Guilty pleasure, p.10
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       Guilty Pleasure, p.10

         Part #11 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
Page 10


  And with that knowledge came the realization that to have her, he would have to protect Marty as he had never been able to protect another. And there was one man, besides Abram, who he trusted to help him do that.

  Moving from the meeting room, Khalid strode down the stairs to the main bar where he found Shayne sitting in solitude, as he normally did, a newspaper raised as he lounged comfortably in one of the recliners in the corner of the large room.

  The CIA agent claimed, to the members who dared question his presence, that he was on vacation, though Khalid was well aware that the man had never had a vacation in his life. Not a true one. Shayne had been the first to warn Khalid of the rumblings heard in Saudi of the Mustafa's brothers' plans to strike against him and had helped set up today's meeting with Abram. He had come to warn him. But he would stay to protect the woman he had become fond of over the years.

  "Shayne. " Khalid took a seat on the sofa across from him.

  The newspaper lowered slowly. The other man looked back at him, his expression curiously bland, though his light brown eyes danced with knowledge. "I will require a third. " Khalid kept his voice low but his intentions clear.

  Shayne folded the paper before laying it carefully on the low table between them.

  "Do you think it's the best time for this?" Shayne tilted his head questioningly as his gaze darkened with a hint of disapproval.

  "I believe it is. " Khalid nodded. "Ayid and Aman are planning to strike, as we always knew they would. Marty is not going to back down, and resisting her isn't something I believe I can do for much longer. "

  Explaining himself wasn't something Khalid did well, but in this case, the explanation was required. How to protect her, how to shelter and keep her safe would have to be discussed, questioned, and planned in exacting detail. That would require more than just explanations, and he would have to face others besides Shayne. He would have to face her fathers.

  Looking around the nearly deserted room, Shayne slid the recliner back into its upright position before leaning forward. "They don't know about her yet. There's a very good chance we can keep her out of this," he began.

  Khalid waved that suggestion away. "There's no way to keep her out of it. She will draw their attention once they decide to make their move. The question remaining is how to protect her while we're resolving the situation. "

  Shayne nodded before his gaze narrowed and his expression became thoughtful, intent.

  "We've always known this was a dangerous game we were playing where your half brothers are concerned. I had hoped we'd have the proof the Saudi government required by now. "

  Khalid sighed wearily. "They're smart. They wouldn't have survived so long otherwise. "

  "What about Abram?"

  Khalid understood the question Shayne was asking, he merely preferred to ignore it.

  "I do not require his permission," Khalid stated firmly.

  "The two of you share a past in this," Shayne pointed out, his gaze narrowing at Khalid's deliberate attempt to avoid the subject. "I admit, I expected you'd make him the offer instead. "

  "Abram has other responsibilities, and what is in the past is long buried. "

  Shayne slowly nodded. "As long as that's where we stand. If you intend to introduce her to any other as a potential third, then I'll decline if it's all the same to you. "

  Khalid was more amused at the other man's attempts to control some part of this relationship with Marty than angry, though anger wasn't far behind. It was rather a good thing that he had developed the patience he had over the years.

  "I understand. " Khalid nodded soberly as he began to rise to his feet. "Forgive me for disturbing you. "

  Shayne glared back at him. "Sit back down you arrogant bastard," he snapped. "Hell, at least give me a chance at part of her heart. "

  "I will give you the chance to secure yourself as our third, nothing more. " Khalid resumed his seat. "I have no desire to share more than I have stated. Her bed, as well as her safety. "

  Khalid found himself feeling rather possessive where Marty's emotions were concerned.

  Shayne grimaced at the statement.

  "Hell, I was hoping Marty would demand more along the lines of what her parents have. "

  "And you are prepared for such a commitment?" Khalid arched his brow in disbelief. He wasn't surprised by the rueful smile Shayne gave him in return.

  "It would have been nice to play house for a while. " Shayne finally shrugged. "She's a damned fine woman, and coming home to her wouldn't be a hardship. "

  The life Shayne lived was solitary one. He'd mentioned that to Khalid and Sebastian several times. Evidently, he thought Marty could provide more than the sexual intensity a third was normally seeking.

  "She's not a toy. " Khalid found himself repeating her father's warning. "She's my woman, and she will be treated as such. "

  "And you'll need a third, one you can trust until the situation with your brothers is resolved. " Shayne's expression turned serious now. "We're not going to have much time, Khalid. Ayid and Aman won't be held back by your father for long. Old man Mustafa may think he can control his sons and keep you from killing each other, but you know they'll make their move soon. "

  "Yes, I'm aware of this. " He was, to the very darkest corners of his soul, aware of what he would have to do.

  "You'll also have to come clean with Marty," Shayne told him. "You can't let this happen without warning her about what's coming. Her, as well as her fathers. "

  "You do not need to warn me about how I must handle this situation," Khalid said, his tone rough. "I am no imbecile, Shayne, nor am I uncaring enough to start something without first warning her of the consequences. "

  There was no way to hide his past from her any longer.

  Damn, he couldn't get her out of his head, his heart, or his fears.

