Dangerous pleasure, p.12
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       Dangerous Pleasure, p.12
 

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

 

  She tried to shake the memory away. Dealing with the memories of that night right now would shred what little control she had left over the hysteria bubbling inside her.

  She had to clear her head. She had to be able to think and find a way out of this.

  She had to find a way out. She had found a way out the last time she was this helpless and had escaped. She had to do it again. She didn’t think her sanity could survive otherwise.

  The door was locked. The shutters on the windows were locked. Her mother hadn’t mentioned hidden doors or passageways in this room.

  She couldn’t find her clothes. There were no dressers and the four armoires in the room only held bedding materials. There were no clothes.

  Her breath felt trapped in her lungs. Her heart was racing out of control and panic was beginning to close in.

  She would go crazy in this place.

  * * *

  Abram sat back in the comfortable leather of the modified Land Rover as Tariq drove into the fortress compound. His gaze narrowed at the men and women milling around in the outer yards. The women were covered from head to toe in the required burka, while the men were dressed in fatigues or combat-ready pants and shirts.

  The face of the Mustafa province was changing and he hadn’t been able to stop it during the years when stopping it had mattered to him. All he did now was look on in regret.

  Once, this land had thrived, if not from oil then from the small mines outside of town where precious ore was eeked out and sold to the government. It had been a minimal income, but when added to the funds the monarchy had once sent, the lands and mines had been sufficient to keep the small farms pulling precious water from the deep wells and the crops growing.

  The province had held a small but thriving area of trade due to those crops and the ore. Something it no longer held because of Azir’s greed and murderous inclinations.

  “Look who showed up. ” Tariq nodded toward the fortress castle where a lone figure stood at the top of the stone steps against the stone wall.

  The tall double doors were his backdrop, emphasizing the slender, muscular form, his dark hair pulled back from a lean, Arabic face.

  The man who had been slowly overtaking the Mustafa fortress even before the deaths of Ayid and Aman Mustafa. No matter how Abram had fought over the years, still, Jafar Mustafa—along with Ayid and Aman—had facilitated the steady introduction of men Abram was certain were no more than soldiers to the terrorist cell Ayid and Aman had commanded. A cell Jafar was now rumored to command.

  First cousin to both Abram and Tariq, Jafar was the son of the youngest of the three Mustafa brothers who had inherited differing sections of the province from their father.

  Until the two youngest brothers had died under highly suspicious circumstances. Abram had always suspected Azir had had his brothers killed, but he had never been able to prove it.

  “He can’t want anything good,” Abram assured him as Tariq drew the Land Rover to a stop before the castle. Stepping from the vehicle Abram allowed Tariq to move in behind him and cover his back. They mounted the steps and moved up to the entrance where Jafar awaited them.

  The dark arrogance in the other man’s expression was a forewarning. Abram could feel the tension emanating from him, the animosity that had been brewing between them mixing to create a heavy, barely civil atmosphere.

  The cynical amusement in Jafar’s odd green eyes was a clue to the fact that he wasn’t going to like whatever the other man had to say. Fortunately, there was at least a shred of information in anything Jafar said. He enjoyed the games he played and the fact that Abram couldn’t do a damned thing to stop the steady infiltration of the terrorists moving in.

  Like Abram and Tariq, Jafar’s mother had been American. But unlike them, Jafar had actually inherited some of his mother’s traits. His hair was a deep, dark brown, rather than black, and the celadon green of his eyes was damned off-putting in a land of mostly dark eyes.

  The men of Mustafa seemed to have a particular fondness for pale-haired or redheaded women. Jafar’s mother had been a Scandinavian blonde and like Abram and Tariq, he had taken his height from her ancestors.

  It was a fondness their sons seemed to share as well, Abram thought.

  “What the hell do you want, Jafar?” he growled as he topped the stone stairs and faced his cousin.

  Jafar chuckled, the amusement in the sound matching that of his eyes as his gaze flicked between Abram and Tariq.

  “Perhaps I just want to wish you a good afternoon, cousin. After all, it’s been a while since we’ve visited. Don’t tell me you haven’t missed me. ”

  “I haven’t missed you,” Abram assured him with a sneering lift of his lip. “Is that all you wanted?”

  The smirk on Jafar’s lips assured him otherwise.

  It was too bad they seemed to have gravitated to opposing ends of their own beliefs. There had been a time when he and Jafar had been close. When they had both spoken of the dream of a far different future than the ones they had embraced.

  Abram waited for long, tense moments for Jafar to reveal why he was waiting, but when he didn’t, Abram’s patience began to dissolve.

  “Go to hell, Jafar,” he grunted. “Let me know when you’re doing more than fucking off. ”

  Jafar’s eyes narrowed at the deliberate vulgarity. He and his cousin had been in more than one battle in the past years over Abram’s language or Jafar’s deliberate disrespect. Many times their disagreements had almost turned violent and nearly resulted in a punch being thrown.

  “Tell me, Abram, do you believe your friendship with the son of a prince will save you forever? Or the fact that the unpaid funds owed to the land of Mustafa can only return at your inheritance assures your safety from those who suspect your depravities?”

  His depravities. What a damned joke. He enjoyed a good whiskey, a beautiful woman, and on occasion he was prone to enjoy watching his lover become a willing sensual feast for not just him, but a third as well.

