Title: Demanding His Desert Queen (part of the Royal Brides for Desert Brothers Duet)
Author: Annie West
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Duty bound at the altar…
Passionately reunited in his bed!
Desert prince Karim needs a bride to ensure his smooth ascension to the throne. Intelligent, captivating Queen Safiyah is the perfect choice, yet the pain of their broken engagement remains.
This time Karim’s demands are simple: a diplomatic agreement, nothing more, for their country’s sake. But Safiyah’s reunion with Karim, the man she was forbidden from loving, is anything but convenient! Duty may have brought them back together, but it’s their undeniable bond that will force them to confront a still-burning desire…
Setup: Karim and Safiyah were once on the verge of marriage, until disaster struck. Now, years later, they are on opposing sides. To their dismay they discover their attraction hasn’t faded but has grown stronger than ever.
Karim had spent a lifetime being reasonable and above all, rational. To weigh his options, consider the implications not only for himself but for others.
Not tonight. Tonight another man inhabited his skin. A man driven by instincts he’d repressed for years.
‘What is it, Safiyah? You’ve got something else on your mind. Is it this?’
He cupped one hand around the back of her head, anchoring his fingers in that lush, silky hair.
No protest came. His other arm wrapped around her waist, tugging her close. He had a moment of heady anticipation as her soft form fell against him, her eyes growing huge and dark as pansies.
Then his mouth settled on hers and the years stripped away.
Safiyah clung, her fingers embedding in the hard biceps that held her to Karim’s powerful frame.
It was so unexpected she had no time to gather her thoughts. No time to do anything but bend before the force of sensations and emotions that made her sway like a sapling in a strong wind, her body arching back over his steely arm.
To her shame it wasn’t outrage that overwhelmed her. It was shocked delight.
She’d never been kissed like this.
Never felt like this.
Even in those heady days when Karim had courted her, for then he’d been considerate and careful not to push her into a compromising position. She’d been innocent and he’d respected that.
Even when she’d married she hadn’t felt like this.
Especially when she’d married. She’d felt no passion for Abbas. No desire. Except the desire to do her duty. And Abbas hadn’t expected anything from her other than acquiescence.
Which made the fire licking her veins totally new.
Safiyah shivered, not with cold but with a roaring, instantaneous heat that ignited deep inside and showered through her like sparks from a bonfire, spreading incendiary trails to every part of her body.
This was passion.
This was desire.
It was like the yearning she’d once felt for Karim, multiplied a thousandfold. Like the difference between the heat of a match and the scorch of a lightning strike.
Her mouth opened, accommodating the sweep of his tongue, relearning Karim’s darkly addictive taste. It was a flavour she’d made herself forget when she’d told herself to stop pining for the mirage of true love. When she’d given herself in a dutiful, arranged marriage.
Because to hold onto those broken dreams would destroy her.
Now, with a force that shook her to the core, they flooded back, a deluge of sensation to a body starved of affection, much less delight.
Once Safiyah had yearned for Karim with all her virgin heart. Now time, experience and loss transformed her once-innocent desire into something fierce and elemental. Something utterly unstoppable.
Instead of submitting meekly, or turning away, Safiyah leaned into his hard frame. This felt as natural as smiling. As necessary as breathing.
Her tongue slid the length of his, exploring, tasting, enjoying the rich essence of sandalwood and virile male that filled her senses. She revelled in the feel of his taut frame solid against hers and rose onto her toes to press closer.
A shudder passed through him, his hands tightening possessively, as if her response unleashed something he’d kept locked away. He leaned in, forcing her head back, deepening the kiss and she went willingly, exulting in the breathtaking intensity of the moment.
Past and future blotted out. The present consumed her. Her need for this, for him. Nothing else mattered except assuaging that.
Karim’s arm slid down her back, his palm curving over her backside, lifting her towards the drenching heat of his muscled frame. Excitement tore through her, a fierce exhilaration as she read the tension of a man on the brink of losing himself.
Then, with an abruptness that left her swaying, he released her.
Blinking, Safiyah watched him step back. Saw his mouth lengthen in a grimace. Saw him shrug those broad shoulders and straighten his jacket as if brushing off the imprint of her clawing hands. He shoved both fists in his pockets and lifted one eyebrow in an expression of cool enquiry.
Flustered, Safiyah felt her heart smash against her ribs, her breasts rising and falling too fast as she tried to get her breathing back to normal.
Her robe had come undone and she knew without looking that her nipples were hard, needy points against the thin fabric of her nightdress. Worse, between her legs was a spill of dampness. Restlessness filled her, the need to climb up that big body, chasing the fulfilment that no-holds-barred kiss had promised.
Instead she stood stock still, feet planted. Mechanically she tied her robe tight. Because Safiyah read the chill in the green eyes surveying her like an insect on a pin. Her skin turned to gooseflesh and the fine hairs at her nape stood on end.
Karim wasn’t even breathing heavily. He looked as calm and remote as a stone effigy. And as welcoming.
Looking into those austere features Safiyah felt all that lush heat dissipate. Instead of his deliciousness, she tasted the ashes of passion.
She might have been swept away by forces she couldn’t control but Karim hadn’t.
‘Well, that experiment was instructive.’ His voice came from a great distance, like thunder rolling across the wide Assaran plain. ‘It’s as well to test these things in advance.’
‘Test what?’ Her voice was husky but reassuringly even. She’d had years of practice at perfecting a façade that hid her feelings.
Those powerful shoulders shrugged nonchalantly. ‘Our physical compatibility.’ He paused, his gaze capturing hers as he continued with conscious deliberation. ‘Or lack of it.’
Deep inside, in that place where she’d once locked her secret hopes and cravings, something crumpled and withered. There was an instant of shearing pain, like a knife jab to the abdomen. Then it morphed into an unremitting ache that filled her from scalp to toe.
He’d kissed her like that as an experiment?
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USA Today Bestselling author Annie West loves writing passionate, intense love stories. She has devoted her life to an in depth study of tall, dark, charismatic heroes who cause the best kind of trouble in the lives of their heroines. Creating heroines who are a perfect match for those strong, stubborn men is one of her all time favorite things. As a sideline she's also researched dreamy locations for romance, from vibrant cities to desert encampments and fairytale castles. Her stories are published in 25 languages in around 34 countries and she loves hearing from readers. Annie lives on the east coast of Australia and her favorite things are books, good company, good food and travel. She’s currently working on a story that she hopes will become her 40th Harlequin Presents Book.
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