Warrior’s Bride (Pt 30)

Chapter Thirty
The two men circled each other for what seemed an eternity, Tialla’s fingers digging into Cadell’s arms until he unfurled them and took her hand in his. She jumped as Garel made the first move, lunging at Zandria, he sidestepping just in time, his arm raised as he brought the grip of his sword down onto his father’s back. Garel however, seemed to hardly notice the blow and quickly recovering, swung around, his fist arching around to deliver a blow to Zandria which saw him fly backwards, hitting the ground hard.
As Garel sneered and moved closer, his sword raised once more, Zandria quickly raised his feet and slammed them into the oncoming man, now it Garel’s turn to fly backwards. Without even needing to use his hands, Zandria flipped back onto his feet, he waiting for the other man to get back onto his. For the first time there was surprise in his father’s eyes, Zandria smiling. “I learnt a few things since I left your palace”, his eyes flicking briefly to Cadell. “Amazing what you can do when you have a good teacher.”
This time Garel charged at him, a roar leaving the man, Zandria not able to move out of the way this time as he raised his swords to fend off the ferocity of the attack, the swords making a loud noise in the clearing, the warriors surrounding the two starting to cheer, they losing themselves in the fight going on.
And it was a fight worthy of watching, Tialla stunned to see just how well Zandria fought, she crying out when after several minutes, one of Garel’s thrusts winged Zandria on the arm, a thin line of blood now flowing down his sleeve. But he seemed hardly to notice, though she could also tell that he struggled to hold the sword in that arm.
As though sensing victory Garel charged once more, his swords stretched out for a body blow. However, Zandria was ready for him, rolling to the side and quickly rising onto his feet as he spun around, his own sword thrust out as the cruel father who had tried to have him killed on many occasions ran right into the tip. As the sword sliced into him, he seemed to freeze, disbelief in his eyes that Zandria had brought him down, his lips curling into a hateful growl before he fell to his knees.
The assembled men hushed instantly as their leader pitched forward, dead. Now Zandria too seemed to crumple, his legs giving out as he fell to his knees, leaning on the other sword, exhaustion taking over as the adrenalin seemed to leave him.
His turned as one of the warriors, rushed him with a blood-curdling scream, his sword in hand, he trying to push himself back to his feet, just as another stepped in halting the new challenger. Cadell dragged Tialla with him, thrusting her towards Zandria and away from the circle of men as he stood between Zandria and the newcomer. With a single swing of his sword the other man fell to the ground, Cadell moving to help Zandria back to his feet. However, the other man refused the hand, standing himself, knowing the importance of looking strong in front of the other warriors.
Now his look moved around the men, he raising his sword high, his voice coming out strong. “As is our tradition, I have challenged the leader and won. Is there any other here who would seek to challenge me?” His eyes scoured the men as he continued. “Speak now or on your knees and accept your new leader.”
For a second there was silence, before one by one the men fell onto one knee, their one hand covering their breast as their head bowed with respect. It seemed that Zandria was now leader. Beside him Cadell also made to move to one knee, Zandria’s hand stalling him, his head shaking. “No my friend. You will never bow to me. You are a great leader and friend.”
Tialla felt her lips curve at the way the two men smiled at each other, those smiles full of love for the other. The sound of running feet saw the three turn their heads as Nadia came running from the trees. Zandria moved to meet her, the men clearing a path for him as she threw herself into his arms, he lifting her from the ground as he kissed her soundly, before leading her back to the middle of the circle to join her princess and Cadell.
Now he lifted his hand in a motion for the men to stand, many looking at the newcomer with surprise, their eyes fixed on Zandria. Raising a hand to silence the soft murmurs he regarded them proudly. “We have been at war for years – for what! The need for a cruel man to wreak havoc on his own people and others. Our province needs to make changes, and that begins with ending this war.” Turning to Cadell, he gave him a large smile. “My friend, it is my intention to broker a peace deal between our peoples. Are you with me?”
Nodding his head, Cadell offered his arm, Zandria gripping it tightly as the two men shook, Cadell’s voice warm. “Be assured of my every support my friend. As you say, this war is long overdue ending and I believe that our provinces can live peacefully side by side with you as its leader.”
Now the men stood around all seemed to be smiling, the thought of returning to their families no doubt a great motivator. Turning to Tialla, Zandria gave her a grin, his head bowed respectfully. “Princess, it comes to me to ask that you consider finding yourself another handmaiden”, his eyes sliding to Nadia, Tialla feeling tears rise to her own eyes as understanding came on her, her head nodding.
“It will be with pleasure Lord Zandria”, she rushing forward to give Nadia a quick hug before Zandria took Nadia’s hand and pulled her to his side, his voice raised once more.
“Behold your new queen”, his hand entwined with Nadia’s raised high, the handmaiden standing tall as she smiled at Zandria, the love for him shining from her. Around them the warriors cheered.
Cadell pulled Tialla into his arms, his wrapped around her waist as her back fit against his chest, his chin on her shoulder. “I love you Tialla of Leando.”
Her head fell backwards as she nuzzled his cheek with hers. “And I love you too, Cadell of Karok and Leando”, his arms tightening around her at this perfect moment. Who could have foreseen such a perfect ending, made possible by the woman in his arms. Looking at Nadia and Zandria he chuckled, “So, do we have a double wedding now?”

end.

Warrior’s Bride (PT 29)

Chapter Twenty Nine

Cadell glared at the man before him, his body stiffening with the mention of his sister, before his eyes flit briefly to Tialla. She stood to the side, fighting in vain with one of Garel’s men, her aqua eyes filled with fear, not for herself but for him, as she tried to get to him.
Swallowing, he managed a small smile to her, before his look once more turned to the man he despised, his eyes now full of hatred. “You fight women Garel. Only a coward does that.” Letting his eyes move around the assembled warriors he growled out, “If you are any kind of warrior, then you will behave like one”, his look now focussing back onto Garel. “I challenge you for leadership of your realm and your armies.”
Garel barked out a laugh, though from her vantage point, even Tialla could see the way the other warriors shifted uncomfortably, their eyes narrowing at his refusal of the direct challenge. He however, only glowered at Cadell, his words spat out with distaste. “You do not have the right to challenge me Cadell. You are nothing but a commoner, and a traitorous one at that. Only royalty have the right to challenge a leader.” Turning, his features contorted into a snarl. “Hold him. Like all traitorous dogs. He will die at the end of my sword.”
Wordlessly, Cadell was grabbed by two warriors, his arms held securely, though he offered no resistance. Tialla screamed as Garel unsheathed a large sword, he stepping closer to where Cadell stood, he seeming at peace with his fate as he stood proudly, the thought of death something that seemed not to affect him. As the brutal warlord lifted his sword, Cadell turned to look at Tialla, the smallest of smiles on his lips as he mouthed ‘I love you’ to her, she feeling the tears slide down her face, pain ripping through her. Without him she would rather die herself.
Just as all seemed lost, Garel swinging the sword back to deliver the final blow, the two men holding Carell jerked forward, both falling to the ground dead, arrows in both their necks. All eyes flew to the man now marching towards them, his features solemn, the cross-bow in his hands held high as his eyes scoured the men for any sign of another ready to fight.
Garel staggered back a few steps, his mouth slack in disbelief, as he saw who was moving towards him before his lips pulled back in a snarl. “Zandria!”, the word filled with hatred and contempt.
Zandria stopped as he drew level with Cadell, his head bowing slightly, an equal hardness in his eyes. “Greetings father. I assure you I feel the same.”
Cadell groaned, his head turning slightly. “I thought I gave you an order”, his voice hard as Zandria beside him chuckled softly, his head nodding.
“Indeed you did my friend. And I believe that order was to do what was best for Tialla.” His lips quirked as his look flit briefly to the princess “However, a certain handmaiden, who is as stubborn as any mule I have ever met, persuaded me that what was best for her princess was to ensure that she remained with the man she loved”, he giving Cadell a humorous look. “She also informed me that whoever Tialla came out of this jungle with would be the man she married, and who would then control her lands and have Harbin as an ally.” Now his look became more sombre. “So, I decided that the little handmaiden might have a point.”
Beside him, Cadell groaned, the truth sinking in as he nodded, his hand moving ready to grab one of the many weapons he wore. “Well, I might not like our odds Zandria. But at least we will go down fighting. Though if one of us could take down your father, that would be much appreciated.”
Now Zandria chuckled again, his hand stalling his friend. “I believe there may be another way.”
Before Cadell could say anything, Zandria took a step forward, his voice raised so all could hear. “You may not have accepted Cadell’s challenge. But I am your son, and as such, royalty. Therefore, I challenge you to a fight to the death. The winner will take control of all.” His eyes fixed solemnly on his father. “Or are you too much of a coward old man?”
By now Garel seemed to have recovered from his shock at seeing his son, he pulling himself to his full, imposing height, his cruel mouth curving into a sneer as he guffawed loudly. “You! You dare to challenge me. You are a weak runt”, his eyes shining with expectancy. “I will take great pleasure in putting you down”, his look turning to Cadell, “Before I destroy this one.”
Tialla, sensing her chance, kicked the warrior holding her, the man releasing her as he cursed loudly, she taking off at a run to throw herself into Cadell’s arms. The warrior’s however, seemed to have momentarily lost interest in both Tialla and Cadell as they moved to form a circle around father and son. Cadell held her firmly to him, his mouth kissing the top of her head as he whispered words of love to her, before both grew silent along with the rest of the assembled group, though Tialla was aware as he slowly pulled a sword out and held it at his side.
She like all others, turned her attention to the men now at the centre of the circle. She clung to Cadel as Garel pulled out another sword, the two weapons glinting in the sun as Zandria did the same. Her eyes flipped between the two, her stomach diving as she took in the difference. Garel was a monster of a man, Zandria, while tall and muscular tiny compared to him. Swallowing she knew this was a David and Goliath moment, she praying that the kindly Zandria could win.

{Next installment 12th Dec}

Warrior’s Bride (PT 28)

Chapter Twenty Eight

Cadell gave Zandria a sombre look, the other man already looking around the area for any further traps. As Zandria gave a curt nod, a sign that there were no more, Cadell ran into the hidden passageway leading to the cave, his watchful eyes looking out for any further traps, but he sure there would be none. The rock would be too hard to plant them.
Moving into the cave that had been their home for the week, he pulled up short seeing the signs everywhere of a fight. The dishes and even the animals he had made for her were strewn everywhere, the cave upturned. His look flew to Zandria’s, he not aware of the desperation and helplessness in his own, his friend looking around keenly. Spotting something, Zandria moved to where a knife, the very tip of it covered in blood, lay, a sheet of paper under it.
Lifting the sheet, his brows furrowed as he read the words, his look rising to meet that of Cadell. “It’s my father’s handwriting.” His words were spoken slowly as Cadell turned to him, his eyes filled with horror.
“What does he say?”
Nadia sniffed softly, fear making her eyes flit between the two warriors. “W… Who is your father?”, she finally managed, Zandria’s eyes closing softly with dread as he turned to face the handmaiden.
“I would have told you Nadia, but it is not something I have ever been proud of.”
“What did Garel say?!” This time Cadell’s words were full of urgent demand as Nadia gasped.
Her hands covered her mouth in horror as she whispered, “Garel is your father?”
Zandria’s jaw tightened as he gave the smallest of nods before looking once more at the paper, his voice sombre.

To the scum sucking traitor Cadell

I hold your princess, and will keep her alive until the setting of the sun. After that I will not guarantee or even care about her safety. However, I am sure that she will provide some fun for my men during the night if you do not show up. If you do not wish this, then you will appear at the great clearing before the setting of the sun, where I will trade her life for yours.

Garel

Cadell was already heading out of the cave as Zandria grabbed him, his features beseeching. “You cannot believe him. You know that Cadell. He will do with her what he wants, and he will still kill her. You cannot walk into his trap.”
Pausing Cadell stared back at him. “Zandria, you are like a brother to me, and you are every bit as good a leader as I.” Briefly, his eyes slid to Nadia. “I need to at least try to save her. You must understand how I feel.”
Zandria’s eyes closed as he nodded, before once more gripping his arm. “But there must be another way.”
Shaking his head, Cadell gave a sad smile. “With me dead he will not kill her. With her under his control, so too is her kingdom – and Harbin’s.” Now, his hand gripped Zandria’s arm. “They will have to move her back to the city. Get our army and set a trap of your own. It is her only real chance my friend. Promise me you will do what is best for Tialla.”
Zandria nodded, he releasing his friend, Cadell moving swiftly from the cave in his quest to save Tialla.
It took him less than an hour to reach the great clearing, Cadell moving slowly around the area, carefully watching what was going on. Tialla was bound and tied to a post in the middle of the clearing, Garel’s men leering at her as she stood silently, her head raised proudly. For a second, he was reminded of doing something very similar to her on the day they first met, she as regal then as she was now.
He watched the sun, wanting to give Zandria as much time as possible to get help, he knowing that he had to wait to the last minute before showing himself. His eyes scoured the site looking for any sign of Garel, finally seeing the brutal warlord.
For a second he considered using his bow to bring down the evil man, he fighting the urge, knowing that it would only result in the quick execution of Tialla. While Garel was cruel, without mercy and a killer, he was also smart. He would have ensured that if anything happened to him, then Tialla’s would have been the next death, he also knowing that Cadell would know this. For now he just had to bide his time.
With the sun now low in the sky, Garel moved to the post holding Tialla, a short sword in his hands. Raising it, he brought it down onto the ropes securing her. Free, she instantly tried to flee, he grabbing her arm in a cruel vise grip and dragged her back, his arms pinning her small body to him as he jeered at her.
Tialla however continued to fight, though it was like watching a mouse battle with a cat, he and his men laughing at her attempts. Looking into the sky, his free hand rose, the men around him growing silent.
Now Garel’s eyes flit around the trees on the border of the clearing, his voice raised. “I know you are there. Come out Cadell. I will count to three and then I will slit her throat and let you watch her bleed out.” Again his eyes moved around, Cadel taking a deep breath. It seemed that time was up.
“One.” The booming voice of Garel filled the sky, birds taking flight at the suddenness of it.
“Two.”
Cadel stepped into the clearing, his hands raised, his look fixing with that of Garel.
Pushing Tialla into the arms of one of his men, he strode forward, stopping a few feet from the other warrior, his eyes flashing with a triumphant gleam. “Women always were your downfall Cadell. You think I did not see your face the day your sister killed herself?”, his features contorting with contempt. “You are weak.”

next installment {29th Nov}

Warrior’s Bride (PT 27)

Chapter Twenty Seven

Garel loomed over the crumpled woman, her long hair fanned around her, his lips curving into a large smile. “Well I doubt that she will be bringing Cadell now, but I have no doubt he will be coming for her anyway.”
Kneeling, his hands flipped her over, his look taking in every perfect inch of her. “Oh yes, she will make a good queen”, an expectant light making his cold dead eyes almost glow. “I am going to enjoy breaking this one. She will fight for a long, long time.”
Standing, he flicked a look to the other warrior, contempt in the glare he threw at the man still bent in pain. “Bring her”, his snapped words making the other warrior stumble to his feet. A curt grunt was the only response as he scooped up the small woman, throwing her unceremoniously over his shoulder, her hair flowing down his back, the golden tresses swaying as the two moved from the cave.
Cadell moved cautiously around the perimeter of the meeting area. He knew he was early, but better to be early and prepared than walk into a trap. His eyes missed nothing as he took up a position he was sure gave him the best vantage point.
For an hour he waited, not moving an inch, even the animals around seeming to forget he was there as deer moved closer. The snapping of twigs had his eyes darting to the sound, though he remained still. Breaking through the heavy undergrowth to the clearing, Zandria and the Lady Nadia came into view. His lips twitched at the sight of Tialla’s friend. He knew that Zandria would have tried to come alone, not wanting to put the other woman in peril, he only imagining what kind of resistance he must have met if she was there. Seemed that the women in Leando in general were headstrong.
Once more his thoughts returned to Tialla, lightness filling him. How had he ever gotten so lucky as to deserve a woman like her? He held down the chuckle as the memory of his talk with Harbin flashed through his head. He had to admit the older warrior was right. He never thought he could feel the way he did about another human being, but he loved Tialla with everything in him and she would make him the perfect partner in life.
The sound of a Jibbit bird brought a smile to his lips. Zandria’s signal that all was well was their secret, he knowing that the other man would never betray it. Standing, he silently moved into the clearing watching the other two, their backs to him. Pausing, his brows furrowed in surprise as Zandria’s arm rose, his hand resting gently on Nadia’s shoulder, the woman covering his hand with hers in a tender motion. Seemed that he was not the only one to have found love in the region, his lips curving into a smile. Zandria certainly could do a great deal worse than with the woman who had been prepared to die for her queen.
Taking another step closer, Zandria spun around, his small crossbow in one hand, the weapon pointed at his heart. Stopping, Cadell smiled, his hands raised in a motion of surrender as he grinned. “You have not lost your touch my friend.”
Letting the weapon fall to his side Zandria laughed back, the two men moving forward as they embraced, both clapping the others back in greeting. Pulling back, Zandria’s handsome face was filled with fun. “So how was your holiday?”
Shaking his head, he could not help the large smile which filled his features. “One of the best. Thinking of making it a yearly thing”, his look sliding to Nadia, devilment in his tone. “And yourself Zandria, how was your week?”
He could see the way his friend’s eyes softened as they turned once more to the lady-in-waiting, his response warm. “It was also good my friend.”
Stepping forward, the two covered the distance to the woman watching them both warily, her eyes scanning the area, obviously looking for her mistress. Bowing slightly as they came to a halt, Cadell smiled gently, he seeing the wary look from the stunning woman. “Lady Nadia. As always it is a pleasure to see you. Tialla will be very pleased to see you also.”
At the mention of her mistress’s name, Nadia seemed to relax a little, though her look still flicked behind him. “I hope that you are well Lord Cadell. Where is my lady?”
Grinning, his hand opened in a gesture to follow him. “She insisted that we join her for food before we begin our journey back. She is preparing lunch, a feast I believe”, he adding more gently, “I did not want her coming with me, until I was sure that things were safe.”
He could see the approval in both Zandria and Nadia, before the woman chuckled, “The princess is cooking?”, her voice a little teasing. “I was sure that my lady could hunt, but I was not so sure of her cooking prowess”, her head lifting with pride. “But then again, she could master any skill. She is proficient in anything she turns her hand to.”
Nodding, Cadell began to lead the two back to their hideout. As they walked, he drilled Zandria for any news of Garel, both men aware that the evil warlord was notorious for using spies to gather information about his enemies. Cadell was sure that he would have discovered that they had seized Leando and that he planned to marry the princess.
Hearing that there had been no activity, or any sign of the man’s armies moving had been a surprise. Despite the fact that it would be suicide to take on both his armies and Harbin’s, he had expected some kind of retaliation – something, he uneasy at the lack of movement from the man.
Reaching the waterfall, he led the two to the small pathway leading behind the curtain of water. Not seeing Tialla, Cadell could not help the way his lips curved. She must be waiting for them inside, his steps quickening, he gasping in surprise as Zandria grabbed his arm, pulling him back just in time before the arrow, triggered by the small thread on the ground embedded itself in the tree to his side.
Fear thudded into Cadell – they had been discovered, and Tialla had been alone.
Zandria pointed to the ground, Nadia already dragged behind him for safety. Looking down he could see the two sets of large footprints, one set much heavier as they moved away from the secret cave. Tialla, where was Tialla! Panic squeezed his stomach, that feeling of helplessness making it hard to breathe. He had to find her and find her fast.

next installment {15th Nov}

Warrior’s Bride (PT 26)

Chapter Twenty Six

With Cadell gone, the campsite seemed quiet and a little sad, she moving around and quickly packing up those items going back with them. She would never forget this time, her and her future husband’s special time, a soft smile playing on her lips.
Moving to the cave, she began to prepare the final meal, determined to ensure that Cadell was proud of his new wife when his friend, and Nadia – she knowing that her lady in waiting would not allow herself to be left behind – would arrive. The sound of footsteps had her heart starting to beat faster, the strangest joy filling her, “You’re back much earlier than I expected. I wanted to…”, shock thudding into her as she turned round not seeing the man she expected, but a large stranger blocking the entrance. Screaming, she fled to the other exit, pulling to a shuddering halt as another figure loomed out of the blackness. She was trapped.
Turning once more to the first figure, she shivered seeing as each step the man took brought his grotesquely harsh features into focus, the blood in her veins freezing. There was no softness to this man, he was a killer through and through. Backing up, her eyes flicked around the small space looking for any weapon she could use to defend herself, although she knew that she was doomed.
“Where is he princess?” The giant before her spoke, his tone as menacing as his looks. Tialla clamped her mouth closed, her head shaking, her small sign of defiance seeming to amuse the man, a cruel rumble of laughter leaving him as he looked over at the second man, equally as fierce looking, he too descending on her as he crept forward. “Look at that. The little mouse would like us to ‘persuade’ her to talk.”
With that he lurched forward, Tialla having no time to move out of the way, another strangled scream leaving her, despite her determination not to. The giant wrapped a large fist around her hair, gripping it tightly before dragging her against himself. With her back against his chest, his other arm grabbed her arm, pain exploding throughout. “I think that we need to make the little mouse squeak harder. See if her screams don’t bring back our little traitorous cat.”
The other man’s mouth curved into a sickening smile. “Indeed Lord Garel. And how do you propose we do that to such a pretty little creature?” Panic filled her as the sickening realisation of just who held her sunk in. It was Garel himself.
Behind her, she could hear the peel of cruel laugher. “How do warriors tame any woman? On her back of course. She can show us both what Cadell has been enjoying.”
Terror slammed into Tialla – there was no talking with men like these. To them she was nothing more than property to serve their needs. Dragging in a deep breath she vowed not to let herself die that way. As the second warrior stepped closer, she grabbed Garel’s shoulder, using it to anchor herself, her legs lifting and drawing into her body, before she kicked out with all her strength, her feet slamming into his groin, his cry of pain filling the small area. She however, was already moving, her hand grabbing one of the many knives slung around Garel, pulling back and ignoring the pain, as some of the strands of her hair were ripped from her scalp, her hand arching towards the man.
Garel though was already moving, stepping back before the knife could cause any real harm. She watched as the tip sliced through his shirt, a thin line of blood starting to flow, proof of just how close she had come to bringing down the brutal warlord.
Before she could position for another swing, his hand fastened painfully onto her wrist, twisting it so violently she thought he might have broken it, the knife clanging noisily onto the stone ground, before he released her once more.
Now both stared at the other, terror and determination in her, stunned disbelief in him. As his companion slowly dragged himself to his knees his eyes murderous, once more blocking her escape Garel held up his hand to stop the man, Tialla sure he would have killed her otherwise. His finger skimmed his chest, before he licked the tip stained with his own blood. “Well, well”, his mouth curving into what seemed to be an amused smile. “This little mouse has heart and spirit. I like this little mouse. I planned on enjoying her and leaving with her as my wife – keeping her alive long enough to secure my leadership and get Harbin off my back”, his cold eyes boring into hers. “Not even he would go against tradition”, before his look dropped to slide down Tialla. “But she has fire. Imagine the sons she will provide”, his mouth now snarling. “They would not be mutinous rodents or weaklings like those of my other sickly wives.” His eyes flashed now. “I think I will be keeping you after all princess.”
Tialla shook her head, her angry words full of venom. “Never. I would rather die than have you lay with me.”
Again Garel laughed, this time the other warrior joining in. “I think you are right my Lord. Indeed she is a little spitfire”, his laugh full of evil humour. “And that passion. It will make her most enjoyable in bed.”
Garel laughed too, his eyes dissecting her. “Yes. She will do. But like all pets, she will need to learn her place and who her Master is.”
About to declare that he was no Master of hers she never got a chance to speak as his arm pulled back, the back of his hand catching her fully on the cheek, Tialla flying sideways through the air, slamming into the wall, blackness flooding in, blissful, empty darkness.

next installment {3rd November}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 25)

Chapter Twenty Five

The week flew by. As a young girl, Tialla never understood the tradition of Tol Dor. It seemed a tortuous start to any relationship, the couple having to fight to survive. She could only see troubles with such a trial, most likely ending with one of them trying to kill the other as they attempted to survive.
However, now she got it, now she understood. This was their time. This was the only chance they would have to really get to know each other without any of the pressures of leadership. Here and now it was just Tialla and Cadell, and they worked together to ensure that the week was one filled with laughter, talking and love. She knew him now better than she had ever known another person, and she had kept nothing from him, sharing her whole life. He was to be her husband, her partner and her love. For the first time in her life, Tialla knew that she had found the person who would stand by her and support her as she would him, to the death if necessary.
As the two woke on the last morning of their week-long trial, she looked up at him, a sadness in her eyes, her hands gently tracing the strong curve of his jaw, her voice whimsical. “Do you think if we kept really quiet they might not find us, that maybe they would just find somebody else to rule?”
His laugh skittered over her, his eyes glowing as he leant in to kiss her. “I’m game if you are. I cannot think of anything else in the world that I would want more than to be right here with you.”
She huffed out a sad sigh, her arms draping around his neck. “It has been so nice. Like a dream”, her eyes trailing to the side where fruit-filled a wooden bowl he had carved for her sat, fish ready for their breakfast waiting to be cooked hanging in a corner. He was an excellent hunter and fisher, and they were definitely not struggling for food or other comforts, she having even made a few pieces of rudimentary furniture with his help. No, life with Cadell was only enhanced.
“You know, there was one new custom I was thinking might be nice.”
Her curious look flipped back to him hearing his words. “Oh? And what would that be?”
Grinning, his mouth trailed down her cheek, once more the familiar sizzles of want bursting deep in her belly. “Well. Perhaps each year, the king and queen should take a week to honour Tol Dor, show their commitment to each other and their kingdom by taking part in the tradition.”
She chuckled, “Can we do that?”, his head nodding against her, a wickedly sexy drawl sending all new tremors through her.
“Hey, I just started a new one where people get sweets on the announcement of matrimony in the palace. They accepted that, so no reason why not. It’s good to be the king”, she unable to stop the happy laughter as she clung to him, that laughter turning to soft moans as he kissed down her. It was not so bad to be the queen either sometimes.
Two hours later, both were finally up and dressed, their breakfast nothing but a fond memory as she exhaled a long sigh. Looking around what had been their first bedroom together, she began to pack up their belongings. By that night they would be back in the palace, their accommodation more luxurious, the responsibility of leadership once more placed heavily on her shoulders, back to the same routine she had led her entire life.
Looking over at Cadell, her heart soared. No – it would never be the same and she would never have to bear the weight of leadership alone again. She had him now. He was her partner in everything.
Cadell watched Tialla. She looked a little sad to be leaving, as indeed did he. This week had been perfection, the time tying the two closer than even he could have imagined. He loved her, adored her, would die for her, he knowing this with certainty. Moving over, he wrapped his arms around her waist, his head resting on her shoulder, a deep sigh leaving him. “Is it wrong of me to hate to have to share you?”
She melted into him, her head turning to nuzzle her cheek with his. “It must be quite freeing to be like normal people”, his head nodding softly against hers as he kissing her cheek reverently.
“OK. I will meet Zandria at the meeting spot. I’ll bring him back with me so he can help carry some of this stuff you seem hell-bent on keeping.” His eyes were full of humour as they took in all of the little animals he had carved for her over the week, she insisting on keeping them because they meant something. Woman’s talk for ‘everything you do is special to me’ he assumed, he deep down really touched.
Turning in his arms hers wound around his neck. “Miss me.”
His lips quirked as he kissed her before pulling back slightly. “Every single moment”, he dropping another on her nose as with a rueful grimace he stepped back. “If I don’t go now, then Zandria will be the one looking for us, and I should tell you that man is a hell of a tracker!”
Giggling, her head nodded, her eyes sparkling. “OK. I will prepare one last meal for us. Seems the least we can do for Zandria – poor man has no idea how much stuff he is carrying!”
Chuckling, he nodded before picking up his sword and bow, winking at her as her eyes widened with surprise seeing the array of weaponry. “I like to be ready my love. Can never tell what might be waiting for you in a jungle.”
Nodding, her mouth curved into a smile. “Just don’t forget what is waiting for you in this cave”, her brows wriggling with innuendo.

next installment {12th October}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 24)

Chapter twenty-four

For a few seconds there was silence as Tialla digested the story, her head shaking softly in shock. She felt pity for the young boy who had watched his family die so needlessly and pride for the man he had become. Where many might have given up, he had risen above and determined to free his country. His fingers entwining through hers brought her head snapping round, she seeing wariness in his eyes, his tone cautious. “So, do you still think that you are making such a good marriage now princess? Not exactly the noble lineage you likely expected to marry.”
Cupping his hand with her other, her eyes blasted respect as she smiled, “I have known many princes and leaders, their positions not earnt but inherited. Most were spoilt brats, only interested in their own welfare and comfort.” Her voice softened. “But you – you have been to the gates of hell and rather than lie down and die you fought your way back, fought because you wanted to free your own people from a tyrant. How many lives have you saved already Cadell? Garell is a monster. He would have brought darkness and death to all whose paths crossed his. But you have given hope to them. You are a shining ray in their desolate lives. In my province, no man or woman is held back from achieving their potential. Those who possess that special ability for leadership or greatness have every opportunity to succeed, not because they are born into it, but because they deserve it.” Her eyes shone with pride. “And you Cadell, are the noblest man I have ever met. I am humbled by you.”
Cadell swallowed. He could see the sincerity shining from her, that last protective layer around his heart shattering. He loved this woman, and he would lay down his life for her. Reaching over, his hands cupped her cheeks as he took her mouth, his kiss hungry and demanding. With a sigh, her lips flowered open for him, her body falling willingly against his.
Shifting, he lay them both down on the fur, his lips now kissing along her cheeks as he whispered soft words of love to her, her eyes fluttering shut as she murmured ones back. He took his time to undress her, his eyes feasting on every luscious curve, his tongue licking the raised peak of her nipples and dipped valley of her belly and hips. She was the most perfect woman he ever knew. Turning her, his mouth worshiped her back and sides, his tongue teasing the dip of her spine as she shuddered, her fingers gripping the fur. He could smell her arousal, that tangy aroma that was all her, that scent which filled his nose and his soul. He would never need another – she was his, and he hers.
Her sighs turned to wanting pants, soft pleading words escaping her lips as he tore at his breeches, needing to be part of her, to be deep inside her, to be joined in the most primitive of ways with the woman he loved. Guiding himself to the heat of her body, he thrust up, his arms wrapping around her belly, dragging her bottom harder against himself. As his fingers teased her nipples, his hips drove into her time and again, she matching him with each and every one.
He could feel the need for release rising within him, his teeth gritting as he fought to control it, to feel her beating around him. When her head turned their lips met in an incendiary kiss, her lips trembling against his as she erupted, he greedily swallowing even her cry of orgasm, wanting everything from her. He could feel the fluttering of her body against him, the way her fingers frantically gripped his arm, her body growing rigid, the need in him no longer able to be held back, his own orgasm shooting from him. Now it was her turn to swallow his cry, their kiss desperate, yet bonding. He felt one with her, their bodies jerking as the aftereffects of their shared experience shuddered through them both.
Finally, his lips fell from hers as he burrowed his head into her long hair, his nose inhaling her. This felt good – right. A peace settled over him, one that he had never before known. Somehow he had found his home in this woman, his lips curving into a happy smile.
As she stirred, he let her roll onto her back, he rising to stare down at her, his head resting on the palm of his hand, a content smile on his lips, pride filling him seeing the glow in her. Her hand rose to stroke his cheek, an impish smile on her lips as her head cocked playfully to the side. “First, wow that was amazing.” His chuckle made her smile widen as she continued “Second, how come I’m completely naked and a bug feast, while you are still dressed?”
His appreciative laugh brought one to her mouth too as he nodded. “That my love is because I only had time to undress one of us, and you look way better naked than I, and secondly I’m not a fool and had no desire to be a ‘bug feast’.”
Now her laugh turned to a spluttered indignant one as he lifted her into his arms, standing as he strode back towards the cave. “OK, OK, I also know the value of looking after my future wife. Let me wash off any of those bugs.”
As understanding came on her, she started to struggle, though she was laughing so hard her movements were ineffectual, he chuckling as he walked fully dressed right under the shower she had used earlier, the two of them soaked in an instant.
Her arms flew around his neck as she gasped at the sudden cold, her head finding shelter in the crook of his neck, she giggling helplessly before finally looking back at him, her eyes flashing with fun. “Seems now you have to undress”, her fingers sliding down his chest. “Let me help you with that.”
Grinning, his head nodded. “Now that is an offer I am never going to turn down.”

