Dangerous pleasure, p.15
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       Dangerous Pleasure, p.15

         Part #12 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
Page 15


  * * *

  Abram watched as Tariq drew Paige from the room, eased her around the doors and led her up the hall to his suite. Dark, emerald green eyes stared back at him, defiance and anger reflecting in her gaze before she disappeared.

  He turned back to Azir, though God knew he didn’t want to. He could feel the killing rage rising inside him, threatening the control it had taken so many years to develop.

  For a moment he wondered if she could be right, if the Mustafa legacy of blood, death, and insanity, wasn’t actually a contagion that infected each generation after the other.

  Staring at his father, he felt nothing but the overwhelming hatred that he was in danger of allowing to spill from the depths of his soul.

  He stared at his father, and he saw nothing but the ragged, agonizing pain his first wife had felt as she died, the fear of his second wife as she died with their unborn child, and his own fear when he had learned that Paige’s life was in danger.

  “She’s the very image of her mother, isn’t she?” Azir stated calmly, as though he hadn’t just been throwing that vision across the room with enough strength to kill her if her head were to strike the floor when she fell.

  The calm, almost rational tone of his voice only incited the icy rage burning inside Abram.

  “Why is she here?” He could only barely force a semblance of calm in his voice.

  Azir smiled. A mocking, triumphant curve of his lips as he stared back at Abram.

  “She is my insurance, my son, and the gift I would grant you for your birthday. Tell me, do you think her mother is worried? Perhaps certain who has taken her daughter and imagining the many ways I could make her suffer for her mother’s crimes?”

  The pleasure Azir clearly felt at the thought of the pain only a mother could feel filling Marilyn Galbraithe, sickened Abram.

  “I will be returning her home—” he began.

  “Then she will die. ” Azir’s voice hardened, becoming gravely and tinged with anger. “The moment you leave the walls of the fortress with her then the guards will haul her back and I’ll have her stoned for her mother’s crimes. She is no virgin. She was checked for such innocence as she lay unconscious. Convincing the Matawa to order the stoning will be no hardship. ”

  Abram stared back at his father in shock and disbelief. Surely even Azir wasn’t that insane. To take such an action would only cause the royal family to be forced to take action against them.

  “Don’t do this,” he ground out, his fists clenching, adrenaline surging through him and demanding blood. Azir’s blood. And he would be well within his rights to spill it. He should simply do it. How much better the world would be without Azir Mustafa’s presence. “She’s done nothing to deserve this. ”

  color=" height="0em" width="1em" align="justify">“But her mother has,” Azir snapped back, his grating tone rasping against Abram’s nerve endings. “She committed adultery against me in her false marriage to another man. She stole my son and turned his heart against me even as she and her American courts ripped from me my right to have him returned to me. ” Azir’s expression twisted with fanatical fury. “My precious Marilyn. She turned Khalid against me, and because of him, you have turned against me. I blame her for the atrocities Khalid has committed against God in his sexual depravity and I blame her for the deaths of your brothers. And her daughter will now pay the price. ” He was screaming. Staring back at Abram, the rage infecting not just his sanity, but also his control over himself.

  “They were no brothers of mine!” As far as Abram was concerned, this was the last straw for Azir. He would never again claim blood relation to Azir or to the bastards who nearly killed him and Khalid. The same two men had created the situation Abram now found himself in. “Had they still lived when I claim the province from the King’s emissary, then I would have ordered their death’s myself. ”

  Azir glared back at him, his expression working furiously, his face brick red with fury. The old bastard had never been rational where Ayid and Aman were concerned, no more than he had been rational where Marilyn was concerned. Rational or sane.

  “You and Khalid were responsible for the deaths of their wives and still you would hate them for their retaliation?” Azir questioned him incredulously, as though he himself had had nothing to do with their vocation or their wrath. “They lost what they held dearest. Chaste, faithful wives and you bemoan a whore who willingly shared her body between you and Khalid as though she were no more than a bitch dog in heat? I should have turned the two of you over to the Matawa the moment I discovered your perversion instead of believing that you would learn your lesson with your wife’s death. ”

  Abram felt the clawing, black ice he continually fought beginning to build, to overtake him. That dark, inner core freezing over, obliterating honor, morality. He stared at Azir and all he could see was the bastard’s blood on the floor, sinking in, staining the stone and forever marking his sins.

  How easy it would be to kill him, Abram thought without so much as a hint of guilt. But killing him now would only cause more problems than it would fix.

  He was aware of Azir watching nervously now. Abram could only stare, his entire being centered on not killing the evil old bastard.

  He couldn’t trust himself to speak, to move. Not just yet. Not until he could wipe away the image of his hands wrapped around Azir’s throat, his bloated, fanatical expression slowly turning blue.

  “Forgive me, Abram. ” Azir suddenly spoke nervously as though realizing how close to death he was coming. “That was never an option. Never would I see you turned over to the authoritie”

  Too little. And he would have preferred that if only he could have kept Lessa safe all those years ago.

