Guilty pleasure, p.9
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       Guilty Pleasure, p.9

         Part #11 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
Page 9


  The blood of his wife, as well as the blood of Aman's and Ayid's own wives.

  "They won't forget the vendetta they have against the two of you," Sebastian warned them as he and Shayne remained at the bar. "They're only growing in strength and numbers, Khalid. The men you helped capture in D. C. was only a small number of them. "

  Khalid was well aware of that.

  "That mission you and Shayne cooperated with was one Ayid and Aman were counting on succeeding," Abram said as he leaned closer, his gaze becoming cold and hard once again. "It is only a matter of time, Khalid, before they learn for sure of our involvement. When they do, they will strike once again. I do not wish to see you lose what I lost so long ago. Your woman must remain safe. "

  "There's no way they can find out. " Khalid shook his head. "I've learned how to cover my tracks, Abram. "

  That was something he and Abram both hadn't known how to do effectively during those years in Saudi. That inexperience had cost them Lessa's life, and nearly their own.

  "Rumors are already surfacing," Abram argued. "Just as I know Shayne has warned you. One of the terrorists involved in the D. C. cell managed to escape back to Saudi. He carried the tale that he saw you when the agents swarmed into the safe house for the arrest. Were you there?"

  "The chance that Ayid and Aman would be there was too great," Khalid said, his voice tight.

  But they hadn't been there. They had returned to Saudi hours before the Homeland Security agents had overtaken the small cell.

  It had been a far different scenario than the one of ten years before in Saudi, just outside Riyadh.

  There had been no agents then, just a fighter jet and a bomb, and a small, mud hut beneath the blistering sun just outside the city. The eight-man terrorist cell had been gathered there, along with Ayid, Aman, and their wives. That time as well, his brothers' luck had ridden fast and hard upon their backs. Ayid and Aman had slipped from the hut to meet with a contact they had approached within the SaudiRoyalPalace. A cook who had conspired with them to kill the king and his immediate family.

  The Saudi Royal Air Force had struck before they returned to the hut, and the information that it was Khalid who had supplied their location to the Air Force had been on the cook's lips when he met with the brothers.

  Ayid and Aman had known who to strike, just as they had known that Abram would have been involved in whatever Khalid was involved in. Abram and Khalid hadn't been at the palace when the brothers had returned, but Lessa had been. And because Abram had shared his wife's body with Khalid, Azir had stood back and allowed Ayid and Aman to brutalize her.

  He had blamed Lessa for what he called Abram's and Khalid's "unnatural desires. "

  "Ayid and Aman weren't there, though," Abram informed him about the most recent mission. "Their suspicion that you and I were working together once again to provide the information of the movements of this cell have risen due to the information the terrorist carried back to Ayid and Aman's ears after the raid. He swore he saw you. "

  "And what does Azir think?" Khalid asked curiously.

  "So far, he has Ayid and Aman on a tight leash," Abram sighed heavily. "It is a hold that may not last long. And it is one that Ayid, especially, will find a way to work around. "

  Ayid was older than Aman. He was the leader and the planner, while Aman was no more than the gopher, the pitiful sidekick who followed whichever direction Ayid took.

  Khalid could feel rising inside him now the certainty that Ayid and Aman would strike against him.

  And what better way to strike than to come after a woman Khalid claimed as his own?

  Marty's timing was damned inconvenient, Khalid thought.

  "Khalid, Zach has his men on this as well," Shayne said, his tone low as Khalid rose slowly from the couch to pace to the window that looked out over the gardens. "There's no way you can hide the fact that there's something between you and Marty. Not now. "

  Khalid wanted to shake his head. He wanted to deny that he had done anything, that he had ever placed her in danger. But there was no denying it. He had done just that. He had drawn her into the most dangerous game of his life, and he was damned if he knew how to pull back now.

  "Ayid and Aman have sworn their vengeance against both of us," Abram reminded Khalid. "I cannot stay and help you protect her. "

  No, he couldn't stay. He would not be Khalid's third. Not that Khalid had planned to go that route. Abram had his responsibilities in Saudi, and Khalid had his here--despite the bond that had developed between them during the years Khalid had spent in Azir Mustafa's small region. The brothers, so close in looks and temperament, had found they had shared similar interests as well. Most especially that dark, driving hunger to share their lovers.

  "When are you going back?" Abram never stayed long, never spent enough time away from Saudi to allow the brothers to suspect that he was doing more than attending business in Riyadh.

  "In a few days," Abram answered as Khalid turned back to him. "I've brought with me the pictures and files I've put together over the months for Shayne and Zach Jennings. The training camp in the mountains, just over the border, has grown in recruits. I counted more than thirty men last week. Ayid and Aman were there, but, as always, their faces were covered. There's no way to prove it's them by pictures alone. "

  The brothers moved with a distinctive stride and their voices had a clearly recognizable pitch. There was no way to document it though without a recorder, and there was no way Abram could get close enough for that.

  "Our main concern at this point is their next move," Shayne said. "As I told you when I arrived, Ayid and Aman are already accusing you and Abram of being part of the capture of the D. C. cell. That was too important to them, Khalid. They're going to come after you. "

  Of course they were. Sooner or later. They may even get lucky and manage to kill him this time.