next installment {29th September}

Warrior’s Bride (PT 23)

Chapter Twenty Three

Cadell dragged in a calming breath as unwelcome memories flooded into him. Something deep within Tialla swelled knowing that he was only tearing open some old wound for her, because he did not want any secrets between them. Because he loved her.
Sitting still, she gave him the time he needed, he soon starting once more to talk. “I remember hearing the scream and looking up. I could see my sister running to the balcony. Garel was behind her, part of her sleeve in his hands. He must have cornered her in one of the rooms and attacked her.”
She could hear the anguish in his voice, she unable to hold back has her hand gripped his, their fingers entwining. He clung to her, seeming to draw strength, continuing, “I remember dropping my sword and running for the wall. Next thing, I was scaling the wall. I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew I had to reach her.”
Swallowing, his fingers tightened around hers. “By that point she had reached the balcony. She was screaming for him to leave her alone. I could see the terror in her eyes. She knew what kind of man he was. She knew that nothing she did would stop him.”
Now she could feel the tremble in his hands – this man so strong, so in command, shaken by a memory. “Then she saw me. She knew that I would defend her, she also knew I was no match for that bastard.” His look rose to meet hers, pain deep inside their darkness. “I knew what she was going to do, and I screamed for her not to, but she just mouthed to me she loved me, and then she jumped onto the wall and over.” A shuddered breath escaped him. “I could only stare at where she lay. My sister, the best person I ever knew, dead.” Now anger seemed to flare in him, his lips curling into a snarl. “Then I heard him. He stood there laughing. He actually laughed. My sister lay dead, my sister with her vibrant, caring personality, had given her life to escape him and he laughed. I saw red. Next thing I knew I was racing up the rest of the wall and had pulled out my knife and was attacking him. He mocked my attempts before knocking me to the ground. I remember him taking his time to go and pick up his sword. I knew that he was going to kill me, but I just didn’t care.”
Once more pain crossed his handsome features as he stared ahead. “I waited for him to take me down, I couldn’t even look at him, but then I heard steel-on-steel. When I looked up, my father was there. He was fighting with Garel.” His head turned once more as their eyes collided, desperation in his voice. “Tialla, he fought like a demon to avenge my sister and protect me, but even he was no match for Garel. I remember seeing Garel pull another knife from his back and I tried to warn my father, but it was too late.”
Another shudder ripped through him. “To this day, I will never forget watching my father die.”
Tialla lifted her free hand, allowing it to gently caress his shoulder, the action one of support. His hand trapped it, bringing it to his lips, her soft voice like a balm to him. “But you lived. What happened?”
Nodding, he resumed his story. “I got back to my feet and lunged at Garel, but by this point others had already entered the room. I was grabbed and dragged to the ground. I welcomed death, to be reunited with my family.” She felt his body stiffen. “My whole family had just been wiped out, my world destroyed and the son-of-a-bitch stood over me and laughed. I told him to do it, to kill me, but he ordered me thrown in the cells.” His lips curled bitterly. “After all he had done, he declared me a traitor and ordered me to be made an example of. I was to be publically executed.”
Her exhale of shock brought a fleeting sad smile to his lips. “As is traditional, my execution was to take place at daybreak and I was ready for it.” His brow furrowed as his eyes once more slid from hers. “That night Zandria appeared at my cell. As you can imagine I was surprised to see Garel’s son there.”
“Garel’s son!”
Tialla’s shocked words saw his smile widen. “Yes Zandria is Garel’s eldest son. He is also everything his father is not. He is wise, brave and fair. All things that would one day have made him an excellent leader. However, I think his qualities never endeared him to his father and I think that he knew it was only a matter time before Zandria would challenge him for leadership, and given his reputation it was likely the people would support Zandria. In fact an attempt on his life had already been made, and Zandria is nobody’s fool. He knew who was behind it.”
Tialla sat back, stunned shock on her features, her head shaking softly. “I had no idea.”
Nodding, Cadell’s brows furrowed deeper. “I owe Zandria more than I can ever repay. I would be dead now if it were not for him. He along with some of the soldiers my father was friends with stormed the prison and freed me and many others imprisoned for no real crimes. He persuaded me that Drakel needed saved and that I should join them.”
Honesty and respect blasted from him. “I owe Zandria everything.”
“So why is Zandria not here now marrying himself a princess?”
Her question elicited a small chuckle as he inclined his head. “As I said, Zandria is a smart man. We had to make aliances and persuade many to follow us. It turned out that I had a knack for leadership, as did he, but he talked me into the role of leader because he knew that being known as Garel’s son, despite the fact he was a hunted man, would lose us support. So I became leader and he became my second. He is my most valued confidant and advisor and above all my friend. I trust him with my life Tialla.”

next installment {14th September}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 22)

Chapter Twenty Two

Tialla’s eyes widened as she stuttered out her incredulity, “Y… You’re from Drakel?”
Cadell grimaced, standing. “It’s a long story. One best told over food”, his tone softening. “I’ll tell you the whole sorry tale if you go shower and freshen up. Deal?”
Her mouth snapped shut as she smiled, her head nodding. “OK. Food and a shower does sound kind of good right now.”
His hand reached out to lift her to her feet. Seeing as the sheet fell from her naked form she could see the fire that sprung to his dark eyes, a shaky half-laugh leaving him. “OK. I will give you peace, because looking at you right now is not doing anything for my determination to be a responsible husband and ensure you retain your strength.”
Chuckling, she moved to the mouth of the cave, pausing before she rounded the section of the wall which would obscure her sight of him, her movement unhurriedly sexy as she shimmied before him. Turning her head to look at him over her shoulder her sultry look brought another groan from him. “As you wish my lover”, her laugh becoming deeper hearing the small curse from him, his “Now I am going to be needing a cold shower” making her laugh even harder.
She felt strangely powerful at his reaction, his quickly cried out instructions on where to find the ‘perfect shower’ seeing her turn left as she exited the cave.
He was right. The water fell behind the tunnel at just the right point to allow her to wash, she gasping as the ice water sloshed all over her, reviving her body with its refreshing tingles. Washed, she returned to the cave, quickly drying before dressing, her brows furrowed as she once more left, this time turning right in search of Cadell.
Leaving the protective curtain of water her senses were bombarded by the delicious aroma of cooking, her belly once more rumbling, her feet moving faster to join him. In a small clearing, he had a fire burning, her makeshift stove over it with two scaled and gutted fish cooking. He had somehow found fruit as well and cut them into pieces ready for eating.
Hearing her move towards him, Cadell turned, a wide smile on his handsome face, Tialla’s stomach flipping at just the sight of him. So this was what it was like to be in love, happiness swamping her. It felt good.
“As promised my queen – breakfast”, his hands sweeping towards a large tree stump he had cleaned and set her cutlery on. Shaking her head, she laughed, dropping onto the fur rug which she had last seen on their bed, his consideration for her comfort somehow touching.
Within seconds he joined her, passing her a plate and waiting for her to try a piece of the perfectly cooked fish. Her eyes closed reverently, a sound of pleasure leaving her lips. “That is delicious!”
“Well, I might not cook often, but when I do… Let’s just say I have never killed anybody with food”, his smile and cheeky comment making her laugh.
As they ate in silence, her eyes often turned to him. She had so many questions, instinctively knowing that the time to ask was close, but in the meantime having to admit that he was most definitely a surprise. How many leaders, especially warlords, knew how to cook?
When both finished, each having eaten their lot, Tialla rubbed her belly, a dreamy smile on her lips, “I could get used to this”, her wistful words bringing another smile to him, his head nodding too as he looked around at their peaceful setting.
“Yeah. It is pretty nice. No pressure, no life or death decisions to make… Just chill.”
Chuckling, her eyes danced with impish fun. “No poor women to strip and dress as a slave…”
She giggled harder as his features crumpled into an apologetic ‘ouch’ before he too grinned wickedly, turning to her. “Guess I should not admit that I had a really good look right? That would not be the smartest thing to say.”
As she mock-glared at him, he laughed harder, his hands reaching for her and pulling her onto the rug under him, his head bending as he claimed her lips. Instantly Tialla melted against him, her arms wrapping around his neck. This felt right. He felt right.
Pulling from her, Cadell smiled seeing the look on her beautiful face, her closed eyes slowly opening as a wistful sigh escaped her soft lips. She wanted him every bit as much as he her, this knowledge swelling his insides. But now it was the time for some truths.
Pushing up to a seating position, he helped her up, his fingers entwining with hers. “I promised you the truth, and I want to tell you everything Tialla.”
Her lips curved in the most adorable smile, trust shining from her as she wordlessly nodded.
Exhaling a long sigh, his eyes dropped to the rug, a frown furrowing his brow as he began his story. “I was born in Drakel. My father was a soldier, part of Garel’s personal security. When my sister was eighteen, he was able to get her a position as one of Garel’s current queen’s maids.” His head rose, his eyes finding hers. “She was so excited Tialla. She thought that working in the castle would be wonderful, exciting.” She silently watched as anger seemed to seep into his eyes. “At the time I was training as a soldier. We would practice in the courtyard and I was doing well. It seemed my family were destined for good things in Garel’s service.”
Her fingers squeezed his seeing the pain which flashed across his features “Niandra, my sister, had only worked there for a day when it became apparent that she had caught the eye of Garel.” His mouth curling into a bitter sneer, “And Garel is not the kind of man to take no for an answer.”

Next installment {28th Aug}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 20)

Chapter Twenty

She could hear someone crying out, not recognising her own voice or even aware as Cadell moved quickly, sliding up her body to position himself between her legs. Then with one sure thrust he pushed himself deep into her still-spasming body, tearing the membrane within.
Pain flashed briefly through Tialla, the pleasure quickly overpowering it as her hips rose to meet him, her gasp lost as his mouth covered hers, his kiss gentle, seductive. As the sensations lessened, her body relaxed once more as she slowly sank back into the softness of their homemade bed. Every part of her felt heavy, languorous and yet wonderful at the same time. Her eyes opened, revealing the level of her confusion. “C… Cadell”, her voice unsure, her features showing how vulnerable she felt.
His hand rose to caress her cheek as he kissed the edge of her mouth, nibbled gently on her lip, his tone reassuring and reverent. “You’re fine Tialla. I have you, I won’t let you go. Trust me.” Instantly relief washed over her, Cadell almost choking seeing this, seeing the proof of the level of her trust in him. They had not had the best of introductions, but he could feel her faith in him, the level of it flooring him. He loved her.
As she moved, a gasp ripped from her lips, she feeling him still securely sheathed within her, he unable to hold back the ragged sigh feeling her body clamp down on him. However, still he held back, fighting the urge to drive harder into her body, sweat breaking out on his back. “Did I hurt you? Are you OK?”, the sound of his concern bringing a smile to her mouth.
Shaking her head, she lifted herself slightly to bring their mouths together once more. “No. You never hurt me, and I know you never would.”
Cadell’s smile shone from him as his head nodded slightly, “Never. I would rather die myself than see harm come to you”, his mouth a hair’s breadth from hers, his voice growing seductive, “But I only ask because we are not finished yet princess.”
Groaning, her head shook slightly, “I… I don’t think I can”, her voice shaking as their eyes locked, his full of certainty
“Oh you can. And you will. Only this time it will be better, so much better”
About to tell him that it could not possibly be any better his hips moved, the flesh deep inside her sliding across nerves which sprang instantly to wakeful awareness her body stiffening, her hands grasping his arms, fingers rigid as the sound escaped from her mouth to his, his head dipping and taking her lips in a fierce possessive kiss.
Tialla would not have thought it possible after the way she reacted to recover so quickly, but the minute she felt him move deep within her she knew that she was wrong. This man would take her to places she had never even dreamed off.
Cadell struggled to hold back. Everything in him wanted to unleash the desire to plunge deeper and deeper into her tight body, to give way to the beast within screaming for release. But clinging to his control by the thinnest of threads he took his time, allowed her body to adjust to her first climax, to give her time to attune to him, feeling as she finally let go, her legs wrapping around his waist in the most instinctive of urges. Her kiss was now fervent as his, she seeking as much as he as she gripped him, clung to him, let herself go.
He could feel the tingling of release deep in his belly, his fingers gripping the fur blanket as he pushed it back, determined to take her with him. The sense of relief almost knocked him over as she ripped her mouth from his, her back arching against him as her body exploded, clamping down on him, the rippling of her inside, around and over him more than he could withstand.
Driving faster and harder into her – once, twice – his own release shot from him, his cries joining hers in the darkness of the cave, the sound of their joined passion reverberating off the walls, then silence, save for the sound as both tried to bring their ragged breathing under control, he collapsing over her totally spent.
It took the feel of Tialla moving slightly under him for his arm, to shakily push himself from her, rolling to the side one flung around her shoulder to keep her against him, he inexplicably needing to feel her against himself. He felt floored, his mouth kissing the top of her head as she nuzzled in harder against him.
“OK. That was better” her sleepy words, soft and satiated kissed his skin, he huffing out a laugh, happiness bursting from him as he nodded, his head turning to look once more down at her, hers tilted slightly up to look back at him, her eyes large.
“Told you”, his chuckle becoming softer, more serious, “But I can honestly say that even I never expected it to be that good.” His hand rose, one finger trailing down her cheek, “But then again. I have never been in love before”, he surprised at just how easy it was to be open with this women. She was his soulmate, and he knew that he could say anything to her, this feeling freeing.
Her nose scrunched up in the most adorable little giggle as she nodded, “Well, I have very little to compare this experience to, but it felt… special”, her arm sliding around his waist as she cuddled into him, her words now coming out on a tired slur, “You feel special.”
Looking down, Cadell smiled seeing her eyes flutter shut, she falling into a peaceful sleep. Draping the ends of the blanket over them both as best as he could without awakening her, he sighed with contentment before sleep swooshed in to claim him to.

next installment 1st August

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 19)

Chapter Nineteen

A large smile shone from her as she nodded before falling back onto the bed, her arms rising above her head as she stared back at him. “In my kingdom, we are big on science and discovery. So Cadell of Karok, I think it is about time for you to put your theory into practice.”
Cadell laughed again, his body falling beside hers as his eyes slid down her perfection. “Well, when you put it that way princess…”, before his mouth once more covered hers. His kiss was unhurried, gentle, searching, his tongue caressing hers in a seductive slide, Tialla melting against him. The man knew exactly how to relax her – he always had.
As he kissed her, his hands gently cupped her shoulders, before sliding down her chest, his fingers so gentle, his fingertips almost a whisper against her skin. Instantly, heat pooled between her legs, the strangest throbbing setting up a tempo deep within her, she moaning softly.
As his fingers found the tip of her nipple, the bud engorged, the moan turning to a full gasp, her body arching up to his touch. Now there was not a force in the world that could stop her own hand rising, the two turning so they were facing each other as her hand mimicked his, her touch as gentle as his as it slid down his chest.
Cadell missed nothing as his hand continued its sure journey down her belly, she following his lead. When his fingers pushed her legs apart, a shudder ripped through her, even as her hand closed over the hardness of him, he jumping slightly. Only now did he break the kiss, his words whispered against her cheek. “Tialla, don’t stop”, the husky pleading within empowering her as she allowed her hand to slide up and down the velvety length of him, his breathing turning ragged as his mouth kissed along her neck, nipping her ear.
Tialla was on fire, her body on edge, needing something, she not sure what, until his fingers rubbed against the moist heat of her. Her eyes flew open wide, a half-moan, half-sigh escaping her lips. Yes, that was it, she needed him to touch her there, right there. As if he knew, his fingers began long strokes against her, she not even aware of the way her body began to writhe against him in a completely instinctive manner, nor of the way her hand stroked him harder.
When his hand pulled from her, she could not hold back the whimper, his forehead falling against her chest, his breathing coming in pants. “Stop, Tialla. Please, too much”, her look colliding with his, disappointment filling her. Was that it? Chuckling, Cadell could see the disappointment in her along with frustration, his mouth curving into a seductive smile, “No my queen. We are not finished yet, not by a long shot”, her look turning once more to confusion. However, as his mouth covered one nipple her eyes rolled into the back of her head as her head flew back, her back arching to him once more.
Slowly, very slowly Cadell took his time to lick and suck the heightened nub, her hands now gripping the fur blanket she had worn through the jungle, worn so they would both be comfortable, somehow this knowledge only adding to the moment. Moving to the other nipple, his fingers continued to play with the first, Tialla now making almost animalistic noises of pleasure.
Turning them both, he lay over her, making a place for himself between her legs before sliding further down, his hands moulding with her small waist as his tongue licked the silky skin, following the way her belly concaved before rising once more to wider hips. His hands wrapped around her thighs keeping her legs wide for him. By now Tialla had pushed herself to her elbows, her look following his every move, her face filled with need and intensity as she hitched her bottom lip with pearly teeth, her pupils flaring as his mouth covered the heat of her. Groaning, a small bloom of red appeared on her cheeks, a hint of embarrassment now filtering through the needy, breathy word, “Cadell…”
His rumbled laugh skittered over her sending all new shock waves throughout her already buzzing body, his tongue swiping out to taste her as though she was the most delectable feast. “You are going to be my woman Tialla, and we will enjoy each other to the full. There will not be a part of you that I do not know, nor you me.” His eyes locked with hers as once more he began to lick her, his tongue making small unhurried passes over the most intimate part of her.
Tialla swallowed hard, her hands rising, not to push him away, but to allow her fingers to slide deeper into the thickness of his hair, her hand shaking as she pulled him harder to her. He was right, he was her woman to do with what he wanted, and right now what he wanted was exactly what she did, and she trusted him, trusted him to look after her, make it good for her.
Falling back, her eyes closed as she gave herself over to the pleasure. Cadell knew how to look after her, of that she was sure. For what seemed hardly any time at all his mouth continued its onslaught, sometimes soft, sometimes harder, his tongue now flicking deeper inside her. She could feel something deep inside her clenching, the small spiral of pleasure which flared deep in her belly becoming more insistent, more intense. However, when his mouth found the small bead and sucked down hard on it, the spiral turned into a full on tornado, it crashing down on her with an unexpected suddenness, heat flaring into every part of her as she cried out, her fingers growing rigid in his hair, Tialla unaware of anything as she rode the wave of pure pleasure.

{next installment 17th July}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 18)

Chapter Eighteen

A soft groan escaped Cadell, his eyes once more meeting hers. The time for talk was over as his hand wrapped around her head, pulling her to him. Tialla allowed herself to fall willingly against him, her hands fanning across his chest. “Tialla”, her name slipped reverently from his lips before he was kissing her, his mouth gentle, his tongue sliding against the soft velvety softness of hers as he seemed to seek permission for entry. With the smallest of sighs her lips parted, her tongue darting out to touch his.
Cadell had never before experienced anything so erotic, so intensely personal. He had many lovers in his life, but never before had he felt as connected to another person, his body shivering slightly. He wanted her, wanted her badly, this need almost as important as the need to breathe, but he pulled back slightly, his forehead against hers as he fought for breath, not sure why his breathing had become so ragged. “Tialla. Have you ever been with a man?”
He saw the way her eyes blinked, a soft pink blush blooming over her cheeks as her head gave one small shake, her voice thick with desire, “No. As princess, it was expected that I would give myself only to the man who would be my king”, a small chuckle leaving her as her eyes once more filled with laughter. “To be honest it has not been too hard a promise to keep, until you arrived. Every time you touched me I have felt so strange, so… out of control.”
Now Cadell could not hold back the smile as his thumb brushed along the softness of her cheeks. “You have not been the only one princess. It is a wonder I have slept at all with the thoughts of you that have filled my nights, wicked thoughts of what I wanted to do with your body.” Now a hint of wariness came into his voice, “But I do not want to hurt you Tialla.”
Rising on her tiptoes, Tialla brought her mouth once more to his, their lips not quite touching, their breaths intermingling. “Cadell. If you truly do not want to hurt me then you had better make love to me soon, because I feel like my skin is on fire.”
“As you wish, your majesty.” His deep chuckle skittered over her mouth a split second before his hand flexed, once more pulling her to him, this time the kiss harder, more demanding. Tialla was not aware as her fingers clutched at him as she hung on to his tunic, his kiss eliciting an equal reaction within her. She gave everything as their tongues tangled with the other’s, her body writhing against him in an instinctive dance.
As his hands drifted down, moving down her back, he began to unhook the fastenings of her top, heat flaring between her legs, her belly rolling in the most erotic manner. She too began to undress him, her fingers, nervous to start, pulling at the fastenings of his tunic, a sigh escaping her as the sides gave way, her fingertips now touching the hardness of his well-toned chest.
With movements now more daring, spurred on by the small sigh which escaped him, and the way his body jumped at just her gentle touch, she explored, allowing her hands to slide down his chest, down his belly and around his side, goosebumps rising wherever she touched. While she might be an innocent, there was no mistaking the bulge in his leathers which prodded her stomach.
As he continued to kiss her, his hands now having released all of the hooks on her tunic top, she let her hand glide over the tip of the bulge. Cadell jumped, his mouth ripped from hers as he whispered words she could not fully make out, but instinctively understood, his need for her almost overpowering him. As he kissed down her neck, his hands pulled the top from her, until she stood naked from the waist up. She allowed her head to fall back, this bringing her hips harder to him, another moan ripped from him as his mouth licked and kissed down the long column of her slender neck. “My God Tialla”, his words were gritty, and hoarse, “I have never wanted another like this. Just the touch of your hand sets me on fire. I am not sure how long I can last.”
His words meant nothing to Tialla, but she could feel the pent up need in him, this strangely empowering. Pulling back, she stepped backwards, not aware of the image she made, his eyes half closing as he stared at her wonderful body. With actions unconsciously natural to a woman she moved to lay over their bed, her hands falling level with her head as she licked her reddened lips, “I am here my lord. Make me truly yours.”
Cadell would not have thought it possible to be any harder than he already was, but her words like warm water sloshed over him with the intensity of a tsunami. Dragging the open tunic from himself, he pulled the boots he wore from his feet before yanking the leathers down and kicking them to some unseen part of the cave.
Naked, he paused, his look taking in the way her eyes widened as she pushed herself slightly up, her hand reaching out. Stepping closer, he held his breath as her fingers nervously touched the tip of his now weeping hardness. Her look rose to meet his, wariness now mixing with the desire in the blueness, “You are so big. W…Will that fit?”
Of all the things he expected to hear, that had not been it, a laugh bursting from him as he dropped to kneel beside her. Taking her hand in his, he turned it to lay soft kisses along the white underside of her wrist. “It will fit Tialla, because we fit. We were meant to be together. I absolutely know this. You are the woman I was destined to be with, so yes, it will fit.”

{next installment 3rd July}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 17)

Chapter Seventeen
Tialla stared at Cadell, her heart soaring deep within her chest. Could he mean it? Her eyes flicked down his features seeing nothing but honesty within. This man did not need to lie to her. She was his no matter what, tears blurring her vision.
“Did you mean what you said to my people on the balcony?”
The apprehension in his face seemed to melt as he nodded, his voice gentling, “Every word. Your uncle is a clever man Tialla. He told me that the hardest part of conquest is not winning the war, it is winning the peace. You are a peaceful woman, wise beyond your years. You are selfless and the kind of leader any region would be proud to have. From the moment we met I have held you in the highest esteem.”
Finally, she managed to huff out a small snort, not aware as tears slid down her cheeks. “As I recall you stripped me down and forced me to wear the silks of a servant girl, so perhaps not from the first moment.”
Cadell’s eyes squeezed together in a pained grimace even as he laughed, his head nodding, “Oh I won’t lie, I really appreciated you then too. You have an amazing body”, the laughter dying down as his eyes became more serious. “I am sorry for every slight I ever made towards you. To think back on it makes me hate myself, and I only hope that you can learn to feel a fraction of the way I feel about you now”, his hand cupping her cheeks as his thumbs lovingly wiped away the tears.
Tialla swallowed as her hand rose to touch his cheek also, her look flicking over his features seeing the honesty in his words. “It is true that when we met I hated you, but sometimes as a very cunning man once told me, bad things happen to save us from even worse things. Had Garok invaded, I know with absolute conviction that my region would even now be under martial law, my uncle drawn into a bloody war which would have seen his and my people slaughtered. You saved us… and you saved me.” Now her look became more impassioned. “Cadell, when I am with you I feel safe, I feel treasured, and I never expected that. When I see you, my heart starts racing, not from fear, but because I think… No I know, that I love you too.”
The smile which lit his lips radiated from him, his hands curving further around her head as he dragged her head closer to his, his mouth taking hers in a long demanding kiss. Tialla let herself sink into it, rejoicing in the knowledge that against all odds, somehow she had found a man who would die for her and who would care for her and her people just as she would him and his.
Once more Cadell pulled back, determination in his eyes, she smiling widely as he took her hand and dropped to his knee. Looking up at her he grinned. “I know that technically in the eyes of our people we are engaged, the deal struck, but I am asking you now as a man who loves you, not as a leader wishing to make a beneficial treaty. Tialla, I am asking you if you will be my wife. If you will be the one and only woman I spend the rest of my life with. Not because it is advantageous”, a wicked smile on his lips as he gave a small shrug, “Although it is”, his hand dragging her fingers to his mouth as he once more became sombre, “But because I love you. While I will do all a leader should to support his queen, this declaration is not about our peoples, but one about us. I want to see you smile, hear that smart-assed mouth of yours telling me off when I do dumb things – and I am sure to. I want to feel you in my arms, be the man you turn to when you feel overwhelmed or pained. Tialla, I want to be the other half of your soul.”
Now she could see the way his eyes seemed to shimmer as he spoke with deep meaning. “My soul has been dark for so long, but already, just being around you, I feel like a better man. Tialla, you have the power to save me from becoming the one thing that I most dread, the one thing that till now has seemed almost inevitable. Your gentle spirit and kindness make me want to be better, and fills me with the belief that I can be more like you and not end up becoming a man like Garel.” Taking a deep breath, he looked deeply into her eyes. “Be my wife Tialla. Share my life and be my partner. I need you and I love you with everything in me.”
Tialla shone as she smiled, her head nodding, words taking time to form as she dropped to her knees, her arms flying around his neck. “Yes. Oh yes. I feel like I have waited my entire life just for you Cadell. I love you too.” For several seconds the two clung to the other before she gently pried herself from him, her eyes delving into his. “As for saving you, perhaps it is that we are just saving each other. Since meeting you, I have felt the connection, felt the pull of you to me. I was lonely before, but now I feel I have somebody I can share everything with.” She managed a snicker as she hitched her bottom lip playfully between pearly white teeth. “It has been exhausting talking to myself all this time”, he joining in before her hand once more gently caressed his cheek. “And you might think that you would slip into the kind of man Garel is, but you never would.” Her hand now moved to touch his chest. “You have a good heart Cadell, one full of all the qualities a king needs. You are strong, resilient, cunning and determined like a warrior, but you are also compassionate and forgiving like a leader. I am honoured to be the woman who will stand by your side, who will be the mother of your children and who will be your lover.”

next installment (19th June)

Warrior’s Bride (PT 16)

Chapter Sixteen
Looking around once more, Cadell gave her a lopsided grin. “Well, Your Highness, I hate to be the one to say this to you, but it looks like we have some work to do”, he rising once more with the grace of a cat, his hand outstretched for hers. With no hesitation, she placed her small hand into his large one, he pulling her gently to her feet. However, the action brought the two closer together, her hand still in his, the feel of it enveloped by his strong one suddenly filling her with the strangest heat.
Looking up into his face, she could see a similar desire reflected in his eyes too, surprise mingled with something else, something which made her groin clench, a shiver running through her. As though sensing her arousal, his free hand lifted to cup her face, the joviality of earlier disappearing, replaced by something more intense.
Her nerves were strained to the breaking point, she not even aware as her hand lifted to cover his, this action not one to throw him off her, but to keep him there, her eyes dropping to fix on his mouth. Everything in her wanted him to kiss her, to once more feel the way he made her feel the previous day in the palace, only this time there would be nobody there to interrupt them.
Hearing the soft groan from him, her eyes once more rose to his, she seeing that now he was looking at her mouth, his intentions clear as his hand, still in hers, pulled her even closer as his head bent and touched her lips.
With a sigh, she felt her body fall against his, his kiss deepening as her mouth flowered open for him, the hand on her cheek moving to cup the nape of her neck, pulling her head even harder to him. The kiss was full of fire and passion and promise, the promise that he would take care of her, support her and be her partner, Tialla responding with a woman’s instinct as though she was made for this man.
As his hand released hers, her arms wrapped around his neck, her body writhing against his with a need that was both foreign and demanding. She wanted him, the truth somehow freeing her. This man was to be her husband, and this thought was not unwelcome. He had been nothing but kind and patient and understanding with her, when he did not need to be. She had been his for the taking, yet he had held back, complied with her people’s customs, winning them over, even though his armies had swept into her kingdom as a hostile force.
With absolute conviction, Tialla knew that Cadell was intelligent, strong and somehow the perfect match for her, this truth seeping into her with a certainty that allowed her to bring down the walls she had erected to all others. Finally, she knew what it was that made her body and mind so drawn to the warlord. Cadell was her soul mate.
Cadell pulled the small woman harder against himself. He had enjoyed many women in his life, but this one was different. She was special. She would be his wife, and this thought, rather than making his spirits drop, filled him with the strangest happiness. Tialla was everything he ever dreamt of in a woman, and more. Her spirit matched his, her determination to be the best like his own. Where he was the iron fist, she was the unyielding rock that would never break. She both fascinated and attracted him. Her beauty was not just skin deep, it was to her very core. She was a good woman, and she made him want to be a better man.
As a warlord, he knew of the two competing forces within him. He strove to allow goodness to lead him, even though the path was often littered with evil deeds. He fought each and every day to keep the darkness at bay, to follow the light and fight for those who needed him to keep them free and safe. With her by his side, he knew that the darkness would be banished, held back by the dazzling light that she was. With certainty he knew too that she was his soul mate.
Pulling back slightly his hands held the top of her arms, the need to speak filling him. Looking down at her, he had to swallow hard not to pull her to him once more. Her eyes struggled to open as her smooth brow furrowed slightly, a small whimper leaving her large reddened lips, lust slamming into him. He had never wanted a woman more, but at that moment he needed to talk.
“Tialla.” He could hear the hoarseness of his voice, the breathiness of his words, “I want you.”
Now her eyes opened, her long lashes sweeping up as those large blue eyes met his. The smallest of smiles touched her lips, honesty deep within them. “I want you too Cadell.”
Her statement sent another shudder running through him, he having to take a deep breath not to fall back onto their makeshift bed, he needing to get out the words filling him, “I have never felt this way before.” Her eyes softened as the smile widened, “I want your body that is true, but more than that, I want you. I want to wake up with you, watch you as you rule your people and bring your wisdom to mine. I want to protect you and I want to have children with you.” He paused, truth tinged with nerves making his tone lower, “What I am trying to say Tialla is that I never believed that there was such goodness to be found in this world, and I certainly never thought myself worthy of it.” His eyes shone with the intensity of his words as he dragged in a deep breath, Tialla seeing the way he bared his very soul to her as he whispered almost reverently, “Tialla, my princess, my future queen. What I am trying to tell you, is that I love you.”

