The damned coward.

Abdul, or Abbie as she called him, his Saudi manservant, was always abjectly apologetic that he hadn’t awakened her before Khalid left, as she had asked him to do. He had a million excuses, but she knew the truth. Khalid was his boss, and Khalid wasn’t about to face her until she simply left him no choice.

They were working together—Abbie, Marty, Khalid’s security team, and even Khalid himself—to keep her in place and completely in the dark as to why she was suddenly being held in what her brother called “protective custody.” Even the U.S. marshal service wasn’t this damned diligent.

Even her parents were refusing to help her. Her mother’s fear for her only daughter, her “baby” as she called her, had Marilyn Galbraithe going along with whatever her son had cooked up this time.

And that son hadn’t even given his sister the courtesy of facing her and giving her a clue as to how long this would last, if there was an end in sight, or the details involving the danger she was facing.

She had a good idea. After all, she was well aware of the fact that his brother, Ayid, had finally played his final hand and attempted to murder Khalid and his fiancée, Marty, less than a month before. Just as Ayid’s twin, Aman, had gone after Abram in D.C. as he waited in a hotel to meet with FBI Director Zack Jennings and the Homeland Security Director to declare his U.S. citizenship based on his mother’s status as an American citizen.

Instead, Khalid had killed Ayid, and Abram had killed his youngest brother, Aman. Though, to keep Abram’s defection to the U.S. a secret, Khalid had taken the blame for both deaths.

She suspected this was why she was placed in isolation in the monstrous mansion her brother now owned. The mansion that shadather, Azir Mustafa, had bought for him.

She wanted to hear it from him, though. She wanted to know exactly why Azir Mustafa thought threatening her was going to gain him anything. And she wanted to know why the hell Khalid thought that destroying the life she was building for herself was going to help.

She’d been all but imprisoned by her overprotective parents for far too many years. Her mother had been so terrified Paige would be kidnapped or taken, that she would disappear as had once happened to her, that she had kept Paige always in sight.

Bodyguards. Security-enhanced private schools. Private tutors. She’d been so overprotected she had nearly smothered to death.

Escaping had taken every ounce of strength she had, because she loved her parents. Because even in their attempts to ensure her safety, she had always been aware of their love for her. Just as she had been of the nightmares they suffered from a past haunted by the horror of her mother’s kidnapping, forced marriage and rapes at the hands of a monster. That monster had been the father of her half-brother’s and the father of the man she couldn’t push out of her mind or her fantasies.

“Stay away from me.” His eyes blazing with black fury and none of the sexual satisfaction he should have felt after spilling himself only moments before into the lover he had shared with his cousin, Tariq. Only moments before he came to her. “For both our sakes, Paige, stay the fuck away from me!”

That had been eight years ago. Eight years since he had buried his lips and tongue between her thighs and threw her into an ecstasy she still hadn’t felt again. Not before and not since. Eight years since he had fucked her with his tongue yet, he had never even kissed her.

In those years she had taken a lover, she had finished college, and she had begun a career that she enjoyed. But still, there was a regret that lay inside her like a weight. The regret that came with so many “what might have been’s.”

Moving from her room to the stairs, she waited. Standing back from the steps just far enough that he couldn’t see her, Paige peeked into the shadows below as he moved to the second floor, turned, and a few seconds later, she heard the door to his suite close.

Her lips tightened into a hard smile.

Ten days. It was ten days too long and she was damned tired of waiting, of being patient and fighting to understand why her parents and her brother had to live in fear of the day that Azir Mustafa or one of his family members would come after her.

Moving quietly, swiftly, she made her way to the second floor and the door of the master suite.

No lights shone from beneath the door, but that didn’t mean anything. She’d seen Khalid move in the dark as though he were born to itt>

His brother, Abram navigated it as though he owned it though.

She shook that thought away. She was not going to think about Abram tonight. She was not going to allow the rest of her night to be as restless as her days had been with the fantasies and the memory of those stolen moments in her bedroom all those years ago.

This was the reason she refused to settle back and relax while she was here. It was the reason why she pushed herself to the point of exhaustion each night after work. To keep low the fires of arousal from building any higher.

