool head, could concentrate his thoughts again.

‘You appear to be drunk,’ Jasim breathed icily, his stern intonation roughened by the disturbing hardening at his groin as his body reacted involuntarily to the sexually appealing vision she made.

Colour flared in Elinor’s cheeks. ‘P-possibly … er … a little bit,’ she stammered in great discomfiture, dragging in a long deep breath that made the rounded mounds of her breasts shimmy beneath the fine fabric of her dress. ‘I don’t usually drink much but it was a special occasion.’

Jasim was finding it a challenge to keep his attention above her chin. ‘If you worked for me, I would not tolerate you appearing in this state.’

‘Luckily I’m not working for you,’ Elinor flipped back, before she could think better of it. ‘Nor am I working at this precise moment. I’m on my own time. I had the evening off—’

‘Nevertheless, while you live beneath this roof I consider such conduct unacceptable.’

Elinor registered that he had drawn closer and that she actually had to tip back her head to take all of him in. He was very tall, she noted belatedly, at least six feet four inches, considerably taller than his older brother. In fact there was nothing about him that reminded her of Prince Murad, for Jasim was broad-shouldered and muscular in build. He carried not an ounce of excess weight on his lean, lithe physique. Of course, the two men were only half-brothers, she recalled, born to different mothers.

‘What if Zahrah was to wake up and see you in such a condition?’ Jasim demanded, meeting her intense gaze with his own and stiffening at the rampant response of his body to her encouragement. If that was how she looked at his brother, he totally understood how Murad could have been tempted off the straight and narrow. The ripe fullness of her soft pink mouth was a sensual invitation all on its own.

‘The nurse who has been with Zahrah since she was born sleeps next door to her. I think you’re being very unreasonable,’ Elinor told him tightly.

Jasim was staggered by that disrespectful rejoinder and decided that she was utterly without shame. Nor had it escaped his notice that she apparently had a limousine at her private disposal. That was a flagrant display of his brother’s special favour, which could only add weight to Yaminah’s worst fears. ‘Is this how you speak to my brother?’

‘Your brother, who is my employer, is a great deal more pleasant and less critical. I don’t work for you and I’m entitled to a social life,’ Elinor declared, her chin at a defiant tilt even though she could feel a tension headache building like a painful band of steel round her temples. Her self-esteem, already battered by the treatment she had earlier withstood at the nightclub, refused to bear any more in saintly silence. ‘And now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to go to bed.’

Jasim only knew in that moment of red-hot outrage at her impertinence that he wanted to take her to that bed, spread her across it and make love to her until she begged him for more and ached from his passion. As he struggled to master the fierce desire threatening his usually rigid self-control he was shocked by the sheer novelty of a lust that powerful. No woman ever came between Jasim and his wits, not even the one he had once briefly planned to marry. But as he watched Elinor Tempest endeavour to mount the stairs without swaying and stumbling from the effects of the alcohol she had consumed, he knew that he would know no peace until he had bedded her and made her his.

Her foot, shod in a sandal with a thin slippery sole, slid off a step and she lurched back with a cry of alarm breaking from her lips as she clutched frantically at the solid balustrade for support.

‘Safety is yet another reason why you shouldn’t drink like this,’ Jasim breathed hatefully close, a splayed hand like an iron bar bracing her spine to prevent her from falling backwards down the stairs.

‘I don’t need your help,’ Elinor protested furiously, sliding off her shoes to ensure there were no further accidents and gathering them together in one impatient hand. ‘I hate people who preach…. I bet you say, “I told you so”, as well!’

The scent of her hair and her skin assailed Jasim in an evocative wave of sensuous appeal. She smelt like peaches and made him think of hot sunlight and even hotter sex. He was convinced that she would be a willing partner. Her style of dress and her behaviour had already persuaded him that she was far from being an innocent. Murad was much too trusting to be left at the mercy of his own lust and the manipulations of a rapacious youthful temptress. Elinor Tempest, Jasim decided, was a justifiable target for his calculating plan to bring about her downfall. Striving to keep the lid on his temper and his libido, he urged her upstairs.

‘All right … I’ll be fine now,’ Elinor muttered as she reached her comfortable bedroom. The defiance was steadily seeping out of her, for she was exhausted and her spirits were low. ‘You’ve been the perfect conclusion to a truly horrible birthday and now, please, I’d like to be left alone.’

Jasim subjected her to a measured assessment from the doorway. Alienating her was not a good idea. What had he been thinking of? Desire was pulsing through him and already as much entrenched there as the beat of the blood through his veins. He wanted her and once he took her to his bed Murad would turn his back on her. Taking her to bed would not be a sacrifice. Picturing her there with those flame-coloured curls loose and her eyes soft with longing offered him the prospect of a sweeter and more sensual pleasure than he had ever dreamt he might find in so premeditated an encounter.

Conservation needs had put the thrill of the hunt out of reach in Quaram and Jasim had long missed the excitement. He discovered that he could hardly wait for the satisfying conclusion of what promised to be a most enjoyable sexual game. It did not once occur to him that he might fail to get her into his bed—since he had never yet met with a refusal …


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