Next installment (5th June)

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 15)

Chapter Fifteen
The exploration of the cave did not take long, Cadell nodding in approval as his eyes scanned the area. The interior was about 30 feet long and about the same in width, he ensuring that there were no hidden crevices or holes where animals might be lurking. Finding a second entrance leading out to the wall of water, his features broke into a smile, “Excellent”, his only comment, though even Tialla knew the benefit of having another exit in case they were surprised from the first.
Turning to her, he grinned, seeming to have made up his mind. “OK Princess, time to unpack”, his eyebrows wiggling as he bent down and began to empty the contents of his backpack. Tialla chuckled seeing the numerous weapons he pulled free, along with a change of clothing, before he looked pointedly at her bag. “I may have been unfair asking you to bring all the cooking stuff”, his tone softening. “You will be glad to know that I have a trusty knife and can make just about anything… Within reason. Also we have plenty of firewood at our disposal.”
Giving a small snort, she knelt down to join him. “I think you underestimate me Cadell”, her tone a little waspish, though the smile on her mouth belied any real animosity. Pulling items from the bag, she soon had cutlery, plates and cups. As she pulled out coffee and tea granules, he laughed, declaring her an angel, she rewarding him with a smile of her own. “Well, I must admit that those are more for my benefit. Your Tol Dor might seem very long if you had to put up with me with no caffeine in my system.”
Nodding, his lips twitched, finding himself enjoying her company, his forehead furrowing as she gripped the sides of the bag before ripping it apart, it seeming to break into three sections. One contained two towels, his eyebrows rising at the clever design.
The other two looked familiar and with interest he reached over to lift them, his head shaking as it finally dawned on him what he was looking at. “Water purification kit?”, his eyes finding hers seeing as she nodded.
“I am sure that boiling is fine, but I like to be cautious”, her head cocking to the side. “Animals use the water down there as a bathroom you know.” Grinning, he made to stand, she rising with him. “Not finished yet”, her words making him pause seeing as she pulled the heavy cloak from herself, her eyes sparkling impishly. “I know you probably think that I was crazy wearing all of this, but in about one minute, you are going to be amazed”, her lovely mouth curving in anticipation.
Enthralled, Cadell leant against the rock wall watching her, his gaze full of curiosity. “OK, amaze me.”
Laughing again at his challenge, she lay the cloak on the ground, he seeing the inside was lined with thick fur. Sympathy filled him. It must have been very uncomfortable for her trekking in the jungle wearing such a thing. With a yank, she pulled the hood from the main piece, the shape of the item changing instantly, he seeing as it now became a perfect rectangle. Pushing back from the wall, his eyes widened seeing as the cloak began to expand, as though filling with air.
Giving her a stunned look, his head shook with genuine appreciation. “Is that a bed?”
Tialla nodded back, her features shining, “Yep. My scientists created this from two compounds. While each on its own is less than the width of a finger, when the membrane between them was removed, which the hood held, and they mixed…then they expand to nearly a foot!” She chuckled. I have no idea how it works, but it does, and now we don’t have to rough it on the floor.”
Nodding his head, he fixed her with amused eyes. “OK, I am amazed.” Laughing, she held up a hand to indicate that there was more before reaching to the decorative clasp on the long skirt she wore. Pulling it, the skirt dropped to the ground, Cadell seeing that she wore more suitable trousers under it.
Lifting up the voluminous material, she neatly draped it over the makeshift bed, he seeing that they now had a blanket. Lifting her head, she pointed to it. “Again, my scientists have developed a material that keeps in heat, so we should be nice and cosy”, her lips twitching with pride. “They really are a very creative group.”
Cadell’s brow rose as he nodded. He had camped often, he used to rough living, but even he had to admit that the thought of a little comfort for a change was very enticing. Moving to sit on the bed, he was aware of just how comfortable it was, the reason for the fur on the inside now clear, the softness adding to the pile.
His eyes were questioning as she joined him. “How long will it remain like this?”, he asked softly.
Tialla shrugged “Apparently, we should not worry. They tell me that so long as we are not spending a month in the jungle then it should remain as it is.”
Cadell released a deep laugh, his finger lifting wagging it as he tutted softly, “And you accused me of cheating! Thought you could only have the items you could carry in the hold all?”
Giving him a superior look, she huffed out a small sound of indignation. “I checked the rules VERY carefully, and it doesn’t say that you can’t wear things!”, a hint of laughter now in her eyes as she smiled at him. “So, I figured if it didn’t say that you couldn’t… Then it meant you could.”
Shaking his head once more he regarded her thoughtfully. Beautiful, compassionate, caring and now resourceful. It seemed that he really had done well in his choice of bride. Very well.

next installment {May 21st}

Warrior’s Bride (PT 14)

Chapter Fourteen
Tialla felt her mouth growing dry as her eyes rose to meet his. Even this look seemed so personal, her eyes finally dropping as she coughed slightly, looking around herself. “What now, oh great warlord?”, her words filled with a note of teasing.
Laughing, Cadell stepped back, he too scouring the area, now his eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “Well, I would say that perhaps the best thing to do would be to find shelter. I had some of my men explore the area”, his eyes widening innocently as she gasped.
“That’s cheating!”
Shaking his head, his finger wagged before her. “Absolutely not Tialla. Smart. Any good ‘warlord’ is going to only move when they have information. So, not cheating.”
Rolling her eyes, her head cocked to the side. “OK. And what did your scouts find out for you?”
Grinning, he moved to one of the larger trees, Tialla’s mouth falling open as he began to scale it, she amazed how quickly and gracefully he moved up the trunk, his actions making it seem almost effortless. When she could no longer see him for all of the branches and greenery, she began fretting on her lower lip. If he got stuck, there was no way that she could help him.
The sound of his moving back down was a strange relief, he jumping the last ten feet with ease before turning to her. “I found out that there is a section of this forest comprised of rock, where a waterfall hides many caves. Caves, that we can use for shelter”, his tone now becoming more sombre. “While we possibly could be safe around a camp fire, I prefer to have more solid protection”, his eyes glinting with fun now. “Especially when the rain comes, and from my research, I happen to know that happens regularly.”
Tialla could not help but be impressed with the warrior. He was certainly not the man she had thought she might have to endure Tol Dor with. Nope, not by a long shot. Indicating a certain direction, he gallantly offered to carry her bag, she chuckling as she shook her head. “I appreciate that, but I’m fine.”
Flicking a look down her he nodded, before leading the way. The hour long march through the dense foliage was gruelling. She admired the way he cleared them a path with the large machete which magically appeared from his backpack. It certainly made traversing the area easier. Despite the way she would often trip over the long skirt of her dress, he never once commented, only ever offering her a hand or catching her.
As they walked she became aware of a low sound, that noise growing louder as they seemed to grow closer to the source of the sound. As they cleared through one particularly almost impenetrable area of greenery, the noise filled the area, he giving a grunt of satisfaction, Tialla coming level with him. Gasping, she could only stare at the beautiful vision before her.
Now stood in a clearing, a waterfall thundered into a pool of blue-green water, she seeing fish swimming around the large watering hole, the water clear enough to see right to the bottom. Looking up, she could see the tall wall of rock, the dense forest hiding the outcrop, even while they had been close.
Turning, he gave her a pleased smile. “OK, now, let’s go home hunting shall we?”, he pulling his backpack from his shoulder as he pulled out several weapons, the knives quickly disappearing into previously hidden slots in his tunic and trousers. Raising an eyebrow, she looked surprised. “Are we expecting company?”
Flashing her a warm grin, his head shook. “Probably not, but I think it prudent to make sure that we have some protection. You never know if some of this area’s less friendly inhabitants have had the same thoughts as us. I heard that you have some nasty animals living here, including a bear. Now in my experience, bears have a liking for caves.”
With the vision of a bear now firmly seated in her mind the two moved towards the oasis, she unable to stop staring at the natural beauty of it. Holding down the chuckle, she allowed her eyes to slide down Cadell. Not many would have been so prepared, would have thought to send scouts out ahead, even for what was meant only to be a getting to know each other exercise. Now, it looked like they would be spending the time in some relative comfort.
As they got closer, the sound seemed to strangely diminish, she realising that when they were lower, they did not get the effect of the sound echoing around the rock face. However, it was still loud enough to make hearing him talk more difficult. Together, they made their way around the back of the sheet of water, the water falling far enough forward to allow them to follow what appeared almost to be a path to the rocks behind.
Gasping, her eyes blinking from the sudden darkness fear thudded into her as Cadell disappeared. Rushing forward, the strangest sense of fear for the man gripped her. Had he fallen into a crevasse? His name left her lips on a high cry, the man himself appearing almost instantly, anxiety deep in his eyes. “What? Are you OK?”, the genuine concern for her safety making something deep within her warm.
“I thought you had fallen.”
His lips curved into a grin as his handsome head shook. “No, there is a cave here. I was just checking it out.”
Relief swamped her as she nodded, trying to regain her composure. As though sensing her unease, he stepped forward, reaching out and taking her hand, his voice gentle. “Why don’t we look together?”
Nodding, she gave him an approving smile, not aware how this made her large eyes glow, even in the half light, nor how this more intimate look made his stomach pitch. She really was the most stunning woman he had ever met.

next installment (7th May)

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 13)

Chapter Thirteen

The next morning, Tialla strode into the grand hall. Cadell was already waiting with his second, Nadia walking demurely behind her having begged for the position as her lady. As was traditional, the magistrate was present to ensure that both adhered to the rules, taking with them only what they wore and what could fit into a backpack.
Bowing, Cadell seemed surprised as she moved alongside him, his mouth quirking into a playful smile as he leant in closer to her, Tialla clenching her fists at the awareness which ran through her at just having him that near. “Princess, while you look beautiful as always, I should perhaps point out that the forest might not be the best place for your current ensemble. A long train and cape?”
Dropping her head to hide the smug smile, she finally turned to him, Cadell surprised at the quick wink she gave him, her back to the magistrate. “On the contrary Cadell of Karok. I think you will find that this is the perfect outfit for the terrain. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised just how much thought I have put into this.”
With eyes slightly narrowed Cadell was already getting to know the signs that Tialla was up to something, his mouth curving into a smile as he cocked his head. “Then I withdraw my comment, and look forward to our time together.”
The magistrate stepped forward, his eyes examining the backpacks both wore over their shoulders. As was tradition, he was not allowed to see what each carried, and in a sign that perhaps the two could learn to trust, Cadell and Tialla had the night before agreed who should carry what. Cadell insisted on ensuring he brought weapons and asked Tialla if she could bring utensils for cooking and other needed items for a week of living rough.
At the time she had snorted at his assumption that she was a homemaker, her head rising as she considered arguing that she was every bit as capable of handling a weapon as he. However, the sense of his words finally saw her nod. It would be pointless for them to duplicate their provisions, though she still carried a large knife on her belt buckle.
Seeming happy with what he was seeing, the magistrate again went over the rules, both listening patiently, both very aware of them already.
With the legalities seen to, Cadell stood back slightly, his hand gesturing towards the man stood just behind him. Tialla was surprised to see the man, he, like Cadell, not the normal warrior. He was tall and handsome, his intelligent eyes sparkling with fun as he gave Tialla a ready smile, his head turning to include Nadia. “It is an honour to make your acquaintance Princess, and it will be an honour to be of service to you when you are my queen”, his eyes flicking to Nadia. “I will endeavour to ensure that the lady Nadia is well protected while we await your return.”
Tialla could see the way Nadia’s eyes dropped, a small blush on her cheeks. It seemed that she was not the only one who thought the warrior handsome. Cadell chuckled. “Princess and Lady Nadia, may I introduce you to my right hand man and good friend, Zandria?”
Nadia bowed deeply, while Tialla inclined her head, her look flicking to Cadell. You could tell a lot about a man by his friends, and Zandria seemed charming and respectful. Tialla liked the man, not sure why this made Cadell seem even more likable also.
As was the rule, once they reached the outskirts of the great forest, both Tialla and Cadell were blindfolded, each led by their second to ensure neither came to any harm, while the magistrate and a small garrison led them for over an hour into the heart of the forest.
Finally the blindfolds were removed, Tialla hugging a nervous and wary Nadia, her handmaiden constantly reminding her that she should not put herself in peril, Tialla grinning as she shook her head, her eyes filled with mirth. “When do I ever?”
Nadia managed a laugh as she stepped back, a rueful line to her lips, as she shook her head, “When do you not!”
A little way from them, Zandria and Cadell seemed deep in conversation, both men serious, before Zandria flicked a look towards the two women. Once more his eyes filled with humour as he said something to Cadell, the leader shaking his head as he laughed, both men quickly embracing in the way that men did.
Moving over to stand beside Tialla, Cadell gave her a reassuring grin as the magistrate and the soldiers stood back. Zandria bowed to Nadia, offering his arm, Tialla having to resist rolling her eyes at the speed with which her lady took it.
“Cadell of Karok and Princess Tialla, we shall take our leave”, the deep voice of the magistrate filling the silence, the man’s voice full of honesty as he bowed to the two. “I, along with your entire region, look forward to the marriage a week from today Princess”, his look sliding to Cadell. “Take care of her my lord. Our princess is this region’s most precious jewel.”
Smiling, Cadell bowed back, his look turning to Tialla as he nodded. “I will ensure that she comes to no harm. I promise to lay down my own life if need be”, Tialla surprised at the passion in his voice. He really sounded like he meant it.
With that, the procession turned, disappearing into the dense undergrowth of the forest, both knowing that the group would wait on the outskirts until the week was over when Zandria and Nadia would come to retrieve them. Waving a final farewell to her lady, she turned, hearing the loud exhalation of breath from Cadell, his features full of warmth. “I am relieved that is over. I find the pomp tiresome”
Chuckling, she nodded in agreement, a small grimace crossing her perfect brow. “However, perhaps you should have thought of that before agreeing to be my husband. My people have a great liking for traditional events, so you may come to regret your decision.”
Stepping closer, now there was a light of something more heated in his look. “I think to be with a woman like you Tialla a man can put up with some pomp and circumstance.”

next installment (24th April)

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 12)

Chapter Twelve

This time it was Cadell who laughed, his head shaking, giving a teasing grimace “I wish I could be sure you are joking princess, but in my experience you women never joke about clothes”
Tialla gave a small snort, before she flashed him another wicked smile “It is not the clothes you should worry about. It is when I need to ask for your space to fit the shoes”
Cadell joined in with her teasing, his features scrunching up in mock pain “Dear Gods save me from that”
Another tinkle of laughter escaped Tialla, before she seemed to become more thoughtful, regarding him warily “I know so little about you Cadell. Your words out there were not what I expected. Did you mean them?”
Returning her look with surprise the laughter left him, as a gentleness descended upon him, his head nodding “Yes, everyone”
Dropping her eyes from his, pleasure infused her, before she allowed herself for the first time to think of herself “I will be your queen. What are the tradition of your province with regards to other wives – harems?”
This time Cadell moved closer, his hands covering her upper arms, her eyes lifting and colliding with is “When I take a queen, then I forsake all other women. I do not claim that I have led a pure life Tialla, far from it, but my queen can be reassured that she will be the only woman in my bed” his voice softening “Our children will be the only heirs to my provinces. Does that answer your question?”
Tialla could feel her heart jackhammering in her chest, as she gave a sharp nod, the smallest of smiles playing on her lips. Then he was dragging her closer, his head bending as he laid his mouth over hers. There was no attempt to take, or force himself, his lips only just touching hers, he pausing as though waiting.
Tialla moaned. She wanted him to kiss her, wanted it badly, she rising onto her tip-toes to bring her mouth harder to his, this all the permission he seemed to be waiting for as his mouth crushed hers, his arms wrapping around her, dragging her harder to him. She did not fight him, but surrendered, her arms snaking around his neck. As her lips parted, he surged in, his tongue exploring the softness of her, puling an even hotter reaction from her.
Tialla was ablaze. She felt like she was crawling out of her skin with the need surging through her. She had never before felt so out of control. Her life was filled with the need to serve, to maintain a calm ability to rule, yet at that moment all she could think of was the man bringing such disruption to every cell in her body.
She was unaware of him moving, stepping with her, until she felt the hard wall at her back. His hands dropped, sensually caressing her waist, moving upwards until she felt them cup her breasts, his thumb and fingers sliding over the nipples.
Molten hot lava shot through Tialla, the sensations zipping down her belly, an ache building between her legs. She wriggled against him, frustration building. She wanted…She was not sure what she wanted, only that he was the person who could douse the flames enveloping her.
“Sir. The council will be ready in five minutes to bestow their official blessing on you and the princess”
The cried voice from the other side of the door made both jump. Their lips torn from the other, the moment of almost desperate mutual need gone. Groaning, he cried back “We will be there” before dropping his forehead onto hers, his voice a little breathless “By the Gods. I don’t know how long I will be able to keep my hands from you. You excite me more than any woman ever has”
Tialla could only stare back, she panting as her breasts rose and fell as though she had been running a mile. “I…I’m sorry. I don’t know what just happened”
His lips twisted into a rueful smile “What just happened princess is evidence that my fidelity to you will be an easy promise to make” he taking in a deep breath before stepping back, a smile on his handsome features. Lifting his hand in offering, he looked as disappointed as she “I think that we should go” adding in a voice more than just a little husky “Before we get to the point that Tol Dor becomes a moot point”
Pushing from the wall, she managed a nervous laugh, taking his hand. “Yes. We should not leave our invited guests waiting”
Tialla moved to the official blessing in a partial daze. Her uncle walked her down to the two thrones, were Cadell waited, he stood before them awaiting her as was expected. Harbin winked at them both as he placed her hand in Cadell’s, his voice raised as he declared his blessing for the union. Then, hand-in-hand the two moved to the thrones, Cadell ensuring that she was seated first as was her place, before he took his seat. Then Harbin turned addressing the gentry of the realm, his loud booming voice declaring that Tol Dor would take place the next day, and a week from then the official crowning ceremony would be celebrated by all.
The assembled dignitaries stood, silently bowing to the pair, before the entire hall erupted into spontaneous applause. Once more Tialla held back the sigh. It seemed that the fact Cadell had attacked them was most definitely old news. From the looks on the people’s faces, he was already liked. Darting a quick look at him, she remembered the kiss. Would having this man as her husband be so bad?
Lifting her head proudly she once more pulled her protective cloak of suspicion around herself. Only time would tell, until then he was still an invader, though as his hand squeezed hers, she felt the way her heart quickened, for once hoping that perhaps he really was the man he seemed.

{next installment 10th April}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 11)

Chapter Eleven

Now it was Tialla’s turn to look, the surprise, despite her best efforts to hide it, evident. Her eyes dropped as her brows furrowed in confusion. Did he really mean it? Her mouth flattened. Of course not. None of them had. Her uncle thought her choosy, refusing all of the many suitors who presented themselves in her court. However, he was wrong. She refused them because not one showed real interest in her vision for the future, they only seeing a province they could rule.
Once more sliding her look to Cadell she pondered his words. He did not have to say what he had, the deal was struck, she was to be his queen, he her king. His word would be final, so why had he bothered?
His hand squeezing hers just as his head turned once again made the breath in her throat stall. His eyes were full of an intensity she had never before seen, and for the first time Tialla dared to hope. Out of such a terrible betrayal and act of violence, had she somehow found the one man who might actually share her vision?
As he lifted their joined hands, the crowd once more began to cheer, before seeming to settle into a chanted chorus.
“Tol Dor…Tol Dor…Tol Dor.”
Cadell chuckled beside her, the tradition of Tol Dor already explained to him. Dragging her in closer, his mouth tickled the soft hairs of her ear, a jolt rushing through her. “How in the many lands did your province come up with such a tradition? Having encountered many of the rulers who must have sought your hand – I find it hard to believe that they would last an hour in the jungle, never mind surviving a week.”
Laughter spluttered from Tialla, her head nodding. It crossed her mind also when some of the more foppish suitors presented themselves, that she would have to save herself on the week-long right-of-marriage tradition.
Looking back at him her chin lifted, though there was still fun in her look. “Indeed, which is why I have spent many years learning appropriate skills to ensure my own survival – not my fault if the poor hapless groom cannot take care of himself. It never says that the groom has to survive the ritual – just that I do.”
Cadell laughed once more, nodding, “Yes you did seem a little handy with that knife”, she not able to retaliate as his arm once more rose. Instantly silence fell, Tialla holding down the groan at how quickly and completely he had won over her people. It seemed that despite the fact he was an invader it no longer seemed to matter, instead he was quickly becoming seen as a rescuing hero. Yes, Cadell of Karok certainly could charm the masses, she having to fight the urge to roll her eyes at the way her own ladies seemed infatuated by the man. She would not be such an easy conquest.
“The tradition of Tol Dor will be upheld, as is right.” Another cheer rose from the audience below. “Tomorrow we shall set forth and one week from then the joining ceremony will take place. I look forward to combining our provinces and our peoples.”
As though on cue, his men, who till then had stood motionless in the background, moved forward. From their sides, all produced a sack and began to remove sweet tidbits before moving into the crowd, offering the delicacies.
Tialla’s mouth dropped, her gaze disbelieving seeing the seemingly ruthless cut-throat army smiling and handing out the treats. “As is traditional in my province, please accept sweets to signify the sweetness of our union.”
Below Tialla could see the people swarming around the soldiers, the men only moments ago feared and avoided, now laughing and joking with her people, they shaking hands and conversing happily.
Tugging on her hand, Cadell pulled her back, the two leaving the large balcony hand-in-hand.
Tialla was still shaking her head at her last sight of the scene below. Only minutes ago she had stood concerned that her people would never accept the man who swept into her province, a hostile would-be ruler. Now they jostled with each other to shake hands with the very same soldiers who would have sought to rule them. Her look turned to Cadell, he had completely and utterly charmed them, her head once more shaking.
Cadell smiled at her. “What?”, his question tinged with laughter seeing the obvious bemusement on her features.
“Is that really a tradition of your province?”
Now he chuckled, his shoulders shrugging as he gave her a conspiratorial wink. “Is now. Traditions have to start somewhere right?”
Tialla could not hold back the peel of laughter which left her, her large eyes shining with admiration. “You really are a cunning man Cadell of Karok.”
He however, turned from her, Tialla not seeing the flash of heat in his eyes. Since the moment they met she had been tense around him, holding herself back, but that laugh had been genuine and carefree, her shinning features almost glowing. She truly was the most beautiful woman he ever met. But it was not just that. It had taken the knowledge that her people would accept him which made this transformation possible. She was no selfish, tyrannical ruler, she was a good and compassionate leader. She was as beautiful and true inside as outside. Cadell was not sure why this unsettled him, made his insides heat.
Shaking himself from his fanciful notions he turned once more, a smile on his lips. He should consider himself fortunate. He was at least marrying a woman he could respect, like even, definitely more than he ever expected. Most of the daughters of war lords or province rulers were concerned only with their own happiness and self-satisfaction, caring little for those of their people. Tialla of Leando was unique. She was intelligent and nobody’s fool – a very seductive combination, he suddenly finding his voice husky, “We should prepare for tomorrow. I understand that we are only permitted one shoulder bag each.”
Nodding, her eyes shone with fun. “Yes, not sure how many days’ worth of gowns I am going to be able to fit, bit I will endeavor to do my best.”

{next installment 28th Mar}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 10)

Chapter Ten
For the next two days Cadell had been the perfect gentleman, his attentiveness to her needs seeing all those in her palace soften their opinions towards him. Tialla however, continued to hold herself aloof. While she ensured that she was always polite, she never allowed herself to be alone with him, not sure how long her hard fought-for indifference would last if they were.
He had watched her with eyes which seemed to be amused in the way she would stand stiffly beside him, or avert her eyes – and hand if his ever landed on hers. While she hoped she was coming off as regal, she had the impression that he was humouring her the same way one would with a huffy child, this thought making her want to hit the man. Why did he get to her so?
On the third day, as was the tradition of her kingdom, the two, having sent out proclamations of their intended union, moved together onto the large balcony overlooking the palace courtyard. Tialla was touched to see as many of her subjects congregated below, her eyes not missing his soldiers strategically stood on the periphery of the assembly.
While the people had been peaceful towards the soldiers, both were only too aware how quickly that could change. Hostile armies were never fully welcomed, although their kindness and helpfulness to the population had gone a great way to stopping any signs of unrest. Even so, Tialla knew that the next few minutes would be crucial. It was important that her people accept Cadell, her mouth firming – even if she did not.
Tialla raised her arms. Instantly a hush descended upon the throng. Beside her Cadell held his breath. The fact that the people below loved and respected her was clear to see, their expressions rapt, waiting for their princess’s words.
“People of Leando.” Her voice, while normally soft, carried over the crowd, her words spoken with an authorative note. “It has been a tumultuous few days to say the least.” A small ripple of laughter moved through the crowd below, Cadell feeling the tension lesson slightly. “We find ourselves between two great warring armies, our little province by no fault of its own thrust into the middle of a war.”
He could see the way people fidgeted, their looks flicking briefly to his men. “We found ourselves attacked, with no warning”, the words full of accusation as Tialla briefly cast her look to him. “Fortunately, we were lucky not to suffer any fatalities and those injured have received assistance.”
Now her features became sadder, more melancholy. “Unfortunately, the ease with which we were overpowered shows how ill-prepared for such attacks we are – how easy a target we are.” Taking a deep breath, she held a hand up indicating Cadell. “The leader of the army who attacked us is Cadell of Karok, and he is in dispute with a warlord who some of you may already be familiar with – Garel of Drakel.”
From the crowd he heard some gasps and even a few low screams. It seemed that some were indeed familiar with him. Lifting her hand once more for silence she ploughed on. “As strange as it may seem, we should consider ourselves fortunate that it was Lord Cadell who first entered our province. It has however highlighted a major problem we have, and while my uncle has offered his support…”, again her eyes flying briefly to his, the message clear that she was not going to be pushed around, “It is perhaps better to take a more long-term approach.”
For the first time Cadell could see a slight tremor in her hand, she quickly bringing it down and holding both together. “Therefore, it has been decided that the province of Leandro and that of Karok should be united in marriage.”
From below there a moment of silence before the crowd erupted in cheering. Cadell felt himself breathe out. That had been far easier than he expected.
When the noise died down Tialla once more cleared her throat. “May I introduce you to Cadell of Karok – your next king.”
As she spoke she turned facing him, her head bowing respectfully while her lovely eyes glared at him.
Cadell felt his lips twitch. She really was going to be a handful. Tialla would never be a woman who meekly obeyed. She would always fight her corner, challenging him, Cadell strangely looking forward to it.
With humour now in his eyes he stepped forward, the people below once more becoming hushed. “People of Leando, sometimes when one is steeped in war, we forget that there are those for whom violence and bloodshed are not a fact of life. We forget that there are those who live peacefully, creating a society we all crave – a society worth protecting. Leando with its culture of beauty and peace is one such province.”
He paused, Tialla surprised to see what seemed like real regret cross his handsome features. “If I could turn back the hands of time, then I would approach your princess with an offer of protection and not take those actions I did”, his eyes passing over all below.
Tialla saw how her people seemed to be enamoured with the man, her hackles rising. Damn him and his seemingly endless charm. “However, I do have it in my power to make amends, and I intend to offer my armies in the defense of Leando. Lord Harbin and I have talked at length, and we feel confident that with his and my forces united that we will ensure that Garel thinks twice before marching on Leando.”
A loud cheer rose from the crowd, Tialla seeing the relief in her people’s features. Now Cadell held out his hand to her, she forced to place her own in his as he pulled her by his side. “A wise man once told me that winning a war is not the hardest part. It is keeping the peace, and I must agree. It takes a very special person to win the peace. I have learnt of the many initiatives your princess – soon to be my queen – has implemented, and the many more she has proposed. I consider myself blessed to have found such a wonderful person, and it will be my greatest pleasure and privilege to support her in the future.”

