“I’m right about what?” he seemed to bite the words out.

“You’re right, you don’t deserve it,” she said bitterly as she forced herself from the bed, found her panties and clothes and dressed hurriedly. “You don’t have to tell Khalid I was here. He’ll only worry.”

“Did you come to see Khalid?” he questioned, his arms going over his chest as a glare settled on his face.

“Actually, I did.” Buttoning the snug jeans she pushed her feet into her sandals before lifting her head and staring back at him, refusing to feel any shame or embarrassment. “I came, because he hadn’t told me you were here, and I just wanted to see you.” The pain in her chest was overwhelming as emotion clogged her throat. “How insane was that?”

“Insane,” he snapped, his expression like stone.

She nodded to the response. “Exactly. So I’ll just return to the house and pack. We’re returning to Greece tonight.” Regret welled inside her when his expression didn’t even shift. No regret, nothing. “I guess I won’t be staying in Virginia this year after all.” She let her gaze flick over him scathingly. “There’s no reason whatsoever to stay.”

She had to get out of there before she lost control of the tears that tightened her throat and threatened to fill her eyes. Turning on her heel she quickly unlocked the door before rushing out of the room and heading for the door and the hall that led to the elevator, and below, back to the safety her parents’ home represented.

Her body still hummed with pleasure.

Her clit was still so sensitive and swollen that each step was an agony of sensation as it rubbed against the silk of her panties.

One more year. She would stay away from Virginia, her brother, and her dream of working in America for one more year. And pray it was enough time to rid herself of the emotional and the physical complications Abram Mustafa caused within her.

Because if she didn’t, then he just may well end up breaking her heart.

Abram watched her leave.

Staring from the window of the bedroom Khalid had given Paige for her visits, he watched as she appeared on the sidewalk, her white silk oversized blouse flattening against her slender body as the breeze whipped around it.

Flame-red hair whipped around her, like strands of burning silk, it blazed around her face, adding a splash of color to the otherwise dull reality that existed around him.

And with each step she took he could feel the bitterness growing inside him as he braced his palms flat on the high windowsill and buried the insane impulse to follow after her. If he did, he would drag her back to this bed and fuck her until nothing else existed for either one of them.

But reality would return. He couldn’t delay it long enough to sate himself with his need for her, or to ensure her safety.

How much more was he to lose? How much more could one man bear to see broken in his life before he finally ceased to exist?

Paige was his last weakness, he thought, answering the question for himself. She was as bright as the sun that rose in the desert, warming those who existed around her, becoming the very essence of their lives if they gave her the chance. To allow his life to break her would be a far greater sin than any he may have committed so far.

To allow his sexuality to break her—her innocence and her dreams—would be the killing stroke. Because the need that would rise inside him to see her beneath a third, one Abram knew he could depend upon to protect her, to pleasure her, to ease her should he ever cease to be, would destroy the romantic dreams he knew Paige had. How could a woman accept that he never wanted to see another man fuck her with the same hunger that he felt to have her beneath him himself? How could a virgin accept the desires he fantasized of fulfilling with her?

Of seeing her beneath Tariq, watching as his dick buried in the sweet, fist-tight grip of her pussy. Of being inside her himself, filling her little cunt, experiencing the ripples of response in the too-tight muscles as Tariq filled her ass with his cock.

His entire body tightened with the thought of it. Of feeling her pussy pulse and flex and milk his dick until he couldn’t hold back his release any longer. Until he came with the vicious, pounding spurts of seed that incited a pleasure so deep, so all-consuming it could never be forgotten. And he wanted nothing with any woman, especially with Paige, that could be forgotten.

She may have been aroused, she may be curious, but he couldn’t see her craving that pleasure as he would crave giving her the pleasure, had he not gone as far as he had.

There was also the knowledge that the dark sexuality that was so much a part of him would accept nothing less. It was his own personal torment, that need that drove at him like an addiction he couldn’t kick.

How could he tell her, explain to her, that to see her pleasure, to watch her as she slipped into that realm of sensuality that he had only seen a woman find when she was overwhelmed by two lovers, was more than he could deny himself. It was more than he could deny his lover.

