AKEEMHADBEENRIGHT. She had needed to rest. But now... Now energy consumed her.
Charlotte inhaled deeply and moved her feet to bring her nose to nose with the door leading her back into the lounge. She hit the rectangular touchpad and barged her way into the room with as much confidence as she could pretend to have.
She froze on the spot. Akeem was a vision of unquestionable authority. Her eyes skimmed down the length of him. He’d changed. Gone were the western clothes and there he was in swathes of black, and a headdress with a band of gold securing it.
Her eyes moved back to his face and his clenched jaw. His eyes were moving over the dragon-green fabric covering every inch of her skin and they didn’t miss a thing—from the opaque green headscarf with a gold trim that loosely covered her damp curls, to the full-length sleeves fluttering at her fingertips, the high rounded neck, and down to the flared edge of her full-length trousers.
Head high, shoulders back, she said the words she’d been practising. ‘I’m ready.’
He stood, and in a single stride he was in front of her. ‘Ready for what?’
She fixated on his lips. She could still feel them working along her neck. Each press of his mouth was imprinted upon her and even the shower hadn’t been able to remove him...the feel of him.
She wanted those lips on her again. That was why she was here. She wanted—
‘You,’ she replied breathlessly.
She gasped, the throb of her heartbeat pulsing in her ears, as Akeem picked her up and brought the core of her to sit just above his. Instinctively, she wrapped her legs around his waist as firm fingers pressed into her hips. He walked with her wrapped around him like a second skin and set her down before the throne.
‘What now?’ she asked.
‘Show me you are ready for me, qalbi.’
‘By removing your clothes,’ he said. ‘This time I want you to sit on my throne naked.’
Her chest tightened. ‘Naked?’ Swallowing, she tried to ease the sudden dryness of her throat. ‘I thought you wanted to wait until we were in your bed?’
The finger moving feather-light down her throat to follow the round neckline stilled. ‘Are you not ready, then?’
He smiled. ‘There is much I can do without claiming your body with mine,’ he said, and his voice was a caress straight to the most intimate part of her.
‘Here? Anyone could see us!’
‘No one will enter without my permission.’ His mouth curved in a fascinating movement, both sensual and terrifying. ‘Right here,right now, you will remove your clothes.’ He lifted his hands, removed his headdress, and dropped it to the floor. ‘I’ll go first.’
With an agile shrug he removed his robes, and pushed his boxers to his feet.
‘You’re naked...’ she breathed, amazed at the ease with which he presented himself to her.
She couldn’t help it.
She drank him in.
Every appealing curve of hard flesh.
‘Does my nakedness offend you?’ He stepped out of the puddle of clothes at his feet and her eyes moved down the length of him. Her mouth dried, her breath coming in sharp rasps. He was glorious. Bigger, taller—stronger than she remembered.
Her gaze stalled on the proudest part of him.
‘No...’ Her answer was barely audible.
She wanted to reach out and touch him the way she had nine years ago. To stroke upwards, along the hard muscles of his abdomen, to raise his T-shirt and close her mouth over a hard brown nipple.
They had been each other’s first. She’d trusted him with her secrets and her body.
Did she still trust him?
Naively, she knew she did. With some false sense of security because of who they’d been. He’d offered himself to her then. Completely trusting. And he was doing it again. Right now. She wanted to do the same. To have the confidence of her younger self in her older body. To be as free as she had been before...with him.
She stood before him in front of his throne and toed off her shoes. She didn’t dare to speak. She pulled her trousers down from her hips and stepped out of the clothes the way he had. She didn’t dare to look away. This was life. This was her life. And she’d never felt as decadent or as revived as she slipped the green tunic over her head.
‘Remove your bra.’
Her eyes shot back to his, and she saw his gaze was full of wild challenge.
He’d challenged her from the moment she’d walked into the pub. He’d prodded her to question why she hadn’t become something more,understanding her doubts before she’d even given voice to them.In the car, he’d acknowledged her fears with pinpoint accuracy, and on the plane, he’d known she wasn’t ready.
But he knew she was ready now.
He saw all the things no one had bothered to look for before. The things she’d thought were invisible. She’d thought that she was invisible. To her father. To the teachers she’d had in her teens, who had never recognised she was struggling. To the acquaintances in her never stable jobs. But he saw the things she’d thought no one cared to see.