(next installment 14th Mar)

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 9)

Chapter Nine
The guard on the other side stopped her, his bulk blocking her way as she came to a halt, her whole being needing to get away from Cadell. “Escort the princess to her uncle.” His authoritative voice behind her sounded unnerved and unmoved by what had just happened, Tialla still unable to look at him as the guard moved to the side to let her past.
By the time she reached the quarters she knew Harbin to be in, she had calmed down, the thudding of her heart now just a slight beating, her mind chastising herself for allowing Cadell to touch her, never mind… pushing the thought once more from her mind.
Harbin was delighted to see her, his look taking in the way she was now dressed, humour in his eyes. “You look much better than the last time I saw you”, his voice full of genuine warmth, his hand waving to indicate that she should sit. Gracefully, Tialla complied.
Once seated, Harbin’s look became more sombre, his eyes flicking to her finger, a wary smile on his face, she following his look.
“Why?” She had not needed to expand as her uncle regarded her thoughtfully before sighing softly, “Because it is best for you, best for this province and also best for my own.”
Tialla sat forward, a pleading look on her features. “This is not best uncle. The man is a beast. I beg you to withdraw your support… He has no wish to fight you…”
Harbin sat back, his head shaking. “Do not think that I gave my support without considerable thought Tialla. I had no choice”, holding his hand up to silence her as her mouth opened. “Please consider the situation my niece. If he leaves then Garel WILL attack. I had him checked out and the man has a reputation for brutality”, his look hardening. “The last city he marched into, he executed 1,000 people – men, women and children – just to stamp his authority.” Tialla gasped, her eyes widening with shock as her uncle continued. “If he remains then I will be forced to attack him, which will only weaken both of our forces and make both of us sitting targets for Garel. Of course I could sit back and do nothing. But then Garel will attack Leonardo and it will become a battlefield and result in thousands of deaths… Your people’s deaths.”
His voice softened. “So I was left with two choices. First, he remains in charge which leaves you as a deposed leader…and I support him, which I believed to be unacceptable, and not in the interest of your people. The second is for you to marry him, which will send a signal to Garel that he and I are allies. Even Garel would not take on two such powerful forces, and this will prevent a bloodbath.” She dropped her eyes as his hand gently covered hers. “There is another reason I favour the second option Tialla. I am a good judge of character…and I like him.”
She groaned as her eyes sought his. “He is a hostile occupier. He marched into my realm and imprisoned me and my people.”
Her uncle nodded. “And has he been brutal in his occupancy? No. He has shown great restraint and patience, his doctors ensuring that all those hurt in the attack receive medical assistance. He may be a warrior, but he is a good man also, one who will bring security to this province. He will make a good husband for you and by marrying him you will automatically become queen.”
She ran her hand across her brow, her hand shaking. “Only because he will be king.”
Tialla slumped back into her chair, the truth in his words filling her, her look defeated. “You know that he held a knife to my throat”, she muttered as her uncle laughed softly.
“I heard that you pulled a knife on him also.” Her lips twitched as the memory made her chuckle softly. “He asked for it.”
Harbin nodded, his look affectionate towards his charge. Taking a deep breath she sat taller, her look surer as she gave him a sad smile. “You are a wise man uncle.”
Harbin nodded softly. “I have lived a long life Tialla”, his voice gentle, “Give him a chance… I see great things for the two of you.”
Exhaling a long sigh, she stood, acceptance in her eyes. “Well it seems that I have little choice, but you obviously see something within him that I do not.” Her uncle gave a small laugh as he joined her, dropping a kiss on her cheek. Pulling back slightly, she gave him a smile. “Thank you for coming uncle… I dread to think what he might have done had you not intervened”, before she once more moved to the door, the guard escorting her back to her quarters.
While her ladies surrounded her the minute she re-entered her quarters, she sent them all away, the need to be alone swamping her. Sitting, she felt panic fill her. For years now she had successfully warded off all advances of marriage, her mouth curling bitterly. It had taken an act of aggression to force her hand, anger sitting deep within her belly.
Tracing her finger along her lips, she frowned at the memory of his kiss. Why had she reacted? She hated this man did she not? Her head affirmed her hatred, yet something deep inside seemed to hesitate. While she struggled to hold onto her justified hatred, she could not help but wonder about him.
As her uncle pointed out, his men had gone to great lengths to help those hurt or put out by the attack, she having heard stories of soldiers helping citizens to fix damage to homes, and other small acts of kindness. Shuddering, she wondered if the stories he told of Garel, a man till that day she had never heard of, were true. If so, then she should be even more thankful.
Kicking off her shoes, she growled, the memory of his hands on her once more sending the strangest bolt through her, she taking in a deep breathe. She had to shore up her defences against this man, she finding that his charmed assault was far more deadly than his actual invasion. Yes, Cadell of Karok was a force to be reckoned with, her eyes flashing as she tilted her chin up proudly. But then again, so was she.

{Next installment 1st March}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 8)

Chapter Eight
Tialla felt her stomach drop.
“However, your uncle made it clear that if I did not come up with a way to remain within your realm which was acceptable to your people… and him, then he would have no choice but to attack me.”
She felt unease fill her, a sensation of dread rising within as she asked softly, “And have you found such a way?”, his head nodding gently as he regarded her seriously.
“Yes. Your uncle and I feel that a marriage between yourself and I would satisfy everybody. You would remain in control by my side and I would provide the security your realm badly needs.”
Tialla pulled her hands together under the table as she sat back, not wanting him to see how they shook, her spine bolt straight as she willed herself calm. Despite her best efforts, her voice shook slightly as she cleared her throat. “I do not find this to be a suitable solution… There must be another way.”
His head shook. “No… This was your uncle’s plan. I think that if you do not see it through, then he will step aside to allow me to govern.” Her eyes flicked around the room in panic, her mind searching for a way out, not aware as tears filled her lovely eyes, spilling softly down her cheeks as she fought to keep control.
His voice was soft. “Tialla, think of your people. My men are trained, they would treat them with respect and deference. They are men who enjoy freedom and fight to retain their own and their families. Garel is a monster. He has no regard for human life.” Her eyes flew to his as she heard almost a pained tone enter his voice, his eyes so dark full of sympathy for her situation. “I know that given the circumstances of our meeting, that you must see me as a monster too and I would like the opportunity to prove to you that I am a peaceful man, and would make a good husband for you.”
She looked away again, a small disbelieving sound leaving her lips as she dashed the back of her hand along her cheeks, angry that she was crying. “It seems that I have little choice”, her tone hardening. “It would also seem that you did indeed find a way to force me into your bed.”
His sigh was long as he leant forward, taking her hand, his hold tightening as she tried to pull free from him. “I hope that it will not be necessary to force you Tialla”, his hand pulling hers to his lips, his mouth brushing the softness of her skin, she surprised to find her body jumping with awareness.
Willing herself to remain emotionless, she held his look. “This is a decision forced upon me Cadell… Do not expect me to be a willing participant… And I would like to speak with my uncle.”
With a small rueful smile on his mouth, he released her, nodding softly. “Your uncle is currently our guest within his usual quarters. He is expecting you to visit him… But even now, word of our intended marriage is being conveyed to your people.”
Her eyes closed softly, hurt stamped clearly on Tialla as her head drooped slightly in defeat. “I see… So it is done, and I am sacrificed to your war.”
Pushing back her seat she rose. “Please excuse me. However, my appetite seems to have left and I would like to visit with my uncle as soon as possible.”
Cadell rose, inclining his head. “As you wish.” He moved to a table, Tialla stood unsure as he opened a wooden box before returning to her. “You will wear this as a symbol of our engagement”
Looking down she could see the ring, recognising it as that worn by her mother, her eyes flying to his. “Where did you get that?”, hurt on her voice as he grimaced.
“Your uncle sent it over to me… He informed me that according to your traditions your people would expect you to wear this when you became betrothed.”
Lifting her hand once more, he slipped the ring onto her finger, feeling for the first time the way her hand trembled, seeing as she fought to keep her lips from quivering, pain deep in her eyes. With a small groan Cadell was overcome with the need to comfort her, his hands holding her shoulders gently as he pulled her against himself. “I promise to be a good husband to you Tialla”, his words of earlier repeated as one hand moved to lift her chin to look up at him.
The intensity of feelings which hit them both was unexpected, both his hands moving to cup the back of her head as his mouth dropped, his lips gently taking hers. Tialla wanted to push him away, throw the ring back and demand that he release her, but the moment his mouth touched hers, she shuddered, her lips parting as his kiss deepened.
His touch was gentle, this unexpected as she felt her body sway against him, his mouth becoming more demanding as she kissed him back. Heat unfurled within her belly as her hands moved to slide along his chest, her arms rising to wrap around his neck as his wound around her waist, pulling her tightly against him. His tongue slid against hers, Tialla unaware as she groaned slightly, the sound almost a sigh in his mouth. She could feel herself sinking deeper and deeper into this man, aware as he moved her backwards towards a deep couch, the two sinking into its softness as his kiss became demanding, his hands sliding along her waist, surely moving upwards until his thumb caressed the heightened nub, a gasp pulled from her.
It was hearing the small masculine growl from him that finally saw reality flood in, Tialla pushing herself away, landing on the marble floor, pushing herself back onto her feet, her eyes staring in disbelief at him. She could see the fire still burning within his eyes as he too rose, confusion on both their faces. Backing away from him, her aqua eyes dazed and wide, Tialla gave a small whimper as she spun around and half-ran to the door.

{next installment 14th February}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 7)

Chapter Seven
Tialla frowned softly. She had not expected him to show any remorse, especially to her ladies, noting the way the women blushed, their eyes dropping as they tried not to stare at the man. This time he was charming – totally at ease a warm smile on his features – she inwardly groaning seeing the way the women almost giggled as they looked at the tall, devastatingly attractive man before them. Clapping her hands angrily, their attention was once more pulled to their princess as she stood proudly before them, her eyes warning them as they melted away, bowing as they moved into other rooms.
Turning she faced him, her voice tinged with anger, “So Cadell of Karok, speak.”
He grinned again, Tialla not allowing herself to be taken in with the charm which seemed to fall so easily from him, he moving to the door, “I thought that we could have dinner together… Discuss it in more comfort.”
With eyes which narrowed, she nodded, moving out as he led her along corridors, chatting amicably about her realm, seeming not to notice that she remained tight-lipped by his side. As they entered her smallest dining room she flicked a look at him as he pulled the chair back for her on the small table set for two. The more formal robes he now wore suited him, his hair – cut shorter than most warriors – brushed back. He was handsome she had to admit, possessed of something which made her very aware of this brutal man, Tialla determined to stay on her guard and not become a giggling push-over like her ladies.
“You look stunning princess.” His words pulled her back from her thoughts as she gave him a haughty look ignoring his comment.
“Can I assume by your change of ‘approach’ that you no longer plan on finding me a place in your household… or bed?”, the last part bitten out angrily as he made a small grimace, his eyes shining with laughter.
“Like I said… Sometimes we do and say things which we would not dream of uttering under normal circumstances. I needed you compliant, and the best way to accomplish that seemed to have you afraid. I once more apologise for that.”
Glaring back at him, she raised her head proudly, “I do not fear you Cadell”, his lips quirking once more.
“No… I noticed that. You are a unique woman Tialla… But I do apologise for my words, I would never have forced you into my bed.”
Silenced by the arrival of the first course of their meal, she smiled at the servant she recognised as one of her own. As the man once more retreated back to the kitchen, she fixed Cadell with sombre eyes. “You will understand that I take your words now with more than a little bit of scepticism. You had me chained to the floor wearing slave girl silks while your men took great delight in loudly proclaiming what they would like to do with me.”
His look hardened as he nodded, “Forgive me princess… As I said it was necessary to ensure that your uncle realised quickly that you were no longer in control.”
Tialla placed her fork back on the table, her head turned to him as she frowned. “So you still plan on remaining within my realm. I cannot believe that Harbin would support such an action, therefore I would like to know what you and my uncle discussed.”
Sitting back against his chair Cadell regarded Tialla. She puzzled him – most women in her situation would be hysterical, terrified of what was to become of them, but not her. She sat calmly, her questions direct and to the point, his jaw resting on his hand as he considered her thoughtfully. “Your uncle worries for you Tialla.” Her look never wavered from his. “As I told you earlier, had I not invaded, then another would have. Your uncle has heard of my enemy Garel… And also of the kind of man he is and he knows that like I, he would want to hold this province.”
With the smallest of frowns creasing her smooth forehead, she spoke slowly, “Why?… What could my province possibly offer?”, something lighting her eyes as she gave a soft moan, the answer coming to her, “Our ports. Easy access to the sea.”
He nodded gently. “Yes. His armies on land are entrenched, and with my forces advancing further each day, he is becoming desperate. The only option left to him is to come up behind us. Your realm has easy access to the sea and the infrastructure for trading, offering an ideal opportunity.” Leaning forward slightly, his look held a note of apology, “I cannot allow Garel to hold your ports… And your defences are lacking, as I have clearly shown”, his features now stern. “We took your province in less than a morning. We met little-to-no resistance and neither would Garel have.”
Looking away she sighed softly, “We are a peaceful people, my lands are small… We have no need for armies.”
Cadell shook his head gently. “I am truly sorry that you have found yourself dragged into this Tialla… But I have to ensure that the ports are not used by my enemy… And while you do not see it yet, my actions will have saved many, many of your people’s lives.”
Tialla once more picked up her fork, her mouth delicately biting a small piece of the delicious fish as she pondered his words before turning to again hold his eyes, “You have still not answered my question… What did you and my uncle discuss?”
He too lifted his fork, a frown on his brow. “Your uncle persuaded me to see that he would be a greater ally than an enemy… And that you were much loved by your people and should be allowed to return to the throne.”
She looked on quietly, her insides fluttering with hope. “So, you wish to return me to the throne and pretend that you did not attack us and become… friends?”, her tone holding incredulity as he smiled once more.
“Princess, if I was to leave now, you would be a sitting target for Garel. No, whether you wish to believe it or not you need me and you need my army.”

{next installment 28th Jan}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 6)

Chapter Six
Harbin once more shook hands with Cadell, both smiling at the other as her uncle spoke, his words causing a confused frown to sit on her smooth brow. “I will see you soon Cadell… And in much happier circumstances I hope”, her captor nodding with a firm movement of his head.
As Harbin turned, his eyes fell on her, her uncle giving Tialla a big wink as he spun round and, with his procession, once more moved back out of the throne room. Moving to stand by her side, Cadell ordered his men to leave, declaring that he wished to be alone with the princess, Tialla hearing him call her respectfully by her title for the first time since they met.
As the room emptied she leapt to her feet, her chin raised defiantly. “Can I assume that my uncle explained what would happen if you and your thugs did not leave my realm immediately?”
Cadell raised his eyebrows, a hint of laughter in his eyes as he moved closer to where she stood, Tialla feeling a small shudder run through her as he towered over her, his imposing figure closer than she was comfortable with. “I think that you will find princess, that had my men been ‘thugs’ then your realm would be in a very bad way. My men are trained and have a very strict code by which they live. They do not hurt the innocent, because if they did then they would have to answer to me.”
She glared malevolently back at him. “You dare to say that to me. You attacked us with no warning and with no reason… Everybody who was hurt here today was innocent.”
He nodded softly, moving back a little from her. “The casualties were regrettable”, her look disbelieving as she spluttered on his word choice, his hand rising to silence her as he held her look, his sombre. “However, believe me, if it had not been I then it would have been another… And his men would have sacked the city and put many to the sword.”
In almost an accusatory whisper she glowered at him. “So you are telling me that I should be thankful… Because you were the better of two evils?”
Cadell grimaced. “Well it does take from the sentiment when you put it like that.”
Standing as tall as she could, stood regally, her head held high, she spoke with an air of authority, “Get out of my province Cadell of Karok and take your army with you.”
He regarded her for several seconds, admiring the woman for her bravery. She was a fighter he could tell, and incredibly beautiful, Harbin’s marriage solution one which was at that moment holding a great deal of attraction to him. “No.” His one word answer saw confusion cross her eyes, her brow furrowing, her mouth opening to speak more as he stepped forward towards the doors. “Come princess – allow me to have you escorted back to your ladies. I think that we will eat together in an hour, give you a chance to present yourself in a more seemly manner, also it will give you a chance to improve your mood and then discuss what is to be done.”
Tialla wanted to stamp her foot, to scream at this man, to demand answers, however already he had reached the door, pulling it wide to direct his men to escort her once more to her ladies. Stepping forward, head high, she scowled as he gave her a mocking half-bow, caustic words swallowed down as she once more returned to her quarters.
Her ladies were relieved to see her return, even more so to see her covered demurely with the cloak. Nadia threw herself at her feet. “I am sorry my princess”, tears in her eyes, “I put you in danger”, her voice shaking as her head dropped. “I deserve to be punished.”
Tialla placed her hand on her handmaiden’s shoulder, directing her back to her feet. “No Nadia… I did not feel comfortable with the plan in the first place. You did not know what you were going into. He could have put you straight to the sword, and you were prepared to die for me.”
Nadia nodded, her face still full of misery. “Always my princess, but he knew. I failed to protect you.”
For the first time a smile rose to Tialla’s lips. “No Nadia. He is not called Cadell the Cunning for nothing. You have nothing to apologise for… And I will not see you punished for offering your life for mine.”
The handmaiden looked at her mistress, her eyes shining with thanks and devotion as she whispered with real feeling, “I WOULD die for you my princess.”
Tialla took her hand, squeezing it assuredly. “Well, let us hope that nobody is going to die, shall we?”
Throwing off the cape, the women stared at her in stunned shock, seeing the silks she now wore, her eyes warning them not to ask as they ran in different directions to retrieve more appropriate clothing for her.
As the sands ran to the hour, there was a knock on the door, her ladies looking nervous knowing that she was once more meeting with the barbarian now controlling their realm. Tialla had remained silent, refusing to discuss the meeting, instead dressing in her most regal robes, her hair once more styled on her head, this time her crown also sitting on her head, she wanting him to know that she was still the ruler of the province.
As the door was opened, she was surprised to see Cadell himself waiting on the other side, now dressed in more suitable garments, no weapons visible, the ladies shaking seeing the man who had terrified them in the throne room. With an ease which saw Tialla have to fist her small hands to hold down the anger, he stepped with ease into the room, his handsome features smiling at the women as he gave a small bow. “Ladies, I must apologise for our first meeting. However, sometimes one has to use techniques which would otherwise be abhorrent to us”, his eyes falling on Nadia, “I especially offer my apologies to you. It was brave of you to take your princess’s place.”

{next installment due 14th Jan 2015}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 4)

Chapter Four

“Of course, however, as with the rest of this province she is now my property.”
Harbin regarded the imposing warrior before him thoughtfully. He had heard many rumours of the ruler of Karok, not a man he ever expected to find himself dealing with. Many of those spoke of his ruthlessness, although others talked of his fairness in dealing with his subjects. Right now however, he was threatening his much-loved niece. Moving forward, his tone was even, “Perhaps we could talk privately, Cadell of Karok. This province and my own have a peaceful understanding which I would like to preserve.” Tialla stared, hurt in her eyes hearing his words as despondency filled her. He had been her last hope for freedom, his willingness to work with Cadell a bitter blow.
Looking up she could see the triumphant smile which filled the brutal man beside her, he nodding before indicating that the two move to a chamber off the throne room. Left alone, she was aware of the lecherous looks of the warriors, all their eyes now focussed on her, many openly leering. Raising her head proudly she turned from them, her posture regal, determined not to allow them to see the way her stomach flip-flopped with fear. Her own uncle, the man she had looked up to her whole life had betrayed her, her nails digging into her palms to stop the tears which warmly stung the back of her eyes. Resolutely, her chin rose even higher. She was a princess and whatever would happen, she would bear it with dignity.
In the chamber Cadell took a seat on one of the many high-backed chairs close to the unlit fire, indicating that the other man take the seat opposite, Harbin complying with a small nod. Seated, both men regarded each other for a few seconds, both sizing up the other. Cadell waited, his stance relaxed before the older man sighed, “We have a problem Cadell.”
The warrior before him raised an eyebrow, “And what would that be Harbin? I believe that I was very clear earlier.”
Harbin’s eyes hardened, “I wished this conversation in private because it is my hope that we can come to a resolution which will be acceptable to us both.”
Cadell nodded softly. “That is a good place to start. However, you must understand that I have already taken the province. So perhaps the time for diplomacy is over.”
Harbin smiled gently. “You may have captured this province Cadell, but that is a far cry from keeping it.”
The younger man stiffened in his seat, his look hardening, “Are you threatening me Harbin, because I do not take well to threats.”
Harbin watched the warrior closely. “I understand why you need this province Cadell. My sources have informed me of your fight with Garel of Drakel.”
Across from him he was aware as the other man stilled, his voice hard, “Do not think to take Garel’s side in this, because you would not like me for an enemy.”
Harbin gave a soft chuckle, Cadell scowling at his show of humour. “My aim here is not to become embroiled in any war. However, if we cannot reach a solution, then I will not take sides with your enemy. I will instead attack you. If your army has to fight my men on one side – and believe me Cadell you will not find my men as easy a victory as Tialla’s – then I would imagine that your enemy will take great delight in waiting to pick you off if you were successful. We both know that such a battle would reduce your fighting capability. You would be an easy target.”
Cadell sat back, his look thoughtful. He had heard of Harbin’s army, their exploits and fighting ability well known, and the only reason he had agreed to meet with the man when he seized power over Leando. He knew he spoke the truth and he had no real wish to take on the man before him. “As you say Harbin neither of us wants a war with the other, however, I am not prepared to leave Leando, you already know its strategic significance.”
Harbin nodded softly, a smile still playing on his lips. “Yes. I am also aware that even if you did leave then it would take little time for Garel to move in. In fact my sources tell me that even now he is moving an army this way”, a sad light entering his eyes. “It would seem that my late brother’s province is now at threat from two warring factions. However, I have heard much of Garel and my preference would be you Cadell.”
The man opposite laughed softly, “I am honoured Harbin… So we seem to be back to where we started are we not?”
The older man tapped his mouth thoughtfully for a few seconds, his words bringing a look of surprise to Cadell. “Tialla is a beautiful woman is she not?”
With a dismissive wave Cadell nodded. “Yes, very”, seeing the way the other man nodded.
“She is very dear to me, and as I have no children of my own, she will inherit my own province one day”, his eyes moving to the cold fireplace, a distant look within them. “However, she worries me. The law of this land states that she cannot become Queen in her own right until she reaches 25. Till then I allow her to govern with my support”, his words pointed, “And by support I mean with all the armies I have at my disposal.”

{next installment December 9th)

Warrior’s Bride (PT 3)

Chapter Three

With this he relaxed his hold on her, turning her to face him. With quick, deft movements he released the knots of her robe, the robe falling to the ground as her eyes stared in horror back at him, she now stood completely naked before him, feeling the heat fill her cheeks.
Again his look moved over her, his eyes filling with heat as he took in her perfect figure. Her pert breasts were large for her small frame. The nipples hardened, making him swallow the groan of want. Her flat stomach and curved back only added to the way his body reacted to her. Her bottom flared out with long shapely legs completing this perfect woman. Cadell smiled.
Tialla felt totally humiliated. Trying to turn from him his fingers dug into her shoulders keeping her still to allow him to take his time to let his look take in every perfect inch of her. “I heard that you were beautiful, and you do not disappoint”, his words gentle as she looked heavenward wishing that her torment would end.
Never before had she been treated like this, her insides shrivelling up. “You are a barbarian”, she bit out as he chuckled softly.
“If I was a barbarian Tialla, then you would already be my woman… I would have taken you on your very own throne.”
Closing her eyes she fought hard not to give herself over to the way her body tried to tremble, repeating over and over in her head that she was a princess. “What do you want?”
Cadell released her, moving to the table which had been placed behind the throne. She frowned as he handed silks to her, the kind of silks worn by harem girls, her mouth tightening. “Wear these”, he demanded.
Meeting his look, she shook her head, “I am not a harem girl”, his eyes full of mockery.
“It is those or nothing… Your choice… I have no problem with you remaining as you are… but in a few moments my men will be joining me.”
She snatched the top and bottom from him, quickly pulling the silken clothing on, relieved that while they showed much of her figure, they hid much more. When dressed he moved forward once more, she gasping in shock as his hands grabbed her hair held within a neat pleated knot, pulling her head back before quickly wrapping a leather collar around her throat. “No”, she moaned, her hands tearing at the circle around her neck as he pulled them once more to her side.
“If you keep fighting me I will have your hands tied behind your back. Do you understand?” Nodding, she stilled, her eyes daggers of hatred, Cadell only giving a laugh as his eyes flicked to her hair.
“Take it down”, adding softly as her mouth set in a mutinous line, “Or perhaps you would rather I did it.” With a scowl, she pulled the pins holding her long hair, allowing it to cascade around her back and shoulders, the length falling nearly to her bottom. Cadell held down the small growl. Thick wavy blonde hair framed her beauty, softening her features even more, his blood boiling alarmingly within his veins. She really was a woman any man would find delight in. “Kneel Tialla”, his request once more greeted with a snort of derision from her as again she refused.
Shaking his head softly he leant down retrieving a length of chain from under the throne, her eyes seeing the loop which had been hammered into the ground, following his actions with confusion. As he grabbed her neck and threaded the chain through the hoop on the collar she finally realised his intent, trying to pull away as he hauled on the chain Tialla falling to the ground unable to stand as the chain held her low to the ground. “You will learn one way or the other that if you do not obey then there are repercussions… and usually not good ones”, his voice soft, almost patient as she glared vehemently at him.
The sound of footsteps saw both turn as one of his men marched purposefully towards them. Stopping, he again saluted his commander. “The delegation is here Sir”, Cadell nodding as he once more took the throne .
“You know what to do.” She looked at him questioninglym his expression serious as his eyes fell to herm “I suggest that you stay silent Tialla, for your own good,” Before she was able to respond the doors flew open, his men moving silently into the room creating a line leading to the throne itself.
Tialla was aware as Cadell sat forward, his features sombre, her confused look following where he watched. With a half-sob, half-relieved cry she saw the delegation he mentioned, her guardian and uncle Harbin leading the five men. Coming to a stop feet from the throne, his eyes fell on his niece, anger deep in his eyes seeing her chained to the throne.
“What is the meaning of this Cadell of Karok?”, his voice low and dangerous, his look turning to the man sat on the throne, before his eyes turned to look more reassuringly at his niece. “Fear not your highness, your people support you.”
Tialla smiled bravely, her head nodding, “Thank you, tell them…”, before the chain around her neck was pulled tighter, her head dropping to the wood as she cried out unable to speak as Cadell stood towering over her his foot on the chain holding her down as he glared at Harbin.
“She no longer rules Harbin, and you should take care to address your comments to the new ruler unless you wish to be escorted back out from my palace.” With that he stepped off the chain, Tialla once more able to sit back, her eyes looking at her guardian, panic now shadowing them.
With a groan she saw the way her guardian made an apologetic inclination of his head, his eyes returning to Cadell. “Forgive me… You must understand that Tialla is my niece… It pains me to see her this way.” The man towering over her looked down, his hand gently stroking her head as she tried to pull away from his touch, the chain yanking her neck as he smiled, the curve of his lips devoid of any real humour.

{next installment 25th Nov}

Warrior’s Bride (PT 2)

Chapter Two

“Is this your princess?” His question was asked softly, the women nodding as one, an almost humorous light coming to his eyes as he grabbed the kneeling woman by the arm and hoisted her none-too-gently to her feet.  The others cried out, some screaming softly in shock, all looking terrified as he pulled a knife from a scabbard holding it to her throat, her eyes closing as she remained still, her whole body frozen in fear.  “Now I ask you again… And if I do not get the right answer I will slit her throat and then work my way through you all… Is this woman your princess?”, his hand moving closer to her skin.

Carefully he watched the women react.  One stiffened as other hands grasped her, holding her back, a smile rising to his lips as he released the woman in his hold.  Moving forward he grabbed the other pulling her against himself, holding the knife to her throat instead.  Instantly the maidens and the woman passing herself off as Tialla fell to their knees, begging for her release, Cadell once more sheathing the knife as he held the true princess firmly in his hold.

Looking at his men he indicated that they remove the rest.  “Keep them under guard at all times.”  The women quickly rounded up and pushed from the throne room as Tialla stood motionless.  Once alone he released her and grasped the head dress pulling it free from her.

She was stunning, Cadell feeling the way his body stirred with desire, a smile on his lips.  Her eyes held his, those aqua eyes – a colour he had never before seen – full of hatred and anger.  “On your knees before your Master, Tialla of Leando”, he spoke softly, the anger in her expressive eyes blazing even brighter.

Tialla stood even taller, her body proudly stiff as she bit out haughtily, “Never.  I will never kneel before a monster like you.”  She expected his anger, but was surprised as he chuckled softly, dropping onto her throne, his eyes lazily trailing over her.

“Now that is the kind of attitude I would expect from a ruler”, his eyes laughing at her.  “Next time you try and pass one of your maidens off as yourself, ensure that she has the right arrogance.”

She glared down at the man before her, every fibre in her being wanting to pull him from her throne, knowing only too well that she would never be able to move him.  “You attacked my province with no warning or reason Cadell of Karok, explain yourself… What do you plan on doing to my people?”

His look became harder, one eyebrow raised in surprise at her defiance.  “You should be more concerned with yourself Tialla”, his drawl soft and almost bored, his eyes fixed on her.

“I care little for myself Cadell, only for my people.  So I ask again what are your plans?  We are not without friends and they will not take well to your unprovoked attack.”

His lips curled into an arrogant smile.  “I think not.  If there is one thing I have learnt, it is that when you fall, you fall alone, and while I have you, your people will do as I tell them.”  Rising, his eyes slid down her once more.  “I am sure that I can find some position for you to fulfil in my household… Or bed”, his look openly admiring her as she gasped, shock filling her features, Cadell enjoying her discomfort.  Turning, he made to lift the jug of water which had been delivered earlier, taken unaware at the speed in which she moved, grabbing one of the many knives he wore, holding the weapon before her as he flipped back round to face her.

“Drop it.”  His tone demanded her instant obedience, Tialla shaking her head determinedly, anger crossing the darkest eyes she had ever seen in a man.  “Do not anger me Tialla”, his voice bit out as she glared back at him.

“I will not allow you to hurt my people”, her voice determined as she sprang forward, the knife in her hand pushed towards him, Cadell realising her intent as he moved quickly, his hand grabbing hers, halting her hand his large one wrapped painfully around her wrist before flipping her around and hauling her hard against himself, his arms wrapped around her waist and chest, her bottom against his groin.  He quickly plucked the knife from her fingers, returning it to the scabbard it came from holding her firmly as she struggled to release herself.  “Put me down… How dare you touch me!”, she cried in outrage as her feet kicked out at his shin, he not making a sound as she squealed, the hard boot painful against her foot.

Finally she stilled, her chest rising and falling as she fought for breath, her body limp in his hold, his voice flint-hard.  “Do not EVER do that again.  Your life is no longer your own.  It is mine.  Understand that.  And if you decide to ever pull a stunt like that again it will be your people who will pay the price.  I will kill one hundred of them while you watch… Do you understand?”

With a defeated groan she nodded, helplessness filling her.  “Let me go”, this time her voice softer as he continued to hold her tight to him.  She felt as his head dropped to her throat, his nose sliding down the long milky delicate column, Tialla struggling to free herself once more as his hands held her firmly, his breath fanning the hairs in her ear as she shivered, his tone sensual.

“Oh yes.  I definitely think your place will be in my bed.  You have fire… I like that.”

Her eyes closed as a shudder moved through her body, her distaste for the man so obvious.  “You will find me unresponsive Cadell”, surprised to once more hear his amused chuckle.

“Somehow I do not think a woman like you could ever be unresponsive Tialla.”

{Next installment 11th November}

 

Betrayed by the Billionaire (Pt 13)

Chapter Thirteen

His hands reached forward and grasped hers catching Sierra by surprise, the shudder at just this small touch pulling a moan from her lips as she stared at him, her look begging for release as he smiled, his head nodding gently.  “Yes…the past.  No more avoiding it Sierra.  We are going to talk about the past”

Sierra felt her stomach drop, fear flooding through her as inexplicable panic and her own insecurities filled her. “No”, the word fell from her lips, her hands bracing on the table to flee from him, “There are some things best forgotten and our past is one of those”  His arm moved forward, fingers curling around her wrist stopping her from rising from the table, his eyes determined and solemn.  “Yes.  How the hell are we supposed to make a future Sierra if we don’t deal with the past?”