  “In three weeks the king’s emissary will arrive to take your vow to oversee the lands and return to our family the payments they froze so many years ago. Before that day, I give you leave to bed the daughter of my faithless wife. Her bastard child is my gift to you until that day. I have spoken with Tariq and given him leave, nay, I have ordered him to assist you however you wish in the enjoyment of her corrupt body. Once you have given the emissary your vow, you may escort her back to her mother, or if you so choose, you may have her as the first addition to your own harem. ”

  To his harem?

  Abram could feel his stomach recoiling sickeningly. In what demented fantasy did his father ever believe he would actually give that vow and remain here to allow Ayid and Aman’s legacy to continue to grow?

  “Do not betray me again, Abram. ” Azir’s voice was hoarse as he spoke. “Betray your king if you must and leave to join your brother and your whore when it is done. The account is held until your vow is given. It will be mine, or what happened to your precious Lessa will seem a blessing compared to the hell that bastard sister of Khalid’s will know. I beg of you, do not test me in this. ”

  If he had to stand here another moment and listen, then he might lose the last hold on his murderous temper.

  Turning, Abram stalked from the room Khalid’s mother had once shared with his own mother for a short time. His own suite was above it with a private entrance to the secured quarters that had once held Azir’s harem.

  Abram moved up the stairs with a deliberately calm pace. His fists clenched and unclenched at his sides while the tightening of his teeth actually had his jaw aching with a hard burn from the stress of the pressure.

  He needed to regain control. He needed to still the rush of adrenaline and come down from the high of the black icy fury that had filled him while he was with Azir.

  He had to do it before he made it to his suite, before he saw Paige.

  Because there was another side of the black ice.

  There were consequences to the thaw of that icy rage.

  And if he didn’t get a handle on it, then it would be Paige that felt the full force of it.


  The other s

  of black ice.

  Abram had been forced to learn to hold back that killing,murderous rage the day he found his mother beaten to death, and knew it had been Azir’s fists that had killed her.

  He remembered feeling it. Freezing, like shoving his entire body into an icy black nothingness and forcing himself to stay there rather than trying to find the man he called father to shove the knife his mother had given him straight into his black heart.

  How many times over the years had he wished he had done exactly that?

  Retribution would have been taken. He would have been punished severely, maybe even killed himself. But had he taken that punishment then so many other lives may have been saved.

  The Mustafa lands would have been saved for Abram as Azir’s legal heir, and Ayid and Aman would have been sent away to be raised by aunts and uncles who would not have pampered their criminal habits nor risked their own families to aid their terrorist proclivities.

  That icy nothingness had enveloped him, allowing him to see past the fiery, brutal pain and into the logic of his actions.

  Punishment for Azir would be so thorough, so perfect, if only he could follow through with it. Abram would be free of the land and the land itself would return to the monarchy and be given back to tribal control.

  But allowing Azir to live was becoming harder by the day. And today. He stopped as he reached the top of the stairs and stared down at the fist his fingers were still formed into.

  Today, he’d almost given in to the impulse.

  Today, he had almost become a murderer and God knew that wasn’t what he wanted. Not now, not this close to freedom. Because if he killed Azir, the monarchy would have no choice but to punish him. Jafar and his men, supposed members of the Mustafa family, would eagerly step forward and demand his punishment.

  Because Abram had plotted and worked against Jafar and Azir, and even though Khalid had taken responsibility for both Ayid’s and Aman’s deaths, there were those that suspected Abram had killed Aman.

  And they would have been right. Fortunately, there were very few who knew the actual truth, but if his half-brother’s co-conspirators had a chance to strike out in such a way, they would eagerly take it.

  There was no doubt that he had run out of time. He would have to find a way to get both Paige and Tariq out of Saudi Arabia and into America and take his chances there.

  He didn’t know what the hell Azir thought he could accomplish by kidnapping Paige and gifting him with her, or by “ordering” Tariq to aid him in whatever manner Abram required in bedding her. One thing was for damned sure, it wasn’t out of the kindness of his heart.

  More like, the minute he made his vow to the emissary both Jafar and Azir would have the authorities waiting to arrest him, Paige, and Tariq for sexual misconduct. And that was a killing offense.

  Tearing the keffiyeh from his head and bunching it in his hand, he inhaled deeply and moved slowly to the securely locked door of his bedroom suite.

  The electronic security was the only defense he possessed in the fortress now. There were less than half a dozen of the men that had once been loyal to him and Tariq. Those men couldn’t be identified or step forward publicly if anything happened because of their own families.

  He couldn’t trust the guards, and he couldn’t trust the men he had grown up with, or those he had attended college with who had returned to the Mustafa lands after him.

  Throughout his life there had only been Khalid, Tariq, and Paige that he could depend upon to accept him as he was. And two of those, Tariq and Paige, were awaiting him now.

  He was moving closer to the door, closer to the woman he hungered for with an irrational strength.

  Reaching the door to the suite he keyed in the code to the security lock, waited for the click to indicate the locks had disengaged, then stepped inside.

  The other side of black ice.

  The second he closed the door it kicked in.

  The black ice was cracking and burning inside him, heat whipping through his body as fiery, burning lust sizzled through the dark emotionless protective layer.
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