Sheikh's Forbidden Conquest(3)

By: Chantelle Shaw

In the nightclubs and casinos—the playgrounds across Europe of the rich and bored—Kadir had met countless beautiful women, and in his youth he had bedded more of them than he cared to remember. For the past decade he had lived his life in the fast lane and played hard, but at thirty-two he felt jaded. It was a long time since his curiosity had been aroused by a woman, but Flight Captain Lexi Howard intrigued him.

Beneath the floodlights on the helipad, her complexion was flawless and so fair that the skin stretched over her high, slanting cheekbones was almost translucent. Her long braid of ash-blonde hair suggested possible Nordic ancestry and the impression was further enhanced by her light blue eyes that reminded Kadir of the cool, clear skies above the Swiss Alps where he skied every winter.

He found he could not look away from her and he felt a sudden tightness in his chest as if a fist had gripped his heart. Heat surged through his veins. He tried to convince himself that the fire inside him was a natural response after his recent brush with death, but deep in his core something hot and hungry stirred.

‘Surely you checked the Met Office shipping forecast and realised that a storm was approaching?’ Lexi glared at the yacht’s skipper, infuriated that he’d had the cheek to criticise how the rescue operation had been carried out. She guessed he was an inexperienced sailor, and his failure to respond to the worsening weather conditions had compromised the safety of his crew.

Her mind flew back to the incident the coastguard helicopter had attended two days ago and the young boy they had been unable to save. ‘Not every rescue can be successful,’ the coastguard station commander had reminded Lexi at the debriefing afterwards. ‘Part of the job is to accept that you can’t save everyone.’

Lexi’s RAF commanding officer of the Medical Emergency Rescue Team in Afghanistan had said the same thing. Many of the things she had seen, the terrible injuries received by soldiers caught in landmine explosions and sniper fire, had been harrowing, but if she had gone to pieces she wouldn’t have been able to do her job. The same was true working for the coastguard rescue. Her common sense told her she must not allow one tragedy to haunt her, but in her heart she had taken the failure to save the boy hard.

The tragedy two days ago and the incident today could have been avoided if the yacht’s skipper in each case had acted more responsibly, she thought grimly. She was tempted to tell the man standing in front of her what she thought of him, but something about him made her swallow her angry words. Despite his dishevelled appearance and the large purple swelling above his right eye, he had an aura of power about him that set him apart from other men.

He was looking at Lexi in a way that no man had looked at her for a long time. Too long—the treacherous thought slid into her head. She tried to push it away but a picture flashed into her mind of the man’s strong, tanned hands on her body, dark against pale, hard muscle pressed against soft yielding flesh.

Shocked by her wayward imagination, she narrowed her eyes to hide her thoughts as she studied him. He was sinfully attractive, with exotic olive-gold skin and over-long, thick black hair that curled at his nape and fell forward onto his brow so that he raked it back with an impatient flick of his hand. Lexi’s gaze was drawn to his dark brown eyes—liquid pools of chocolate fringed by ridiculously long, silky lashes and set beneath heavy black brows. The gleam in his eyes unsettled her, and the blatantly sensual curve of his lips made her wonder how it would feel if he pressed his mouth against hers.

She shook her head, trying to break free from the disturbing effect he had on her, praying he hadn’t noticed that she had been staring at him. She did not understand her reaction to him. It had been a long time since she had looked at a man and felt a quiver in her belly. Too long, she acknowledged ruefully.

‘You should have waited for the weather to improve, instead of putting your life and the lives of your crew at risk.’ She spoke sharply, desperate to hide her confusing awareness of the yacht’s skipper. ‘Your behaviour was irresponsible. Offshore sailing is not for inexperienced sailors.’

The man arrogantly threw back his head, drawing Lexi’s attention to his broad shoulders. She assessed him to be several inches over six feet tall.

‘I’m not a fool,’ he said curtly. ‘Of course I checked the marine forecast and I was aware of the storm. The White Hawk could easily have run ahead of the bad weather, but we must have hit something in the water that ripped the keel from the hull and resulted in the yacht capsizing.’