She felt her legs buckle, her body shaking as she stared back at him, confusion and pain deep within her eyes.  “Future? What future?  You don’t do relationships Max.  We both know that.  You will get bored, just as you always have and then it is bye bye Sierra”

Max’s eyes narrowed as he shook his head, his tone clipped, “Don’t assume that you know everything about me Sierra…you don’t” With a snort she pulled her arm back from his grasp, not wanting him to see how hard she was shaking.  Her eyes shimmered with tears that she was frantically trying to hold back from falling as she glared back at him.

“Stop it Max! I am so fed up of you playing with me.  You forget that I lived through your betrayal once before”  As he made to talk she held her hand up to finish, her features fierce, “No! I am done.  I was a fool to get involved with you again…I should have learnt from the past”  As her voice faltered he groaned, his features softening with hurt radiating from him.

“Oh Sierra.  You never understood what happened…how could you? You were just a kid”  She gasped with anger, eyes blazing with fury.  “You always treated me like a child Max.  My mother had just died.  All I wanted to do was stay in the one place I had always known as home, and instead I was packed off to boarding school, discarded like some unwanted piece of furniture”

She felt her hand being grasped once more, pain in his dark eyes, a heavy groan forced from his mouth.  “No…It was not like that Sierra…There was no other choice” Looking back in confusion she shook her head, yanking her hands back from him, feeling the stinging heat of the tears behind her eyes as she willed them not to fall, not to let this man see how much he hurt her, both now and in the past, her voice husky.

“I know that I was a nuisance, but I could have…” He shook his head again, more determined, his mouth set grimly.  “No…I mean there really was no choice”  Giving a long groan he sat back in his seat, his dark eyes locked on and holding hers, before exhaling deeply his voice so soft, “We wanted you to stay.  My mother and I even approached child services… but they said no”

With wide eyes, her mouth dropped in stunned shock, “Y…You did?”, her words stuttered, look haunted, “Then why?…”

He shook his head sadly, “At the time my mother was going through some health problems and I was not even twenty.  They refused point blank for us to be foster carers, we were both considered unsuitable and because you were only fifteen they demanded that you be placed in a care home on the mainland”, a grimace filled his handsome features as he looked away, his features full of the memories of the past.

“I couldn’t stand the thought of you in some cold sterile building with people who could never appreciate you or care for you the way we did”, his eyes filled with his aversion to even the thought.  “It was one hell of a fight but I was determined for you not to end up there, so eventually they agreed that if you were to go to a boarding school, then that could be looked on as a suitable environment for a child”  Sierra’s eyes widened in stunned shock before she fixed him with a thoughtful look, her voice slow as she carefully considered her words.

“Where did the money really come from for school?”  Her eyes drilled into his, narrowing.  “The truth Max…I never saw any insurance policies in my mother’s personal paperwork”  He paused before sitting forward, his fingers entwining as his chin rested on them, frowning before giving another deep sigh, his look once more meeting hers.  “There was no insurance policy Sierra.  I put the money in trust for you”

Sierra slumped silently back against the seat for several seconds before dropping her head into her hands, a long groan of pain leaving her, “Oh God…I thought so badly of you”, she whispered, her voice full of pain.  All these years I have thought so ill of you and all you ever did was look out for me”

Pushing the seat back she turned from him, moving to the window, staring unseeing down at the bustling city below, tears streaming down her face, “You must hate me”, the words almost inaudible as her hands rose to cover her mouth to smother the sob.  She heard the sound of his chair scraping against the rich hardwood floor before his hands grasped her shoulders turning her to him, her head falling against his chest as deep heart-rending sobs broke from her.

Sierra cried for the past.  Cried for all the years she had hated. And finally cried for losing her mother that fateful night, something she had never allowed herself to do.  The realisation that he had not seen her as a nuisance to be gotten rid of freeing her from so many hurts as she clung to him.  When her body finally stopped spasming with the intensity of her sobs, he pulled her from him, looking deeply into her red swollen eyes, those beautiful eyes swimming in tears, his thumbs gently wiping them from her cheek.  She looked so young, so vulnerable, and Max wanted to hold her to him, to make sure that she was protected.  With quivering lips, her features filled with pain, “Y…You must hate me…All those things I said…thought”, her eyes dropping from his, the pain clear as he groaned his forehead dropping to hers.

“No…How could you think I could ever hate you Sierra?  Don’t you understand?  I love you…I always have…since we were children…it has always been you”  Her eyes flew back to his, flicking over his face searching for some sign that he did not mean what he said, her voice full of disbelief.  “Y…You love me?…Even…But you hated me…I was a brat”  His head nodded against her as he pulled her in harder against himself.  “I have loved you with everything in me forever…Probably from the time a snotty little kid told me she could fight, could deal with the two bullies trying to steal her apples” Max gave a small chuckle before continuing, his tone softening, “When I saw you at the marina…I knew what was missing in my life…what I had missed all those years…YOU.  You were always the one who made me laugh…Who made me so mad I wanted to…”, another chuckle fell from his mouth, curving into a smile, “the one who made me feel alive”

Her laugh stopped him, as he too began to laugh, pulling back to smile down at her, “Why do you think I went down that lane after you that night?  You were right…I was jealous as hell.  Seeing that boy with his hands on you…God Sierra I nearly tore him apart with my bare hands”  Her hands rose to gently caress his cheek, a more mischievous look in her still blurry eyes,  “And I thought you just came after me to tell me what a fool I was…To prove that I was just a stupid kid”

With a small groan his head dropped to kiss her lips, his touch almost imagined, the kiss so light before he once more pulled back from her, this time his eyes more serious as he remembered that night.  “Then when we got to your house…and you collapsed…”  His words trailed away as pain once more filled her eyes.  “Sierra…I just wanted to hold you, gather you up and make all the bad things disappear.  I wanted to protect you…I wanted you to know how much I cared for you…that I would never let anything bad ever happen to you”

A small sad smile touched her mouth, sadness in her large eyes.  “And I thought that you wanted rid of me…That you found me a pain…I am so sorry Max”  Her voice broke as he dropped his head once more, this time his kiss full of heat and passion, her hands flying around his neck, fingers sliding up the nape of his neck to spread within the glossy black hair, a small shudder passing through him as his mouth kissed along her jaw. “I can’t lose you Sierra…Not again…Please tell me you feel the same”

Dragging herself from his hold she pulled in a shuddering breath, eyes flashing with the intensity of her feelings.  “I love you Max.  I have loved you since I was no more than a little girl”, her mouth curled into a large grin, happiness exuding from every pore.  Max was breathless with how beautiful she looked as his eyes danced with hers, neither needing to say more.

The knock on the door only just registered, the two turning to watch as it opened, Sean moving into the area.  His took took in the way the two stood so close together, Max’s hands draped loosely around her waist, hers resting on his shoulders.  Both looked flushed, Max even slightly dazed.  Sean felt the tightening in his stomach as he stepped forward, pulling a smile to his lips

“I guess you worked things out”, his soft words directed at Sierra before his gaze shifted to Max, a coldness coming to them, “If you hurt her Max…I will make you pay…You have been warned…And do not think this is an idle threat…I know people”

Sierra’s laugh broke the way the three stood, as Max began laughing too, his arms wrapped around her shoulder as he pulled her in tighter to him, joy radiating from both as Max nodded, respect deep in his eyes as he regarded Sean.  “You have my word Sean.  I will never hurt this woman”, his eyes looking down at her with such devotion, leaning down and dropping a gentle kiss on her lips as she looked up at him. “In fact, I have to apologise to you Sean…Looks like you will be needing a new assistant”, his smile full of intensity as he met Sierra’s questioning look.  “It is about time that my future wife and I both went home”

Sierra’s mouth dropped open, Sean’s features filling with disbelief his cry louder than he inteded  “Wife! Did you say wife?”  Sierra turned to look at the singer, gurgling laughter escaping her, “I believe he did”, before turning to Max, “Was that your idea of a proposal Mr Alessandro? Because it needs work”

With a loud laugh he turned her around before dropping onto one knee, love shining from him.  “Sierra Summers.  Will you do me the honour of being my wife, the woman I spend the rest of my life with?” Her large smile shone with happiness as he kissed her hand, his eyes holding hers as she suddenly felt her throat thicken, tears again blurring her vision, her head nodding as he rose, she launching herself into his arms.  “Yes.  Oh yes”  His mouth descended once more to claim hers, the kiss full of love, full of promises for the future…Their future together.

THE END

 

Betrayed by the Billionaire (Pt 12)

Chapter Twelve

Landing in New York, Max was whisked away by the chauffeur-driven limousine he had ordered to meet him from the plane.   Earlier it required pulling a few strings to find out where Sean and his entourage would be that day.  He quickly found that they were in New York but only received the information that he Sean was due to speak on a talk show that evening  along with the name of the hotel they would be staying on his arrival, allowing Max to book himself into a suite close by.

As soon as he dropped off his bag, he moved to the floor in which the singer was staying, stopped as he expecting by a large bodyguard, the man’s demeanor brooking no argument as he informed Max that he would not be allowed to proceed unless his name was on the approved visitors list.  Max however, was in no mood to be denied, demanding that the bodyguard inform Sierra Summers that he was there to speak to her.

Frowning, he could see the way the man’s look sharpened, almost as though he was expecting him, as he moved a little away, talking quietly into a radio before returning demanding Max remain where he was.  Pacing before the elevator he growled with frustration, only holding back as there did seem to be the hope based on the other man reaction that somebody was coming.  He could feel the nerves tautening his stomach.  What if she did not listen to him?…Did not believe what he had to say?  The sensation of panic was unexpected, Max steeling himself as he raised himself to his full height, pulling in every ounce of resolve.  She would have to…He would make her.

The ping of the elevator snapped his attention back to the corridor, his body stiffening as the doors slid open.  As Sean stepped into the hallway, his features dropped, eyes scanning the small area to see if she was moving out behind him, disappointment filling him before he fixed the singer with eyes set and determined.  “Where is she Sean?”, his voice clipped as the man he had known for years shook his head, coldness in his usually warm eyes.  “She doesn’t want to see you Max.  I think that you should leave her alone”

Shaking his head Max took a step closer to the other man, aware as the bodyguard stiffened. “Who the hell are you to make that decision…Let me speak to Sierra…NOW”

He could see the contempt fill his old friend’s eyes as he shook his head, his arm raised, finger pointing.  “She is my friend as well as my employee Max…and you…You couldn’t stop yourself could you?  Sierra isn’t one of those socialite cold fishes you normally date.  She has feelings…Feelings you stomped over…and I am damned if I am going to let you anywhere near her to hurt her again”

Max stopped in his tracks, his eyes narrowing.  In all the years he had known Sean, he had never heard him defend another person with such passion, seeing the way he stood before him, his fists clenched, his body stiff with anger.  In a disbelieving tone he stared at the singer stepping back slightly, his eyes showing his incredulity.  “You’re in love with her.  You are in love with Sierra”

Sean blinked, the anger melting from him as he fixed Max with still cold eyes.  “Is that so surprising?  Sierra is different.  She is loyal, generous and…”, his voice faltering as he scowled back, “And she sure as hell did not deserve to be used by a womanising bastard like you”

Max ran his fingers through his hair, his look fixed on Sean, his mouth straightening into a severe line. “Pot…Kettle Sean.  You cannot keep me from her…And do you really think that she is going to love you?”

He could see the discomfort stir in the other man’s eyes as he swooped, his need to see the woman they talked about strong.  “If you love her Sean, then do what is right for her.  Do you really think that I would have flown all the way out here to see her if she was just some passing fancy? You know me better than that.  Ask yourself what is best for her…Not what you want…What Sierra needs”, his voice breaking slightly, “even if it is just closure”

Sean stood for several seconds, Max holding his breath as the man before him seemed to be warring with indecision.  Finally however, he stepped back, nodding softly to the bodyguard as he once more moved back to the elevator, his tone still cold “Fine.  For Sierra’s sake I will let you speak to her”  His look flicked down the tall man before him, his voice a snarling warning.  “But don’t expect her to be forgiving Max…Sierra is not the kind of woman to be treated that way”

Max held down the retort on the tip of his tongue, taking a deep breath.  He was getting to see Sierra…That was all that really mattered; also he knew that it had taken a lot for Sean to let him anywhere near her, respect filling him for his old friend.

Sean led him into an opulent sunny living room, decorated in golds and creams, the furnishing grand and expensive.  With a final glower Sean demanded he wait there before moving from the room.  Taking a deep calming breath he moved to look out of the window.

Outside, the bustling city seemed to flow in an almost rhythmic motion, cars and people moving determinedly to their destination all having a place to go, the suite high enough to drown out the sounds.  The small click of the door once more closing pulled him around, his eyes meeting Sierra’s, heat filling him at the mere sight of her.

Sierra sidled into the room, her nerves at breaking point.  When Sean informed her that Max was there, that he was waiting to see her, she had felt sick, pain slamming deep into her.  Why was he doing this?  Why had he come all of this way just to taunt her?  Her first instinct had been to run, to refuse to see him.  However, Sean had taken her into his arms, a sadness about him.  “Speak to him Sierra.  I would never have let him up if I didn’t think that you both needed to speak.  Hear him out…In the time I have known Max…I have never known him to chase after a woman”

Sierra had felt the tears once more rise to her eyes as her head shook, a low moan of pain leaving her. “I can’t…I just can’t Sean”, her voice merely a whisper as he pulled back to look into her beatiful vulnerable face, his thumbs gently wiping away the tears which flowed down her cheeks.  Raising his eyes he swallowed, fighting the desire to kiss her, to make everything OK.

“You have to Sierra”  Her brow furrowed at the solemnness of his tone and words.  “I won’t pretend that I don’t care…I do.  But you need to deal with this.  If you don’t then no man will ever be able to push past the ghost of Max Allessandro…you will never be able to care for anybody again”  With a sad curl of his lips he pulled her back against him.  “And I really want you to be happy…with or without Max…or maybe even one day with me”

Sierra sniffled, her head shaking, “It is over with us Sean…Max used me…He is incapable…”  The rest of the sentence was lost as Sean stepped back, a sad, almost resigned look on his face.  “Perhaps Sierra…But maybe there is more going on than you know.  One thing I have learnt is that you cannot always believe what you see in the papers…”

Sighing deeply he took her hand, leading her gently to the room he had left Max.  “Do what makes you happy.  I will be waiting to hear from you”

His words made it impossible to run, Sierra knowing that she had to face Max, to confront him about what he had done, her stomach flipping knowing that it was not just the immediate past but his betrayal of her ten years ago, this bringing out the nervous insecure internal child.

Looking at the man standing silhouetted against the midday sun, her resolve almost left her as she felt the all too familiar need for him.  She hated that everything in her wanted to run to him, to feel his arms envelop her and to let him fool her once more, to tell her that things were going to be all right.

The door closing saw him turn, his dark eyes clashing with her brown ones, electricity sizzling between them both.  Gripping her hands she swallowed nervously, “Hello Max…I wish you hadn’t come”  She saw the small muscle on the side of his jaw tighten as he stepped towards her before seeming to pull himself together and stop, his look searching hers.  “We need to talk”

Sierra could feel her hands tremble as she waved him towards a table and chairs, needing some distance between them.  Moving with him she took the seat opposite, her voice cold, not aware of the bleakness deep within her expressive eyes.  “Then talk.  Although I think you are wasting your time.  We had a good run…Let’s just leave it at that”

Max scowled, fighting the desire to rise and pull her into his arms, demanding that she retract the comment, surprising and frightening himself with the strength of his caveman response to her.  Only the shadow of pain deep within her eyes kept him seated as his hands delved into his shirt pocket.

She watched as he unfolded the piece of newspaper, her mouth firming as she recognised the story of the previous night, her eyes flying to his in accusation, no longer able to maintain the calm exterior.  “You came to gloat!”, simmering fury in her voice, her body stiffening as he shook his head.

“No…To explain”  Sitting back, her arms folded protectively around herself Sierra glared at him, the tears she was fighting so hard to hold back balanced precariously on the edge of her lids, her voice tight. “Save it Max.  I want you to go”, an almost defeated sound in her voice as she looked away, her words almost inaudible, “Just go”

Shaking his head he sat forward, his finger stabbing the picture.  “This is not true Sierra…It is not what it seems”  Her snort of derision resulted in a growl from him as he pushed the story before her.  “I had no idea she was coming.  She and I have dated on and off sure…but that was in the past.  Do you really think I would have invited her when you were supposed to be with me?”

Sierra flicked her look to the picture, bitterness deep in her voice.  “I have no idea what goes on in your head Max.  But you certainly do not look like you were fighting her off”  Giving an exasperated sigh he shook his head.  “Actually…that is exactly what I was doing.  She blind-sided me Sierra.  She came at me and pushed herself forward for a kiss.  The photographer saw an opportunity and took it….but I neither instigated it nor allowed it to continue.  Believe me, that kiss lasted as long as it took for me to pull her off me”  His voice changed, became gentler.  “I am with you…Do you really think I would ruin what we have for…”, his hand waved towards the picture, “this?”

Looking once more at the picture, Sierra could see the way his hands were braced on the other woman’s hips, not in a caress, but flattened, ready to push away.  Savaging her lips, for the first time she felt doubt, her head turning to look out of the window, confusion filling her before once more turning to meet his eyes.  Could she have been so wrong about him?

Max held his breath watching the myriad of emotions fleeting across her lovely face.  However, he felt the chill of fear as her eyes finally settled on him, her look resolute.  “OK…I believe you” His brows puckered, sensing that all was not right as she continued. “But…perhaps it is for the best that we just go our separate ways”  Hurt surged into him as he shook his head, “No”  Sierra ran the tip of her tongue over the softness of her lush lips, nodding her head, “There is so much more between us Max…the past…It is just best”

His hands reached forward and grasped hers catching Sierra by surprise, the shudder at just this small touch pulling a moan from her lips as she stared at him, her look begging for release as he smiled, his head nodding gently.  “Yes…the past.  No more avoiding it Sierra.  We are going to talk about the past”

 {concluding installment 28th Jan}

Betrayed by the Billionaire (pt 11)

Chapter Eleven

The knock on her door snapped her attention back to the present, her hand rising to dash away the silent tears which spilled down her pale cheeks.  “C…Come in”, her voice sounded stronger than she felt, her lips curving into a forced smile as Sean appeared.  “OK-  just came to say goodbye and thanks for dropping everything to come to my rescue…but got a hot invite from Letterman to talk about my …” The singer’s large grin dropped from his face as his eyes took in the woman sitting silently before him, a woman who was trying so hard to look professional and in charge while her eyes shone with unshed tears, despair in her look.

“Sierra?”  His tone was now full of concern, a frown on his handsome forehead as he moved quickly towards her, squatting down and taking her frozen fingers in his.  “What is it?” He could see the battle raging within her as she raised her eyes heavenward, her hands gripping his tightly before she seemed to gather herself, once more finding the control she so badly needed, her eyes still full of grief, but now also anger.  Clearing her throat slightly she pulled a wavering smile to her mouth “I think I made a mistake Sean….I think that my holiday is over….I want to come with you”

Sean’s frown deepened as his voice become firmer.  “What happened?  Yesterday you seemed so happy…What changed?”

With a small sob she pulled a hand free, lifting the paper and letting him read the story, his look taking in the picture as his features became stony.  “That b…”, stopping himself as he once more took in the devastation on her features.  Leaning forward he pulled Sierra into his arms, her unresisting body falling against him as more sobs racked her, Sean holding her tightly to himself, soothing his hand down her back and hair as he whispered encouraging words of comfort, Sierras heart breaking.

For several minutes he held her, allowing her to release the hurt and pain, before she pulled back, her hand reaching for a handkerchief as she dabbed at her eyes, grief etched so clearly on her lovely features, her lips quivering so vulnerably before her eyes met his.  “I can’t believe I let him do this to me again”

Scowling, Sean lifted more of the small perfumed handkerchiefs from the box and pushed them gently into her hand.  “Again?  I knew that the two of you knew each other…but you dated before?”  She shook her head telling him the story of the night her mother died, he not interrupting, listening attentively as her voice grew so bitter.  “He took me into his home, became the one person I could rely on…my rock.  Then when he grew tired of having me around he forced me off the island…out of his home”  Her lips curled with contempt.  “I was fifteen, still struggling to deal with what had happened with my mother and all he could think about was himself”, an unhumerous half-laugh was torn from her lips.  “I suppose I was cramping his style…being the hero suited him for a bit…but he got bored quickly…and now…seems he has been playing with me again.  I suppose that he thought I was a challenge”, her head dropped as more tears squeezed out of her eyes “He likes to win…and didn’t I just make it so easy for him?”, self-disgust filled her voice.

Sean rocked back on his feet, his eyes confused.  “I know that Max has his issues…but I would never have thought…”, his mouth closed as she flashed him a warning look, anger now once more heating the depths of her brown eyes.  “Max Alessandro is a selfish, thoughtless man who plays with people’s emotions.  He does not care about anybody else but himself…does not care who he hurts…is incapable of love”

Her eyes dropped as she realised she had said too much, her hand pushing the tendrils of hair which fell over her face nervously back behind her ear watching as Sean regarded her seriously, a touch of sympathy deep in his eyes, his voice soft.  “You fell in love with him”, not a question – a statement.  Opening her mouth to refute his words their eyes met, Sierra once more feeling the tears blur her vision as her mouth snapped closed, her head nodding minutely.  “What a fool huh?”, her hand once more wiping away tears as they fell, her voice almost a whisper. “Truth is I think I fell in love with him when I was fifteen…but I hid it behind the anger of what he did…the way he betrayed me”  Her voice broke softly, pain tingeing the words. “But he couldn’t even leave me with that anger could he?…No…He had to strip it away and make me love him…and then betray me again”

Her eyes rose to Sean’s.  “He used me again…I need to get away from him Sean…I can’t let him see what he has done…please”  Sean took both her hands in his, his look serious.  “We are leaving in ten minutes Sierra…and nobody not even Max Alessandro will get near you if you do not want them to”

Sierra could feel the way her heart swelled at her employer’s words, at the caring in his eyes. “Thank you Sean” His hand lifted as he ran the back of his fingers down her cheek, his knuckles so gentle against her skin. “Max is an idiot.  Any man who could have your heart would be blessed…he is the loser here Sierra”, an almost sad smile drifted onto his lips.  “You know there was a time I hoped…”  Sierra looked back at the singer in surprise, realisation hitting her at his words, a small groan ripped from her.  “Oh Sean…I didn’t know”  His smile widened, still holding sadness, but also acceptance. “I know you didn’t…all you ever saw was the spoiled singer…the ego…the little boy who didn’t know which country he was in without you…but I have always cared about you Sierra”

As her head dropped, guilt filled her, his finger hooked under her chin, lifting her head to once more look back at him. “And now it is my turn to show you that I am not that spoiled brat…and to take care of you.  I know you do not love me Sierra”, continuing surely as her mouth opened, her eyes full of guilt “and that is OK…but I am going to look after you and help you get through this”  His eyes drilled into hers, “OK?”  Nodding her head, a warmer smile filled her features .“OK”, she repeated as Sean dropped a gentle kiss on the end of her nose before rising in one fluid movement, his voice more authorative than she had ever heard.  “Good…then get dressed because this show leaves in ten minutes”

Within seven minutes Sierra was dressed, moving towards the door having not brought much with her.  With a grimace she had already known that she was going to have to go on a shopping spree, not prepared to return and retrieve her clothes from the island or his mainland apartment, once more chastising herself for being so trusting.  The ringing of her mobile pulled her to a stop, pain slamming into her as she saw Max’s name flash on the screen.

Savaging her bottom lip she stared at the flashing screen – was he phoning to gloat, or to let her down gently, to explain that things were over because she was surplus to requirements?  Her finger hovered over the answer button, unsure whether she was able to hear his voice without breaking down, only her own pride finally making her press the button.  Standing taller, she determined not to let him see how much he had destroyed her, not give him the satisfaction of once more seeing that he had broken her.

Answering the call she held back the gasp as his sensual voice washed over her.  “Good morning babe…I am at the airport and missing you…I will be there in four hours…are you meeting me or should I expect you in to be waiting naked in our room?”

Sierra could only stare in disbelief at the call, her mouth dry as she gripped the phone.  He was unbelievable.  Had the model had to leave already?…Was he still playing her?  She felt the coldness seep deep within, her voice as businesslike as she could make it.

“Hello Max”  She could feel his hesitation, his tone becoming more wary, “Everything OK Sierra?”  With the phone clenched tightly in her hand she forced an answer, “I’m fine.  However, I think that perhaps you should cancel your plans” His gasp from the other side brought more tears to her eyes as she fought to keep control.  “Sierra…what the hell are you talking about?”  She could hear both the confusion and panic on his voice. “I mean that the holiday is over Max.  It is time I went back to work”

His tone became quieter, “But yesterday…”  She managed a small laugh, “We both got caught up in the moment Max…Said things that we didn’t really think through…It is just better this way…So good bye…Thanks for the holiday”, as she pulled the phone from her ear she could hear his voice calling her name, she ending the call as tears once more flowed down her cheeks.  The ringing of her phone showed him trying to call back, Sierra blocking the call and refusing any more contact from him.  Pulling herself to her full height she stuffed the phone back into her pocket stepping proudly out of the room, unaware of the way her lips quivered and tears slid down her distraught features.

At the airport Max could feel as his whole body froze, the overnight bag he carried slipping from his shocked numb fingers.  He had risen from the coffee table ready to move to his departure gate when he phoned Sierra and now his legs buckled under him as he dropped back into the chair, his eyes staring at the small device clutched in his hand.  Quickly dialing her number again, he felt the hurt slam into him as she refused his call.  What happened?  The previous day she had seemed so happy, things between them seemed so right.

He felt the coldness creep into his chest as realisation hit him.  She planned everything.  He believed that she had moved on from ten years ago, from his having to force her from his home.  With his stomach clenched he groaned.  She played him.  She wanted revenge for the past and she used him, making him know how she must have felt when she was abandoned.  Running his hand over his face he moaned.  She had no idea what happened…none, but the cold-bloodedness of her actions twisted his insides.  How could he have been so wrong about Sierra Summers?

He believed her to be warm, smart, kind…but he was wrong.  Beneath that beautiful facade beat the heart of a cold calculating manipulator.  Grabbing his bag he once more rose, pushing down the feelings which tried to swamp him.  He should think himself lucky that she had shown herself for what she really was before… His lips set grimly as he stalked purposefully towards the exit.

Passing a table, an open paper strewn across the surface, his eyes focussed on the image as he halted abruptly.  Moving to grab the sheets he scanned the words, his eyes growing wider and wider with each one as the image of himself kissing Adele mocked him.  Dropping the paper he sat, his mind in turmoil.  Sierra had seen the report, deep down he knew it.  She thought he had once more abandoned her.  Pulling out his mobile he once more rose, making phone calls as he quickly changed his travel arrangements based on information which he was finally able to acquire.

Seated in business class, he sat back, his eyes looking sightlessly out of the small window as he reflected over his actions.  Not going over the past had been a mistake.  It had been his hope that the facts of the past would come out when she was able to understand what happened, but he now knew that by not dealing with their past he had not allowed their future to grow on a more solid foundation.  He should have told her what happened, knowing that it was his own guilt that kept him from talking to her.  When she needed him most, he had not been able to help, he had sent her away.  He groaned, knowing that she had suffered for that decision.  Taking a deep breath he knew that the two had to face the past and he vowed that she would hear what he had to say.

{next installment 21st Jan}

Betrayed by the Billionaire (pt 10)

Chapter Ten

The following day everybody left, the crew by boat to the mainland and Sean on his Cruiser, once more leaving the two alone.  This time however, she did not have work to keep her busy, the two spending each day wandering around the island, Sierra enjoying rediscovering the home she had left so many years ago, happy to see that not much had changed.  Max had taken her on long horse rides and spent hours teaching her how to scuba dive until she was proficient enough to keep up with him, the two never tiring of the other or running out of things to talk about.

Given his position of authority and wealth, Max was used to having everybody around him agree with him and jump when he gave commands.  However, Sierra had always been the exception to that rule in his life, from the first time he had met her when a cocky little 12-year-old to the gorgeous woman she had grown into, and he revelled in the many heated discussions they would have, each one always ending in bed.   The sex, he had to admit, was amazing.  For an innocent, she quickly learnt how to please him and her sense of adventure drove her to experimentation that blew his mind.  With a happy smile on his face he remembered the previous evening when she surprised him with body chocolate and a wicked grin.

After two weeks he asked if she would like to accompany him to a ball on the mainland, his presence expected at the charity his mother had founded.  Sierra was overjoyed at being his date for the occasion, especially as it was such a public venue, Sierra knowing that Max’s love life was closely followed by the paparazzi, as was Sean’s.

They had moved into his apartment on the mainland, luxurious with every modern convenience.  She had been surprised how personal it was, even more surprised to discover that he now spent more time in the large apartment than on the island.  Patting his hand with sympathy she saw the sadness in his eyes knowing that it must remind him of his mother, her death still so raw.  Taking her hand in his he kissed her knuckles knowing that she knew exactly how he felt, remembering the night he brought her back home with him, a knowing smile on her lips.

“Your mother was a great strength to me when I needed it” her voice soft as Max nodded back, Sierra seeing the way his eyes misted over, her arms moving around him as he kissed her.  He pulled back until their eyes locked “It means so much to me having you here Sierra”, his words full of such an honesty that she groaned, rising to once more bring their lips together.  Their lovemaking was slow, languorous, each giving the other strength with both bodies and something more, something ethereal, until he rose over her, surging deeply within her tightness, neither prepared to break the penetrating hold of the others look.

Just as she saw the fire in his turn from smoulder to blazing inferno, he felt himself drown in the soft brown depth of hers, his thrusts becoming frantic as she clung to him until together they both reached the peak of pleasure, tottering on the edge until together they plunged over, each crying out, Sierra unaware as she screamed out his name, his mouth dropping to kiss her, both of their hearts hammering at the intensity of their shared experience.

Slumped over her, Sierra wrapped her arms around him, nuzzling his damp neck, his masculine smell enveloping her senses, her lips kissing him as she licked the salty moisture, the realisation swamping her that she loved him.  She loved Max.

Max stirred, feeling the way Sierra stiffened under him, pushing himself to the side, his eyes suddenly so full of concern, “What is it?…Did I hurt you?”  Her heart swelled at his concern as she shook her head, biting her lip.  How could she be so stupid as to fall in love with Max.   It was inevitable that he would get tired of her, throw her out.  Just as he had ten years ago when he blindsided her, he would one day – probably soon – ask her to go, expect her to return to her old life.

