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His Stolen Desert Bride

Written by Carol Marinelli

Chapter Three

What to wear for a wedding you’re not actually attending?

Yasmin chose a powder-blue robe that was shot with silver. She had her hair styled in her suite and her make-up applied by someone other than her usual maid.

She felt and looked different.

Her hair had been curled and pinned up and instead of the usual kohl eyeliner there was a flash of silver on her eyelids and diamonds dangling from her ears.

‘You look very nice.’ Alim gave her a smile as she joined him for afternoon tea at one of the lounges off the foyer.

Their placement was not by accident—Alim had arranged their refreshments to coincide with the arrival of the newlyweds at the Grande Lucia.

‘They’re here,’ Yasmin said as a low murmur of excitement went through the foyer. She found that her hand was shaking as she replaced her cup on the saucer.

She sat smiling as the bride and her handsome groom walked in.

Oh, the fight to be here was surely worth it as just for the moment James broke with the plan to ignore his secret family and gave his brother and sister a smile, clearly so glad they had made the effort to be here.

‘I wish Kaleb had come,’ Yasmin said.

‘It would have been too obvious,’ Alim answered. ‘He is going to see them in Paris.’

‘I know.’ Yasmin sighed. ‘But even so…’ Her voice trailed off, not because she had run out of conversation, more because all thoughts of other people were temporarily suspended.

For there he was.

Alasdair.

That tousled black hair was now sleek and smoothed back and the shadow from his jaw was gone and he was clean shaven.

Gone too were the jeans and jumper. He wore a jacket the colour of a desert night sky and…

‘What is he wearing?’ Yasmin asked.

‘A kilt,’ Alim said and went on to explain, but Yasmin’s senses were too taken up with Alasdair to listen.

He looked magnificent but it was clear that she was not the only one who thought so.

A woman, Yasmin guessed her to be one of the bridesmaids, was trying to whisper something in his ear but she watched as, almost imperceptibly, Alasdair jerked his head a fraction away.

Good!

Yasmin sat back and a small satisfied smile toyed across her lips as she witnessed his refusal to flirt.

But then his eyes found hers and there was no refusal.

Oh, what was happening to her?

If seconds were counted, she might guess that their stare lasted for three.

It was brief, so brief that not even the astute Alim noticed the current that crossed the foyer.

And in that brief interlude Yasmin found out that the centre of Alasdair’s world right now was she.

It worked both ways, as Alim might as well be no longer at her side and her father upstairs could be light years away.

There were but two people present on this stage.

And then he smiled, and as he did, Yasmin realized she had been waiting a lifetime just for that.

His haughty face softened a fraction and she felt as if his eyes beckoned, but of course she could not react as her body told her to, for she wanted to go over to him.

And Alasdair wanted her to, but then he remembered who she was. It was not just that she was his best friend’s little sister that had him turn away—an untouched desert princess was very much out of his rakish bounds.

She was untouched, that much he knew.

Not just from what he had gleaned about his friend’s family…

He simply knew.

And so Alasdair turned away and resumed his best man duties and Yasmin watched as the bridal party retreated to the ballroom.

Oh, Alim did his best to make the night special—he took her to the restaurant and they partook in the same banquet that was being served in the ballroom—but it simply wasn’t enough.

Alim returned from a brief sighting and gave her an update on the proceedings.

‘The laird is giving his speech.’

She knew that was Alasdair.

‘What happens after the speeches?’ Yasmin asked.

‘Dancing.’

Yasmin frowned, for she had never danced.

‘The bride and groom and their parents…’ Alim paused then corrected himself. ‘The bride’s parents dance, as well as the best man and chief bridesmaid…’

‘That should be me.’

Right about now she should be in Alasdair’s arms, dancing her very first dance, instead of with her elder brother who, as owner of the hotel, would be able to slip into the reception without rousing suspicion.

‘Listen,’ Alim said. ‘There is a viewing gallery in the ballroom.’ He watched Yasmin’s eyes widen. ‘The photographer will be there now setting up for photos, but after he comes down, you could watch things from there for a short while. I can give you a master key and you can go in a separate entrance from him and wait.’

‘Yes!’ Her eyes shone with excitement, and as Alim went to fetch the key Yasmin took her inch and turned it into a mile, and beneath her shawl she placed an untouched bottle of champagne—if she could not attend the party then she would make her own!

‘You need to look out for the photographer at all times,’ Alim warned.

‘I shall.’

Soon Yasmin lay on the floor in the gallery with a bird’s-eye view of proceedings.

She saw James with his bride, happy and laughing on this most special night, but then her eyes were drawn to Alasdair.

There he was, walking across the ballroom. He stood out, not just because he was the only one in a kilt.

He stood out simply because.

