Dangerous pleasure, p.10
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       Dangerous Pleasure, p.10
 

         Part #12 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
Page 10

 

  Moving back to the bedroom she changed out of her comfortable sweats and T-shirt and pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. Warm socks, sneakers. As she tied the leather running shoes the lights of the limo lit up the darkness outside her bedroom window.

  Khalid and Marty were going to their party. They were leaving, and they were leaving her alone. Just as she had asked.

  Picking up her cell phone she called a cab, then grabbed her purse and made her way quietly downstairs to wait on the transportation, and hopefully to keep anyone else from turning it away.

  She didn’t have to wait long. The intercom from the front gate pinged at the wall next to the door. Stepping to it, Paige accepted the summons.

  “A Plus Cabs,” the voice on the other end announced.

  “Come on up to the house. ” Paige pressed the security lock and before the cab was passing through the open gates Daniel Conover was walking into the foyer from the back wing of the house.

  “You can follow me, or you can wait for me to return, your choice,” she informed him as he leaned against the wall opposite her, his dark blond head tilting to the side as he regarded her curiously.

  “You know I can’t allow you to leave,” he stated.

  “But you will,” she told him. “Otherwise, I’ll call the authorities next. I’ll have you charged with kidnapping and imprisonment. ”

  She wasn’t serious and she had a feeling he suspected it. But She w19;t certain, and that was what mattered.

  “I’ll be right behind you,” he finally sighed. He flexed his broad shoulders beneath the cotton shirt he wore and straightened from the wall. He looped his thumbs in the back pockets of his well-worn, just-snug-enough jeans and gave her a curious little smile. “You’re as stubborn as your brother, you know. ”

  “So everyone says,” she sniffed. “Funny, he always seems to come out the winner though. ”

  Paige moved past him as he opened the door for her. She walked outside to the cab.

  Just a few hours, she promised herself. She wasn’t going to worry her family unnecessarily. She wasn’t going to risk her life or her bodyguards. But she needed to go home to recharge away from the too-big, too-empty house she was usually in alone.

  And she needed the space to figure out how to sit back and accept her brother’s protection, her father’s offer to pay the bills while the situation was being resolved, and to decide which was more important. Following her heart, or obeying the brother she would lose if she didn’t walk away from Abram.

  She had a feeling that decision was going to be impossible to make.

  3

  Her apartment was simple, a kitchen and living area, a bedroom and a bathroom with a large soaking tub. That bathtub had been the selling point for her. The electric fireplace sat in front of the overstuffed couch and was the focal point of the room.

  The kitchen was small, but roomy enough to cook and entertain a few friends in.

  It was hers. She paid the bills, stocked the cabinets, and lived comfortably and happily on the salary she earned at the advertising firm she had gone to work for after graduating from college.

  The floors were hardwood, gleaming around the large area rugs beneath the small kitchen table and the coffee table in the living area.

  She didn’t have a television, yet. For entertainment she used her laptop, which she had left at her brother’s. She’d been so busy in the past year that she hadn’t really had time to watch television or enjoy movies as she once had.

  She’d missed her home while she had been at Khalid’s. Her brother’s home was too big, too private perhaps. The suites were self-contained except for eating, and his house staff was always more than happy to fix a meal and bring it to her room.

  She’d been lost there, and lonely. At first, she’d been sequestered there by herself, then with Khalid’s return it had been one lecture and argument after another until she was ready to go insant>

  As she placed her purse on the small table inside the door, her cell phone rang again. The ring tone was a set of strident cymbals. It reminded her of her brother’s habit of demanding she answer the phone quickly.

  She ignored it.

  Pushing her fingers through her hair she walked through the apartment, checked each room, straightened a pillow on the bed then moved back into the living area where she turned on the electric fireplace and collapsed on the large pillows in front of it.

  She felt exhausted.

  Fighting with Khalid always left her feeling as though she had just run a marathon. It sapped her energy and made her question her own logic.

  At the end of the day, what it came down to was the fact that whether it was logical or not, she was miserable living in that big house, unable to visit friends, unable to feel safe and secure in her own home because Khalid’s father was a crazy bastard.

  He’d kidnapped their mother when she was seventeen, forced her to marry him and immediately raped her and forced her to conceive.

  She’d been locked in a harem, forced to spend her days with only one pursuit, that of pleasing him.

  Her mother had lived in hell while she had been imprisoned in the Mustafa stronghold, and only a stroke of luck had afforded her escape.

  Pavlos Galbraithe, her then-fiancé and now Paige’s father, had learned of the meeting between Marilyn and Azir Mustafa while Marilyn was visiting family in Cairo, Egypt. Mustafa, he had been told, had been insistent on meeting Marilyn. He’d been entranced by her flame-red, silky hair and brilliant emerald green eyes.

  He’d made her so uncomfortable with his stares and his disapproval each time she spoke that she had excused herself and returned to her room. Only to have her cousin, upset and concerned by Mustafa’s attitude, convince her to come back down because he was becoming so irate.

  The next day, Marilyn had disappeared.