“Tell me”, his words pushed into the fog of pain which descended on her, her stricken look filling him with panic. “Sierra…what happened?” Dragging in a deep breath her eyes rose to look above him, avoiding his eyes, something so frantic stirring within the heart of hers.  She needed in that moment to tell him, to once more open herself to the hurt he would heap on her, knowing that he would reject her feelings, but needing to bare her very soul to this man, to be completely honest with him.  The words sat on the tip of her tongue, those words of love just as her mobile phone burst into life, the sound making her jump as she groaned, lifting it.

Listening to the voice on the other side, Max watched as her back tensed.  For a moment he had known that she was about to say something important, something which made his stomach clench, holding his breath in expectation.  As her phone rang, disappointment flooded through him before he frowned instinctively knowing something was very wrong.

He watched as she dragged a shaky hand over her brow, resignation and worry warring with each other as she turned to look at him, shutters falling over her so expressive eyes, coldness eating at his stomach.  “I understand.  Tell him I will be on the first flight.  Tell him he only talks to his lawyer”

Sierra took in the scowl which filled his features, his questioning eyes wary as she turned to the side, allowing her hair to fall like a curtain, covering her face not allowing him to see the way her eyes stung with tears which she refused to allow to fall, her teeth savaging the bottom lip as she fought to pull a more professional mask on, to hide the swirling emotions within, thankful for the phone call which had stopped her from making the biggest mistake of her life: declaring love for Max Alessandro.  What had she been thinking?

“What’s wrong?…What is it?”  His words pulled her back to reality as she took a deep breath, once more in control.  “Sean has been arrested…he got into a fight.  They need me back to deal with the fallout” Making to stand, his arm shot out stalling her as his hand moved forward to capture her chin, Sierra surprised to see doubt and apprehension in his features “For how long?  Will you return?”  She swallowed as her look flitted over his handsome face.  She needed to get away from him.  Put as much distance as possible between them before he tore her apart.  Max was not someone you fell in love with.  He was a player with a short attention span and Sean’s arrest gave her the perfect opportunity to escape from him, to save herself.  She should have told him the holiday was over, that it was time to go back to work, but instead she held his look, stunned to see something deep within the blackness of his, something which clenched her heart.  Did he care?

Her answer was almost a whisper, her mouth suddenly so dry, “Do you want me to return?”  Pain filled his features as he sat up pulling her harder to him “I don’t want you to go…Of course I want you to return” Sierra could feel the lightness fill her.  Max wanted her to stay, that must mean something, perhaps even that he…cared.

Again the voice inside her sneered, mocked her.  You thought that before.  You believed he wanted you around, and look what happened.  Pulling from his hold, her head dropped as she battled with the raging emotions within.  “I…I have to get back to work…Sean needs me…I need to go now Max”, adding seeing the way his features dropped, “B…But if you want me to come back…”

His relieved smile shone from him as he nodded “You…still want to be with me Sierra?”  Raising her eyes once more to his she nodded, not aware as her doubts shone so clearly from her “If…If you want me to be”  His arms once more enveloped her, his mouth kissing her hair as his arms caressed her back.  “I don’t want to be separated from you…Not for a moment”

Once more putting her at arm’s length, he smiled, that boyish heart-stopping smile which had her stomach flip-flopping “I will come with you…We will go together.  When you have finished doing what you need to do…we can return together”

Sierra could feel the love for him shining from the smile she gave him, before groaning gently.  “You can’t…the fund raiser.  They need you here” Max paused, his brow furrowed in deep thought.  Duty and the memory of his mother demanded that he attend, that the event be presided over by the Alessandro family.  He knew how much the charity relied on the money which was generated from the night, his mind formulating alternatives as his hand caressed her shoulder “OK.  Then tomorrow I will join you” Nodding, she could feel the way her eyes swam with tears of joy.  Max wanted to be with her.  He must care.

The rest of that day passed in a blur.  She was able to catch a flight within two hours, Max insisting that he accompany her to the airport.  He had pulled her into his arms, his kiss bone-melting before looking at her “I will see you tomorrow…Miss me” With a smile she pressed a kiss to his mouth nodding her head.  “Every second”, she responded, seeing the fire which instantly sprang to his eyes.

Sean’s arrest had made the front page.  However, Sierra was surprised to discover that far from being at fault, his actions had been noble.   Having jumped in to stop a man from hitting a woman, he had been arrested for pushing the would-be attacker after the man recognised him and insisted on the police being called.  It did not take her long to organise for his release, especially when the officials of the town found out all of the facts, embarrassed that the singer had been treated so shabbily in their town.

Moving into the prison to accompany Sean and his lawyer to the hotel they had booked, she found him wearing the drab prison uniform.  Her mouth quirked, shaking her head seeing that already he had customised the boring costume, dropping the pants to his hips and turning the bottoms up to his knees, the top now turned back to front with the prison name emblazoned on his chest.

“I leave you for a couple of weeks and you get yourself arrested” Her words were spoken with humour, her lips twitching as he grinned back at her, his arms opening in an innocent posture.  “What can I say Sierra…I missed you” Sean rose and pulled her in for a hug.

Leaving the prison the press had been waiting for the singer, their car pulled up as close to the exit as possible.  Sean however, in his usual flamboyant manner, took time to pose for the cameras joking that he might use the uniform in his next video as the press lapped it all up, Sierra holding back the smile – only Sean could turn a disaster into a publicity photo-shoot.

The next day she woke early, excitedly looking forward to Max joining her.  She smiled remembering the stunned surprise on Sean’s features as she informed him that he would be arriving that day, his expression becoming thoughtful as a slow smile spread over his face, “I see” his only comment.

Sitting drinking her coffee, she chuckled reading the headlines.  The large picture of Sean grinning as he joked about his incarceration made her shake her head as she read the story.  Flicking through the rest of the paper, her fingers tightened as she froze, pain slamming into her a long moan of ripped from her lips as tears sprang to her eyes.  There Max had been photographed at the fund raiser, his arms on the shoulders of a woman as he kissed her, the other woman plastered against him.  The sob tore from her throat as she read the headlines which screamed out at her from the page “Max Alessandro and the future Mrs Alessandro?”

She scanned the story, reading of the on-off relationship between Max and the supermodel that even she had heard of, along with the story of how the two had been inseparable since her surprise return the night of the fund raiser. Betrayal tore through Sierra.  So she had only been a distraction for him, something disposable until the woman he really wanted turned up.  Dropping the paper she moved to the window, her arms wrapped defensively around herself.  She had done it again, she had opened herself up to him, and he had used her, destroyed her.  Heart-broken tears streamed down her face.

{next installment 14th Jan}

Betrayed by the Billionaire (pt 9)

Chapter Nine

On the final day of the shoot they awoke, this time Sierra surprised not to find Max beside her, her head lifting, as her eyes scanned the room looking for him.  Seeing him stood dressed by the window,  she allowed her eyes to once more drink in the handsome figure he made stood so still, his hands pushed deep into his pockets, a dark smouldering look on his features as he stared unseeingly out of the window.

“Max?” Her soft throaty voice pulled him around, his eyes falling on her luscious body hidden within the silken nightdress, wrapped around the cotton sheet which did not hide the curves of the figure he had come to know so well.

“What’s wrong?”  Her tone held concern as he moved back over to the bed, sitting beside her and dropping his head to kiss the softness of her mouth.  “Nothing….nothing is wrong”, he replied, his eyes scanning her face as her hands flew around his neck, the kiss deepening as with a grimace he wondered why he bothered to dress.

Pushing her back against the pillow his fingers plucked the sheet from her hands, slowly dragging it down her body, his instantly tightening with lustful heat as she watched him from under long lashes, her lips slightly parted.  As her nipples under the thin material beaded under his gaze, his mouth dropped to cover one, the suddenness of his actions eliciting a gasp from her as her spine curved in silent offering.  “God, you are so beautiful, inside and out”, his words vibrated through her skin as her hands weaved through his hair.  The feel of him sent even more jolts coursing through her, his all too familiar smell filling her nostrils as she purred softly.

Sierra could feel as he pulled his clothes off, her own feverish hands helping him as his mouth moved to follow the outline of her neck, jaw, cheek and finally her mouth, his tongue plundering the softness of hers, demanding more.

His hand pulled the silky top down over her slim shoulders, the slip pulled under her firm pouting breasts, Max growling as the material forced them together, the nipples hardened peaks as his mouth dropped once more to cover one, then the other, a gasp torn from her lips as she arched her back closer to him.  With another growl he gripped the fragile cloth between his hands and ripped the material apart, his caveman actions sending instant wet heat to pool deep within her belly.  His frantic need for her forced a groan to leave her lips as she dropped her hands to slide them along his side around to his back, his skin goose-bumping under her fingertips.  One hand moved to push her legs apart, his long fingers exploring the wetness of her as she moaned and panted, begging him to make love to her, not caring that she was pleading, only partially aware as he pulled the nightstand open, retrieving protection from within.

Sierra could feel his need, as now both naked, her hand grasped the hardened heat of him, feeling as his body stiffened, the lapping tongue stilling before his teeth nipped the raised peak sending a shiver through her.  “I want you”, his voice was full of barely contained passion, she nodding frantically, needing him too.  “If I don’t get deep inside you soon…I am going to explode”, his raw words were like sandpaper against her skin making her throb harder.  Nodding, her eyes flitted open as his head rose, their eyes locked as she saw the molten desire deep within his.  As he pulled away, his heat leaving her, she opened her mouth to protest wanting him back, before he grasped her hips, flipping her onto her stomach, his hands caressing down her spine, his lips following the curve of her back as she quivered, whimpering as her body instantly trembled, her hands fisting the soft sheets.

Max positioned himself between her legs, before pushing himself deep within her body.  She was tight, so damn tight and responsive, he having to pause, fighting the need for release, his face showing the struggle it took as he felt the tingling heat demanding release.  Taking deep breaths he found some control, his hips moving gently to begin against her.  Under him, Sierra wriggled and writhed in ecstasy, the feel of his weight over her back new, along with the way his breath fanned across her ear his mouth whispering soft sensual words, words telling her how beautiful she was, how much he wanted her, needed her.  Each one only added to the maelstrom of sensations building, spiralling, rising until they flooded over her engulfing her as she screamed out his name, her climax ripping through every fibre of her being.  As darkness momentarily took her she collapsed limply onto the bed only partially aware as Max raised the tempo, a guttural roar of relief forced from him before he took one more thrust, his body pushed against her as his cries joined hers.  His own release quickly followed hers as he surged within Sierra, both of their bodies still spasming while her name was wrenched from him, he collapsing over her, both panting heavily as they fought to drag in lungfuls of air, both stunned with the intensity of their lovemaking.

Finally Max rolled from her, flipping onto his stomach, his head turned as was hers, both smiling at the other, their eyes soft.  As their breathing slowed down from the wild tempo to a manageable rate, she stirred softly, “Now tell me what is really wrong” Max smiled knowing that she of all people had always been able to read him better than anybody else.  Lazily drawing his finger along her arm he gave a deep sigh moving to kiss the top of her head gently.

“Today is the last day of the shoot Sierra” She froze beside him, the thought one which had been filling her mind all the previous day, not prepared to admit as the old anxieties arose within her, wondering if he expected her to leave the next day.  Trying to sound as upbeat as possible, while her stomach lurched painfully, she gave a small non-committal shrug.

“What are your plans after today?”, he prompted softly.  She felt her throat constrict as she moved from him, grabbing her wrap from the bottom of the bed and rising  “I…I don’t really know.  I just assumed that I would be going back with Sean”, an almost hurt look came to her features before she flicked him a half-smile.  “I would not like to outstay my welcome”, the attempt at levity feeling sour on her lips, as her head dipped trying not to show the pain within or the way the tears seemed to rise scalding the back of her eyes.

However, Max had moved quickly to her side, pulling her around, catching the pain, a small moan leaving him, “Thank God”, his words filling her with surprise as she stared back at him in disbelief.  How could he be so cruel she thought, anger flaring within as she tried to wrench free from him, Max holding her tightly, Sierra unable to look at him.

“Don’t worry I wasn’t going to cramp your life-style”, she bit out, swallowing the lump which rose to her throat, Max hauling her even harder against himself.  “I meant… Thank God you care too”, his soft voice making her head fly up to his.  “I want you to stay Sierra…You never did answer my question, but I would bet that you are due holidays and Sean doesn’t really need you right now”

Sierra had been stunned by his words, her expressive eyes full of that shock.  Running her small tongue along suddenly dry lips she was been only able to stare at him, her voice coming out in a hoarse whisper,  “Y…You do?”  His head bent to kiss the corner of her mouth, his voice soft against her skin “Oh yes, very much so”

Sierra paused, feeling the small glimmer of hope unfurl within her stomach, before she nodded against him, hearing the intake of breath from him, his head pulling back to smile so warmly at her.  Then he kissed her, a long lingering kiss full of heat and fire as he slowly walked her back towards the bed, the knowledge of how close he had come to losing her spurring him on to new heights.

As they once more lay in the other’s arms, the afterglow of their lovemaking enveloping them both, he kissed her head softly.

“Thank you for staying”, his words pulled a sweet serene smile to her lips. “You are most welcome…You will let me know when you get fed up with me”  Max lifted himself slightly to rest on the heel of one hand, a smile on his lips, “Are you telling me you are going to stay that long?  Because I can’t see me ever getting fed up with you”

He saw the way her eyes closed as she seemed to be fighting with some internal demon, Max instinctively knowing what.  However, before he could speak she rolled from him, her back to him as she gave a half-laugh, the sound forced even to his ears, “Well I suppose you can handle having me around for a couple of weeks” With a frown he clamped his mouth closed, sensing that now was not the time to push what had happened in the past.  She had agreed to stay for longer, and right now that was a start, one that could be built on.

Later that day, Sean was surprised when she requested a holiday, even more so when she was unable to give him a date for her return.  He regarded her carefully, a note of concern coming to his handsome features.  “You know Sierra.  I am all for you cutting loose and having some fun.  But don’t have any expectations with Max.  You might think I have a lousy reputation with women…but his is not much better”, surprising her as he gave a rueful smile, “Truth is I kind of see you like a sister…and I really don’t want you getting hurt”

Sierra stared at the man who had been her boss for three years, a smile playing on her lovely lips, “I never knew you cared”; she smiled, trying to hide the surge of emotion that swept over her.  Sean flicked her chin gently, “Yeah…Well don’t go telling anybody, don’t want people getting the impression that I give a damn”   Chuckling, she gave him a small wink ,“Your secret is safe with me”

The following day everybody left, the crew by boat to the mainland and Sean on his Cruiser, once more leaving the two alone.  This time however, she did not have work to keep her busy, the two spending each day wandering around the island, Sierra enjoying rediscovering the home she had left so many years ago, happy to see that not much had changed.  Max took her on long horse rides and spent hours teaching her how to scuba dive until she was proficient enough to keep up with him, the two never tiring of the other or running out of things to talk about.

Given his position of authority and wealth, Max was used to having everybody around him agree with him and jump when he gave commands.  However, Sierra had always been the exception to that rule in his life, from the first time he had met her when a cocky little twelve-year-old to the gorgeous woman she had grown into, and he revelled in the many heated discussions they would have, each one always ending in bed.   The sex, he had to admit, was amazing.  For an innocent, she quickly learnt how to please him and her sense of adventure had driven her to new experimentation that blew his mind.  With a happy smile on his face he remembered the previous evening when she surprised him, naked clutching only a jar of body chocolate and a wicked grin.  Yes, life was good.

{next installment 27th December}

Betrayed By the Billionaire (pt 8)

Chapter Eight

Waking the next morning Sierra stretched sleepily, freezing instantly as her foot touched something, gasping with the realisation that that something was Max, the memories of the previous evening coming back in an instant.  He shifted beside her, an arm moving to wrap around her waist as he pulled her back tightly against his chest, his sleepy voice a sensual drawl against her ear, “Good morning Sierra”

A shudder of desire ripped through her as his tongue gently glided against her ear lobe, he giving a small chuckle full of innuendo, the sound of it like a jolt arousing every part of her body.  “How did you sleep?”

She felt her lips curl into a large smile, the heat curling deep within her belly.  “Very well thank you…very well indeed”, her wicked side rearing itself as she wriggled her bottom against the rising hardness of him as he groaned softly.

“You are a wicked little tease Sierra Summers”, his voice like gravel as she rolled onto her back to look up at him, a small sensual purr leaving her lips as her arms wrapped around his neck, her large dark eyes full of fire and promise as they flicked over his handsome face.   “Now what should we do about that?”,  she whispered as his mouth once more descended to hers.

Many hours later the two, freshly showered and dressed, sat on deck enjoying breakfast together, Max’s hand moving to entwine his fingers within hers. “I know that we are due to make port at home today…but give the word Sierra and I can slow us down …give us another night onboard”

With a chuckle her eyes flashed warmly back at him before giving a deep sigh, “That is very kind of you…and I will admit it is also very tempting”, before a rueful look crossed her eyes, “However, I have to make sure that someone is there to meet the crew.  They are like children if not handled correctly”

His hand lifted hers to kiss each finger in turn, Sierra surprised at how quickly the flames of desire once more licked at her.  “I didn’t expect this Sierra”, he murmured softly against her skin, “But I would be lying if I said it was not something I didn’t want to happen”

Savaging her bottom lip she frowned gently.  “And what is ‘this’?”, she questioned softly, seeing the small look of surprise from him before he gave a small shrug.   “Can anybody really answer that?”, his voice thoughtfully seductive.

With a bitter twist of her mouth her brows rose, “No…I just wondered how soon you would once more be packing me off your island”  His intake of breath instantly made her regret her words as she had pulled her hand back, wiping her brow softly, “I’m sorry…that was uncalled for”

Max’s lips set in an angry line.  “I wish you would believe me when I tell you that there really was no other choice Sierra”, his eyes once more finding hers with so much honesty deep within them, “I never wanted you to go…I had no choice”

For several moments there was silence; their eyes locked together before she once more dropped hers.  “I guess there is nothing to be gained in always dredging up the past”, her words thoughtful, Max looking as though he had more to add before giving a small sad smile. “No…I guess not, sometimes the past is best left there”  Sierra nodded as their breakfast was placed before them, both sitting back in their chairs, both lost in their own thoughts.

Each had worked for an hour after breakfast before meeting on deck where they swam in the cool pool, later still fishing off the back of the Cruiser, neither really interested in catching anything.  Sierra found herself enjoying this time with him, surprised how easily they once more relaxed in each other’s company, just as they had so many years ago.  However, where before their constant parry of words had irritated her it now seemed to just add to the sexual sizzle between them.

As the small ribbon of land appeared before them, Sierra felt the sense of disappointment along with the excitement of once more being so close to the island she once called home.  Stood by the railing, he moved behind her, his arms encircling her waist, kissing her cheek softly.  “How does it feel to be home?”

Sierra fell back against him, her head against his cheek and shoulder, “It feels good”  His head nodded gently before he turned her round to face him, his look focussed and apprehensive.  “I know that you organised to stay at a bed and breakfast…But would you consider staying at the Villa…with me?”

Without thinking she nodded, a broad grin filling his handsome face as he kissed her, the kiss full of heat and passion.  “You will not regret this”, he murmured against her mouth as she kissed him back.  Already Sierra knew that she would, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that she would be hurt even more than the last time they had separated, because standing on his boat, with the island looming closer with each passing moment she finally understood why.  Those years long ago when she had been forced to leave, it had not been the island she missed, not the place she had grown up, but the man who had pushed her, tormented her, bickered constantly with her and yet who had shown her more care than any other.  It was Max she had missed and she now knew why.  She was in love with him.  She was in love with Max Alessandro.

The next two days flew by in a blur of activity.  The day after they arrived on the familiar paradise the crew started to descend on the small island, their presence the focus of the many islanders who lived there.  Sierra found moving in with Max easier than she would have thought possible.  Their nights were full of the simmering sizzling sexual passion which would flare the moment the two were alone, especially so close to a bed, Sierra revelling in her newly found sexuality.

Max had found having her with him intoxicating, never tiring of the way she reacted to him in bed, waking each morning before her, only able to stare down into the most beautiful face he had ever known.  He would wait for that moment that she too would awaken, seeing the fire that would spring to her eyes as she would reach out for him, that moment filling him with gut-wrenching arousal as her lips would form the small meow of need and her eyes would sweep down to his mouth.

During the day he would often take time to watch her in action, impressed with how well organised she was.  The respect for Sierra by all of the crew was clear to see, they all appreciating how slickly the whole process seemed to run, no hitch of any kind rearing its head to ruin the up-coming shoot or result in expensive delays.

The third day had seen the arrival of Sean G himself, Max having already offered to put him up in the villa showing him around.  When the singer discovered that his Personal Assistant was also staying there, quickly learning that she was in fact sharing a room with Max Alessandro, he had given her a telling smile before leaning in and whispering in a mocking voice “I see you joined the rest of the female race”, Sierra giving him a shrivelling glare as he raised arms in an innocent ‘Don’t shoot me’ stance, her lips twitching as she snottily responded, “It was cold on the other side of the wall”, moving away as his laugh followed her.

The shoot had been planned to run over four days, Max enjoying spending time on set, fascinated with how long each scene took realising just how important having everything in place was to ensure that the Director’s vision was realised.  He also smiled seeing the way only she was able to manage the ego of the singing star.  With the pressure of the shoot, his well-known temper surfacing often, only Sierra prepared to stand up to him.  She had also been the one who would smooth over the invariable blow-ups of the star and the director, Max impressed with Sierra Summers.

{next installment 11th December}

Betrayed By the Billionaire (pt 7)

{Beware – this contains adult content}

Chapter Seven

Waking abruptly, she felt the sheen of perspiration over her body. The memories were still so vivid in her mind as she rose, pulling a wrap around herself before slipping out of the room in search of the galley and a milky drink which might help her sleep.  Given that it was only two in the morning she did not expect to encounter anybody below, the only others awake at that hour on deck, she was sure.

Sitting in the silent galley, she nursed the glass of half-finished milk, jumping as the door once more opened, her eyes haunted as she swallowed down the groan at the sight of the man who entered.  Wearing only silk bed pants, his tanned, toned torso naked, his black glossy hair tousled from sleep or lack of, Max moved towards her, his sleepy eyes widening as his brows rose in a surprised frown at finding her sitting in the dimly lit room, his eyes sharpening instantly.

“Sierra?…Are you OK?”, his tone full of concern, as she gave a shaky return smile lifting her glass of milk in explanation of her presence, trying not to show her discomfort at how little she was wearing, tugging at the small wrap as though it would cover her long legs. “I couldn’t sleep.  I guess seeing you again brought back some bad memories”

Grimacing, he gave her a sympathetic lop-sided smile pouring himself a glass of milk also. “You dreamt of your mother?” Sierra nodded softly.  “Yeah…and what happened after”  Max flicked a sideway look at her, “Oh”, his only comment as the two sat together in silence.

Rising, she gave him a nervous smile.  “Goodnight.  Think I will try again”, turning to escape the man bringing such disruption to her, not aware of the way her body tightened so visibly.  His hand moved out to grab her arm halting her, his long fingers winding around the delicate circle of her wrist, where her pulse raced at this smallest of touches, his fingers  sending electric shockwaves through her whole body.

“I know you blame me Sierra…but I really did do what I thought was for the best”, his head lifted to look into her eyes, holding them as she gulped, blinking nervously. “Maybe you did Max, but my mother had just died.  I needed time to mourn, to get used to what had happened and you had me packed away to boarding school”, her eyes flashing with both anger and hurt as she lashed out at him, Max seeing the pain within her eyes at her words.

His expression held no apology as the two continued to stare at each other before he spoke softly. “Perhaps, but what I did was done with your best interests at heart.  I really wish you would believe that”  Dropping her eyes, she again made to turn, aware as still holding her wrist he had risen also, lifting her small hand, bringing it to his mouth, Sierra gasping at the touch of his lips against the softness of her skin sending scorching heat to pool deep within her belly.

“I…I”, she stammered, her mouth drying seeing the fire rise within his eyes as his other hand snaked around her waist hauling her in harder against him.  Dropping her arm his hand cradled her head, his fingers sliding through the silkiness of her hair, his eyes dropping to her mouth.  Standing immobile in his hold she knew she should push him away, run from him, but her feet remained rooted to the spot, her eyes falling to his mouth also.  Hearing the sharp intake of breath from him, her eyes fluttered closed as he finally kissed her.  The shudder that ripped through her had been intense, her body falling in harder against him, the feel of the heat of his naked torso against her enflaming her need for him even more as his mouth travelled down her jaw, his fingers splayed against her back.

She heard the glasses they had both been drinking from hitting the ground as in one smooth motion he cleared the table, lifting her and laying her over the cold wooden surface, Sierra groaning softly as his weight joined her pinning her to the hard tabletop.  She encouraged him, hands flying over his body, caressing the long column of his back, sliding around the elasticated waistband of his silk pants, the goosebumps on his skin where her fingers traveled exciting her, making her more daring.  He pulled the wrap from her, unbuttoning the silky top which was between him and his need, Sierra shuddering as the cool air wafted over her body as the two sides slid from her.

Max paused, his eyes dark pools of need as he groaned softly.  “God, you are so beautiful”, his words enflaming her need as she gasped, his mouth descending to one heightened nipple, his tongue tantalizing and teasing it as she grabbed his head pulling him harder to her, her back arching against him.  “I want you Sierra”, his voice was taut with that need, her head nodding as she found herself crying, “Yes, yes”, before his mouth once more returned to take hers, she feeling the hardness of him against her through the silk pants.

Pulling back, he had taken in the woman partially naked on the table, her long hair in disarray, a silken cushion around her beautiful head, her large aqua eyes slowly opening as she held his look.  Moving forward again he scooped her into his arms, his mouth once more finding hers as she clutched at him, kissing him back with a passion equal to his.

Walking with purpose, he made his way to his own stateroom before he was able to gently place her onto the bed, Sierra sighing once more as his weight again covered her, the feeling so right, as he pulled her top from her shoulders, the wrap and small night shirt flung to some unknown corner of the room.  His mouth trailed down her throat and along her shoulders before once more finding the raised peaks and swirling his tongue around the nipples, sent her into a frenzy as her hands slid under his pyjama pants, caressing the tight buttocks, a masculine growl leaving his mouth as his lips slid lower.  Kissing down her smooth silky skin, he followed the gentle curves of her stomach, Sierra raising herself onto her elbows, her teeth biting her lower lip to hold back the groan which rose in her throat.  As he continued down, her head fell backwards, a low moan leaving her as he pulled her legs apart, his tongue finding the moist heat of her, Sierra gulping in lungfuls of air.

She had never known such pleasure, his hands sliding under her bottom, pulling her harder against his mouth as she whimpered softly in his hold, writhing and bucking against him with a wanton need that was both shameful and intoxicating.  When it came she could hardly believe the intensity of her climax, her breathing coming out in loud pants and cries as her hips moved against him, the sensations sweeping over her before she became limp.   Max moved back up her body to once more capture her lips, bringing her down softly from the intensity of the experience, her eyes full of confusion at what had just happened.

Looking deeply into his eyes, hers were soft, her hand lifting to gently caress his cheek, his wide smile raising one of her own before his mouth once more descended.  She tasted herself on his tongue, surprised as the flames once more licked at her with an intensity that was shocking and so unexpected.  In an instinctive action, she moved her hand to push at his pants, Max rolling over and quickly pulling them from him.  “I need you”, his voice was tight and husky as he moved over her laying between her legs, Sierra wrapping her arms around his shoulders, her hands pulling at him, needing him too.

His words had been broken, hoarse, as he kissed along her jaw. “Do I need protection Sierra?”, his words hardly audible as he raised himself over her, her body becoming more rigid as her eyes opened in surprise, her voice unsure. “I…I’ve never”, she began as he groaned, understanding coming on him as he pulled back from her slightly, her hands grasping his shoulder, her eyes full of pleading.

“No…don’t stop Max…Please…don’t stop”, her rigid fingers clinging to him.  Holding her eyes he kissed her mouth softly, rolling from her as he silently retrieved protection from his nightstand, making himself safe before once more returning to her.  “Are you sure?”, his voice tortured as she raised her head to once more kiss him softly, Max deepening the kiss even as the hardness of him nudged slowly into her tight body.

Moving slowly, the effort causing a sheen of sweat to gather on his shoulders Max took his time, struggling with how perfectly her body enveloped him, tightened around him, before he felt the small membrane within her tear.  Sierra stiffened as she felt the pain and discomfort of his penetration, a whimper leaving her lips as her eyes flew open, a gasp of surprise leaving her.  His mouth once more dropped to kiss her so softly on the mouth, moving deeper within her until his full length was sheathed within the tightness of her body.

Pausing, he allowed her to adjust to the shock of his penetration, waiting until her body had relaxed, despite his own need to drive harder and faster into her, knowing that of all things he did not want to hurt Sierra.  Finally as she relaxed beneath him he began slowly so slowly to rock against her, his thrusts becoming harder and deeper as her legs wrapped around his, her body moving with his in perfect rhythm, Sierra hardly able to believe it as she felt the sensations once more rise, her hands gripping his upper arm as once more her head fell back, whipping from side to side as the climax swept over her in wave upon wave of pleasure, not aware as she had cried out his name.

With a groan of relief his thrusts had become harder faster, his breathing ragged until with a final surge he released deeply within her, his gasps joining hers as she clung to him, both shuddering with the intensity of the experience until Max collapsed heavily over her, both panting hard, trying to catch their breaths.

Sierra wrapped her arms around his neck, her lips kissing his cheek still trembling with the intensity of what they had just shared, loving the feel of his weight over her, the feel of him so comforting, this thought surprising her.

After several moments Max pulled himself from her, his arms wrapping around her shoulder to pull her tight against himself, a small groan leaving him. “You were a virgin”, his tone full of anger aimed at himself as he groaned.  “I am so sorry”, hurt deep within his voice as she pulled herself up to look down into his eyes seeing the pain deep within them.

“I wanted this too Max”, she had whispered softly, a chuckle rising from her lips as her mouth dropped to kiss his chest, her voice playful.  “And of course you know that this makes me right, even after ten years…you were wanting to be my first”, his rumbling laugh against her neck sending another shudder through her as he had pulled her in for a hug.

“Damn you woman, do you always have to be right?”  His arms enveloped her tightly, kissing her head gently, Sierra feeling blissfully happy as she felt the fatigue engulf her, a soft yawn leaving her lips as her eyes fluttered closed, sleep finally claiming her.  Hearing her breathing slowing and becoming deeper Max too felt sleep tugging at him, his arms encircling her, a happy smile on his face.

 {next installment 27th November}

Betrayed By the Billionaire (pt 6)

Chapter Six

Moving into the main living quarters he had turned on the television, trying to watch a movie, his mind not really taking in the story, his thoughts full of the woman who had just left.

In her room Sierra quickly changed for bed, looking at herself in the mirror as she brushed out her long naturally wavy hair.  The evening had been enjoyable, she struggling to hold onto the resentment she held for Max.  With a sigh she again reminded herself that it had all happened so long ago, that perhaps some things were better left in the past.  However, with a scowl she rose pulling back the sheet, telling herself again that she had trusted him, trusted him more than nearly anybody else in her life and he had rejected her, pushed her away, sent her away.  The pain she felt then once more filling her.

