Guilty pleasure, p.2
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       Guilty Pleasure, p.2

         Part #11 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
Page 2


  "He still disapproves. " Joe nodded in Khalid's direction.

  "It is not my place to approve or to disapprove. " He shrugged. At least, not yet it wasn't. The battle he was fighting to steer clear of her was becoming harder by the day, though. It was a battle he might yet lose.

  "It could be. " Joe's gaze was somber now. "If you were serious in your intentions. "

  Khalid had to chuckle at that. "Gentlemen, this is the twenty-first century, not the eighteenth," he informed them. "We're not Southern gentlemen seeking to protect the honor of our daughters. My intentions are as they have always been. I must plead guilty to seeking pleasure alone. "

  Joe grimaced as Zach shook his head at Khalid's answer.

  "Marty isn't a toy," Zach stated, his voice firm, his tone warning. It was a familiar argument, though one Khalid rarely started or participated in.

  "Tell me. " Leaning forward, Khalid slid the recliner back into its folded position. "Is there any chance that Deerfield could learn what happened in Saudi before I left?"

  What had happened ten years ago had nearly destroyed him. And there were still men who would love to see Khalid el Hamid-Mustafa broken, least of whom were his two half brothers.

  "We're taking care of it," Zach promised him. "Deerfield's resignation will strip him of his clearance and ensure that he never learns your secrets. "

  His secrets. More like his nightmares. The bloody, shameful past that haunted his days like a dark specter. Khalid nodded as he rose to his feet. This conversation was at an end as far as he was concerned. If he stayed to socialize with the two men it inevitably would return to Marty. To the one woman he ached to possess with a hunger unlike any he had ever known before. She was the one woman he was forced to deny himself.

  For too many years he had contented himself with being merely a third to other club members' lovers or wives. He had no desire to form a commitment to any woman, or to any relationship. He had no right to do so. He had lost that right long ago in a desert filled with blood and betrayal.

  "That doesn't mean that the threats your half brothers represent is at an end. " Zach sighed as Khalid fought to hold back the anger building inside him. "Have you taken care of hiding the girls yet?"

  The girls. His daughters. Six young women whom his father had sent to him as little more than slaves when they had been no more than children, ten years ago. He had adopted them, raised them, and they were now beautiful young women making lives for themselves.

  Khalid nodded. "They are with Mother and Pavlos. "

  Pavlos Galbraith, the Greek multibillionaire, had done everything required to ensure their safety, as well as that of his wife--Khalid's mother--and their daughter.

  "Good. " Zach nodded. "Until we know the repercussions of the operation that unearthed that cell in D. C. last month, it's best we stay on the safe side. "

  Which meant, it was best if he stayed away from Zach's daughter, Marty.

  Which was no more than the truth. And still, it was a truth he hated facing.

  "If you'll excuse me. " He nodded to the two men as he moved away and headed for the bar's exit.

  He had no desire to discuss Marty at this point, just as he had no desire to face another night filled with arousal and nightmares, and the memories of a past he could never change.

  "What do you think?" Joe sighed, as he watched Khalid before turning back to the man who had been his best friend most of his life.

  "I think I'd prefer it if our daughter were interested in another man," Zach said, as he ran his hand over his jaw and tried to hold back the concern building inside him. "He's a hard man, Joe. "

  "He won't stay away from her. " Joe shook his head at the thought.

  "If he managed to, eventually, she would find him. " This was a truth Zach was certain of. "She's as obsessed as he is. "

  "She's protective of him," Joe countered. "And she's curious. "

  Zach sat back in his chair and breathed out a heavy sigh. Marty was like the wind, soft and gentle one day and blowing fierce and hot, or icy cold, the next. But one thing remained constant, and that was her loyalty to those she cared about. For some reason she had focused on Khalid when she was no more than a girl, and that fascination hadn't abated.

  Joe knew Zach had lived in fear in the past years of that dark fascination that often filled their daughter's eyes whenever she saw Khalid. The man would break her heart, and Joe didn't know if he could ever forgive Khalid if he hurt her. But he knew Zach would see to it personally that Khalid regretted any tears Marty shed.

  While rubbing his hand over his face, Joe gave Khalid's retreating back a final glance before lifting his drink and finishing it. Zach would take care of the problem of Vince Deerfield and get him off Khalid's and Marty's asses. Joe would help his daughter do what Zach had made him promise not to do. And that was to help her to attain what he felt would make her happy. But even more, he had a feeling it was what would make Khalid happy as well. Eventually. The boy needed something to fight for. Someone to fight for. He was growing lax in his own protection.

  Sometimes a man could just sense when two people were meant to be together. Khalid and Marty matched in ways that defied description and, as a father, Joe wanted nothing more than her happiness and Khalid's peace.

  Over the past two years he had watched the anger build inside Marty as Deerfield went after Khalid. Each order that had gone out to tap his phone, search his home, or follow him to whatever function or event he was attending had struck a sensitive nerve in the girl.

  Each time she had been forced to remain on surveillance while he played his "games," as she had called them, she had changed a little more. As though the knowledge that he was sharing another woman's bed only angered her further.

