Awakened by Her Desert Captor(3)

By: Abby Green

  Aghast to note that she was feeling a sense of rejection, when she’d developed an inbuilt defence mechanism against ever experiencing it again, Sylvie backed away.

  Relief surged through her when her sister appeared, slid an arm through their father’s and said with forced brightness, ‘Come on, Daddy, your guests will be wondering where you are.’

  She watched as her father, stepmother and sister walked off—along with the disturbing stranger who sent her barely a glance of acknowledgement.

  On legs that felt absurdly shaky Sylvie finally followed the group outside and determined to stay out of that man’s dangerous orbit, sticking close to Sophie and her group of friends.

  A few hours later, though, she found herself craving a moment’s peace—away from people getting progressively drunker, and away from the censorious gaze of her stepmother and the tension emanating from her father.

  She found a quiet spot near the gazebo, where a river ran at the end of the garden. After sitting down on the grass and taking off her shoes she put her feet in the cool rushing water and breathed out a sigh.

  It was only after she’d tipped her head back and had been contemplating the full moon, low in the sky, for a few seconds that she felt a nerve-tingling awareness that she wasn’t alone.

  She looked around just as a tall, dark shape moved in the shadows of a nearby tree. Stifling a scream, Sylvie sat up straight, heart pounding, and asked, ‘Who’s there?’

  The shadow detached itself, revealing the other reason for her need to escape: so she could find an opportunity to dwell on why she’d had such a confusing and forcible reaction to the enigmatic stranger.

  ‘You know exactly who’s here,’ came the arrogant response.

  Sylvie could make out the glitter of those dark eyes. Feeling seriously at a disadvantage, sitting down, she stood again and shoved her feet back into her shoes, her heels sinking into the soft earth, making her wobble.

  ‘How much have you had to drink?’ He sounded disgusted.

  Anger at the unjust question had Sylvie putting her hands on her hips. ‘A magnum of champagne—is that what you expect to hear?’

  She’d actually had nothing to drink, because she was still on antibiotics to clear up a nagging out-of-season chest infection. Not that she was about to furnish him with that little domestic detail.

  ‘For your information,’ she said, ‘I came here because I believed I’d be alone. So I’ll leave you to your arrogant assumptions and get out of your way.’

  Sylvie started to stalk off, only noticing then how close they were—close enough for Arkim Al-Sahid to reach out and touch her. Which was exactly what he did when her heel got caught in the soft earth again and she pitched forward into thin air with a cry of surprise.

  He caught her arm in such a firm grip that she went totally off balance and was swung around directly into his chest, landing against him with a soft oof. Her first impression was of how hard he was—like a concrete block.

  And how tall.

  Sylvie forgot why she’d been leaving. ‘Tell me,’ she asked, more breathily than she would have liked, ‘do you hate everyone on sight, or is it just me?’

  She could make out the sensual line of his mouth, twisting in the moonlight.

  ‘I know you. I’ve seen you... Plastered all over Paris on those posters. For months.’

  Sylvie frowned. ‘That was a year ago—when the new show opened.’ And that wasn’t really me. She’d been chosen for the photo shoot as she was more voluptuous than the other girls...but in truth she was the one who bared the least of all of them.

  She knew she should pull back from this man, but she seemed to be unable to drum up the necessary motor skills to do so—and why wasn’t he pushing her away? He was obviously one of those puritans who disapproved of women taking their clothes off in the name of entertainment.

  His silent condemnation angered her even more.

  She arched a brow. ‘So that’s it? Seeing me in the flesh has only confirmed your worst suspicions?’

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