He pulled one side of her dress aside and began to tease her breast through the lace of her bra, alternating warm, wet circles with gentle suckling. His hot breath was ragged against her, matching her own frantic breathing as she let go and began to writhe against his talented fingers.
He slid a second finger within her and began to pump them slowly in and out. Unable to think clearly, Zhang grabbed his face between both of her hands and met his mouth urgently with her own. He was deep in her mouth and deep in her folds when a white heat began to build and spread through her abdomen. Her breath caught in her throat and she clenched on his fingers.
He broke the kiss and whispered, “Say yes, Zhang.”
She threw her head back in abandon as hot wave after wave of pleasure rocked her body. She cried out twice, “Yes, yes . . .” and again, louder, as she climaxed: “Yes!” As secondary shudders of pleasure shook her, his hand closed possessively on her moist center.
As far as proposals went, his technique was improving.
He nuzzled her neck and said, “You’re mine, Zhang.” His excitement was still hard and pulsing beneath her. He took her hand and adjusted their position so that he could press her hand to him. “Feel what you do to me.” He rubbed her hand against his shaft. “Your fantasy has become mine.”
She pulled her hand away, but it was shaking from the mix of emotions rushing through her. Boundaries. We need boundaries. “I also fantasize about being in charge.”
His eyes burned with a deepening desire. “I might enjoy that, too.” His sexy chuckle confused her.
She tried to stand, but he held her in his lap. “This isn’t funny.”
He slid a hand inside her open bodice, beneath the lace of her bra, and cupped her small breast. “I wasn’t joking.” Looking deep into her eyes, he gently teased her nipple between his fingers, smiling as it hardened beneath his attention.
Despite the growing sensations that threatened to drown her again, Zhang raised her chin proudly and said, “Six months, Rachid.”
“I can work with that,” he murmured, a patient smile teasing his lips.
She stiffened and pushed his hand away. “I’m serious. And we can’t do this anymore.”
He laughed, stood and took her hand. “Come, I have a guest downstairs who needs to see you before he will leave without a fight.”
Zhang nodded without even bothering to ask who the guest was.
How am I going to be able to convince him that I don’t want this if I keep turning to putty in his hands every time he reaches for me?
He guided her down the hallway with a light touch to her lower back. She looked over her shoulder and met his eyes. His smile revealed that he knew exactly what he was doing to her. He said, “I’m not supposed to be in the women’s quarters, and you can’t sleep in my suite until we’re married. This week can’t pass fast enough for me.”
See, that’s not helping.
I have to be stronger than that.
We need to stop this before one of us forgets how impossible this situation is and that we are wrong for each other.
They didn’t make it to the end of the hallway before Rachid stopped and backed her against the wall. “One last kiss to tide me over.”
His lips swept down and claimed hers again. She wrapped her arms around his neck.
I’m definitely going to set him straight.
“I told Abby you didn’t want to be rescued!” Dominic cursed for a long, colorful moment. One side of his face was red, and there was a beginning of a bruise developing around one of his eyes.
Rachid stood beside Zhang, his hand still resting lightly on her lower back. Tension held her muscles tight, the only indication that his future wife was uncomfortable in the face of Dominic’s anger. Rachid said, “Calm yourself, Dominic.”
“Was a phone call too much to ask for? I don’t care what you do with your life, Zhang, but you had everyone upset.”
Zhang said, “Dominic, I’m –”
Feeling fiercely protective suddenly, Rachid said, “The fault is mine, Dom.” He took a deep breath and reminded himself of his friend’s good intentions. “I do appreciate your loyalty to Zhang.”
Something in his tone reached Dominic. He said, “You can thank me by telling these goons to put their weapons down.”
Rachid nodded at the guardsmen and they reluctantly pointed their rifles to the floor. He studied his friend’s face and said, “You’re lucky you didn’t get killed. These men have orders to protect the royal family at all costs.”
Dominic rubbed his swelling face and glared at one of the guards. “Some enjoy that job more than others.”
Rachid made note of what Dominic said. He would talk to the head of security later. “Leave us,” he said to the guards.
Rachid repeated the order. “I said – leave us.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” one said, and the others echoed his words.
As the guard on his left passed, Dominic’s fist flew up in a backward blow that connected with the man’s face and sent him stumbling to the side. The two other guards jumped in reaction but were halted by a command Rachid issued in Arabic. “This man is a guest and one who has not been treated well in his short stay. Do not confuse the volume of my voice with leniency. I have more of my father in me than you know. You would be wise to remember that.”
His warning gained the respect his mere presence should have. The guards bowed in apology and made a hasty retreat.
Zhang shook her head and said, “I have to learn Arabic.”
