The Sheikh's Impetuous Love-Slave(7)

By: Marguerite Kaye



‘I’ve told you. It is the harem. My harem.’

‘But it’s empty.’

‘Not now. You, mademoiselle, have the honour of being the first occupant.’

‘But….’

‘And I,’ Khalid said, advancing on her with an intent that made Juliette’s heart begin to pound unevenly, ‘in the absence of any other concubines, will be the one to teach you.’

‘Teach me what?’

‘What no one has taught you before. How to be a woman. How to enjoy being a woman. How to take pleasure from your body, to ignore that clever little brain of yours, Mademoiselle de Montignac, and remember that you are Juliette. A woman. And, for the present, my woman.’

His finger trailed down her cheekbone, her throat, her collarbone, the outside of her breast. His touch made her shiver. Her nipples hardened into tight peaks. ‘I won’t,’ Juliette said automatically. She did not like what he was doing to her. She did not like the way her body was responding. Except she did like it, in the same contrary way she liked the way he looked at her, really looked at her, as if he saw what no one else did. Juliette. A Juliette even she did not know. She liked that. No, she didn’t. At least, she ought not to. Shouldn’t she?

Struggling to retain her composure, Juliette met Prince Khalid’s gaze. ‘You can’t make me.’

Khalid laughed softly. ‘You may be naïve, but you are not that innocent,’ he said. ‘I won’t have to, and you know it.’

She did know it. And when he kissed her for the second time, a hard, possessive kiss, over all too quickly, he confirmed it. A flicker of heat, a sizzle of anticipation, the temptation of the leap into the unknown. As if, holding up a candle to a newly discovered tomb, she hesitated upon the brink, and in her hesitation knew that she surrendered.

Khalid picked her up in his arms once more and carried her through the doorway of the first of the interconnecting rooms which ran around the perimeter of the courtyard. He meant only to teach her a lesson in humility. Though the laws of Lash’aal made her his, body and mind, though Khalid himself was the symbolic upholder of those laws, he did not really believe that one person should own another. Slavery had been abolished in Lash’aal two hundred years before. He did not own her, but she did not know that, and while Khalid was above all else a man of honour, there was something about Juliette de Montignac that stripped away the centuries of sophistication and revealed the inner conqueror, the hunter, the man. It confused him. At some point, it would perhaps shame him, but right now, what it did more than anything was overwhelm him. Juliette must be tamed. He would not force her. She would give, and once she gave, he would demonstrate the full extent of his power over her by refusing to take.

The harem had not been occupied since his father’s time, but aside from the garden, it had been well maintained. The bathing chamber was huge, white-tiled, with one wall consisting entirely of mirrors. The ceiling was painted dark blue, with the constellations of the Arabic sky picked out in silver. At the centre of the room stood an enormous sunken bath, filled from a golden spout in the shape of a sea serpent. Khalid placed Juliette back on to her feet and turned the tap to allow the water to flow. ‘The first duty of a concubine is to prepare herself,’ he said.

Wide-eyed, gazing longingly at the bath, Juliette was conscious of how grubby and dirty she was. She felt as if she were in a dream. The shipwreck she had so miraculously survived had cast her free from the anchor which had been her life. Only now, in this exotic palace, with this exotic man, did she realize just how empty that life had been. In the brief time here as Prince Khalid’s prisoner, she had experienced more extremes of emotion than she had felt in her entire life. This interlude had no place in reality, she knew that, but right now she didn’t care.

She felt alive. She felt liberated. She felt…she felt distracted. By the perfume wafting up from the petals and oils which Prince Khalid had strewn into the bathwater. By the tingling sensation his kiss had left on her lips. By the way her body heated, her skin too hot, all her senses accentuated. By the man himself, once more turning his attention towards her. He had discarded his cloak, his weapons, his headdress. His hair was black, midnight-black, just like hers. Without the formal clothes, he looked much younger. Much more attractive. Much more dangerous. Much, much more dangerous. He was no longer an aloof prince, but a man.

She had never really thought of herself as a woman, but now, because he so obviously did, so too did she. Compared to his lithe body, the compact power in his muscles, the very potency of him, she felt vulnerable, soft, exposed. Her will seemed to have fled. She was oddly inclined to do as he bid her, oddly excited by the prospect.

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