Falling asleep in the large stateroom she had fallen into an immediate sleep, tired from her previous two evening’s lack of sleep.  However, her dreams were again not pleasant ones but ones full of the past, her dream once more returning to an evening ten years previous.  One that she had managed to push to the back of her mind for so long, the worst night of her life.

Max had rescued her from the advances of one of her classmates, not that she was too happy at the time, childishly choosing instead as he had told her to ‘act like a brat’.  As his car had turned the corner to the small house she and her mother shared, she had forgotten her anger as she gasped seeing the flashing lights of the ambulance and police cars.  Fear gripped her as she spun around to look at Max, his face suddenly sombre as he pulled in behind a police car.

“Stay here”  His voice had been sure and kind, even offering her a small reassuring smile as he smoothly jumped from the vehicle, Sierra not aware as her hands flew to her mouth, eyes wide with shock as they followed him as he approached one of the police officers.  The two talked for a few moments, Sierra seeing as his face became more and more serious before the two men together turned to where she sat in the car, the two seeming to come to some agreed decision.

Walking back to his car Sierra had known that things were bad, his body rigid, a strange light in his eyes as they fixed on her.  Opening the door he gently took her hand, pulling her out.

“W…what’s wrong…where is my mother?”, her voice so full of the terror in her eyes, looking imploringly at Max, the events of earlier forgotten as her voice shook uncontrollably.  The pity in his eyes was enough for her to know that things were as bad as they possibly could be as she began to tremble violently.

His arms had gone around her then, pulling her against his chest “I’m sorry Sierra, your mother ….she collapsed…she…”  A long low moan escaped her as she shook her head.  “No…No…it must be a mistake”,  while she had known in her heart of hearts that her mother was dead, tears now streaming unchecked down her face as she sobbed against him, his arms holding her tightly.

“I’m sorry Sierra…you need to speak to the officer…identify your mother”  Sierra felt her legs buckle, the world tilting and becoming unfocussed as pure undiluted pain and mourning swept over her, blackness swooshing in to claim her as she fainted, Max holding her even tighter against himself, scooping her up in one fluid movement, as a paramedic ran to them.

When she woke, she had been in a strange room, her brows knitting together as she groaned.  Instantly an older woman appeared by her side, Sierra realising that she was lying on a large comfortable chaise.  “You’re safe dear…just lie there for now.  You’ve had a shock”, the soft words kindly spoken by the regal woman who took her hand, patting it gently.  Her eyes scanned the room, finally falling on Max, stood against the large ornate fireplace, his handsome features sombre and focused on her.  At that, everything rushed back in, as with another moan she sat bolt-upright her eyes focused solely on him.

“M…my mother”, all she could manage, as he shook his head softly, the tears once more filling her sight  as she fought so hard to control herself, her head dropping to stare at the ground.  After several moments, the only sound the tick ticking of the grandfather clock she finally looked back up, her features cold, controlled, the shock still so evident to the other two in the room.

“What happened?”, her only words, as Max moved to join his mother beside her taking her cold hand in his, his voice soft.  “They believe that she had a brain aneurism”, squeezing her hand as it began to shake. “They won’t know for certain till after the autopsy, but whatever happened it happened fast”, his eyes holding hers comfortingly “They found her as though she was asleep on the chair…she didn’t suffer Sierra” Sierra gulped down the sob that caught in the back of her throat as she gave a slight nod of her head.  Standing, she straightened the dress she and her mother had spent so long choosing, the dress she had worn for what was the worst night of her life, that she would burn the first moment she could.

Mother and son allowed her the time to collect herself, to pull herself together as she seemed so small and vulnerable in the large living room, bravely trying to deal with the tragedy.  Finally she cleared her throat.  “Where am I?”  Mrs Alessandro gave her a small smile.  “Max brought you to our home.  Seemed the best place to bring you in the circumstances”

Nodding softly she fixed him with large haunted eyes, her voice almost inaudible, “That was very kind of you Max, but I should be getting home now.  I can’t take up any more of your time”

Mother and son looked at each other as she made towards the door, Max stepping in front of her, his hands placed gently on her shoulders.  “You can’t go back Sierra”, watching as she pulled herself up taller, her small chin tilted defiantly at him in a stance he had become so used to with her.  “It is my home.  I have arrangements to make”

Max looked over at his stunned mother before once more looking at her.  “Of course you do”, he whispered softly. “But the police are still there.  Stay here for tonight Sierra and I will accompany you tomorrow back to your home”  She had not even argued with him as she nodded in agreement, a small thank you leaving her lips as the older woman moved forward to wrap a comforting arm around the young girl’s shoulder, leading her to the room that she had ordered to be made ready for the young woman.

Sierra never returned to her home.  She spent the next two weeks at the Villa of the Alessandros.  Max had been kindness itself as he accompanied her to the undertakers, telling her not to worry about costs as she arranged for her mother’s funeral.  On the day itself he stood by her side, watching her with concern as she remained so still and proud, the only sign of emotion from the young woman being the tears which slid down her face as the coffin moved soundlessly behind the curtains in the crematorium.  It had also been he who joined her as she stood by the sea spreading the ashes over the crystal waters that her mother loved so much.

Sierra had to admit that he had been the tower of strength she needed, helping her to cope with the loss, thankful to him and his mother for their support and kindness.  It was therefore with shock that she had walked in on the two of them so deep in conversation, the topic being her she quickly realised as the older woman beckoned for her to join them at the table where they sat, pushing a brochure towards her.

“We have organised for you to attend a private boarding school in Scotland Sierra” Sierra’s eyes flew to hers in disbelief “What!!”, she cried, her eyes staring at the two.  “But…I plan on staying here.  My home is here”, she declared, her voice rising in panic.  Max had been the one to speak. “You have no family, nobody to look after you”  Raising his hand as he silenced her protestations. “You need an education Sierra and it is the most sensible thing for you…you cannot stay here forever”

Raising her small chin she gave him a withering look.  “I want to return to my home and stay on at school here”, seeing as the other two looked quickly at each other, his mother wringing her hands nervously, “I’m sorry Sierra, your mother did not own the house.  It was rented.  The owner has taken it back already; your belongings are in storage”

Sierras mouth closed abruptly, her look flying from one to the other.  “How could I afford this?”, her hand sweeping to the brochure of what appeared to be an expensive boarding school.  Max looked back solemnly. “Your mother left insurance money with instructions that it be used for your education.  It seemed important to her that you did well”, his hand moving to cover hers, Sierra pulling hers back.

“Then I can rent the house and stay at school here” His voice had been harder, more firm, “No.  You are only fifteen Sierra you can’t rent a house or be by yourself…this is the only option”  Looking hopefully at the older woman she pled softly, “You could rent it for me…and I would pay you”, the two shaking their heads emphatically.  Max’s voice brooked no argument, “No.  You leave tomorrow, it is all arranged”

Rising, Sierra turned to Mrs Alessandro, gently thanking the older woman for her kindness before turning to Max, her eyes growing colder as she moved wordlessly out of the room.  Halfway up the stairs, Max caught up with her. “This really is for the best Sierra.  I hope you come to see that”

Pausing to look at him her expression had been icy and calm. “You were kind to me during all of this and I want to thank you for that”, a coldness deep in her tone, “but all I wanted to do was to stay in the place I call home…and you made sure that I couldn’t do that.  I will never forget that Max Alessandro…never”, before turning and running back up the stairs, tears streaming down her eyes.

That was the last words she shared with Max, the next day Sierra finding herself flown from the island to start her new life in a Scottish boarding school.

 {next installment Nov 20th}

Betrayed By the Billionaire (pt 5)

Chapter Five

Moving to his stateroom later that evening, Max paused, his look flying to the door in which the woman who had been filling his thoughts all night slept.  Sighing softly, his hand rose to the handle of his room; he froze hearing the whimper from within the other room.  Knocking gently he called her name, hesitating before the sound of crying made him open the door, sliding inside.

Sierra was laid under the silk sheet, her body writhing under it as she seemed to be tossing and turning, tears streaming down her face as her whole body shook.  In great agitation she was moaning and whimpering pathetically, Max moving quickly over to where she lay.  He held down the groan seeing her laid on the large bed, so stunning, her long hair falling around her, adding a youthful look to her beauty.  Wearing a small silk nightdress, the shoestring straps showing her soft creamy flesh, his eyes tried not to stare at the way her breasts, only just covered by the thin material, drew his eyes, his body instantly reacting to her sensuality.

As another groan had been torn from her lips he dropped down beside her, taking her into his arms holding her tightly to him, she clutching at him as she murmured over and over in abject misery, “No…No”   His hands gently soothed her hair as her head lay tucked under his chin.  Whispering comforting words he felt as she slowly seemed to relax until her breathing became more regular, deeper,  a more restful sleep finally taking her.

He continued holding her for ten minutes, ensuring that the nightmare did not return he told himself, not prepared to admit how having her in his arms, breathing in the scent of her seemed so right.  Finally he laid her back down against the pillow, his look again taking in how beautiful even in sleep she seemed, her smooth skin luminescent in its perfection.  Her long lashes swept across her cheeks and that determined mouth, the mouth he so badly wanted to kiss, so red and enticing.  Max frowned at this thought.  Even in sleep her mouth was set in a stubborn line, a smile lighting his own as his eyes flicked across her features.  She stirred softly and to his surprise whispered his name.  Not full of the coldness that she used during the day, but softly, gently the strangest of sensations filling him as that her lovely lips curved into a gentle smile, Max backing slowly from the room.

At breakfast the following morning Sierra appeared early wearing a pair of light summer trousers and shirt with capped sleeves.  She looked cool and efficient, Max giving a grin as she moved towards him, seeing the small frown fall onto her smooth forehead.  “What is so funny?”, she bit at him as he leant forward to pour her a cup of tea .“You are on a boat in the middle of the sea and dressed for the office” His eyes trailed down her.  “Don’t you own shorts or a bikini?”

Giving him a contemptuous return look she sat down opposite accepting the drink. “I think that you seem to forget Max that I am here to work.  This is not a holiday for me”  His eyes were mocking as they continued to follow her every move.  “And when was the last time you had a holiday Sierra?…And I would love to know just how you spent it”

Her eyes flicked uncomfortably to his, the shutters well and truly closed as she gave a small ‘pfft’ sound.  Sitting further back into the seat, she had not been prepared to admit that for the three years she had worked for Sean she had never taken a holiday, never able to pull herself from her work.  Sighing at her refusal to answer he too sat back, a playful smile touching his lips.  “OK, well perhaps you will tell me how you ended up working for Sean”

Sierra had been thankful for the safer less personal subject to talk about.  She told him of finishing boarding school and winning a place at one of the top universities in the country where she studied business and law.  He gave a smile, seeming to appreciate her success, surprising Sierra.  When she left university with a First she had won an apprenticeship with a record company.  Sierra had soon shone in her new role with her efficiency and the organisational abilities able to get any job done.

With a smile she remembered the day in which she walked into a conference room, Max enjoying the story as she told of coming across a woman sitting in tears moaning softly and flicking through numbers on her mobile phone.  She managed to get the story out of the woman that she had to get in touch with an executive who was refusing to answer, the woman seemingly terrified that her employer would be furious with her if she did not succeed.  Sierra had quickly opened up her computer, carrying out some research on the executive until she found the one piece of information which she used to be put through to his office.  The other woman thanked her as she took her business card, brushing her tears away.  Sierra had thought nothing more of the meeting until the following week, when the singer Sean G himself entered her office and offered her the job that his previous assistant had just resigned from, she finding out that the woman had given him the details of their meeting.  He had doubled her wages there and then and Sierra had never looked back.

Chuckling, Max squinted at her, the sun behind her giving her an almost angelic look.  “From what I heard Sean is not the easiest person to work for”  Her lips quirked as she nodded softly.  “He…..well he can be brusque”, her eyes full of humour, “But then so can I”  Max nodded, remembering the many arguments the two had when she was growing up, knowing that she was not someone who would ever let anybody walk over her, the only person in his youth who had ever stood up to him.

“The first time he yelled at me I tore a strip off him and explained that if he did it again I would ensure something very bad befell his beloved tuxedo collection” He laughed loudly as her lips curved into a smile at the memory.  “From that day on we never seemed to have a problem”  Max grinned, respect in his eyes.  “You always were a little hell-cat Sierra…and I imagine that you got results which would have been more important”

She nodded her head, giving a small shrug.  “I seemed to have a knack for it”  He knew that she was playing down how challenging the work would have been.  In a voice which he hoped did not sound too interested he asked gently, “I hope that you forgive me for my assumption that you and Sean had some kind of relationship.  He is a man of … appetites I believe, and I can’t believe that he would not be interested in someone as lovely as you”

Sierra had given him a surprised look, once more feeling the way her heart jumped at his compliment, her lips smiling.  “He tried”, she chuckled, “But I pointed out to him that it would be a bad idea”  She had not elaborated on the many months he chased her trying to get her into bed, before finally accepting that things were never going to move that way.  Surprisingly this had only strengthened their working relationship and friendship, she becoming somebody he could talk to, an almost sisterly figure, knowing that no matter what she would always be honest with him.

“Well having mocked you for your work ethic…I must do some of my own”, he grinned, his smile once more caused her insides to flip-flop so alarmingly.  Rising, he paused at her seat, Sierra looking up at him swallowing the small moan seeing him in a t-shirt and shorts, his lean hips so close to her.  “Your mother would have been proud of you Sierra”  His soft words were full of genuine sincerity and took her by surprise, a small tear rising to her eye a she nodded softly, turning from him so that he would not see her reaction as he moved away.

For the rest of the morning she retreated back to her small office, responding to the many emails that awaited her.  By midafternoon she sat back with a soft sigh.  Her desk was clear, nothing more left to deal with, and she bit her lip softly.  Moving from the office she made her way up to the deck, leaving the air-conditioned interior and instantly feeling as the mid-day sun caused her clothes to stick to her as the heat hit her like a wall of hot air.

She looked at the shimmering swimming pool, the clear cool water so tempting, her eyes taking in that nobody else was around.  Savaging her lip with indecision she finally gave way to temptation, moving back to her stateroom and pulling on a bikini, allowing her long hair to fall free around her shoulders and down her back.  Grabbing a towel, wrap and sun hat she once more returned to the poolside.

Not one to gingerly step from the heat into the cold water she dived cleanly into the coldness, the sense of relief on her skin instant as she gave a small half-laugh half-cry at the change in temperature, the small laugh forced from her lips.  Swimming two lengths of the pool she finally turned onto her back floating happily, her eyes closed as the water lapped lazily against her body.

The splash had been unexpected, Sierra’s eyes flying open as Max surfaced beside her, a large grin on his face.  “So you do have a bikini…holding out on me Sierra”  She pushed out to the side, a scowl on her face.  “I don’t recall saying I hadn’t brought one”, she bit out in annoyance as he laughed.

“Am I scaring you away?”  Sierra turned to face him, her chin raised defiantly at his obvious challenge.  Shaking her head she struck out, once more swimming a length of the pool gracefully gritting her teeth as he easily kept pace with her.  Reaching the other end she pulled herself out moving to lie on one of the comfortable sunbeds, annoyed when Max dropped into the one beside her.

“I thought you were working”, she managed between gritted teeth, his large smile only making her angrier.  “Nope.  All done and I am all yours”  Her withering look said much as he shook his head.   “You know, sometimes Sierra I think that you are not happy to be here”  Turning to face him, the disbelief clear on her features, she spluttered, “You have got to be kidding me.  You planned this, although I can’t understand why you would bother”

His sensual laugh filled her ears  “Really…you can’t imagine why?”, raising himself so that he could look down at her, his eyes flashed full of humour, Sierra pulling her sunglasses over her eyes to hide her discomfort.  “You always did like to annoy the hell out of me”  His laugh again brought a reluctant one to her.   The ringing of her mobile saw her jump, a sigh escaping her as she heard Sean from the other end.

Max listened as she jotted down notes on the pad which had appeared from nowhere, her expression serious as she hung up giving him a lop-sided smile.  “Sorry – work calls” Max nodded as she moved back down the deck; he took the time to admire her curvaceous figure and the way she moved so gracefully away.  Her long hair swung around her body making her seem younger, softening her features causing him to have to hold down the desire that rushed through him.  With a small frown he wondered when the gangly little girl he had known had become the sex kitten who just left.

She did not reappear again till later that night as dinner was being served.  Max shook his head gently, asking,  “Do you always work such long hours?”  Sierra looked at him with surprise, nodding.  “Sean’s life is hectic, I enjoy it”  Sitting together alone at the table, she felt unsure, her eyes once more flying to admire Max as he poured her a glass of wine, Sierra taking it, appreciating the crimson liquid, smiling softly.

The last time she had been on the island and stayed with his mother and him, the older woman had been suffering from a serious illness, Sierra saddened to hear of her death two years ago after a long illness.  Flicking a look at him, she had licked her soft lips.  “I was sorry to hear about your mother Max.  She was a good woman”

He sighed softly, nodding.  “She liked you too Sierra”, his voice soft, “I really appreciated the flowers and card you sent”  Sierra looked at him with surprise.  She had sent the flowers to the funeral home and was surprised that he had even seen them.  “You must have received many tributes”, she murmured softly.  Max nodded, “Yes.  She was well respected”  He looked carefully at her, a strange expression on his face. “I read all of the cards.  I would have replied but you didn’t include a return address”

His eyes held hers as the very air between the two sizzled with sexual tension; Sierra was the first to drop her look as she took a long calming drink, quickly changing the subject as she asked what he had been doing in the past few years.   He answered her many questions about mutual acquaintances, she finding herself relaxing in his company as the years seemed to melt away, the two enjoying their meal together.

She listened, hearing the fate of the many friends she grown up with, the boat taking the few children to the mainland each day.  Most had married and had families, Sierra laughing shaking her head with disbelief.  “I can’t belief that it has been so long”, she murmured dreamily, her mind still seeing the named people as the children she remembered.  As silence fell between them she flicked another look at him.  “So what about you Max?  How come you never married and settled down to raise a brood of arrogant, aristocratic offspring”

He chuckled, the corner of his lips turned upwards.  “Never seemed to find the right woman”  His look became playful.  “Either that or I felt taking myself of the market would be so unfair to all those women out there”  His statement made her laugh, Sierra realising that she was enjoying being with him.

The small clock on the wall chimed ten and she grimaced. “Didn’t realise it was so late” she said, giving him a large smile.  “I am up early in the morning – still lots to do before we reach the island…so I think I will head for bed”  Max rose with her, feeling the twang of regret that she was leaving, as he wished her a good night, she smiling warmly back before moving from the galley.

 {next installment 13th Nov}

Betrayed By the Billionaire (pt 4)

Chapter Four

Returning to the cruiser she quickly changed, moving to her office.  She had worked into the early hours of the morning finally giving in to the sleep that tugged at her, knowing that she could not expect answers back to her many calls and emails until the next day.  Even then, despite the exhaustion which pulled at her, she found sleep hard to come by, her thoughts constantly returning to the man from her past.  Turning onto her side once more in the large luxurious bed she sighed as the memories of ten years ago once more filled her.

He had been gorgeous then but today he was even more so, maturity suiting him very well she mused as she punched the pillow into a more fluffy position, a flash of anger filling her the memory of the incendiary kiss making her moan softly.   Ten years ago he had not looked at her the way he had that night.  He had thought of her as a precocious child, but that night he made it more than clear that he did not see her that way now, Sierra surprised with how much that thought filled her with excitement.  With a sigh, she once more tossed in her bed.

The news of that night meant that they would need to leave the area the next day, Sierra telling herself that she was relieved that this meant that she would not have to see Max again, telling herself that she was better off not dealing with him, the words sounding hollow even to her.

As daybreak finally filled the sky with light Sierra found herself on the deck of the boat.  Having slept fitfully the previous night she gratefully welcomed the coffee offered to her as she sat by the railing, enjoying the peace of the early hour before the area would fill with noise from the many boats mooring or leaving.  She allowed the calm to fill her, her mind already starting to fill with tasks for that day, one in particular high on her priority list.

“Good morning!”  The call from the larger cruiser they were moored beside caused her to flip around, her hand shielding her eyes from the now bright sun, her mouth dropping at seeing the man leaning against the bigger boat’s railings.  “Max?”  Her voice had been full of disbelief as he lifted his coffee cup in salutation.

“W…what are you doing there?”  His mouth curled into a large grin “Well I happen to own this and am sailing back home today…so I just stayed over after the party”

Sierra bit back the question that instantly flew to her mind, realising that it was none of her business if he was alone or not.  As they had entered the party the previous day, she had not missed the stunning woman who draped herself over him, or the way he looked back at her, wondering if she was still on board or if she had left already.  Max Alessandro was not known for holding on to women.

Her voice stiffer than she meant, she gave what she hoped was a disinterested look.  “Well bon voyage then”, she bit out, as he gave her a knowing return look before straightening and moving out of sight.  Craning her neck to see where he had gone, she was surprised to see him walking down the gangplank before moving to their boat, a small expletive leaving her lips.

“Permission to come onboard”, he cried, Sierra feeling her heart beat faster as she had not known what to say, the memory of his kiss once more filling her mind.  “Erm…  I…”, she began as Sean’s voice filled the space. “Of course…permission granted”  Sierra cursed as he moved up to where she sat, Sean also appearing.  With an irritated look she took in the fact that her boss was still wearing the blue tuxedo from the previous night, giving him a disapproving sigh.  “Let me guess.  You just got back”  Sean winked back at her, a wicked glint in his eyes.  “Ah Amor”, he breathed playfully, patting his heart as she raised her eyes heavenward.  As Sean threw himself into one of the large deck chairs he ran his hand down his face looking tired, Sierra knowing that he would most likely spend much of the afternoon asleep.

“Sean!”  The voice of Max Alessandro had been full of humour as he too took in how the other man was dressed.  “Did you enjoy the party?” The singer chuckled as he nodded, gesturing for Max to join them as coffee had been delivered.  Sierra allowed her eyes to flick down Max, once more unable to ignore the way he always affected her.  For having partied most of the night she was sure, he looked remarkably well rested.  Shaved and wearing a white t-shirt and jeans, he was relaxed and devastatingly handsome.

“Did you fix your problem?”  His question pulled her from her reverie as Sierra sighed, shaking her head, “No.  I am still waiting to hear from some people…but things are not looking good”  Sean gave a deep sigh, his mouth pursed with annoyance.  “What exactly is the problem if I might ask?”, Max’s velvety voice queried, Sean looking over at him with a grimace “My video shoot was meant to be next week.  We had booked all the crew and the island for the video, but now the owner of the island has called off.  Seems there has been some family problem”, he replied,  a tired sigh leaving him.  “So now we have to find another island paradise complete with sandy beaches and crystal clear water and get the right permission from the government or the owners before we lose a fortune in wages and production time”

Max chuckled softly, his eyes falling on Sierra, his voice full of fun.  “So you need to find an island”, his hand ticking off the points on his fingers.   “Preferably one privately owned so that you don’t have to go through the bureaucratic process, one that has crystal clear waters and sandy beaches that perhaps run all around the island itself and with facilities for your crew”

Sean nodded, his expression somber “Yep.  That is pretty much it.  Don’t suppose you would know of one”  His eyes widened with interest as Max’s eyes rested on Sierra.  “I might” Sierra, who had been listening to the conversation realised what he was getting at, sitting up in her chair as she blustered,  “Like I said, I am waiting to hear back from people.  I am sure that we can get things sorted…there is no need”, her eyes flashing with warning as Max’s mouth broke into a wide smile of understanding.

Sean however, was confused “Where….if you know somewhere, then where?” Max pulled his mobile device from his pocket; quickly handing it over to Sean to allow him to look at a collection of photos of an island Sierra knew only too well, a paradise that she had loved with all her heart.  Sean flicked through the pictures, his look becoming more excited as he grinned.  “Do you think you could organise for us to use this place?”, his question hopeful as the other man laughed.   “Sure.  It’s my home Sean.  You and your crew are welcome to film if you want”, a mocking innocent look coming to his eyes.  “In fact I’m surprised Sierra didn’t think of it too”

Sierra once more spluttered, “We couldn’t possibly put you to all that trouble Max, a crew can be upsetting for the other residents”, even she knowing that she was ranting.  He however, gave her a smile, shaking his head.  “I think that the others on the island will find it fascinating.  Will be a huge thrill for them”

Throwing her a ‘be quiet’ look, Sean took his hand happily, thanking him profusely.  “Sierra will join you in a couple of days.  She needs to make all the arrangements and liaise with the crew”, his eyes turning to her. “Looks like you get to go home…how wonderful has this turned out?”, ignoring the daggers she threw at him as Max drawled softly,  “As I was telling Sierra earlier Sean, I am leaving myself today to return home.  The trip should take a couple of days and it seems a shame for you to have to cut your holiday short to get to an airport when I could take Sierra with me.  Sierra’s head whipped around, the stunned look on her face saying more than any words as Sean stood, a big smile on his face.  “That is incredibly kind of you Max…isn’t it Sierra?”  Her eyes narrowed as she had not known what to say, biting down the toxic answer as she fought for some reason to say no.

“I have a lot of work to do.  I need access to phones and Internet and fax…and…”, her voice trailing off seeing the smile on the Spaniard’s face “Well if that was the only problem, you are in luck.  The ‘Urchin’ has a fully fitted office” He stood shaking Sean’s hand before turning to her, his eyes full of mocking laughter.

“Well we leave in an hour, so just drop off what you need and I will see you then”, giving a brief farewell as he left, Sierra unable to say any more, her mouth gaping with how neatly she had been manoeuvred onto his boat.  Sean chuckled, also rising.  “Well, looks like we’ve got that problem resolved”  His expression became innocent.   “Lucky that you have no interest in the man”  Her return glare made him laugh loudly, before he looked down at her.  “Seriously though Sierra, you have been working so hard.  You know there is nothing left to do until the shoot.  Take some time and relax”

As she moved onboard his boat, Max himself met her, insisting on taking her on a tour.  As they passed the staterooms in the belly of the boat, he led her into one.  Whistling in appreciation she admired the size of it along with the tasteful decor, Max giving a small smile as he declared it to be her room.  She tried to tell him that she would not take his room, Max giving a laugh. “Damn right you won’t”, he chuckled showing her the room across, every bit as large, Sierra trying not to show her discomfort at how close he was.

The tour had continued with Sierra impressed with the large living room, study and galley which made up the rest of the space.  Having dropped off her bag in her room, the two once more returned to the deck.  Leaning against the rail she enjoyed the cooling sea breeze as the cruiser had by that point cleared the harbour, with the port town now only a small line on the horizon.  Max joined her, standing close to her back as his arm moved around her, offering her a glass of iced lemonade, which she accepted with fingers she hoped did not shake having him so close.  However, as his mouth leant in against her ear, she gave a startled jump.

“So Miss Summers, when did my little tomboy become a temptress?” Her body became rigid as she moved further along the rail, forcing him to lean in against the section she stood at.  With a note of disdain she flicked a look over at him.  “I just grew up”, adding bitterly, “It was kind of forced on me”  His irritated intake of breath gave her the satisfaction of knowing that she had hit a nerve, before sighing softly.

“My best friend at school, a girl called Clara, used to have me home with her on the holidays.  Her mother ran a modelling agency, and gave me some pointers”   She grinned with the memory, adding with a soft murmur, “I think I became a bit of a project for her”

He raised his glass. “Well kudos to Clara’s mother”, his tone mocking before adding, “Although I kind of liked the little tomboy”  Her look became contemptuous as she turned to fix him with hard eyes .  “You NEVER liked me, you were always finding fault and arguing with me”  His deep laugh made her grit her teeth with annoyance.  “Did it ever cross your mind that I enjoyed our ‘arguments’?”  Sierra looked at him in surprise.  About to retort, the captain called down to Max, he giving her an apologetic smile before moving away.

“Sorry, I have a go at you for your work ethic, and it looks like I will have to spend most of the day working myself.  Please make yourself comfortable Sierra, and the office is at your disposal I will be working in my room” She had been confused with the rush of disappointment which filled her, nodding softly at him.

With nothing else to do she retreated to the office, contacting those who needed to know about the change of venue.  The hours flew by as she rescheduled flights and arranged for equipment to be delivered to the new location and when the soft knock on the door had been heard, she frowned at the realisation that it was nearly eight in the evening.

She had been informed that dinner was being served in half an hour, Sierra quickly retreating to her room to pull on a summer dress and wash up.  When she entered the galley, the table had been set for two, the wonderful aroma of lobster filling her nose as her stomach rumbled softly, the realisation that she had not even stopped for lunch coming to her.

As she entered, Max was been busy putting the many side dishes onto the table, Sierra quickly moving over to help, her wide smile full of appreciation.  “Did you cook this?”, she asked in a voice full of wonder, he giving a roguish return smile,  “I would say yes…but you always could tell when I was lying” Sierra gave a half-laugh full of humour at the memory of how only she would always call him out on his many outlandish claims, all of which were designed to test her knowledge on different topics.

“Well you were pretty bad at it”, she chuckled. “Even I knew that sharks did not grow feet at night to come on land and hunt for young children who stayed out too late”  His small laugh filled her ears .  “Yes that was one of my best”  Sierra threw him a pitying look, “Like I said you were never any good at it”, she joked, as the two sat together at the table.

He looked tired, she thought, as he piled food onto his plate, opening a bottle of wine and pouring them both a generous glass.  “Long day?”, she asked softly, as he nodded, “And not over yet”  His eyes moved to hers.  “I apologise Sierra, but I have a conference call in half an hour so I am eating and running”

She nodded gently.  “Not to worry…I’m feeling pretty frazzled myself so was going to have an early night.  Regarding her thoughtfully, he ran his finger along the edge of his glass. “I don’t think this call will take more than an hour.  We could take a walk on the deck if you’d like”, his voice trailing off as she shook her head with a smile.  “Thanks, but right now the thought of soaking in the bath in the en-suite seems wonderful.  Sean’s boat only has showers”, she said, a dreamy look in her eyes.  “I am going to just lay there for hours”.

Max chuckled, trying not to show his disappointment. “Well, whatever floats your boat”  The two finished their meal, making small talk to fill in the gaps, Sierra aware as both avoided any personal questions, before all too soon and with a rueful grimace he stood.  As he made to lift her plate, she shooed him away. “I think I can clear a table”, she smiles, as he nodded, moving out and leaving her alone.

{next installment 6th December}

Betrayed By the Billionaire (pt 3)

Chapter Three

“Now why such a deep sigh?”  The velvety words made him turn around, pulled from his memories by the woman now stood before him.  She moved in closer, rising on her toes to drop her mouth against his, the kiss soft but held for longer than was necessary as their eyes locked, her look full of heat and sex and promise.