  But still, Pavlos and his future brother-in-law, Henry Girard, wouldn’t have had a chance of gaining entrance into the fortress or rescuing Marilyn if she hadn’t found her own way out through a secret door in the stronghold’s outer wall. A wall that had surrounded the private gardens of the Mustafa harem.

  Paige’s mother had in essence rescued herself and her newborn son, Khalid Mustafa. The baby Azir had forced on her, yet one she had come to adore.

  Pavlos and Henry had been outside that wall, searching for the same secret door they had heard existed that led into the harem. They had been there as the stones seemed to part, push forward, and a slim, darkened figure had slipped out.

  How her mother had managed to survive her time there, Paige had never understood. She knew Marilyn hated Azir Mustafa with a violence that could erupt into fury if his name was mentioned.

  But she loved the son that had been forced on her. Khalid had been her salvation, she claimed. If it hadn’t been for her baby, and the knowledge of what she feared Azir would turn him into, then she wouldn’t have had the strength to keep searching for a way out.

  To Pavlos’s credit, he had endured Khalid. Paige was always aware of the fact that there was an underlying tension between her brother and her father, but the truce was one that had always stood.

  He’d raised Khalid, looked after him and educated him.

  When Khalid had returned to Saudi Arabia after his high school graduation for the agreed-upon stay with his father, Pavlos had been furious. It had been negotiated years before between Marilyn and the Saudi ambassador who had been sent to negotiate what had become an international incident after Mustafa had attempted to kidnap Khalid. But Paige knew her father had arranged with a CIA asset in the area to watch over Khalid and to ensure he came to no harm.

  Staring into the electric flames of the fireplace, Paige readily admitted that Khalid was as hard as he was for a reason. That he knew the dangers, understood the monster that never seemed to stop haunting him, and worried constantly that Azir would strike out at his family.
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  The man was insane.

  But Abram wasn’t.

  Khalid knew Abram, she understood that, just as she understood Khalid’s fears in regards to her broken heart. God knew, she didn’t want to face that pain unless she simply had no other choice. But the risk was one she was willing to take. She simply didn’t believe Abram was going to lock her into a harem and beat her each time she tried to escape.

  Shaking her head at the thought, she got to her feet. She moved back to the bedroom to pack a few things to take back to Khalid’s with her.

  She had only a few things of her own there. The way she had been snatched from work and taken to her brother’s home hadn’t given her time to pack.

  She liked her own clothes, thank you very much. And the few things Marty and Khalid had collected for her hadn’t been enough, nor had they been her favorites.

  It looked as though she would be there for a while, so she pulled out the full set of leather luggage her parents had bought her and packed the things she needed.

  Her overnight bag held her shampoos, conditioner, makeup, and fenine items. Several bars of the soap her father kept her supplied with, the scent created especially for her.

  Clothes were harder to choose. She had only two large bags and one lingerie bag. She packed those, zipped them closed, then hauled them to the door before walking through the small apartment one more time.

  She sighed wearily as she stood at the window, staring out into the darkened park across the street. During the day, it was alive with the sound of children’s laughter. At night, occasionally, she had glimpsed lovers walking hand in hand.

  Damn, she hoped she got to come home soon.

  Moving back to the kitchen she was reaching for her purse to call Daniel when a knock at the door had a grin twitching her lips. He was obviously becoming impatient.

  A friend of Khalid’s impatient? Go figure.

  She moved to the door, unlocked it, and swung the door open.

  Her eyes widened.

  Her lips parted to scream.

  A second later, the world went black around her.

  TWO HOURS LATER

  Khalid stood inside the living area of Paige’s apartment and stared around, his chest feeling as though an open wound had been dug into it.

  It was neat, like his sister was, sparsely decorated. She claimed she hadn’t developed her style quite yet. The electric fireplace was still on, and everything appeared perfectly organized.

  “The majority of her clothes and toiletries are missing. ” Daniel Conover moved from the bedroom, his expression foreboding, his blue eyes burning with rage. “Her bags aren’t in the closet. ”

  Khalid shoved his hands into the wool coat he wore, his gaze turning to where his lover sat in a comfortable easy chair, her hands covering her face.

  She wasn’t crying, though he knew she was upset. Marty didn’t cry often, thank God. But at the moment, he wished she would, because he couldn’t.

  “Would his men have packed her bags?” Daniel asked.

  Khalid shook his head. Azir’s men would not have taken the time.

  “She would have. ” Marty lifted her head. “She was complaining she had none of her favorite clothes or her makeup. She could have packed herself before they arrived. ”

  “If the bags had been sitting there, and if they were sympathetic to Abram or to myself, then they would have picked up the luggage,” Khalid answered.

  “That doesn’t sound like terrorists,” Daniel commented.

  “Many of the new recruits are men and young boys who have been raised within the Mustafa province. ” Khalid sighed. “They know me, they know Abram. They would have grabbed her luggage along with her if there was more than one. They’re aware this is something Abram would be furious over and they may want to garner leniency by providing her clothes. ”

  He felt like howling in rage, in pain. He couldn’t believe he had allowed his sister to be taken by that monster, and there was no doubt it was Azir who had taken her.

  They knew Azir Mustafa had his men in the area, several of which were aligned with the terrorist cell Ayid and Aman had commanded.
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