  Unfortunately for her godfather, keeping her away from Khalid would be impossible. Joe figured he might as well do as he always did and help if she asked. Then again, he knew his daughter well. She wouldn't need much assistance. He had a feeling she just might be the woman to tame the Desert Lion's heart and to heal the wounds in his soul.

  Or she would end up sharing them.

  "Stop worrying, Zach," Joe ordered firmly, as he picked up a paper on the table in front of him and sat back to read. "She's a grown woman. You have to let her live her own life at this point. "

  "So says the man who has standing orders out that she's to be covered by a protective detail at all times," Zach grunted. "Don't give me that crap. "

  Joe's lips quirked in an amused grin. "Where bullets are flying, I tend to remain cautious. Where Mustafa is concerned?" His grin widened. "He's a drowning man. Give her two weeks, he'll be like the rest of us. Putty in her hands. "

  "He doesn't have a heart, Joe," Zach said, causing Joe to lower his paper and frown back at him.

  "What the hell do you mean by that?"

  "His brothers destroyed any part of him that he could give to another woman in that damned desert," he said, thinking of what had been done to Khalid so many years before. "They ripped his heart out of his body. That's why he needs to stay the hell away from our daughter. He can't do anything but hurt her. "

  Joe prayed he was wrong, if for no other reason than his daughter's sake.

  Chapter 1

  Heat surrounded Marty. A sizzling, sultry, humid heat that washed over her naked body, lapped at her sensitive nipples, and tingled at the juncture of her thighs. It glistened and shimmered over her oil-coated body and sank inside her flesh, almost reaching that spot inside her that always seemed empty, always dark.

  Behind her closed eyelids soft color existed, compliments of the sun pouring down around her. There was just the summer surrounding her, heating her, causing her to tingle from the tips of her bare toes, over her waxed pussy and her pale breasts, to the top of her head.

  She stretched beneath the heat, luxuriating in it as she hadn't been able to do for far too long.

  She s
hould have joined her mother and aunts in France, she thought. They were sunning themselves on the beach, drinking fruity little drinks with umbrellas in them, and relaxing. If she'd had any idea of the surprise her insane boss had intended for her yesterday, then she definitely would have made plans to join them.

  She would have enjoyed the laughter that always resulted when her mother and aunts got together.

  Instead, she was lying here, wondering what she was missing and why the hell she was here alone.

  Just as she would have been doing if she were in France, she thought with amusement. She would have fussed internally every day she was there as she wondered what she was missing at home.

  She would have wondered what Khalid was doing. Sexy, charming, brooding, secretive Khalid.

  She blew out a heated breath as the image of him rose behind her closed lashes. So tall, broad-shouldered, lean-hipped. A fantasy come to life if all a woman was looking for was the pleasure to be had from sex alone.

  There were times she wished she could settle for just the sex. The stolen moments in the darkness of night, a few hours of satisfaction before she went on her way. If she were more that type of a woman, she wouldn't be as tormented by one man as she was by Khalid.

  Stroking her fingertips along the bare flesh of her abdomen left a sense of sensual weakness washing over her. There were days, nights, when she ached for his touch. When every nerve ending in her body, desperate for his caress, seemed to throb just under the skin. A touch she had never known.

  She almost laughed at the thought. She was pathetic, and the older she got, the more the ache seemed to intensify. She couldn't get him out of her fantasies, or out of her mind. She wondered if she was obsessed.

  Marty never obsessed over anything, and definitely never over a man. Khalid seemed to be the exception to her rule. Rolling over on the thick towel cushioning her from the cement surrounding the pool, Marty drew in a hard, deep breath and tried to force the ever-present erotic images of Khalid out of her mind.

  She had decisions to make while she was on vacation, decisions that did not include Khalid's arrogance and sexuality. Decisions that could change her life as well as the direction she had once chosen for it.

  The private security firm she had been approached by last month had made an offer she found hard to refuse. An offer she might yet accept.

  Climbing the ladder in the bureau was beginning to look next to impossible. Her godfather's position as head of the federal offices held her back in ways she hadn't anticipated. She was protected and watched over, and then Deerfield had the nerve to accuse her of "crying" to Zach when things didn't go her way.

  The wall to advancement that she was facing at times seemed insurmountable.

  The private security firm, on the other hand, looked promising. She had no blood relation working there, no friends, and, even better, her father and godfather weren't involved in any way. She would have a sense of freedom, fewer rules and regulations, and more action and satisfaction. It seemed like a win/win situation so far.

  So far.

  She hadn't told her fathers about it yet, she hadn't discussed it with her mother, and every time she considered doing so, something stopped her. As though the thought of it were suddenly abhorrent. But she was an adult; she wasn't going to feel like she had to ask permission to play on the other side of the playground.

  And while she was considering options, was she going to pull her towel over her naked body sometime before Khalid Mustafa stepped from the family room to the patio where she lay?

  Peeking from beneath her lashes, she watched as his shadow lingered for long seconds at the French doors before he stepped into the brilliant rays of the sun.

  Like a shadow come to life. Black eyes, black hair, deeply bronzed flesh. The man was like a living sex god. Hard muscle shifted beneath the white silk shirt he wore, just as lean, powerful legs flexed inside the form-fitting jeans that covered them.
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