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The Sheik and the Christmas Bride Susan Mallery 2022/8/5 16:56:48

Somehow he wasn’t at the far end of the sofa anymore, she thought as he reached out and lightly stroked her cheek. “I believe you.”

“Good, because it’s true. I just…” She had a hard time stringing words together. His touch was very distracting. “I love your country. It’s beautiful. I love the modern city and the wildness of the desert. I love your people, the kindness of them. You were right about Tahir only wanting to do the right thing, even if I don’t agree with him. I’ve been learning so much about the villages while researching my project for you. This is an amazing place.”

“But it is not home?”

She shook her head slowly. “I feel safe at the convent. That probably sounds stupid to a man like you.”

“Feeling safe is important, especially when one did not grow up with that benefit. But there is so much more for you to experience than what you will find behind the convent walls.”

“I like the convent walls.”

He smiled gently. “From life. That is not a good thing.”

Getting back had been her goal from the moment she’d been told she must leave and live in the world. Those words had broken her heart. It was like being thrown out of her home.

“Those walls protect me,” she told him.

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He looked at her intently. “I will protect you.”

Then he leaned in and kissed her.

It was as if she’d been waiting for his kiss all her life. The second his mouth touched her, she felt both relief and an odd tension.

His lips were warm and firm, asking rather than taking, making her want to give all that he asked and more. He brushed against her, exploring, remembering perhaps. She remembered everything about their heated kiss in the desert. The feel of his body against hers, the hard planes and strength of him. The way he’d held her so tenderly, the taste and heat of him.

Those memories combined with the wonder of his kiss to make her strain forward, as she eagerly waited to experience it again. She parted without being asked and was rewarded when he licked her bottom lip before slipping inside.

He kissed her deeply, exploring all of her. She put her hands on his shoulders, as much to steady herself as to touch him, then kissed him back, stroking, dueling, dancing. It was magical, something more wondrous than she’d ever imagined. It was as if she were melting from the inside out.

Again and again he kissed her, taking his time, making her feel as if the magic could go on forever. He stroked her back, moving up and down. Oddly, that touch made her want to squirm in place. If only he would touch her breasts again, she thought hazily. If only he would put his hands there, like he had before.

And because that’s what she wanted and because she trusted him fully, she let him ease her onto the sofa, until she was nearly lying down.

He pulled back and stared into her eyes. “You are so beautiful,” he murmured before kissing her cheekbones, her nose, her forehead, then her jaw.

Beautiful? Her? She’d seen her reflection a thousand times. Sometimes she thought she might be pretty, but other times, she knew she was just like everyone else.

“Your skin is so soft and pale,” he continued as he nibbled his way down her jaw to her neck. It both tickled and aroused, so she stayed very still, wanting him to continue forever.

“Then you blush and the fiery color delights me.”

“I’m a redhead,” she whispered. “Blushing comes with the package.”

“It is a glorious package.” He touched her hair. “So cool to the touch. I have fantasies about your hair.”

He kissed her again and she kissed him back, but all the while she was wondering what fantasies he could have about her hair? It was just hair, wasn’t it? Long and wavy and very red.

He kissed her chin, then trailed down her neck. She’d never thought about a man’s lips on her neck and was unprepared for the electric sensations that shot through her, making her toes curl and her insides tighten.

Touch me there, she whispered to herself, closing her eyes and waiting until he finally settled his palm on her breast.

The feeling was exquisite. She wanted more of that, but didn’t know how to ask. He kissed her ear, which was a distraction, then nipped her earlobe, which was delicious. Everything felt so good that she barely noticed when he unbuttoned the front of her dress and eased the fabric open.

She supposed her first instinct should have been to cover herself, but she didn’t want to. She wanted to know what it would feel like to have his hand there, on her breast, with only her bra between them.