  Shayne was watching him with that penetrating stare once again. "Marty and I are friends, Khalid," Shayne said, his voice serious. "I don't want to see her hurt. Are you certain you can't stay away from her?"

  "Can you guarantee that once Ayid and Aman decide to strike that they won't also go after Marty simply because they suspect her interest is returned by me?"

  Shayne's lips tightened. "I can't guarantee that. "

  "Once she learns why I have resisted her, she will run headlong into danger whether I allow it or not. Not informing her of the danger is just as dangerous. Tell me Shayne, what other choice is left?"

  There was no other choice, and they both knew it.

  "Then I have no other choice but to help you protect her. " Shayne shook his head, his shaggy hair falling over his brow before he pushed it aside. "Damn. We should just kill those bastards and be done with it. "

  "If such a thing had been possible, then I would have done so already," Khalid informed him. "However, bring me a plan with a chance of success, and we'll talk. "

  Shayne ran his hand over his face in a gesture in frustration as he bared his teeth. "Sons of bitches," he finally snarled.

  "No doubt," Khalid agreed. "It doesn't change the fact that we must protect Marty now. "

  "She'll shoot us if she finds out we're trying to protect her," Shayne told him.

  Khalid shook his head slowly. "She will have enough of the truth to understand. And I will have the comfort of knowing that should anything happen to me, you will see to her safety. "

  Silence descended between them as Shayne continued to watch him carefully. Should his brothers succeed in killing him, then Khalid didn't want his woman left to suffer that alone. He wanted another to comfort her, to ease her grief.

  "I'll do that," Shayne promised. "If needed. But let's see what we can do to keep you alive. "

  Shayne wondered if Khalid was aware of the demons that roiled in his eyes, the pain that gleamed within them.

  He'd held out against Marty longer than any of the members of the Club had
imagined he could. It had cost him, though. With the exception of Abram, Shayne knew more than anyone what it had cost him. He'd seen the darkness that filled Khalid. He'd seen the cost of the missions Khalid had completed as the Desert Lion in Saudi.

  Khalid knew the region that Azir Mustafa controlled like the back of his hand. It wasn't unheard of for him to lead strike teams into the region to take down the terrorists moving across the border.

  As the CIA agent assigned to the area, Shayne had worked with Khalid as well as Abram, more than once. And in each man he'd seen the scars that the past had left. Scars that marred the soul rather than the body.

  The Mustafa brothers, Ayid and Aman, were demons of the worse sort. Vicious, brutal, and filled with hatred.

  Shayne had also seen how much it had hurt Khalid to turn away from the woman he ached for. There were times Shayne wondered if Khalid even knew that he was in love with Marty.

  "When will you tell her?" Shayne finally asked.

  Khalid sighed. "Tonight, perhaps. "

  How interesting. Shayne barely managed to restrain his smile.

  "That might be hard to do. "

  Khalid's eyes narrowed on him, and Shayne found his suspicion almost amusing.

  "You say this for what reason?" Khalid asked, his tone turning cold.

  "She's attending a ball tonight with Senator Mathews. " Shayne grinned. "I heard she actually approached another member of the club with an invitation, but it was very nicely refused. "

  Khalid's jaw tightened. Shayne had toyed with the idea of withholding this information, certain it would push Khalid into claiming Marty, and had not been certain that it was a good idea. If Khalid had already made that choice though, then it wouldn't hurt to let him know that his woman was growing a bit sick of the game he was playing.

  Khalid drew in a hard, deep breath, as though drawing patience into himself. It had always amazed Shayne how he did that, how he forced a certain control on his emotions when it came to Marty Mathews.

  She was a weakness. And honestly it was something Shayne had thought Ayid and Aman would have already figured out by now.

  "The Sinclair ball," Khalid finally stated emotionlessly. "She's attending it tonight?"

  Shayne nodded. "It would seem so. "

  "Then I will speak to her tonight. "

  Shayne smiled. "I look forward to being a part of her pleasure, Khalid. Thank you for the offer. "

  A half smile tugged at Khalid's lips. "You merely want a chance to play house for a while, remember?" he reminded Shayne.

  "Well, there is that," Shayne agreed. "There's also watching her tie you in ten different kinds of knots. That's will always be amusing. "

  "I'll remember that when you're tied up in those knots yourself, my friend," Khalid informed him with a knowing grin. "Trust me, your turn is coming. "

  Shayne inclined his head in acknowledgment, though Khalid doubted he believed him. Shayne called himself a lone wolf for a reason. He had learned years ago, just as Khalid had, the cost of love. And like Khalid, the day would come when he would fight for it again.

  "I'll let you know then when you're needed," Khalid finally said as the other man picked up his paper again and shook it out, his light brown eyes still lit with amusement.

  It was an amusement most single members had when they watched another fall into the silken arms of the only woman their hearts seemed to beat for.

  "Your father has called again," Abdul reported as he drove the limo along the curved driveway that led from the club.

  Speak of the devil, Khalid sighed.

  "What did the old bastard want this time?" A feeling of weariness descended over him like a heavy, wet blanket. Hell, there were times he wanted nothing more than to simply rest. To close his eyes without the worry of what tomorrow would bring.
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