Guilty pleasure, p.35
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       Guilty Pleasure, p.35

         Part #11 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
Page 35


  Tightening his jaw at the thought of that, he rose from the bed, pulled the blankets over his sleeping lover, and paced to the shower.

  After stripping again, he adjusted the water in the large shower, and then stepped inside.

  Liquid warmth caressed his flesh, reminding him of Marty's touch, of the sweet velvet rain of her release. She truly had burned them alive. He could feel the blisters on his soul already.

  Even Lessa hadn't burned so sweet, so bright.

  That thought had him grimacing as it sent a surge of guilt tearing through his gut. Lessa had been filled with laughter, with life. She had touched him with her laughing dark eyes and heady passion, but she hadn't been able to touch that inner man, the part of him that Marty seemed to fill.

  Lessa had loved him. She had loved him and Abram with everything inside her, and that love had gotten her killed.

  Those years in the desert with his father had turned into a nightmare, Khalid acknowledged. Sweet Lessa. She had been Abram's first wife. She had been his first love, and he had shared that love with Khalid.

  Khalid had known for years of the dark desires that raged inside his brother. It was impossible not to know of them when their father berated him often for them. Still, in the darkness of the night, away from prying eyes, Abram often gave in to those hungers himself, and he invited Khalid to share in the warmth.

  Those desires had nearly destroyed Abram and Khalid in the end, though. With their father's help, the evil of their brothers had struck with terrifying, unexpected force and left them reeling with shock.

  Khalid had been drugged, kidnapped, beaten, and left for dead in the desert his father so loved, as Abram had been sent to oversee the return of his brothers' dead bodies. Brothers who hadn't died. For three days Khalid had struggled to make his way back to his father's palace. A broken rib, bone-deep bruises, and dehydration had sapped his strength. He wouldn't have lived if it hadn't been for Shayne searching for him.

  Khalid returned to his father's palace certain that justice would be dealt to the men who had dared to strike against the sheikh's youngest son, only to learn that it had been the brothers who had struck him. They had learned of his deception, his betrayal, and they had struck back at Khalid and what they believed was his ungodly affair with his brother Abram's wife.

  Khalid leaned his head against the shower stall, reliving the memory. Stumbling into the palace, he'd heard Abram screaming, enraged. Ignoring the servants, Khalid had pushed his way into his father's suite to hear the damning words that had torn from Abram's lips.

  "You bastard, you let them kill her!"

  Abram's face was damp. The stoic, often cold heir to the minor throne had shed tears.

  "A whore. A blight to your life!" his father screamed back at Abram. "She is better off dead, just as you are better off without the blight she brought to your soul. She let your brother touch her. She allowed another to desecrate the garden you tended. "

  Khalid stared at them in horror. Abram swung around as Azir Mustafa had realized what he had said at the second Khalid stumbled into the room.

  "Lessa," Khalid whispered, staring at Abram, praying he'd heard wrong. Praying she was safe.

  "They killed her," Abram snarled, his dark eyes burning with such livid rage that Khalid backed away from him. "That bastard let them kill her. "

  Abram stalked out of the room, swearing he'd kill them with his bare hands. As the large doors slammed behind him, Azir sighed wearily, as though dealing with a child's temper.

  "He won't find them," he finally said, shrugging. "They will not return until he has regained his senses. It is regrettable, but the girl brought it on herself with her unholy desires. " He had glared at Khalid. "Such women do not deserve the lives they are given. "

  To this day, that memory was so vivid, so clear in his head. The scent of sandalwood, the breeze that blew through the opened windows. His father's bronzed features twisted into a scowl, his black eyes burning in fanatical judgment.

  Something had died inside Khalid that day. He remembered staring at the man who had helped create him and thinking that monsters truly did exist in the world.

  Azir's gaze had flickered over him then, as though only then realizing that Khalid had been harmed. A frown had formed between his brows as he reached out for his son. Khalid had flinched, turned, and left. His broken rib had been no more than an ache. The pain in his soul had shattered him.

  He'd showered, changed clothes, then stolen a vehicle from the palace garage and driven himself the distance to Riyadh, where he'd called his mother in America. She'd arranged his return. She'd been waiting for him after he'd healed enough to fly, and had tried to heal the wounds his soul had been inflicted with.

  Khalid had tried to put the past behind him; he'd put his father behind him and disowned the bastard as well as the half brothers who had never known a moment's punishment for what they had done to Lessa.

  Abram had taken care of her body. He'd had her cleaned, dressed, and buried as his faithful wife. He had gone to her funeral, and as he had written Khalid not long after, he had buried his soul with her.

  It should have been over. His ties to the desert and the family he hated above all things should have been severed. They had been, until the suspicious death of Abram's second wife and unborn child.

  Ayid and Aman were determined to ensure that Abram and Khalid paid for the deaths of the women they called wives, the desert vipers who had been as merciless, as vicious as their husbands could ever hope to be. But even more they wanted vengeance for the loss of respect and the money Khalid had cost them each time he managed to track down and destroy one of the terrorist cells his brothers controlled.

  After finishing his shower, Khalid dried himself, and then padded naked back to the bed. Marty was still sleeping peacefully in the same position he had left her in. Curled in the middle of his large bed, she looked much too small, too fragile to be the lover she had been such a short time ago.