  Those were his depravities.

  “Friendships rarely stand when you need them to, Jafar. I believe we’re both aware of that. ” He stared back at his cousin mockingly.

  Jafar’s lips thinned. “I knew nothing of Lessa’s crimes, nor did I know of the plans to punish her. ” It wasn’t the first time he had denied the knowledge, and it wasn’t the last time Abram would accuse him of it. Because he knew his cousin had to have at least suspected.

  “Nevertheless, I vowed I would never again have to depend upon those I call friends to aid me,” Abram informed him. “That is a commodity that only a fool can expect. ”

  Better Jafar believe to the bone that Abram expected no help from anyone should the religious police decide to actually take action against him for his suspected s, especially the son of a prince, the government contact in charge of investigating the terrorists taking over the Mustafa lands and focusing their attention on Paige Galbraithe.

  Until he learned Azir’s plans for her, he couldn’t rest. And so far, he hadn’t been able to learn anything except that Azir was definitely planning something.

  Abram would take them all down to keep her safe. Jafar, Azir, the son of a prince, he’d see them all laying in the dust if that was what it took to keep the evil infecting his father from touching her.

  “I’m busy, Jafar,” he finally stated. He fought to push back his anger as he moved to pass his cousin once again.

  “Abram. ” Jafar stopped him again as he moved to enter the castle.

  “What do you want, Jafar?” he questioned impatiently, his teeth clenching at the anger he couldn’t seem to stop from surging through him.

  “Do you remember when we were sixteen and I caught you and that American student you were friends with at the whore’s apartment?”

  Abram’s lips thinned. “She was no whore, Jafar. ”

  They had been in Amer
ica visiting with cousins who had lived in D. C. Abram had met up with friends of Khalid’s and from there, had done his best to enjoy the time there rather than involving himself with a family that had escaped years before.

  “She was taking two men into her body at the same time,” Jafar reminded him mockingly. “In any culture, she is called a whore. ”

  “Only in this one,” Abram snarled. “Now tell me what you want. ”

  “Answer me first,” Jafar told him. “Do you remember?”

  “I remember,” Abram snapped. “Now what does it have to do with anything?”

  Jafar’s lips thinned. “I warned you about bringing your hungers from America to your home,” Jafar reminded him. “And you brought them not just to your home, but to your wife. ”

  “Don’t make me kill you, Jafar. ” Even now, more than ten years later, the memory of what had happened to Lessa had the power to enrage him.

  “Don’t make me have to deal with the religious police, Abram,” Jafar warned him in return. “Keep your depravities under control. The battle we are involved in together, I prefer to win fairly. ”

  “There is noattle,” Abram assured him seriously, and as far as he was concerned, there wasn’t one. There would never be one.

  Once Abram had achieved his objectives, then he was gone. If he hadn’t found a way to keep Paige safe from his father before the king’s emissary arrived, then he would simply take her and disappear until the bastard’s death.

  “There is always a battle between us, Abram,” Jafar retorted. “And I am impatient. I may refuse to wait until the battle between you and your father has ended before I begin pushing for my own triumph. ”

  Abram’s lips thinned as he stared back at his cousin, attempting to figure out just what the hell he was talking about.

  “There is no battle between us, Jafar,” he told him again.

  Jafar chuckled. “Tell that lie to the present your father has acquired for your early birthday present, my friend. Then tell me how you’re going to survive the means he has acquired to win this war that wages between you. And I tell you once again, remember well the warning I gave you when we were sixteen, because I may not give you fair warning in time to save you from the consequences of your own sins. ”

  Abram felt ice race up his spine at Jafar’s words as the other man smirked back at him.

  It wasn’t possible. God help him, he’d done everything he could, used every contact he had to ensure he had warning before it happened, not after.

  Fury began burning in the back of his head, engulfing his senses as he stared into Jafar’s eyes and read the truth there.

  Tension radiated through his body. His muscles began to tighten as though in preparation for a fight, his fists clenching in rage. A hard, warning sizzle began at the base of his brain as the red at the edges of his vision began to darken and push forward.

  Murderous, all-consuming rage washed over him.

  “What has he done?” he snarled back at his cousin.

  Jafar’s gaze flashed with what could have been a momentary regret before hatred filled the pale green orbs once again.

  “What he always does,” Jafar answered him. “He’s plotted your destruction. Though, this time it may well be your final one. ”

  5

  She couldn’t believe this.

  There wasn’t a single article of clothing to be found in any of the four armoires arranged around the stone room. There were sheets, throws, there were even pillows. But there wasn’t a single shirt, pair of pants, or even a pair of socks … Would socks have been out of the damned question?

  This was completely ridiculous. The least they could have done was left her something to wear.

  Tucking the silk sheet between her breasts, she propped her hands on her hips and stared around the dim, sun-dappled room with a frown and narrowed eyes.

  Her mother had never really said much about this room, other than it had belonged to Azir’s first wife, Abram’s mother, Shahla, as Azir had named her. Her actual name, as she had told Marilyn, had been Anna Bailey. She’d been on vacation in Saudi Arabia with her family. Her father had been an executive for one of the oil companies.
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