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He's back. Just the sight of the mysterious desert prince standing in her small, Beverly Hills shop made Rena Winters' heart beat faster.
As before, he wore a dark, hand-tailored suit with masculine power and grace. His traditional head covering, a white kaffiyeh bordered in red and gold, gave an air of mystery to his tanned face. She'd learned the silver and gold cords binding the kaffiyeh, denoted his high rank, but she didn't need the symbol to recognize his aura of authority.
What she did need was a way to protect herself from being captured by his essential maleness, his dangerous potency.
As she rose from her jeweler's workbench, separated from the front displays by a wall and pane of glass, her nipples tightened into little buds aching to learn the touch of his hard, sensuous mouth.
Why him? Why now?
From the moment she'd first seen him two weeks earlier, when he'd come to her shop with a gorgeous twenty-carat natural Burmese ruby and twenty-four double rose cut diamonds, erotic fantasies featuring him had invaded her dreams.
Now he'd returned for the jewelry she'd designed, and she was practically panting like a bitch in heat.
Get a grip, she told herself, then mentally groaned at an image of his long, elegant fingers sliding across her skin, cupping her breasts, and lowering his lips to her oh-so-willing–
Abruptly, she broke off the thought and shrugged into her tailored, pearl gray blazer to hide her obvious arousal.
After two years of a disastrous marriage and a coldly civilized divorce, Rena had been convinced she was truly what Chet had called her–asexless bitch. How often had he mocked her saying he should've realized anyone with the maiden name, Winters, would be as frigid as an ice queen, as cold and hard as the diamonds she used in her one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces?
"Miss Winters," Rena's clerk, Mitzie, paged her on the intercom. "Sultan El Yazid is here for his order."
"Thank you, Miss Johnson. I'll be right in."
Congratulating herself on her coolly composed tone, Rena smoothed her black hair into its already severe knot at her nape, and entered the walk-in safe to retrieve the gold, ruby, and diamond necklace.
Mitzie's giggle floated in from the other room through the intercom. Flirting as usual, Rena thought enviously. Her clerk was everything she wasn't–warm, sexy, comfortably sensuous, and had a date every night.
After drawing a breath to steady her emotions, she stepped into the store carrying the velvet case containing the designer piece.
The sultan wore his usual impassive expression as he gestured to his aide who also functioned as interpreter.
The aide said, "Is that the special piece my sidi, my master, commissioned?"
Nodding, Rena opened the case, lifted the shimmering strand of gold and diamonds, and arranged it on dark blue velvet with the ruby pendant, in its stylized cloud-of-light setting, placed in the center of the display form.
In a businesslike manner, Rena turned the centerpiece to show the back, explaining, "The pendant may be removed and worn as a pin."
Moving closer, El Yazid gently clasped her hand and raised it to his lips in the continental fashion. "Shukran," he murmured, his warm breath washing over her sensitive skin.
Alarmed by her unexplained attraction to him, Rena drew back and surreptitiously wiped her knuckles on her skirt.
The sultan's gaze caught hers. Heat flared in his dark brown eyes, then his expression once more became impassive.
Again, the sultan made a hand gesture. His aide handed her a bank draft saying, "El Yazid is pleased and says, shukran, thank you."
She already knew that since she'd taken lessons in Arabic, planning to visit Egypt and Morocco to study ancient design elements first hand.
Minutes later, the two men left, the aide carrying the elegant gold bag with the discreet store logo.
Copyright © 2003 by Barbara Clark.