Thinking of Abram was always a mistake. And desiring him showed a complete lack of judgment and had nothing to do with why she was here or why she was getting ready to skin her brother alive.

The worst thing she could do at the moment was allow thoughts of Abram to interfere with her determination to get the answers she needed, and to find a way to balance her family’s fears with her own determination to have a life.

She needed a life. Without it, all she could think about, dream about and remember, was Abram and the feel of his lips sucking hard and tight at her clit as his tongue—

She shook away the thought again.

Gripping the doorknob she checked it slowly, quietly. It wasn’t locked. He wasn’t busy with his fiancée, or having wild monkey sex with her. He was obviously there alone, because she couldn’t hear him talking and Marty didn’t move as quietly in the dark as Khalid did. Besides, the door to his suite was always locked when they were in it together.

Easing the door forward stealthily, she all but tiptoed as she began to enter the room. Inside was dark, shadows lengthening through the narrow slits between the curtains, providing the barest hint of moonlight. Determination clenched her teeth a second before the door was jerked out of her hand, a manacle wrapped around her wrist, and in the next second she found herself flat against the wall as the door slammed closed.

Fight or flight.

Flight wasn’t possible, and for the briefest, shocked second, she had no idea the identity behind the hard, masculine body pressing her into the wall. Calloused and rough, a broad hand covered her lips, muffling her cry as her knee slammed upward, almost but not quite managing to connect and slam her attacker’s balls straight to his throat.

Instead, she found her knee blocked by a hard, extremely muscular thigh as it shoved its way between hers, pressed into the juncture and lifted her to her tiptoes. In the same breath she felt her attacker’s head bend, strong teeth nipping her ear and drawing a shocked gasp from her throat.

“Hello to you too, hellcat.”

She froze.

It had been so long since she had heard his voice. The rich, dark, foreign flavor of it wrapping around her senses and sending a heavy, heated lethargy to settle in the depths of her sex.

Memories washed over her.

His hands, calloused and strong, so dark against her thighs as his black hair, like roughened silk falling over her flesh as his lips moved over her clit. They had surrounded it, sucked it, lit a fire to it that had exploded through her system into an ecstasy she longed to revisit every second of her life.

Abram.

Beneath his palm her lips parted to drag in a hard, heavy breath as her body began to soften, to shape to the harder, stronger contours of his masculine body.

She shouldn’t be doing this. He had avoided her for years, slipping in and out of Khalid’s home and her life, and she had seen him only briefly, and always in the company of others.

Without volition her hips relaxed, the mound of her pussy pressing against the hard upper leg shoved between her thighs as she felt her breasts harden, her nipples so sensitive they actually ached.

Pleasure skated through her system as her tongue peeked out to touch her lips, to touch his palm. Slightly salty, male, the taste of him exploded against her tongue as he jerked back from her just as suddenly.

Staring up at the darkened shadow of his face, seeing the glitter of his gaze, feeling the heat of his body, Paige found herself, probably for the first time in her life, unable to speak. She couldn’t find the words, she couldn’t fight past the emotions or the tightening of her throat as she stared back at him.

The need for his touch was a craving she couldn’t resist. She couldn’t deny it. It was like a drug and she had gone far too long without a fix.

Her lips parted, but no words came out. She couldn’t let them, because she was terribly afraid those words would be a plea. That she would beg for things she wasn’t certain how to ask for with this man. Things she knew she was probably better off without.

Her body sure as hell knew how to ask though. She was shocked, flushed with heat and had to forcibly keep her hips from rubbing against the hard flesh pressed into the mound of her pussy.

And he knew it. His leg was tense, but each time her hips shifted against the firm muscle she swore he tightened further against her.

And he wasn’t letting her go. If anything, he was holding her tighter, perhaps, if she weren’t mistaken, his leg was pressing more firmly against the suddenly heated, swollen folds between her thighs. And oh yes, it felt so damned good. That heated, slow rub against her, stroking her clit, sending bursts of incredible sensation ratcheting through her.

She had known over the years that this was coming. At the first opportunity. The moment he touched her, the very second they found themselves hidden from curious gazes. She had known this would happen. That the need and the hunger would rage out of control.

