The woman stepping out through the side doors of the courthouse was…stunning! The dark cascade of hair, the beautiful, smiling eyes and the figure that…his mouth went dry as he took in the woman’s lush figure. Every part of her was soft and fragile, and yet, when her eyes lifted to his, he felt a jolt of surprise at the intelligence there, the defiant lift of her chin.
Jurid’s body came alive, as a primal, urgent need rose up inside of him. The urgent need to take her away to some place private and claim her as his own was unlike anything he’d ever experienced. Women were interesting creatures, but he’d never felt this level of need, this almost feral desire for possession. He liked the way her eyes dared him. Oh, this was no submissive miss! Hell no! The lovely woman in the lavender dress was defiant and feminine, daring and soft.
A triumphant smile caught him unaware and he noticed several people glance curiously over at him. But most were focused on the bride who stepped out behind the lavender clad temptress who was still staring daggers in his direction.
“Oh, aren’t you an absolute delight,” he muttered to himself. The pictures his security team had taken over hadn’t done her justice, which wasn’t such a surprise. Most of the pictures had been taken in dimly lit nightclubs. At the time, he hadn’t cared that she’d been dancing with other men. In fact, he’d hoped that one of those men might have sparked her interest and she would marry one of them, which would release him from his betrothal contract.
But those pictures hadn’t shown the real woman. They’d been mere one dimensional images and this woman standing several feet away was whole and real and made his senses come alive.
They stared, her eyes willing him to back down. But Jurid had never backed down from a challenge in his life and this wasn’t going to be the first. The tension increased, her body vibrating with energy and anger. Because he was here? He knew her image, knew her history, but Jurid realized that he didn’t know the real woman. He’d read the reports of her night time activities, but as she stood there glaring at him, he wondered what the real story was.
“What are you doing here?” Tamara demanded, walking right up to him as if they knew each other well. As if she weren’t challenging his authority by her curt words.
“I’m here to celebrate the wedding of my friend,” he replied softly, drinking in her features. Damn, the pictures hadn’t done her justice at all! She was lovely! Defiantly lovely, but he liked that. She wasn’t an insipid, submissive female waiting to be led around by the nose.
Her eyes widened and she glanced briefly over at his friend. “You know Christoph Anastas?” she asked. Well, demanded, actually.
“Yes. We’re friends from way back,” he replied, moving closer. He watched, fascinated as her eyes flared and, for a moment, there was a hint of something…a small flash of vulnerability or awareness. But then she straightened and backed away, her head lifting higher.
“Fine!” she snapped. “If you’re going to be here and annoy me, then you’ll be put to work as well.” With those word, she huffed a bit and Jurid’s eyes were drawn to her breasts, heavy and luscious, well contained behind the lavender fabric but with enough skin showing to entice his imagination.
Bowing slightly, a mocking gesture designed to give everyone the impression that they weren’t about to light the area on fire with the sexual tension sparking between them, he replied, “I’m at your service, my dear.”
He almost laughed when she huffed angrily. “Oh, if only you’d take orders from me all the time,” she muttered, then pulled him from one side of the small courtyard to the other so that he was standing next to the curly haired woman standing nervously in her pretty white dress. “You’ll walk her down the aisle.”
The music started and Tamara tried to focus on the wedding ceremony, to be present and aware. But…why was her fiancé here? How had he known about this event? There were really only five people, including the judge, who had known that this wedding was going to take place today.
So, why was he here? And why was he so…big?! She hadn’t realized that Sheik Jurid was such a huge man! The pictures she’d seen in the news hadn’t fully prepared her for his size. She stepped to the side and waited for the third friend from their boarding school trio, Willow, to walk down the make-shift aisle. To others, it might appear that she was watching her friend. But in reality, she was looking at Sheik Jurid bin Casees. The dark suit made his shoulders look even wider. Were they really that large? A shiver of awareness hit her and she looked away. By the time Jurid handed Lana to her fiancé and took his place on the other side of Christoph Anastas, Tamara was painfully aware of his gaze on her.
She wasn’t going to look, she vowed. Not. Going. To look!
Tamara’s eyes lifted. Dark slacks. Long, powerful legs. Narrow waist.
Darn it! He was staring back at her! Why? Why was he here? Hadn’t he seen the pictures of her last week in the dance club? Mike had done an excellent job with the photos last week; Tamara had secretly e-mailed those pictures to her source at one of the major newspapers in Tular. She’d expected those pictures to appear in the news the following morning! She’d danced with four men in one hour. There was no way Sheik Jurid had known that she’d gone home right after that fourth dance, barely an hour after she’d arrived. And it wasn’t possible that he’d known that the men were more interested in each other than in her.
So…why was he here? Why was he looking at her like that?
Swallowing hard, she turned away, but even though her eyes no longer clashed with his, she could still feel his gaze, hot as a touch along her skin. It warmed her to an uncomfortable level, making her want to squirm. Taking a deep breath, she lifted her eyes and…he was staring at her breasts!
How dare he! She lifted the bouquet of flowers, covering the relatively low neckline of her lavender dress. As soon as she did so, his eyes lifted, mocking her as he continued to stare at her.
