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Written by Caitlin Crews

Chapter Two

"Surely you expected me.” Zain’s voice was like the rest of him, rich and layered. His accent was impossible to pin down, not quite British, not quite American, but cultured. And more than that, lethal. “You knew the rules of this game.”

“I didn’t hear you knock.”

Zain moved soundlessly. It was one of the first things I’d noticed about him. Back in Manhattan, there was so much noise that it hardly mattered if a man moved like a panther.

But this was the desert. There was that seductive breeze rustling through the palm trees and the deep green of the gardens all around us, lush and insistent, while the sand waited in the distance.

In New York, Zain had seemed powerful to me. Dangerous and electric. Stern and much too knowing.

But here, different words came to mind as he roamed toward me as if I’d invited him in.

Ruthless. Relentless.

Ready, something in me whispered.

And I could have sworn he could hear me, because his hard, sensual mouth curved.

I prided myself on being tough. I'd scraped my way out of my largely indifferent family, leaving behind the mother who’d never pretended I was anything but a mistake and the stepfamily who’d never fully accepted me. I'd had to learn to love myself and I’d tattooed signs of that love all over my body, so I wouldn’t forget. I wore my ink proudly, especially when it made people stare.

I usually stared back.

I had always looked men straight in the eyes. I took what I wanted from them and I made no apologies, ever.

So I had no idea what this weakness was that stole through me when I looked at Zain.

The same way I had three months ago in New York, but I’d convinced myself that was a fluke.

"Congratulations, Angelique," Zain said as he drew near, stopping when he was so close that if I'd surged up on my toes, I could almost have kissed him.

But I didn't want to think about kissing him. Not when I could already feel too much of that astonishing heat he wielded winding around inside me, and he hadn't even touched me.

“You’ve done very well for yourself," Zain continued.

He was a member of the royal family, a cousin of the king. My father had made this palace into a hotel, but the land had belonged to Zain’s grandfather. Now it was Zain’s.

As was I, according to our bargain.

My heart kicked at me. “I told you I would.”

He didn’t reply to that, or the belligerent tilt of my chin. I suspected I wasn’t the only one who remembered, in detail, the things I’d said to him three months ago.

Or what I’d promised to do in return for his help.

I kept talking to cover what I thought at first was a heart attack. But then realized was nerves. “And in less time than I told you it would take. I thought it would be six months. It's hardly been three."

"From all reports you manage the hotel beautifully." He didn't quite incline his head, and his dark gaze was shot through with gold, making me think of some kind of honey. Pouring all over my body, like I was dessert. “One more St. George takes her place at the head of Sadat’s most luxurious hotel. Order is restored.”

My mouth was dry. I forced myself to swallow anyway. "Why are you here, Zain? You could have emailed your congratulations.”

This time, the curve in the corner of his mouth was deeper. His dark eyes were brighter. And wired directly to something in me, hot and intense.

“You know why I’m here.” His voice was a seduction. His gaze was pure fire. "I've come to collect.”

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About the author

I discovered my first romance novel at the age of twelve. It involved...

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Caitlin Crews

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