That as long as there was a third, one as strong, as determined to protect her as he was, then what had happened to Lessa wouldn’t have as great a chance of happening to her.

It was the mistake he and Khalid had made with Lessa. Abram had fought that side of him, fearing Lessa gave into his brother’s touch because she knew it was what Abram wished. He had refused Khalid the privileges he would have given a third as well as the responsibilities of one. He hadn’t told Khalid that he would be away from the province the day his brother had been caught unaware, beaten and left for dead, before Ayid and Aman had gone after Lessa.

But, as Khalid had warned him the day he realized Abram had seen Paige as a woman, she deserved more. She deserved a man who knew possessive love, who understood it. But even more importantly, a man who did not bring with him the shadow of death.

“She’s gone?”

Tariq stepped into the room behind him, his voice somber as he posed the question.

He, too, had seen her standing at the door, her eyes wide, face flushed, that look of drowning sensuality filling her expression the moment they had spilled their release into another woman’s body.

In that expression he had seen the knowledge that it didn’t matter the woman they were with, it didn’t matter how he fought it, how he strove to deny it, each time he stepped foot in the U.S., there was only one face he searched for now. There was only one gaze he avoided with everything inside him.

“She’s gone,” he stated, wondering if he had effectively hid the regret that surged through him.

“She was angry?” Tariq probed.

Abram gave a quick shake of his head. “Surprisingly, no.”

No, she hadn’t been angry. It had been disillusionment. It had been bitterness. It had been the knowledge that girlish dreams never came true no matter how desperately she fought to bring them to fruition.

They died. Painfully. Hurtfully. They were tromped beneath uncaring feet and left to wither by a world that didn’t know true warmth.

And he had done no more than contibute to the cold that filled her gaze now, the disillusionment.

She was a woman searching for the dreams that filled her soul, and he couldn’t be the man to fulfill those dreams, no matter his own wishes.

“Has our companion left?” he turned to Tariq, seeing the intent look on his cousin’s expression.

Tariq had been watching him too closely of late whenever they were in Virginia, especially whenever Paige was present. As though he were searching for something, some affirmation of a suspicion.

Abram refused to give into the question in his third’s gaze. They both desired her, and yet, he refused to act on that desire, or in Abram’s case, that hunger.

“She’s showering.” Tariq shrugged his shoulders beneath the expensive cotton shirt he wore. “She seems discontent with your lack of attention now that your pleasure has been attained.”

Now that his pleasure had been attained? His cock was still as hard as it had been the moment he stepped off the fucking plane. And it was still as hard as the moment he had stepped into Paige’s bedroom to see her fingers preparing to thrust inside the heated depths of her pussy.

He had never imagined she was a virgin. Never imagined it, and now, had no idea how he could force himself to forget it.

“See her home, Tariq,” Abram ordered. “I’ll await your return before leaving to meet with Director Jennings and Senator Mathews. I’d like to give them the information we’ve attained on Ayid and Aman quickly, before Azir realizes we have left Saudi entirely.”

His brothers, Ayid and Aman. Younger half-brothers. Twins who shared a rabid rage and intellectual cruelty that never ceased to amaze him. And Azir, his father. How had he ever believed his father could have the smallest iota of kindness inside his blackened soul? Now, six months after the death of the wife Azir had forced him to marry, and the child she had carried, Abram found it almost impossible to keep from killing the old bastard. Especially after he learned exactly how involved his father had been in ensuring there were no heirs other than Abram before he turned thirty-six.

If there were other heirs, then Abram’s death would not result in allowing Azir to turn the province over to the sons he preferred. The sons who shared his warped vision of the future of the world.

That vision had seen to the death of Abram’s first wife, when he had been no more than twenty. It had seen to the death of his second wife, and his unborn child, two years later. And it would destroy any other woman Abram ever allowed himself to care for.

Just as Ayid and Aman would see to the death of any woman Khalid could love, other than his sister, Paige.

They were cursed. The eldest sons of Azir bore the hatred and the fruits of malice that sprang from not just Azir, but also his youngest sons.

As Paige stepped into the back of the car in which she’d ridden into the city, the driver closing the door solicitously behind her, Abram turned and met Tariq’s gaze.