Oh, she wanted to punch him! She wanted to stare at something on his body and…her eyes started to lower but there was no way she’d look THERE! Darn it! When was this ceremony going to end?! She could…she would…! She felt impotent standing here like this.
Breathe, she thought silently to herself. Just breathe and relax. The man meant nothing. Nothing at all! He was dust. He was a bug! A big bug, and she hated bugs! Tamara knew that bugs served a purpose in the world…they were food for bigger bugs and birds. Frogs. Yeah, frogs ate bugs. Tamara imagined a giant frog hopping over the courtyard fence, the slimy, sticky tongue whipping out to lick him up the back.
Tamara rolled her eyes. A giant frog? Good grief! Her mind was glitching because of that man!
Suddenly, Lana kissed her…husband? When had that happened? Hadn’t the ceremony just started?
Obviously not, since the judge was standing in front of the couple looking proud of himself, Christoph had a triumphant gaze, and Lana…poor Lana looked a bit dazed.
“She’s going to be fine,” Willow whispered, linking her arm through Tamara’s. “I think they are more affected by each other than Lana wants to believe.”
Tamara sighed, leaning her shoulder against Willow’s. “There certainly are sparks happening between those two.”
Willow laughed softly. “Were there a few sparks lighting up the air between you and your handsome fiancé as well?” she asked softly.
Tamara ripped her eyes away from Jurid and glanced at Willow, startled by her friend’s perceptiveness. “No. Not at all,” she lied. “Why would you ask something like that?”
Willow was a beautiful woman with a cascade of shiny, red hair that tumbled over her shoulders. Her light, blue eyes and pale skin made her a typical Texas beauty. But deep down underneath all of that loveliness was a mind sharper than most and an ambition that sometimes awed Tamara. Willow was a creative genius who owned her own crafting business. The things Willow could do with a bit of glue and ribbon was nothing short of amazing. Give the woman an old, worn out chair from the dump and Willow could make it over into a collector’s item worth thousands.
But Willow was a bit on the conservative side when it came to men. She dated, but…not really. So far, Tamara knew that Willow had dated several nice men but none had sparked even a small bit of interest in her.
Not that Tamara would blame her! Good grief, after her childhood, it was no wonder that Willow didn’t date seriously! Why would she? In Willow’s mind, crafts and her ability to control her world, was a much safer route. Safer and much less brutal on one’s self-esteem. Willow’s father and numerous step mothers had taught her to avoid emotional entanglements.
Tamara glanced over at the man who seemed to be looming larger and larger, and knew that Willow might have the right approach. Find something or someone she could predict and control, and life might be a bit safer.
Sheik Jurid caught her glance and pushed away from the wall he’d been leaning against, moving towards her. Tamara quickly looked around, trying to find out an escape.
When she accepted that there wasn’t one, she sighed and lifted her chin. She wasn’t going to stand for it this time, she vowed fervently.
“Your Highness,” she offered in greeting, dipping slightly into a mocking curtsy.
“Nice,” he chuckled.
Tamara refrained from rolling her eyes. “So you’re friends with the groom. How do you know him? You’d mentioned school but…what school? And why now?”
“I went to Harvard with Christoph. We’re old friends and, after graduating, we kept in touch over the years. We’ve entered into several business ventures together.”
Darn it! She hadn’t anticipated that!
“So…you’re leaving after the ceremony?” she asked hopefully.
He tilted his head, as if contemplating her question. “I don’t have any firm plans after the ceremony. Perhaps you could show me around the city?”
Tamara wanted to scream! Why “I don’t think I’ll have time to show you around. Besides, I’m guessing that you’ve been here many times before.”
“You’re right, but I’ve never seen it through your eyes before.”
Tamara ground her teeth in frustration, then spotted Willow standing awkwardly off to the side. She looked so…lost! She watched Lana and Christoph wistfully as they spoke quietly to the judge, thanking him for performing the ceremony.
For the first time, Tamara wondered if Willow wasn’t as immune to the idea of love as she professed. Perhaps her friend wanted that emotional connection, someone she could love, but because of her past, couldn’t trust that emotion.
Turning back to Jurid, she looked up into his eyes. “I’m so sorry, Your Highness, but my friend and I already have plans.” She walked over to Willow’s side and reached out to loop her arm through Willow’s. “Perhaps another time.”
Jurid watched as his lovely fiancée walked away from him. He should be angry that the beautiful princess had rejected him, but there was a tenderness in the way she’d looked at her friend. And yes, he’d seen the awkwardness in the red-head’s eyes as well. But Tamara had known exactly what to do. As the two beauties walked away, their pretty heads tilted towards each other as they whispered together, he admired the sexy sway of Tamara’s hips, the round, firm derriere underneath the lavender dress.
For the first time, he wasn’t dreading his wedding. The chemistry was there, hotter than he could have hoped. But even more, his future bride was compassionate and intelligent. Perhaps it was time to discover the real person behind the pictures his security team sent to him, and the tedious descriptions from her father.
There were depths to her that he wanted to understand. It was time, he thought. Time to get to know his fiancée and move forward with his wedding. Tamara was…stunning. And no other woman had ever tempted him as she had. He didn’t know all of her secrets, but Jurid looked forward to discovering them.