The Life She Left Behind(5)

By: Maisey Yates

He turned to face her, his heart raging, his blood hot. “What did you say?”

She bit one of her lips, swollen from his earlier attention. “Stay. I want you to stay.”

“And count stars?” he asked, his tone sardonic, his stomach tight with the memory.

She snorted a breath and shook her head, her strawberry colored ponytail swinging with the motion. “No. I’m not a girl who thinks she’s in love anymore. I’m a woman. I got everything I could ask for from my relationship with you. Heartbreak. Betrayal. And yet I never got the one thing that might have made it all worth it.”

“You want sex,” he said, going for direct. Because if direct didn’t frighten her, then he wouldn’t question her bold proposition.

Her chin tilted up a fraction, her expression hard. “Yes.”

“Sweet, romantic, Angelina who wanted to wait until our wedding night? Who told me just now she ran because she did not want any sort of arranged marriage?” His words were harsher than he intended, much harsher. But he could hardly breathe. His chest was tight, his muscles so tense they were shaking.

He had been waiting for this moment, for her, for what seemed like an eternity. And she was here now, wanting him. He was afraid that if he moved she would vanish into smoke.

“I might have been those things at one time but I’ve grown up. A lot,” she said, her tone hard. Sad. “And I understand that we can’t have everything we want in life. But I can have something I want. I can have you.”

“You want me?” He needed to hear her say it, and that need was a weakness he didn’t want to stop and examine.

“If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have asked you to stay.”

“Why now?”

“You aren’t the only one here capable of capitalizing on an opportunity,” she said.

He stopped then and looked at her more closely. She had been so young when he’d first met her. And while three years hadn’t changed much in terms of physical age, she was different now. Gone was that magical glitter in her green eyes, that sweet and easy smile. She looked tired. She looked hard.

She looked like a woman who had seen too much, rather than one just starting out into the world.

Had he caused that? Or had something happened to her after she’d left Texas? He didn’t like to think it had been either of those things.

Back then he had been doing just what she’d said: capitalizing on an opportunity. But he had liked her. He had treated her well. He’d certainly never meant to hurt her.

He had paid, though; he had paid dividends since she’d walked out of his life. In ways he could not begin to explain.

Just one of the many things affected had been his sex drive. He’d had no desire for a woman, for sex at all, since she’d left. And now that she was here, that had changed. It had changed drastically.

Desire didn’t feel like he remembered. Had it always made him feel like he was standing on the edge of a cliff? Had it always stolen his breath and made his body tremble? He didn’t think it had. But it was now. He felt perilously close to losing his balance. To losing himself.

“Then that is what I am to you,” he said, “an opportunity?”

“An opportunity was all I was to you, sugar.” She’d called him that back in Texas. It had sounded sweet then. An endearment. Silly but it had done something to him. Now it seemed more of an insult.

“I am not interested in banter, or arguments,” he said. “If you want me, come here and show me.”

It was not his way to have a woman make the first move. It never had been. But he had to give the power to Angelina now, mostly because he stood powerless before her. What had happened in the space of the past half hour?

Taj Ahmad, Sheikh of Rahat, ruler of many, transfixed, controlled, by a woman.

But the revelation didn’t bring the power to prevent it. He had no strength to stop what was unfolding. And no desire to stop it, either.

She took a step toward him, her eyes darkening, the emotion in them unknowable to him. And for once, he was grateful to be ignorant of something.

“This time,” she said, “you have to kiss me.”