“She’s gone.” He hadn’t meant the words to pass his lips, or the thought to torment him as it did.

Watching her leave, watching that innocence, that hunger and zest for life, and for him, disappear, had driven home the fact that she could be taken forever if he weren’t very very careful.

Tariq’s lips quirked in amusement though, the bitterness and realization that tormented Abram wasn’t a part of the other man’s present thoughts.

“She won’t be for long,” Tariq assured him. “If that mark on your shoulder is any indication, you’ve given her a taste of what you both hunger for. I have a feeling, Abram, Miss Galbraithe will return sooner than you think.”

The mark?

His gaze jerked to his shoulder before he moved to the mirror atop the dresser next to him.

There, on his shoulder, just as Tariq had stated, a love bite that marred his flesh deeper than he would have imagined she could have given without his knowledge.

It marked him far deeper than flesh alone.

He forced himself to turn away.

He forced himself to leave her bedroom.

He forced himself to forget those few, precious moments when his lips had caressed the softest flesh he had ever known, when his tongue had tasted pure, fiery ecstasy.

A taste that would linger in his senses forever.

And a regret he knew he would never outrun.

He hadn’t expected this, he thought, it had caught him unaware the day he had arrived to help her and her family celebrate her eighteenth birthday. When he had seen her in that simple sundress on the sunny Greek island where she and her family lived part of the year. With the tops of her breasts rising above the bodice of the dress, the tiny straps stretching over slender, graceful shoulders, and the red gold of her hair hanging to the middle of her back.

“Abram,” she had whispered his name with a breathy little sigh. “I’ve missed you.”

Stars had gleaed in the emerald green of her eyes. Her face had flushed beneath the soft hint of the Mediterranean-bronzed flesh. Her skin wasn’t as dark as her father’s, but neither was it as light as her mother’s. When combined with the silken flames of her hair, the combination was enough to daze a lesser man.

It was that day he had seen the woman she was. It was that day his cock had swelled, becoming so engorged, so torturously hot and tight he swore he’d been on the edge of dizziness.

He almost grinned at that thought.

Almost. Because, he knew the fate that would await her.

He knew the hell he would revisit and this time never escape.

He couldn’t have her, he couldn’t allow his need to corrupt her, or his legacy to endanger her.

And he couldn’t keep his hunger for her from raging …

Eight years later

He was home. Finally.

Paige Galbraithe moved from the chaise positioned next to the balcony doors of her bedroom and stared at the lights that swept over the lawn.

The limousine moved with an almost stealthy slowness along the curved, oak-bordered drive. The lights swept over the landscaping like a cat burglar’s penlight as the car neared the garage. The bright gleam disappeared into the three-story mansion Khalid owned in the heart of the exclusive section of Alexandria, Virginia, designed as Squire Point.

After ten days captivity in her brother’s home, the rat had finally shown up. It was about time. She was rather sick of cooling her heels in the luxurious comfort of her brother’s home rather than in her own apartment.

Collecting the silk robe she had left lying on the back of the chaise, Paige pulled it on quickly, covering the ankle-length, matching deep-violet gown she wore. Anger and determination made her movements jerky.

Ten days. She had waited ten days to confront him.

He wouldn’t answer his cell phone—his fiancée Marty was running interference—but still, her brother wasn’t talking to her. Marty assured her daily that she would get to tear a strip off his hide in person, and each day, he was a no-show.

“Relax for a while, Paige…”

“Khalid will call soon…”

“You’ll have explanations when Khalid arrives…”

Even her parents refused to tell her what she needed to know, what she demanded each time they called to see how she was doing.

She was fed up with it. She was twenty-five years old; she wasn’t a teenager. She was Khalid’s sister, not some damned prisoner he could control. She was easy to work with, and she considered herself a very understanding person. But her patience had begun wearing thin a week ago.

Belting the robe furiously as she turned on her heel, Paige stalked across the bedroom and eased open the door before stepping into the hall. Moving to the stairs she stopped and waited, listening carefully.

She wasn’t about to let him think that she was still awake and waiting on him. He’d been slipping into the house after he was certain she was asleep, doing whatever he did, then slipping back out before she awoke.