Dangerous pleasure, p.19
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       Dangerous Pleasure, p.19
 

         Part #12 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
Page 19

 

  He couldn’t let it happen again, because he might not manage to pull himself back again.

  Azir had known that once Paige was here that she would become his main priority. Sometimes, Abram thought, the old bastard knew him better than he knew himself.

  Azir suspected Abram’s plans for defection, but he didn’t know the plan he and Tariq were laying in to escape with the information they had amassed since Jafar’s arrival at the fortress.

  As though his cousin’s presence was all it had taken, the roaches were coming out of the woodwork. Suspected militants and terrorist organizers were roaming the streets and discussing in public in small groups what should only be discussed behind closed doors and in secure bunkers.

  But even more, Azir was braver, more confident and more secure now in acquiring the funds that had been frozen more than twenty years before.

  As dinner was finished and Tariq cleared away the dishes and prepared coffee behind a screen at the small kitchenette Abram had had installed, he leaned back in his chair and watched as Paige wandered back to the fire.

  She was nervous. Not frightened, and definitely not really wary, but she was nervous, her senses hyped and adrenaline coursing through her body.

  She was trying to ignore both of them and to ignore the declaration he had made earlier.

  He almost grinned as he considered the night ahead. He had no intentions of taking her yet, not yet. There were a few matters that had to be taken care of first, and precautions established to ensure their safety before he and Tariq took her together.

  The hunger for it was beginning to build in him though, and he could see it building in Tariq. They’d shared enough women, seduced enough to know each other’s responses as well as their woman’s.

  “Azir and Jafar have made plans to take a ride in the morning,” Tariq told him as he carried the coffee back to the table. “They believe you and I will be too distracted to know that they’ve left. ” Tariq nodded to Paige.

  “Do you know where they’re going?” Abram lifted the cup to his lips as he murmured the question.

  Tariq gave a quick shake of his head. “The equipment in Jafar’s room is just as good as ours, but I wasn’t close enough to the door to hear everything being said. ”

  “You know who to contact. ” Abram dropped his voice as he spoke. The room was equipped with audio detection scramblers but he didn’t like taking chances. “If there’s a way to follow them, then he can figure it out. ”

  Abram frowned thoughtfully. Azir and Jafar had been bitter enemies until the months before Ayid and Aman had attempted to murder Khalid and Abram. Now, less than three months after the deaths of his youngest sons, Azir was conspiring with his nephew. The nephew whose father Azir had murdered more than twenty years ago.

  “He definitely kidnapped her just to distract you,” Tariq stated as he nodded to Paige. “If we’re trying to protect her then we’re not following him. And he knows you’d never leave her here alone. ”

  “I wouldn’t trust her safety to just one of us either,” he said quietly. “Not this close. ”

  That was the catch. They were a team, and they had been working efficiently together for several years. But now, with Paige here, it would be impossible for Abram to be confident that either of them could protect her alone if Azir conspired against them.

  If his cruelty extended to having Paige taken and circumcised as Ayid had had his manservant’s wife circumcised several years before. Or if the authorities arrived to have her—or all three of them—arrested for depraved or indecent sexual acts.

  Azir wasn’t above either of those, or any other number of extreme acts to keep Abram from leaving Saudi Arabia.

  “He doesn’t know we have help. At least in following him,” Tariq murmured as he leaned closer.

  Eyes in the sky were what they had. A little help from their friendly neighborhood CIA asset. In the event of an extreme emergency, that asset could get them out of the fortress and to an extraction point, but it wouldn’t be easy. It would compromise positions and covers and that was something no one wanted to do unless they simply had no other choice.

  If Azir moved in a direction that would compromise Paige’s safety, or her life, then he would call them in, and it was that simple.

  If he had time.

  Abram glanced at her again, the fiery red-gold of her hair as it spilled around her shoulders, the relaxed position of her body indicating she was at the least, dozing.

  As the day had worn on, Paige had become worn out. The drug used on her, the confrontation and abuse inflicted by Azir, and the stress of the day had culminated into complete exhaustion.

  “Azir timed this personally,” Tariq stated as he followed Abram’s look. “And the perfect weapon to strike against you. How did he know?”

  Tariq watched Abram, seeing the normally hardened expression as it softened almost imperceptibly. For the first time in far too many years, he was watching a woman affect Abram, and that scared the hell out of him. Because now just wasn’t the time for this.

  “Who the hell knows how he found out. ” Abram breathed out roughly. “But he did, and now we have to deal with it. ”

  “Do you have a pt her” Tariq asked, nodding toward Paige as her head slipped deeper into the cushion behind her.

  “Keep her safe and alive,” Abram stated roughly as he turned back to his coffee and sipped at the brew. His expression remained savagely intense. “Stay one step ahead of Azir where she’s concerned and make certain he doesn’t get the jump on us. Until we can get her out without compromising our contacts, then we have no other choice. ”

  “And if we can’t?” Tariq had a feeling he knew the answer to that question.

  “If we can’t then all bets are off. ” The look Abram turned on him was more than savage now, it was primal, murderous.