  Not that they hadn't tried hard before. Unfortunately, they were limited in the funds Azir allowed them, as well as in the freedom he gave them. And they would never be satisfied unless they could drive the stake into his heart themselves.

  "I'll be prepared, then. " He gave a short, brief nod to the three men watching him. "And I'll make sure Marty's protected. "

  "There is no more that I can do here, then. " Abram removed the baseball cap to run the fingers of one hand through his hair before replacing the cap. He gazed back at Khalid regretfully. "I must go now. "

  Khalid moved to him, embraced him, and damned if he didn't also feel regret tearing through him. They had made a pact so many years ago, to always be a part of the other's lives. Now, not only distance separated them, but also the evil whose blood they shared.

  "Kiss your lovely woman for me," Abram said softly as he drew back. "And watch your back, Khalid. "

  "Abram, I'll see you back to your hotel. " Sebastian stepped from the small private bar, his black eyes in contrast to the dark blond hair that grew thick and long to the collar of his black shirt.

  "Once again, I am in your debt, Sebastian. " Abram nodded as Shayne also moved forward.

  Extending his hand, Abram shook Shayne's firmly. "Watch out for my little brother. " His lips quirked with amused fondness as he glanced back at Khalid. "See you soon. "

  Leaving the room, Abram didn't look back. He never did. Khalid saw his big bodyguard, Mohammed, step forward to lead Abram from the building. And then the door closed behind him and his brother was gone once again. Turning to Shayne, Khalid gave a weary sigh. "I must make a few calls. If you don't mind meeting me in the bar later?"

  Shayne gave a quick nod and an amused grin as he strode to the door before turning back. "Tell Zach I said hi. "

  The panel closed softly behind him, leaving Khalid alone with nothing but his thoughts and his fears.

  The fear that his past was rising against him now, and the fear that despite the battle he had waged against it, Marty would be smack
in the middle of it this time.

  Jerking the cell phone from the holster at his side he flipped it open and placed his call.

  "Zach. " The FBI director answered on the first ring.

  "We have a problem. "

  Chapter 4

  A week. Khalid managed to stay away from the tempting little vixen one full week. He'd never realized how often he'd sought Marty out over the years.

  When he had spoken on the phone with her godfather, a hunger--a need to bind her to him--rose inside him like a fever that couldn't be cooled. It had tightened his body and torn at his soul.

  He felt like an addict needing a fix. In the past, just the sight of her had been enough, or perhaps a dance, a flirtatious remark, or a heated little exchange. But always there had been the knowledge in the back of his mind after those occurrences, that she was still his. That she still belonged to him.

  Until the full seven days had passed with no sight of her and no small comments or tidbits of information from her normally too talkative father, Joe. And suddenly he needed all those things desperately.

  Thankfully, Marty had shown no interest for any man other than him. So there had been no threat that she would be taken from him. But his past had always been the reason he couldn't reach out for her, either. Why he couldn't possess her.

  As he stood, staring out the window of the room used to meet with his brother, Khalid watched as Shayne walked through the wide French doors leading from the bar to walk into the confines of the garden below.

  His past was about to rise again with a vengeance. It was also the reason Shayne was in D. C. It was the reason Azir had sent Abram on his hasty trip from Saudi.

  Azir was desperate to regain Khalid's favor. Favor he had never possessed, and never would. The man who had bought, raped, and tormented Khalid's mother was a monster to him. The only reason Khalid had agreed to go to Saudi just after he turned eighteen was to find a way to destroy Azir.

  Azir hadn't been destroyed, though. Abram and Khalid had been the ones to suffer.

  Staring out into the flowering gardens below, it wasn't the beauty of the perfect blooms he saw.

  He saw his past.

  He saw the blood.

  Raking his fingers through his hair, he drew in a hard, frustrated breath before turning away and stalking back to the drink he had sat on the table next to the couch and tossed it back quickly. Grimacing at the burn as it traveled down his throat, Khalid wondered if he would ever erase the sins of the past from his soul.

  His jaw clenched as memories and rage threatened to flood him. It had been ten years, and still he couldn't get the sight of it, the horror of it, out of his head.

  He could still hear Abram's howls of rage as they echoed through their father's desert palace. He could see the woman he and Abram had pledged themselves to, spread out upon her marriage bed, naked, her gaze staring in blank horror at the ceiling above the bed, blood covering her body and the satin sheets, and pooling between her thighs.

  And now, here he was, so many years later, tempting that horror to strike once again.

  "The day will come, brothers," Ayid had warned them in a letter sent to both Khalid and Abram weeks later, "when you will claim a woman that is yours rather than another's. The day will come when you will cling to one heart. And when it does, we will be there. We will strike. And you will know it was your actions that took the life of the one you love. Just as your actions took ours. "

  Khalid knew he must be insane, because there wasn't a chance in hell that he could endure the pain Abram had endured when he lost Lessa. Should he lose Marty to the vindictive cruelties of his half brothers, he would go on a killing rampage unlike any Ayid and Aman could imagine.

  Even knowing it was more than he could endure, he couldn't stay away from her. Not anymore. But more important, she had declared herself, and Marty wasn't backing down in spite of what she had said a week ago. He knew Marty too well. Even if Khalid didn't respond, his brothers would take notice of her eventually.
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