A Christmas Bride for the King

Page 16

From the moment his mouth had touched hers it had been as if he’d reached inside her and lit a fire that was only his to light. A fire she’d hadn’t even known could exist, consuming her to the point that all rational thought was burnt away.
This is what desire feels like...whispered a voice.
No one had ever made her feel like this before. She’d been on dates, she’d kissed men, but she’d always felt unmoved. As if she was standing outside herself and watching. It had reinforced her belief that keeping her distance was a good thing.
But right here, right now, with this man...distance was the last thing she wanted. She was fully in her body for the first time, and the sensations were so acute that it was almost painful.
Salim’s tongue stroked hers with a sure mastery that she could only follow, and mimic blindly. His hand gripped her breast hard, but she wanted it even harder. She wanted him to pinch her nipple again, inducing that sting of shock followed by intense pleasure.
The fact that there was a room full of strangers just feet beyond where they stood, suspended in time, was something Charlotte was only very dimly aware of. The fact that she hated everything this man represented had also receded to some shadowy place she’d weakly turned her mind from.
The stubble of Salim’s short beard scratched at her jaw as his mouth trailed from the corner of her mouth and down. Even that was erotic, sending shockwaves down deep into her core. Her head fell back, too heavy, and he pressed a hot open-mouthed kiss to her neck. She felt the sting of teeth and then his tongue, soothing. She was being held up only by his arm and the wall of shelves behind her.
It took a few moments for a rhythmic noise to break through the fog in her brain. She thought it was her heartbeat, but it wasn’t, and when it registered properly she froze.
Someone was knocking on the door and she heard a panicky voice, ‘Sire...? Sire...are you in there? Please?’
The door handle rattled and Salim’s head came up. His hair was mussed and his eyes were heavy-lidded. His cheeks were flushed. He looked exactly how she imagined a fallen angel would look. Wicked and sexy and innocent all at once.
But as reality seeped back a chill wind skated over Charlotte’s skin. She looked down to see her blouse hanging open and one breast bared, her nipple pink and hard. There were marks on her pale skin—marks from his fingers.
Mortification drenched her as the full enormity of what had just happened sank in.
Salim finally stepped back and jerkily she pulled up her bra.
She could still feel the press of his arousal against her belly, long and hard. It was small comfort, though, to know he’d been as turned on as her...it only made her feel even more confused.
She sent up silent thanks that her hands weren’t shaking as she did up her shirt buttons. The lace of her bra chafed against her sensitised nipples and the betraying damp heat between her legs told of just how seismic this man’s effect on her had been.
Charlotte risked a look at Salim. His mouth was open, as if he was about to say something, but just then the doorknob rattled again and Charlotte had never felt so relieved. She did not want to discuss what had just happened. Not when she felt so raw.
The panicked-sounding voice floated through. ‘Please, sire...’
Salim was still looking at her, and Charlotte said with rising panic, ‘Shouldn’t you see who that is?’
Finally Salim issued an Arabic curse under his breath and turned around and strode to the door, his movements lacking their customary grace.
When he opened the door she heard Rafa’s anxious voice say, ‘Sire, there is something of utmost importance I need to tell you.’
Charlotte walked over to the door on wobbly legs, and when Rafa saw her his eyes widened, telling her in no uncertain terms that she wore the marks of Salim’s lovemaking like a gauche teenager. Mortified all over again, Charlotte used the opportunity to escape, sliding around Salim, careful not to come into contact with him or meet his eyes.
She muttered something incomprehensible, and didn’t look left or right as she left the revellers in the ballroom behind her.
When Charlotte reached the sanctuary of her rooms, she went straight into the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror—and gasped. It was worse than she’d thought.
Her eyes were huge and dark green. Her lips were swollen. Her cheeks were flushed and her jaw was pink from Salim’s stubble. Where her jaw met her neck there was a distinctive mark and she touched it now, remembering the nipping of teeth, the soothing of a tongue. His tongue.
With trembling hands she undid her shirt again and opened it, pulling down her bra to look at her breast. The marks of his hand were still on her pale flesh, but fading. Between her legs a pulse throbbed when she thought of the firm pressure of his hand on her flesh, her nipple trapped between two fingers.
She looked back at herself and almost didn’t recognise the person reflected in the mirror. This was so far removed from the sane responsible person she thought she was—not given to whims or vagaries. Or spontaneous combustion.
Her legs were still dangerously wobbly and she put her hands on the sink in order to stay upright. She had memories of seeing her parents kissing, before they’d divorced, and they had always frightened her because there had been something so animalistic about it. But when she thought of how she’d behaved just now she realised that their impulses were hers too, in spite of everything. Genes will out, no matter what.
And yet how he’d made her feel for those few moments had been the most exciting thing that had ever happened to her.
Her fingers were curled so tight around the rim of the sink that she had to uncurl them for fear of cracking the porcelain.
There was a peremptory knock on her do