  Tariq barely controlled a flinch as he stared back into pure black icy rage. And he couldn’t say he blamed Abram. He’d lost too much in the years past, had watched too many hopes and dreams fall at his feet and buried too many friends, as well as two too many wives, one of which had owned him as much as any young man could be owned.

  Abram wasn’t a young man anymore though. He was an adult in his prime, and the heart he possessed was a man’s heart, with all its scars and driving hungers.

  It was one Tariq understood, because he too possessed such a heart.

  Glancing at the young woman Azir had ordered him to aid Abram in pleasing, he wondered if sharing a woman with another man would always tempt him. Would the day come when he would come to crave his own woman, his own life? Or would his own scarred soul refuse to give the world enough trust to love again?

  “When she turned eighteen she asked me if I’d ever love again. ” Abram drew his attention back.

  The look on his cousin’s face was remote, but his eyes were alive with the memories of the pain he had suffered. “Aleya had just died with our child. ” He shook his head with a quick, rough movement. “I told her only if hell froze over. ”

  But Abram loved the girl now sleeping in his room, Tariq thought. He wouldn’t admit it, not yet, but it was there in his eyes.

  “And what would you tell her now?” Tariq asked, suddenly wishing he could have slipped some of Khalid’s fine whiskey into the fortress.

  If ever a man needed a drink, it was now.

  Abram finished his coffee and rose to his feet before answering. “I would tell her I wouldn’t dare tempt fate a third time,” he whispered, his voice as tortured as Tariq knew his soul was. “I don’t think I could survive it again. ”

  Abram moved to the couch then, picked his delicate lover up in his arms, and ied her to the huge, custom-made bed at the other end of the room. It was conveniently situated close to the hidden door that led beneath the harem and into an underground cavern at the base of the mountains beyond.

  A tunnel they both pray
ed no one else had found in the years since Abram had. They suspected not, or else Azir would have had it filled in and destroyed like the others that had been discovered.

  His harem had once been sacred to him. Until he had lost the funds the government once paid him and no longer had the gold or American cash to pay for the kidnappings or the American women occasionally auctioned off in the slave markets.

  “Stay, Tariq,” Abram told him as he lay his burden in the large bed before undressing and laying down beside her.

  Silk sheets and the thin cashmere blanket was pulled over them as Paige turned and curled into the warmth of Abram’s chest.

  Such trust, Tariq thought as he turned out the lights, set the secondary security, and moved to the bed himself.

  Undressing as well, he crawled in beneath the blankets, rolled onto his stomach, and settled into the comfort of the bed.

  He was aroused, there was no doubt. Merely the thought of what was to come with the woman he had always been so curious about was enough to make him harder than hell.

  But, like Abram, he was damn worried.

  Azir was striking hard and fast and now moving in ways neither Tariq, nor Abram could anticipate.

  If he continued in this vein, then they could easily end up on the losing end of the war they were now involved in. A war centering around one delicate, red-haired, green-eyed woman that Tariq knew he would have to guard his heart against.

  8

  Paige stood at the high windows of the bedroom and

  stared through the crack of the partially opened shutters to where Jafar and Azir stood on the other side of the fortress wall, barely visible.

  The two men had their heads close together as they stared at the ground as though looking for something, the metal detector Jafar carried so shadowed that at first it had been hard to tell exactly what it was.

  Their dark thobes, the loose, long-sleeved, ankle-length garments, unadorned and plain, rippled at their legs from the winds sweeping from the mountains. On their heads, the ghutra, a large square cloth of cotton, dark in color to match the thobe, was wrapped around their faces to protect them from the cold wind and secured with the thick, double, black cord.

  Azir seemed to teeter ever so often, and in the two hours she had watched them surveying the natu bank that split the land along the length of the fortress, she’d seen the old man almost topple over more than once.

  Jafar kept close to him, catching him whenever he stumbled and staying close to him whenever the crazy old goat seemed to wander from whatever they were doing.

  They were searching for something as far as she could tell, and evidently having little success in finding it.

  “What are they looking for?” she asked Tariq as he worked on a piece of electronics at the small table across the room.

  A muttered sound resembling a male grunt met her question. “Azir has spent years trying to find all the hidden tunnels coming in and out of the castle,” he told her. “Each time he finds one he has it dynamited or filled in in some way to make it impossible. ”

  She stared back down at the men with a frown. Why would they worry about hidden tunnels?

  “To keep Abram from escaping,” she murmured almost to herself.

  “Pretty much,” Tariq agreed. “Azir is fanatical about keeping him here until the king releases the funds he had frozen over twenty years ago. If Azir can get them returned, then the government has to pay out, no matter what, for the next ten years or risk breaking a treaty with several of the tribes that were a part of the original pact. They’ll go to any lengths to keep from doing that, and Azir knows that. ”

  Greed. Power. That was what it all came down to, one way or the other. Azir was hungry for it, just as his sons had been. Those who didn’t hunger for it tried peaceful means at all costs, and kept their demands clearly stated.

  Azir wanted nothing more than to fund whatever fanatical regime he was supporting, and nothing mattered but his wants. Not even the heir who seemed to be his last hope of a comfortable life in his old age.
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