“Now darling, you need somebody to bring a smile to that face of yours, it is your birthday after all”, her lovely amber eyes flicking tantalisingly down to his lips, her meaning very clear as he stepped back.  “And what would your husband say to that Alanna?”, he joked seeing the small smile on her lips. “Well…if you don’t tell, then neither will I”. she murmured sensually, Max giving a small laugh as he shook his head.  “Pass…and you are a very naughty girl”  Her throaty laugh one that could test the resolve of any man.  Taking a step from him she looked seductively over her shoulder, her words dripping like honey from her perfect mouth “Well if you change your mind…you know where I am”

Max closed his eyes softly against the temptation just as his look fell on the couple who just entered the room.  He did not even register the way Sean G was dressed, his look completely focussed on the woman at his side.  The previous day she had been beautiful, today she was stunning.  Dressed in a blue sleeveless cocktail dress, the material clung to every delectable curve of her body, her hair held high on her proud head only elongating her figure further.  Looking around he could see that he was not the only man who had noticed her, a strange jealousy ripping through him as he moved to where they stood, the other woman forgotten, the sight of Sierra Summers pushing all other thoughts from him.

“Hello Sean”, he smiled reaching the pair, his look falling to the woman by his side.  “And hello Sierra”, his eyes delving deeply into hers.  Sierra felt the small shiver running through her as she murmured a suitable response, trying not to show the way his presence was once more making the blood rush to her ears, her heart beating frantically, angry at having any reaction to this man from her past.  Sean was laughing as he looked around the party nodding with approval.  “Nice Max…and happy birthday”, he grinned before turning to Sierra, a wicked glint in his eyes.

“Excuse me Sierra…I see somebody I need to talk to” , he said, quickly leaving her standing, her eyes glaring at him as he left the two alone.  Taking a calming breath she fixed a smile on her lips, hoping that her voice would be steady, uninterested.   “Yes happy birthday Max…I am sure that you have a lot of people to talk to, please do not let me keep you”

His deep laugh made her look up at him, a frown on her features as he shook his head.  Taking her arm, he moved her to the dance floor pulling the less than keen woman into his arms.  “You really need to work on that poker face of yours Sierra; you never could hide your true feelings”.  Dropping all pretence she hissed back at him, “What do you expect Max.  You know exactly how I feel.  Do you really want me to make nice?”, her teeth clenched tightly as he held her even tighter to himself.

“Now why are you so angry at me?”  His soft voice brushed against her cheek, Sierra suddenly so aware of the way he held her, their bodies tight together, his intoxicating aftershave enveloping her.  Keeping her head down it was all she could do not to moan softly and breathe the scent of him in deeply, confused why she should be feeling so like wrapping her arms around his neck and moving in even harder against him.  Taking a few seconds to calm down, she finally answered ,“You know exactly why.  And please do not think that ten years has changed the way you made me feel”

He gave a small sigh of exasperation.  “I was only doing what was right for you Sierra”, he replied, sensing as she had tensed in his arms, her head rising to him. “Really?…And what gave you the right to decide what was best for me Max?  It was not what I wanted and you knew that”  He had felt the anger rising within him, once more amazed how this woman of all others could irritate him in a way nobody else ever could.  Even now while he had never been more aware of a woman, he just wanted to shake her, his tone steely, “Yes you are so good at making decisions Sierra”  Confusion filled her features as she bit back, “and what is that supposed to mean?”, seeing the contemptuous look rise in his dark eyes. “You never were good at choosing men.  Sean is a great guy, but why the hell are you putting up with your boyfriend parading the other play-bunnies in front of you?”

Her loud gasp sent warning bells ringing within him as her eyes flashed angrily at him “I’m not his girlfriend!”, she hissed, indignation bristling through her.  Max frowned, while feeling the oddest sensation of relief filling every part of him.  “Then why is he introducing you as his ‘main girl’”, seeing the way she glared furiously back at him.  “He calls me that because I organise his life.  Without me he wouldn’t know which day of the week it was…it is just his nickname for me.  Sean has never liked titles like PA”  Her eyes raked him contemptuously, “But way to go for jumping to conclusions Max.  You always did like to think the worst of me”

Inwardly he kicked himself before feeling irritation rise. “You did not correct him.  You knew how it would sound…so don’t have a go at me jumping to the wrong conclusion” The two danced silently together, both seething for a few seconds, before Sierra sighed softly known that he spoke the truth.  Sean was always introducing her in that way, partly because he found it amusing the way she would correct him and define her true role in his life.  She had not done that when they met Max the previous day, the realisation filling her that she wanted him to think that she and Sean were more than just business friends.

Clearing her throat nervously she looked up, her voice more subdued as she gave him a sombre look,  “I was sorry to hear about your mother”, her voice full of sincerity as he gave her a small sad return smile. “Thank you…I know that you were both close Sierra”  Silence once more fell between them both before he pulled back slightly to look down at her just as the music stopped.  “Why did you never return to the island?”

Sierra paused.  Her plan had been to escape him the minute the song ended, however with a question still unanswered she cursed inwardly as he led her to a table, knowing that she could not politely get away before answering, annoyed that he seemed to manoeuvre her into a position she did not want to be.

Finally seated, he took two glasses of champagne from a tray offered by one of the many waiters moving around the throng and handed her one.  As she ran her small tongue along her glistening mouth before answering, she was unaware how this small act had sent a strange heat slamming into Max.  “Well…I was only at the school for two years, and was lucky enough during the holidays to stay with friends.  Besides I had nowhere to go.  No home, no family there, where would I have gone?”

His soft voice had been slow.  “You would always have been welcome at my  house”  Sierra looked into her glass, her mouth curling bitterly as she gave a small bitter sound, a half-laugh containing no humour.  “Now isn’t that strange?  I got the impression that your house was the one place I was definitely not welcome”  Her eyes flew to his. “As I recall you could not wait to get rid of me”

His mouth clamped shut, his brows knitting together in annoyance, before with a sigh he offered, “I’m not home often…I would have been only too happy to leave instructions for you to use it” For some reason Sierra felt the hurt slam into her, not sure why his desire not to be around her affected her so much, determined not to allow him to see how much his words pained her as she nodded softly. “Well I will bear that in mind”, just as her phone rang loudly.

Placing her drink down, she answered the call making apologetic gestures to Max as she fled from the crowded noisy warm room to the cool gardens on the other side of the ornate French doors.  For half an hour she talked to the man on the other end, annoyance filling her with what she was being told, before dropping the device back into her purse, sighing as she stared blankly into the night sky, her smooth forehead furrowed in concentration.

Behind her she heard the sound of somebody joining her, Sierra forcing a bright smile on her face as she turned, the look turning to one of annoyance seeing Max stood before her.  “Don’t you have other guests to annoy?”, the words out before she could stop them, her features becoming apologetic.  “I’m sorry.  That was uncalled for.  I just got some bad news and I need to go back to the office”

Max however, moved closer to her.  “Do you always work this late?”, a rueful smile dropping to her lips as she nodded.  “Yep.  Life with a rock star I guess”, seeing as he fixed her with strange expression, as she gave a small laugh. “Well it was most unexpected running into you again Max”  His lips twitched. “But happy birthday.  Enjoy your party”

Making to step around him, he moved before her.   “What…no kiss for the birthday boy?”  Looking thoughtfully up at him her voice had been mocking.  “I thought that you weren’t interested in ‘bratty little children’”, she murmured, her voice dripping with disdain as he smiled, a wolfish smile which caught her completely off-guard as his arms flashed forward to grab her waist, pulling her in against him as his head dropped.

“What I believe I said was I preferred real women, not scrawny little vagabonds”  Sierras eyes widened at his remembering the exact words he had thrown at her so long ago.  “And you are neither scrawny nor a child now Sierra”  His mouth dropped to claim hers.  His kiss had been wonderful; gentle yet demanding.  Her determination to push him aside melted instantly as his hands rose to cup her face, hers fluttering for a second before settling on his waist. A soft groan left her as his tongue flicked across her lips parting them as she tasted him, savouring him, her body falling against his.

Pulling slightly back, with eyes which burned brightly with fire, his voice was hoarse,  “Why don’t you forget work…stay with me?”  Her eyes fluttered, the temptation so strong, before she realised what was happening.  With a gasp she pulled back, stepping from him, her look full of confusion, not sure what had happened as she had stammered, “I…I don’t think so.  H…Happy Birthday Max”, before fleeing once more through the open French doors, desperately needing space between them.

Quickly finding Sean, she explained the emergency, insisting that he stay at the party as she would take the car and send it back for him.

{next installment 30th October}

Betrayed By the Billionaire (pt 2)

Chapter Two

Sitting back in her office, Sierra tried to concentrate on the email before her, swearing softly as she had once more been unable to focus on the words on the screen.  Finally giving up she gave a sigh of exasperation, pushing back into her seat as she stared sightlessly out of the window, memories of the past filling her.

Even for a twelve year old, Sierra had been small, her loose-fitting baggy clothes hanging from her thin frame, her short hair hidden under a baseball cap.  That day she stood before two bigger boys, a towel holding a haul of large apples at her feet, her hands balled before her as she glared at them.

Both boys, much taller than she, were trying to take her hard-earned prize, the best apples from the tree plucked earlier by herself from the top after a hazardous climb.  The first boy, the larger, stepped forward, and pushing her, sent her sprawling to the ground.  Quick as a whip, she jumped to her feet, launching herself at the boy, who taken aback by the unexpected attack screamed at her to get off, his friend jumping in to pull her away, Sierra fighting like a demon but completely overpowered.

It had been the loud voice behind that finally caused the two to clamber away from her, Sierra finding herself on the ground as they fled.  Looking over she was stunned to see the older boy looking down at her.  Even at twelve she knew that there was something special about the tall handsome stranger, her eyes scrunched up from the sun as she looked up at him, her mouth mutinous.

“I had them…you chased them off”  The look of surprise on his face had quickly been replaced by one of irritation, an arrogant lifting of his eyebrow as he bit out, “Really?  Seemed to me that they were about to hurt you pretty badly”

Ignoring the outstretched hand to help her up, she rose to her feet, swooping down to retrieve her apples before warily looking on at the stranger who was regarding her somberly, his brows furrowed in concentration.  “I have never seen you before” his eyes solemn, as she shook her head “My mum and I just moved here…my mum is working up at the big house” His head nodded in understanding.

“So what’s your name kid?”, he asked, bending down to lift one of the apples which slipped from the towel and rolled towards him, offering it back to her.  Taking it, she quickly secured it once more within its towel, her eyes flicking nervously to him. “Sierra”, she answered, stiffening as he laughed.

“Sierra! What kind of name is that for a boy?”  Sierra stood as tall as she was able, her whole body bristling with indignation. “Boy? I’m not a boy.  What kind of idiot are you?”  The stranger stopped, his mouth open in disbelief.  “A girl!…you’re a girl!” a note of real concern creeping into his voice as he looked her up and down.  “Did they hurt you?…Are you OK?”

Sierra pulled the towel tighter in against herself, her brows knitted angrily in a frown.  “I’m fine…and like I said I could have taken them”  He shook his head, a small smile on his handsome lips.  “Feisty little thing aren’t you?” Amusement crept into his tone as she glared back at him, “And what’s YOUR name?”  His grin widened. “Max Alessandro”

Sierra raised her small chin “And you said my name was stupid”  His brow rose again as she looked down at the towel in her hands, suddenly aware of how petulant she was being to the person who saved her from the two would-be thieves, her voice softening slightly.

“Well I guess you were only trying to help…so thanks”  His lips twitched again, as he inclined his head. “You are most welcome Sierra” Sierra felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickle as he continued to watch her as she turned and scurried away, not sure why even then she had been so aware of his eyes on her back the whole time.

It had not taken her long to discover everything about her knight in shining armour, he the only son of the Alessandro’s, the super-rich aristocratic family who owned the island that she had moved to, the seventeen year old held in high regard by all of those she asked.  The girls in her class treated him as though he were some kind of rock star, their eyes glazing over just at the mention of his name, the boys just as impressed with his sports ability, Max a strong swimmer and runner.

Sighing, she groaned, pulled once more back to the present as Sean moved into the room, his face full of questions “So….you know Max Alessandro?”  His seemingly innocuous question just the tip of the iceberg she knew, Sierra not prepared to get pulled into the barrage about to come her way.  Looking up at her boss, her face schoolmarmish, her lips tightened.

“I told you we lived on the island his family owned…nothing else”  His smile widened. “Really?  Because I got the impression you didn’t have much time for him”, a smile playing on his mouth, “Which would make you the only woman I have ever met that wasn’t head over heels for the guy”

Shrugging, she lifted some paperwork “I have no real feelings either way for him”, looking up at Sean with an irritated frown “I am just busy…and could do without having to spend tomorrow night schmoozing with him and his friends”  The singer stood his ground, Sierra swallowing the groan knowing that he was not ready to drop the subject.  The ringing of her phone had been a blessing, as she was relieved to hear the Project Manager for Sean’s up-coming tour, knowing that the conversation would be a long one.  Mouthing the manager’s name, Sean gave a disappointed sigh, moving from the room, returning once more to the women still partying on the main deck, relief filling Sierra, as for the rest of the day she worked long and hard, able to avoid her boss.

The next day she worked until midafternoon, trying hard not to think about the party later that night.  Informed by Sean that it was to be a prestigious event, she had shaken her head hearing that he planned on wearing a gaudy blue tuxedo, Sierra not really surprised.  Sean was well-known for his less than typical  flair; Sierra smiled knowing that it fitted his image perfectly.

She had told herself that she did not care about what she wore to the party, however, by mid afternoon with her work up-to-date, she found herself in one of the exclusive boutiques that provided designer outfits for the rich and famous visitors of the millionaire holiday retreat, informing Sean that he was going to be footing the bill for making her accompany him.  From there she visited one of the most exclusive salons, Sean’s name ensuring that she was seen almost immediately.  Two hours later she left the salon, her long black hair piled high on her head, wispy sections falling sensually against her cheeks, the style showing her long graceful neck, the finished look chic and playful.

When she joined Sean that night, he whistled softly. “Now…I would like to think that you look so damn hot for my benefit Sierra…but I have to wonder if it might have something more to do with Max Alessandro than me”  Giving him a derisory look, she waved her hand dismissively. “Hardly.  Just wanted to make sure that the bill was big enough for you not to drag me into some dreary formal event without my permission again”  He winked, his eyes shining with laughter. “Yeah sure”, he replied, before the two left the boat.

Max moved around the large function hall.  Everywhere he went, people stopped him to wish him a happy birthday, many of the women taking the opportunity to drop a kiss on his cheek, some more daring.  At 30, he was rich, powerful and handsome – a deadly combination for the many beautiful women who cast their eyes in his direction, their looks promising much.  He however, had been disinterested, his look constantly falling to his watch.  Sean G was well known for arriving on the wrong side of fashionably late, not something that ever concerned him, however that night he was not going to be alone, the memory of his reunion with Sierra Summers sending a jolt of awareness through him.

The last time he saw her had been under very different circumstances and she had been a very different looking woman, his look rueful – no, not a woman – a child.  No more the awkward gangly girl with limbs too long for her small body and short hair which never seemed to sit quite right, she had grown up.  Taking a sip of his wine he held down the tremor the mere sight of her caused him the previous day.  Yes, she had grown up all right and how she had grown.

Frowning he looked down into his drink.  She was still angry with him he could tell, her body language clear on that one, but he and Sierra always had a volatile relationship, she the wayward tomboy and he the big brother who would swoop in to save her, even if she did not want saving.  Since their first meeting when she was twelve, they saw a great deal of each other, the island not that big.  While with his authorative air people always did as he asked, Sierra had been the only one who stood up to him, the two arguing constantly, their relationship a tempestuous one.  However, while he would never admit it to her, he always enjoyed seeing her, enjoyed the challenge she provided and he suspected she felt the same.

His mind flew back to the night ten years previous, as driving back from his girlfriend’s house, he caught sight of one of the young boys from her class turning down a well known lover’s lane, his eyes widening with disbelief seeing Sierra in the car seat beside him.  With a muffled curse he had turned his car around, slowly manoeuvring it down the winding lane, his eyes searching the off-shoots that most cars would use to park until he finally spotted the vehicle now sat with the engine off.  Pulling in, he left his top of the line sports car and moved down towards the other, hearing voices.

“Come on Sierra, it’s festival night…you know what happens on festival night”  The unmistakably lecherous tone of the other boy, Yanis, set his teeth on edge as he moved ever closer.  He heard the sound of the car moving as Yanis sidled closer to her, finally hearing Sierra’s voice.

“You can stop that now Yanis”, her words sounding slurred to his ears as Yanis gave a mocking laugh.  “Oh, I don’t think so” Max heard the sound of movement and the seat being pushed backwards, a loud gasp from her.  Hearing the obvious sounds of a struggle Max quickened his pace, pausing at the window as he took in what was happening inside the car.

Sierra was struggling, her body language full of panic as Yanis’ mouth landed on hers, his tongue pushing against her tightly-clamped lips, his hands pulling at her dress as she desperately tried to push him from her, unable to free herself under his weight.   He could hear the excitement of the boy, his breathing becoming raspy as his clammy hands pawed at the small woman trapped under him, touching her breast as she tried to scream, the sound lost in his mouth as he forced his tongue down her throat.

All this happened in the split second that it took for Max to tear the door open with force, Sierra aware as the weight of Yanis left her, her eyes which were tightly shut flying open.  With hands balled to stop himself from thumping the younger boy, he was aware of two things instantly.  The first was Yanis sprawled on the ground his eyes full of bemusement as he tried to understand what had happened, the other was a terrified Sierra pulling her dress back down, the skirt riding well over her knees from Yanis’ attack.  She gave a low sob as she pulled free the seatbelt, which was keeping her trapped, stopping her from fleeing the car, finally able to escape the vehicle.

Looking back over he could see as Yanis was pathetically trying to explain how it was not his fault, Max’s eyes blazing with fury as he reached forward and grabbed the younger boy by the scruff of the neck, dragging him back around to the driver’s side before throwing him none too gently into the car “Get the hell out of here Yanis, and if I hear any more of this then I will be coming after you”

He had seen the relief on the younger boy’s features as he nodded, his eyes not once resting on Sierra, who stood in shock, her arms wrapped defensively around herself, quickly starting the car and driving off at speed, his need to escape the wrath of Max paramount.

Finally alone, Max turned to look at the small girl before him, his features still full of anger. “What the hell did you think you were playing at Sierra?”, his voice hard as she shook.  Opening her mouth to retort, she felt the nausea build, as the combination of alcohol and the shock of Yanis’ attack hit hard, Sierra turning as she had been violently sick, shakily wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.  He knew she saw the complete contempt in his eyes.

“You were drinking too?”, his scathing look flying down her “Is that what you wanted – a drunken fumble in a car, ending up pregnant to some deadbeat kid who would never support you…or is this something you do all the time?”

Sierra turned bright red, the blush spreading all over her body as she stared back at him in a way he knew meant that she was wishing the earth would open up and swallow her whole.  Something in her eyes caused his to narrow.  “For God’s sake, you’re a virgin aren’t you?”, he bit out angrily as she felt the flush burn even brighter, complete mortification filling her.  Max moved forward and grabbing her by the shoulders, his hands shaking her, “And you were going to give your virginity up to the first boy who took an interest in you in the back of his dad’s car.  Grow up Sierra”

She pulled herself from him, standing as tall as possible, swaying slightly as the drink once more played with her balance, her eyes flashing angrily back now  “It is none of your business Max Alessandro.  I am nearly sixteen.  I am a woman and I will do what I want”  His look was contemptuous as he shook his head.  “You are not a woman Sierra, you are a child and a bratty one at that”.  The two faced each other as she stood hands on hips, her look challenging “What’s wrong Max.  Don’t you know a woman when you see one, were you jealous of him, did you want to be first?”  His eyes stared back with disbelief, his look once more arrogantly scathing. “I am only interested in real women Sierra, not a scrawny little vagabond like you”

Gasping, she stamped her foot, rage filling her as he stepped forward grabbing her roughly by the arm and dragging her over to his car, Sierra resisting as he pulled back, demanding him to release her, Max ignoring her as he threw her into the passenger seat, locking it as she tried to get out.

“What are you doing!”, she screamed at him as calmly he slipped into the driver’s side of the sports car and started the engine.  “I am taking you home”, he bit out. “Now get your seatbelt on or I will do it for you” Sierra huffily pulled the belt around herself as she folded her arms angrily, her mouth set mutinously, staring out of the window ignoring the man beside her, he full of anger towards the young girl, not sure why it would bother him so much.  The only time she spoke to him on the journey to her home had been to declare that he was a bully and a beast and that he had made that day the worse of her life.

Pulled back to the present, he sighed wearily.  Neither of them was to realise at that time just how prophetic those words were to become and that it truly was to be the worst day of her young life.

{next installment 24th October}

Betrayed By the Billionaire (Pt 1)

Chapter One

Sierra Summers stood transfixed at the rail of the luxury cruiser, her large aqua eyes wide with stunned shock behind the oversized sunglasses which she earlier pulled on for protection against the blazing mid-afternoon sun.  Now however, they served as a barrier between herself and the object of her disbelief, the sensation of panic and queasy unease sitting heavily within her stomach, her look drinking in everything so familiar about him, not understanding the hurt which swamped her.  Had she not put that part of her life behind her long ago?   Taking a deep steadying breath she had been unable to take in the beauty of the marina, its berths full of yachts and cruisers, the toys of millionaires such as her boss, her eyes solely focused on a man she had not seen in nearly ten years, the occasion of their last meeting causing a knot of pain to slice through her as her fingers gripped the railings tightly.

She had been thankful for her position on the cruiser.  Stood high on the top deck, Sierra was sure that he would not have noticed her, the throng of half-naked gorgeous women moving around the main deck’s small pool, clearly visible to those on the dock far more enticing than she, she was sure with a bitter curl of her lips. The loud music from that area was making many of the mainstays of the marina frown with disapproval, even she noticed, the man she was focussed on who stood talking to another, his look flicking to them as they berthed beside where another even larger boat was already docked.

While to all the cruiser must have appeared to be full of party people, she preferred to remain somewhere else whilst her employer, the notorious womaniser and world renowned singer Sean G, enjoyed the simpering attention of the pool babes.  Relieved, she felt sure that she would not be seen by the man below when far more tempting treats shimmied around pouting and flirting outrageously.  Her vantage point also allowed her eyes to drink in everything about him, her heart beating faster just at the sight of his handsome and imposing figure.

Below her she watched as Sean leapt to his feet, his eyes falling on the figure of Max Alessandro as with rising dread and panic she watched him waving his arms to the other man “Max!!!” The Spaniard below ended his conversation and waved back “Hi Sean” his handsome face breaking into a large grin, Sierra feeling the way that smile even now could send her pulses racing.

“Come on board Max” Sean laughed, genuinely happy to see the other man Sierra could tell.  She silently prayed that Max would refuse, not aware as she held her breath until releasing it with her heart now a crescendo of sound within her ears as Max nodded, the gangplank being dropped to allow him to board the cruiser as she swallowed down a groan.  Instantly the giggling hoard of women surrounded him, Sierra sure that they could not believe their luck seeing the new arrival.

While Sean was a good-looking man, he was no Max Alessandro.  Sean with his dirty blond hair and slim but wiry build and average height could not compete with the tall athletic Spaniard, his glossy black hair fashionably cut, his chiselled features and dark sensual eyes surrounded by the longest lashes she had ever seen setting him above mere mortal men.  Again she thought that Max Alessandro was the most handsome man she had ever known, he always had been.  Even as a child he had fascinated and stunned her.

As he was lost to sight she could only imagine the gaggle of irritating women all over him, Sierra frowning at the sensation of jealousy which swamped her.  With her head rising proudly she swallowed down the bitterness.  She was nothing to him, she had only ever been some irritating little child that he had at times been forced to deal with, she savaging her lips with the need to escape.  Perhaps if she was to return to her office, she could be spared any chance of meeting up with the man who even now had the power to cause so much disruption to her.  Hastily retreating back to the room which Sean converted specifically for her use as an office she opened up her email, answering the many messages waiting for her.  As she worked she tried hard to ignore the occasional high pitched screams and giggles which would float up from the many intellectually challenged woman on deck.  With teeth gritted she fought not to think about the man now a guest onboard.  The man who would be enjoying the attention of the vain and bratty women Sean liked to surround himself with.

Sitting on deck, Max Alessandro laughed with his friend Sean G, refusing a drink on the pretext of driving, not prepared to get dragged into the party taking place around him.  The women lavishing their attentions on the two men were starting to irritate him as a blonde pushed herself against him, her breasts most definitely too big and most likely not natural too close for his liking as he moved to the railing.

“Nice boat Sean” his only comment as the singer joined him, talking animatedly about the size and many additions he had added, his enthusiasm so clear.  Max however, allowed his eyes to roam to the upper deck, scanning to see if he could catch another glimpse of the woman who had so captured his interest, disappointed to see the area she had stood now empty.

“So you staying onboard Sean, or here for other reasons?” the other man gave a small chuckle.  “Just off a world tour Max…just needed to chill…I am partying my way to the next tour in three months” Max nodding softly, his mouth curled in a smile.

“Well I am having a thirtieth birthday party tomorrow…so if you want to come…” his eyes moving to the many women all pouting as the men talked privately “Bring one of your friends if you like”

Sean gave a small smile a conspiratorial wink his answer as his voice lowered “Not sure that they will still be here tomorrow” his eyes flashing “You know how I like variety…like you Max” the other man raised his eyebrows as he shook his head.

“One at a time is enough for me Sean” the singer laughed again “Let me get my main girl.  See if we can make it tomorrow, she keeps me right…she is the only one who knows what I am doing day to day” Max tried not to show the flicker of interest at the mention of another woman, the realisation that it was most likely the mysterious woman from the upper deck as he nodded, Sean moving to a phone before returning.

“She is coming right down” Max looked to the deck where the woman he watched earlier had reappeared.  She was stunning.  Dressed in a long summer dress which showed off her perfect figure his eyes followed her every move, not really taking in the story being told to him by the singer at his side, his attention held by the stranger.  Finally reaching them she turned giving him a better look, Max holding down the sigh of appreciation.  Her long hair was pulled into a tight efficient knot at the base of her head, her eyes hidden behind large glasses and her wide mouth showing irritation at having been summoned.  All Max could do was stare.  Unlike the women wiggling and gyrating nearly naked around the pool she was class from the top of her shining head to the tip of her perfectly manicured toes.  Giving a small frown he noticed as she seemed to pause, a strange expression crossing her beautiful features as her wonderful mouth tightened in displeasure.

Sean moved closer to her, his eyes glinting mischievously “Here she is…my number one girl” his voice full of fun as she threw him an annoyed look, her features frowning.  “This woman runs my life…without her I would never get anywhere” Max heard the small derisive pfft leave her as her attention focussed on him.

When Sean called her down, Sierra had been full of panic.  It had taken every ounce of self-control to walk down to meet her boss and once more come face to face with the man who was such a ghost from her past.  Seeing his cool smile she felt the bubble of bitter laughter rise, the realisation hitting that he did not recognise her, swallowing the sound down.  Why should he?  She was nothing to him, only the child whose life he had torn apart.  Anger filled her as he gave a smile, the sensual smile she had seen so often growing up.  Sierra could have laughed as he turned it on her, only hurt keeping the smile from her lips as he stared directly at her as she came to a halt before the two men.

“It is a pleasure to meet you” his sensual drawl sent shivers down her spine.  To his surprise the newcomer’s lips twitched in an almost amused smile as Sean moved his hand to her waist pulling her closer to introduce the two “Max I would like you to meet… ” he began as Sierra placed a hand on his arm to stop him.  “It’s OK Sean – Mr Alessandro and I are old acquaintances” both men looking at her in surprise, Max most of all as he frowned in confusion, before another seductive smile graced his mouth

“Now…I am sure that I would never have forgotten a woman as beautiful as you”, Sierra fighting to keep down the chuckle at his obvious line.  Sean looked blankly from one to the other “You know Max, Sierra?” his tone surprised as the smile fell from Max Alessandro’s face, his look flashing to Sean before with stunned shock returning to her “Sierra?…Sierra Summers?”

Sierra was rewarded to see the way his mouth dropped open as she pulled her glasses off, her unusual aqua eyes holding his.  “Hello Max” she murmured, relishing in his shock.  “Sierra!!” he finally managed, the surprise so clear on his voice, as Sean watched the two “You do know each other” looking at Sierra, who pulled her eyes from the stunned Spaniard to answer

“I grew up on the island Max’s family own.  So yes” she managed, amazing herself with how calm her own voice sounded, despite the fact that her heart seemed to be thudding alarmingly within her breasts.

Sean was laughing, not aware of the obvious friction between the two as he expounded on how small the world was before informing her of the party the following evening, happy as she confirmed that he had no plans.  Sierra turned back to Max, a playful mocking look coming to her eyes

“I don’t think you want to miss one of Max’s parties Sean.  From what I hear they are wild” his eyes narrowing slightly as they held hers, Sierra once more experiencing the intensity that was Max’s displeasure and once more feeling the excitement that it always resulted in.

“You mean WE” Sean laughed, Sierra’s expression turning to shock as she spun around shaking her head “No…Take one of the barbies” she bit out to him, seeing the way Max’s mouth curled triumphantly, now his turn to mock her.  “No…I insist Sierra.  You should not have to live with hearsay” his eyes travelling down her pointedly “And you are after all old enough now.  I absolutely INSIST that you accompany Sean”

Max had been rewarded seeing the way her self control slipped as she glared at him, his mind once more full of the small girl with the same eyes, so wilful and wild, so unlike the chic perfectly turned-out ice-maiden before him.  Sierra clamped her lips together, her lovely mouth showing her displeasure as she gave a less than sugary sweet return smile.

“Fine.  I look forward to it” Gritting her teeth not to tell him how she really felt, not enjoying the way his smile mocked her as she turned stiffly to Sean “Is there anything else?” her tone cold as he regarded her with surprise at her obvious snub to his guest, not something she ever did.

“No…That was all…thanks” Sierra nodded “Then I have to get back to work.  There are a lot of arrangements to be made for the tour and the upcoming video shoot” turning briefly to Max, she gave him a slight nod, her eyes icy daggers “Until tomorrow then” moving back to her office, her back rigid.

“What the hell got into her?” Sean’s surprised voice pulled Max’s look from the woman he remembered so clearly from his past.  Shrugging softly he made an innocuous comment about women, Sean fixing him with a look full of so many questions

“I would have to guess that whatever it is has something to do with you” Max not prepared to elaborate as he shrugged once more. “Perhaps” Standing straighter and holding out his hand to the other man he passed him an invite with the party details.

“Well I have to go Sean…I will see you tomorrow” seeing the disappointment on the other man’s features knowing he hoped to find out more on the past history of himself and the woman who had just left them.  Moving quickly to the gang plank the gaggle of women pouted at the handsome man leaving, Max glad to be away from them, his smile dropping at the meeting of the woman he had not seen in nearly ten years.

{next installment 17th Ocober}