  Lifting the sheet, he eased into bed beside her. His heart clenched as she shifted, moaning a little before turning and rolling into his arms.

  She fit against his body perfectly. Her head rested at his heart, her slender legs entwined with his. She was a warm, precious weight, one he feared for more than he wanted to admit.

  He would protect her, he promised himself. Her fathers were watching out for her, as was Shayne. He wasn't alone in protecting her and, unlike with Lessa, he knew the danger was there. He wouldn't lose her to them. They wouldn't take this woman and the life he had built for himself in the past ten years. He would kill them before he allowed it.

  His brothers had marked themselves when they had struck at her. He wouldn't rest now; he would never lower his guard or his determination to destroy them. If he had to destroy the throne to destroy them, then he would do so. Abram had better prepare himself, and he had better bring his part to the table quickly. Because Khalid wasn't playing anymore.

  Chapter 16

  After Shayne's early morning meeting with her fathers the next day, Marty typed up her resignation, dotted all the i's and crossed her t's, ensured that the proper wording was there, then handed it to her godfather after his meeting with Shayne.

  Zach's expression had been quiet before he stared back at her, his gaze flashing with sorrow and regret before he gave her a sharp nod and turned away.

  There was nothing left to do then but turn in the letter to her boss. The protocol irked her. Deerfield was an irritation she would have preferred not to deal with right now. The moment Marty walked into Deerfield's office, she knew she should have just stayed in Khalid's bed that morning.

  Deerfield had shed his jacket and tie. His sleeves were rolled up and his hair was standing on end, as though he had plowed his fingers through it countless times. Hazel-green eyes stared at her with a hint of censure and brooding disgust as she stepped to his desk and laid the resign
ation on it.

  "I'll consider the rest of my vacation as advance notice of my intent to resign," she stated, as she stared back at him with chilling regard. "I won't be returning. "

  "Sit down," he ordered, his tone calm but steely with a muted fury.

  Taking a seat, Marty watched him warily, wondering at the flush on his pale face and the glitter in his eyes. She could almost swear he had been drinking.

  "Went running to Daddy, didn't you, Agent Mathews. And here, according to our last meeting, you hadn't done that since you were a child. "

  Her chin lifted at the insult.

  "The harassment in this office has gone beyond acceptable boundaries," she said, as she crossed her legs and placed her hands confidently in her lap. "Your agents are on edge and your office is filled with backbiting political backstabbers, with the majority of them fighting to gain your acceptance and the support they need to do their jobs. I refuse to continue to work in such an atmosphere of complete disrespect and disregard for the laws we're to uphold. "

  He sneered back at her as he lifted the paper and glared at it again for a long moment.

  Finally, Deerfield leaned back in his chair and simply watched her contemptuously.

  "I'm certain you're aware this office is now under investigation," he stated. "Your godfather, our esteemed director, has decided he doesn't like how it's being run. I have no doubt you weren't behind the information he's received. "

  Marty shook her head and let a small, mocking smile tilt her lips. "I was unaware of his plans until I began my vacation and learned of it," she assured him, though she really hoped he didn't believe her. "Any decisions he made, he made without my input. But I don't disagree with it. "

  "You and your father are a plague. " His lips pulled back from his teeth in a display of primal fury. "Neither of you want to accept that we're not safe. That the country our agents die to protect is under attack, and that Khalid is a part of the disease moving into it. "

  Marty sat silently; she wasn't arguing Khalid's innocence any further. Her last report stated all she had left to say about it.

  "Your resignation. " He sat back in his chair once more as flicked his fingers toward the paper still lying on his desk. "I'll file it. Collect your belongings and get the hell out of here. But when you're staring into that monster's eyes facing your own death, don't say I didn't tell you so. "

  Marty moved to rise from her seat.

  "Agent Mathews. " Leaning forward, Deerfield had her sitting back slowly in her seat. "The attack against you last week ties directly back to the Mustaffa family. Are you aware of that? He's ready to rid himself of you and you can't even see it. "

  Marty didn't speak. She stared back at him silently, following her godfather's advice to allow him to dig his own hole to see how deep he was involved in this.

  "If his family doesn't kill you, others will. Mustafa has enemies. " He grimaced as, she suspected, he realized she cared very little for whatever he had to say. "Those enemies will kill you, simply because you're associated with him. "

  "I've known Khalid most of my life. " A small, knowing smile tipped her lips. "I've followed him for the past two years, and I know things about his life that I'm certain even he is unaware of. I believe by now I know exactly the man this Bureau has been harassing. "

  "Harassing?" His voice sharpened angrily as he leaned forward. "This fucking office doesn't harass anyone. We are investigators, Agent Mathews. We are all that is standing between the evil of this world and the country we are sworn to protect, this United States of America," he yelled back at her. "That son of a bitch has never known what it is to suffer. To fight to rise above poverty or to fight for justice. He doesn't know any fucking thing but the silver spoon shoved up his ass when he was born. "

  Perspiration popped out on his forehead as his face flushed a dark, ruddy red. Anger sparked in his gaze and his lips pulled tight as he glared at her while she refused to speak.
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