Awakened by Her Desert Captor

By: Abby Green


  THE PRIEST’S EYES widened as he took in the spectacle approaching down the aisle, but to give him his due he didn’t falter in his words, which came as automatically to him as breathing.

  It was a slim figure, dressed from head to toe in black leather, the face obscured by a motorcycle helmet’s visor. The person stopped a few feet behind the couple standing before the priest, and his eyes widened even further as a young woman emerged from under the motorcycle helmet as she took it off and placed it under one arm.

  Long red hair cascaded dramatically over her shoulders just as he heard himself say the words, ‘...or for ever hold your peace...’ a little more faintly than usual.

  The woman’s face was pale, but determined. And also very, very beautiful. Even a priest could appreciate that.

  Silence descended, and then her voice rang out loud and clear in the huge church. ‘I object to this wedding. Because last night this man shared my bed.’

                        CHAPTER ONE

  Six months previously...

  SYLVIE DEVEREUX STEELED herself for what was undoubtedly to be another bruising encounter with her father and stepmother. She reminded herself as she walked up the stately drive that she was only making an appearance for her half-sister’s sake. The one person in the world she would do anything for.

  Lights spilled from the enormous Richmond house, and soft classic jazz came from the live band in the back garden, where a marquee was just visible. Grant Lewis’s midsummer party was an annual fixture on the London social scene, presided over each year by his smiling piranha of a wife, Catherine Lewis—Sylvie’s stepmother and mother to her younger half-sister, Sophie.

  A shape appeared at the front door and an excited squeal presaged a blur of blonde as Sophie Lewis launched herself at her older sister. Sylvie dropped her bag and clung on, struggling to remain upright, huffing a chuckle into her sister’s soft, silky hair.

  ‘I guess that means you’re pleased to see me, Soph?’

  Sophie, younger by six years, pulled back with a grimace on her pretty face. ‘You have no idea. Mother is even worse than usual—literally throwing me into the arms of every eligible man—and Father is holed up in his study with some sheikh dude who is probably the grimmest guy I’ve ever seen, but also the most gorgeous—pity it’s wasted on—’

  ‘There you are, Sophie—’

  The voice broke off as Sylvie’s stepmother realised who her sister’s companion was. They were almost at the front door now, and the lights backlit Catherine Lewis’s slender Chanel-clad figure and blonde hair, coiffed to within an inch of its life.

  Her mouth tightened with distaste. ‘Oh, it’s you. We didn’t think you’d make it.’

  You mean you’d hoped I wouldn’t make it, Sylvie desisted from saying. She forced a bright smile and pushed down the hurt that had no place here any more. She should be over this by now, at the grand age of twenty-eight. ‘Delighted as ever to see you, Catherine.’

  Her sister squeezed her arm in silent support. Catherine stepped back minutely, clearly reluctant to admit Sylvie into her own family home. ‘Your father is having a meeting with a guest. He should be free shortly.’

  Then her stepmother frowned under the bright lights, taking in what Sylvie was wearing. Sylvie felt a fleeting sense of satisfaction at the expected wave of disapproval. But then she also felt incredibly weary...tired of this constant battle she fought.

  ‘You’re welcome to change in Sophie’s room if you wish. Clearly you’ve come straight from one of in Paris.’

  She had actually. A matinée show. But she’d left work dressed in jeans and a perfectly respectable T-shirt. She’d changed on the train on the way. And suddenly her weariness fled.

  She stuck a hand on her hip and cocked it out. ‘It was a gift from a fan,’ she purred. ‘I know how much you like your guests to dress up.’

  The dress really belonged to her flatmate, the far more glamorous Giselle, who was a couple of bra sizes smaller than her. Sylvie had borrowed it, knowing full well the effect it would have. She knew it was childish to feel this urge to shock constantly, but right now it was worth it.

  Just then there was movement nearby, and Sylvie followed her stepmother’s look to see her father standing outside his office, which was just off the main entrance hall. She barely registered him, though. He was with a man—a tall, very broad, very dark man. The most arresting-looking man she’d ever seen. His face was all sculpted lean lines, not a hint of softness anywhere. Dark slashing brows. Grim indeed, if this was who Sophie had been talking about.

  Power and charisma was a tangible force around him. And a very sexual magnetism. He was dressed in a light grey three-piece suit. Dark tie. Pristine. The white of his shirt made the darkness of his skin stand out even more. His hair was inky black, and short. His eyes were equally dark, and totally unreadable. She shivered slightly.

  The two men were looking at her, and Sylvie didn’t even have to see her father’s face to know what his expression would be: a mix of old grief, disappointment and wariness.

  ‘Ah, Sylvie, glad you could make it.’

  She finally managed to drag her mesmerised gaze from the stranger to look at her father. She forced a bright smile and moved forward. ‘Father—good to see you.’

  His welcome was only slightly warmer than her stepmother’s. A dry kiss on her cheek, avoiding her eyes. Old wounds smarted again, but Sylvie pushed them all down to erect the don’t care façade she’d honed over years.

  She looked up at the man and fluttered her eyelashes, flirting shamelessly. ‘And who do we have here?’

  With evident reluctance, Grant Lewis said, ‘I’d like you to meet Arkim Al-Sahid. We’re discussing a mutual business venture.’

  The name rang a dim bell, but Sylvie couldn’t focus on how she knew it. She put out her hand. ‘Pleasure, I’m sure. But don’t you find discussing business at a party so dull?’

  She could almost feel the snap of her stepmother’s censure from behind her, and heard something that sounded like a strangled snort from her sister. The man’s expression had a faint sneer of disapproval now, and suddenly something deep inside Sylvie erupted to life.

  It goaded her into moving even closer to the man, when every instinct urged her to turn and run fast. Her hand was still held out and his nostrils flared as he finally deigned to acknowledge her. His much bigger hand swallowed hers, and she was surprised to feel that his skin was slightly calloused as long fingers wrapped around hers.

  Everything suddenly became muffled. As if a membrane had been dropped around the two of them. A pulse throbbed violently between her legs and a series of out-of-control reactions gripped her so fast she couldn’t make sense of them. Heat, and a weakness in her lower belly and limbs. A melting sensation. An urge to move even closer and wind her arms around his neck, press herself against him, along with that urge to run, which was even stronger now.

  Then he broke the connection with an abrupt move, extricating his hand from hers. Sylvie almost stumbled backwards, confused by what had happened. Not liking it at all.

  ‘Pleasure, indeed.’

  The man’s voice was deep, with a slight American accent, and his tone said that it was anything but a pleasure. The sensual lines of his mouth were flat. That dark gaze glanced over her, dismissing her.

  Immediately Sylvie felt cheaper than she’d ever felt in her life. She was very aware of how short her gold dress was—skimming the tops of her thighs. Her light jacket didn’t provide much coverage. She was too voluptuous for the dress, and she felt every exposed inch of it now. She was also aware of the fall of her unruly hair, its natural red hue effortlessly loud and attention-seeking.

  She made a living from wearing not much at all. And she’d grown a thick skin to hide her innate shyness. Yet right now this man’s dismissal had blasted away that carefully built-up wall. Within mere seconds of meeting him—a total stranger.

  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.

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