And she wasn’t the only one who noticed him—Yasmin found that she was holding her breath as, like a homing missile, a bridesmaid made her way towards him.

He sidestepped her.

So subtly that it took Yasmin’s vantage point to see what Alasdair had done—how he turned his broad shoulders and took a glass from a passing waiter.

But then, while checking the location of the photographer, she lost sight of him.

Oh, where is he? Yasmin thought, though her attention was caught by a blonde woman sitting alone.

Fleur.

For the first time she laid eyes on her father’s mistress.

‘Caught!’

The sound of a deep voice made her jump and Yasmin caught sight of muscular calves, and she held her breath as she looked up.

‘Did you see me up here?’ Yasmin asked, hoping that was the reason he had come up.

‘Absolutely not,’ Alasdair said, for had he known he would have run a mile. ‘I should go.’

‘Please don’t.’

He was never awkward with woman.

Cold and dismissive were the oft-used words touted by his aggrieved lovers, yet he could not summon cold and dismissive around Yasmin.

Instead he was somewhat awkward as he lowered himself and sat by her side.

‘I like your kilt.’

‘Thank you.’

She looked down and glimpsed muscular thighs.

She had never seen a man’s legs in the flesh.

And she had never fought so hard not to touch another.

His scent held a bergamot note and a slight crisp tang she could not place, and there was a base note that made her want to inhale deeply just to hold it in her memory. ‘Do you always smell so nice?’ she asked.

He smiled at her very odd question.

‘I would hope so.’ He turned and looked at her. ‘Do you?’

Her scent was of morning air that promised a day drenched in summer.

Yasmin felt the heat in her cheeks and was glad of the dark as he said something so nice.

‘You have an admirer,’ Yasmin said, for the bridesmaid was scanning the room.

‘I know. That’s why I’m up here.’

‘Hiding?’

‘Not hiding,’ Alasdair said, ‘so much as avoiding.’

‘We should move back,’ Alasdair suggested as the persistent bridesmaid looked up at the gallery, determined to locate her chosen man.

But though moving back from view solved one problem, it created another—in the dark they were more intimately alone.

The music was soft and romantic but loud enough that he moved his head closer when she spoke.

‘Sorry.’ Alasdair smiled. ‘I missed what you said.’

‘I asked if you were enjoying the wedding.’

‘I am.’ Alasdair nodded, wanting to add one word to his response—now. ‘What about you?’

‘I hate being hidden away.’

‘It’s a shame that you are,’ he told her. ‘You look beautiful.’

He made her feel just that. The new hair, the make-up… Oh, it was so nice to receive his compliment, so wonderful tonight to be seen.

‘I looked up that word,’ Yasmin said.

‘What word?’

‘Pity.’

‘Oh.’

‘Do you feel sorry for me?’ Yasmin asked and she watched his beautiful mouth as he answered.

‘No.’

‘So what did you mean?’

‘I was disappointed,’ Alasdair said. ‘I’m not now.’

There was a kiss right there to be had; both could feel it waiting.

There was little more than a breath between them, their faces were terribly close and Alasdair had never wrestled more with his conscience.

One kiss, he told himself.

While knowing it could never be enough.

But he was the best man and he took his duties seriously. ‘I’m going to go,’ he told her.

‘Pity,’ Yasmin said.

In every sense of the word.

He smiled at her first joke in English and, yes, both felt a little sorry for themselves as Alasdair walked off, because truly they ached for the other’s kiss.

It was the right thing to do by his friend, Alasdair told himself on the many occasions throughout the night when Yasmin returned to his thoughts.

Finally the wedding was over and he made his way to his floor.

He stepped out of the elevator, to an empty corridor this time, and made his way to his suite, which was just as he’d left it, and tried not to think of the sleeping princess next door.

He stripped off, glad to be free of the ruffled shirt and jacket and the heavy kilt and was just about to head to the shower when he heard a key in the door…

Poor Yasmin!

That glimpse of his knees had been intriguing enough but now here was Alasdair, as naked as the day he was born but a whole lot…

…larger.

Hairier.

Larger and hairier and muscled too.

It was an utter assault to her senses and such a shock that her mind could only manage to instruct that she run from the beast or scream…

Yet he was no beast, it was Alasdair, and her throat was too tight for the latter.

And so she burst into tears instead.

Shocked, fevered tears, for she could take bleach to her eyes but she could never unsee him, and even as he grabbed a towel and covered himself, the image was all she could see.

‘It’s okay,’ he told her. He could see the key in her hand and guessed it was the master key that her brother must have given her. ‘A simple mistake.’

‘My father will never forgive me.’

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About the author

I was born in England to Scottish parents, and then emigrated to Austr...

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Carol Marinelli

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