Dominic brushed a speck of something off his jacket arm as if he were brushing off the offensive presence of those who had left. He said, “Some things don’t require translation. At least now I know he wasn’t acting on your orders.” There was still an angry light in his eyes. “That doesn’t make us even though, Rachid. You went too far this time.”
Rachid met his friend’s anger with confidence and spoke from his heart. “I went exactly as far as I needed to go, Dom. I’m fighting for my family here. You can help or you can leave, but be warned that I am capable of going much further if the situation requires it. When it comes to protecting those I care about, my morality is – flexible. This is something you should understand well.”
Dominic appeared to weigh this new side of a friend he thought he knew. “Is it safe to bring Abby here? Because there is no way she is not going to want to attend your wedding.”
“My security will be at your disposal,” Rachid assured him.
Dominic touched the growing bruise on one of his temples and let the action express his faith in how that would work out for him.
Rachid said, “There will be no repeat of today. I’ll make sure of that. If told to, my men would die to protect you.”
Dominic nodded but added, “I’d still like to bring a few of my own people. Just in case.”
“Of course,” Rachid said. “I will have a section of the palace prepared for you. You may set it up with whatever security you wish.” A thought occurred to him and he asked, “You came alone today?”
Dominic merely smiled. “Yes, this was personal.”
Rachid laughed. “You are one crazy bastard.”
Dominic smiled. “Hey, I’m not the one marrying Zhang. Do you know she sent a squadron of men with machine guns to my island?”
She what? He’d heard bits and pieces of that story at the wedding but hadn’t made the connection to the small woman at his side. It was difficult to reconcile the image of her gloriously naked and playfully laughing with him on his plane, with the knowledge that she was one of the few people on the planet who had ever taken Dominic on directly. It’s likely she would have won had Abby not called her off.
Zhang smiled up at his frown as if she knew his thoughts and was enjoying his moment of discomfort. He unleashed his change of temper on his friend. “You will speak of her with respect, Dominic, or you will not be welcome in my home.”
Dominic’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “She’s not that easy to offend.”
Rachid’s hand dropped from Zhang’s back and he stepped toward Dominic aggressively. “I am.”
Zhang asked, sounding somewhat amused, “Is this really necessary?”
Rachid said, “This doesn’t concern you, Zhang.”
“I’d say it does,” she said sarcastically.
Rachid deliberately invaded Dominic’s personal space and said, “Dom and I are clarifying a few things.”
Dominic held his friend’s angry look, then his face relaxed into a smile and he put a hand on Rachid’s shoulder. “Okay,” he said and nodded.
And just like that, the storm passed.
Rachid mirrored his gesture, then stepped back and said, “Come, Dominic. My father will want to meet you.”
He returned to Zhang’s side and guided her down one of the hallways. He felt her glance at him repeatedly and knew she wanted to say something to him. He bent to her level as they walked so she could share without being overheard.
She said, “I don’t need you to protect me.”
His hand caressed her lower back as she spoke. “As my wife, you will always be under my protection. Your honor is my honor. Dominic understands that now.”
She stiffened beneath his touch. “And if I want to fight my own battles?”
Rachid smiled. “Then we will spend many nights making up until you understand our ways.” The thought sent a wave of excitement through him. “Which may not be a bad thing.”
Zhang glared at him, but he saw the answering passion behind her mask of strength.
He handed her off to one of the guards, who he instructed in Arabic to bring her back to her quarters. “It’s not necessary to lock her in,” he added and found his own directions reassuring.
In English, he said, “Zhang, there is a phone across the hall from your room. You may make all the calls you require.”
He wasn’t sure what to think of the smile she flashed him as she said, “How kind of you.”
He watched her walk away, mesmerized by the gentle sway of her hips, and told himself he wasn’t disappointed that she didn’t turn around one last time before she disappeared around the corner.
Dominic rocked back on his heels thoughtfully and said, “You’re playing with fire with that one, Rachid.”
Rachid glared at his amused friend. “I know what I’m doing.”
Dominic shook his head and put a supportive hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I’m becoming quite reflective as I get older, and I just realized that love and loss share some of the same stages. You are definitely in denial.”
“I’m not in love,” Rachid said curtly.
Dominic laughed. “Famous last words. Come on, let’s go see your father. I have a honeymoon to return to.”
As they walked, Rachid said, “You’re wrong this time, Dominic.”
Like the rest of the palace, the king’s suite was a combination of old-world workmanship and modern luxury. He was a wealthy man who used part of his private quarters to entertain political leaders from around the world, so his sitting room was a cream-and-gold showpiece. He smiled when he saw his son and waved for Rachid and his friends to enter. “I see you have brought me more company,” Amir said, gesturing toward the other men in the room. “I would have ordered entertainment had I known the celebrations were starting this soon.”