“Why?” squeaky, weak, her voice was nothing as it should have been. It didn’t sound determined or confident as it usually did. And it sure as hell didn’t sound independent and strong.

Swallowing tightly she tried again.

“Why are you here? Where’s Khalid?”

She tightened her fingers against the hold he had on her wrists, though she found herself stopping short of actually straining against his hold. After all, if she protested too loudly, or struggled too much, he might actually let her go.

“Khalid and Marty are with her parents.” Deep, dark, she swore she actually trembled as he spoke. “They are completing the plans for your protection.”

Her protection? Right now, all she needed protection from was the brilliant heat she was helpless against.

“He should be here.” Oh man, she was dying here. She could feel her blood racing, her flesh heating, her clit throbbing harder in demand with each second.

The longer she lay there beneath him, the more she wanted him. The more she wanted the sensations, the pleasure she had only had the briefest taste of eight years before.

“Should he be?” His fingers tightened, then relaxed against her hip a second before his palm cupped it, shifting her, moving her against his thigh. “I think at this moment, it’s a very good thing that he isn’t here. Wouldn’t you say?”

A flash of fire streaked through her pussy, clenched the tightened muscles and almost stole her breath. Pleasure raged through her body, but it was a painful pleasure, an achy, needing-so-much-more sensation type of pleasure that it weakened her knees and had her breathing in roughly.

“He kidnapped me,” she breathed out roughly. “I’m going to kick his ass.”

“Go right ahead,” he murmured. “When he arrives. Until then, I believe it might be time to see if your lips are as soft and as sweet as they appear to be. If they are anywhere as sweet as that hot, luscious little pussy I cannot forget the taste of.”

Her entire body clenched in excitement at the declaration.

Then his head lowered.

Paige felt her lashes drift close, lips remaining parted, breath suspended as his lips brushed against the edge of her face, sending a rush of exquisite pleasure washing through her again.

“You’re trying to distract me,” she accused him roughly. “I’m not going to let you do it. Khalid owes me explanations, Abram.”

He owed her. She owed herself. She couldn’t let him do this to her or once he was gone, there would be nothing left of her.

“He’s protecting you,” he stated, though his voice sounded rougher, more strained as his lips moved to her ear, his breath stroking across the shell as he spoke. “You’re in danger, Paige, you should have guessed that by now.”

In danger of screaming in need. Of begging for his touch. Of whimpering with the painful hunger she couldn’t control.

“Guessed what?” She hoped he didn’t actually expect her to be able to think at the moment, because it wasn’t happening. But she couldn’t imagine a single reason why she would be in danger.

Unless it was in danger of dying of arousal. As of this moment, that was definitely a consideration. In all her adult years she had never felt this way with another man, had never ached or lost her breath, or felt on fire as she did now. And never had she been so certain she may lose herself in another person.

“That you’re in danger.” There was a thread of amusement in his voice now, the knowledge of it sweeping through her with the same force the hunger had swept through her moments before.

Amusement was the last thing she could have felt as he held her, as the thrill of touching him, of being touched by him, held her captivated.

Clenching her teeth she tensed, trying to pull back, to put just a breath between their bodies as she attempted to find her control somewhere in the morass of aching hunger and need assailing her.

Wasn’t it just her luck to be so aroused by a man while his own arousal, his own needs, were so obviously distant, just as they had been before. It was the story of her life where Abram was concerned. From the time she’d realized she wanted those devilish, sexy lips of his on her, he’d been either furious or amused by her.

“In danger of killing Khalid perhaps,” she forced out. “Would you please let me go now? Get off me, Abram. I’m not in the mood for your games.”

He rubbed his cheek against her hair as though considering her request for long moments. “Perhaps, I like you fine as you are,” he finally stated. “I like how you feel against me, Paige Eleanora Galbraithe. Do you know how the memory of those very few stolen moments have tormented me?”

“And perhaps I think by now I know better,” she whispered hoarsely. “Stop playing with me.”

“Ahh, Paige, love, this is far beyond playing. This is the reason why I have fought against your touch. Because I can feel my control going straight to hell just from the simple act of holding you against me. How can I convince you how much I enjoy the feel of you against me?”