What a royal wants
Prince Hafiz devotes his days to his people and his nights to indulging his desires with his stunning American mistress, Lacey Maxwell. But duty requires him to marry a "suitable" bride.
In her deepest secret fantasies, Lacey naively hopes to one day wear Hafiz's ring, until her dreams are shattered and he chooses someone else.
Faced with the reality of a passionless union, Hafiz realizes the years spent with Lacey have done nothing to slake his hunger for her. Instead he's determined to turn his only vice into a virtue for the sake of his country and each other!
About the Author
Susanna Carr has been an avid romance reader since she read her first Harlequin at the age of 10. She has written sexy contemporary romances for several publishers and her work has been honored with awards for contemporary and sensual romance.
Susanna Carr lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family. When she isn’t writing, Susanna enjoys reading romance and connecting with readers online. Visit her website at susannacarr.com.
Read an Excerpt
Her lover's picture was on the front page of every paper in the small newsstand.
Lacey adjusted the dark sunglasses that concealed her bright blue eyes and squinted at the newspaper on display. Although the headline was in Arabic, the print was big and bold. She could tell that something important had happened. Something that could explain the jubilant attitude that shimmered in the marketplace. No doubt Prince Hafiz had made his countrymen proud again.
She wondered what he had done this time as she requested the daily English paper in halting Arabic. Did he add a fortune to the royal coffers? Convince another industry to make the Sultanate of Rudaynah their headquarters? Win an award?
She decided it would be best to wait until she got home before she read the paper. Lacey took another glance at the pictures of Hafiz that covered the stall. His expression was solemn, but it didn't stop the secret thrill sweeping across her heated skin. It was unnerving that Hafiz could elicit that kind of response through a photograph.
The photo was an official head shot the palace systematically offered to the press, but while the image was familiar, it always grabbed the reader's notice. No one could look away from Prince Hafiz's mysterious dark eyes and harsh mouth. He was devastatingly handsome from his luxuriant black hair to his sharp bone structure. Women watched him from afar, too awed of his masculine beauty.
Or perhaps they sensed his raw power beneath his sophisticated manners. Lacey had instantly recognized the sexual hunger lurking below his ruthless restraint. His primitive aura was a silent warning that most women heeded. But for Lacey, it drew her closer.
She had found Hafiz's relentless self-discipline fascinating. It had also been a challenge. From the moment they had met, she had been tempted to strip him from his exquisitely tailored pinstripe suit and discover his most sensual secrets.
Just the thought of him made her impatient to get back home. She needed to return before Hafiz got there. His workload would crush a lesser man, but he still managed to visit Lacey at nightfall.
The blazing sun began to dip in the desert sky, and she didn't want to contemplate how Hafiz would respond if she weren't home.
He never asked what she did during the day, Lacey thought with a frown. At first his lack of interest had bothered her. Did he think time stood still for her until he appeared?
There were moments when she wanted to share her plans and ideas, even discuss her day, but she had always held back. She wasn't ready to reveal the work she had done. Not yet. Lacey wanted to show Hafiz what she was capable of. How she could contribute.
She wanted to show that she was ready to make his sultanate her permanent home.
It hadn't been easy. There were days, weeks, when she had been homesick. Lonely and bored. She had missed her wide circle of friends and colorful nightlife, and she craved the basic comforts.
It was aggravating that the newspaper hadn't been delivered today at her penthouse, but that wasn't surprising. After living in the small Arabian country for almost six months, Lacey still hadn't gotten used to sporadic service, frequent power outages and laborers arriving at work anywhere from three hours to three days late.
Her connection to the outside world was just as erratic. The communication services were usually down, like today. When they were running, the content was heavily censored.
Definitely not the lifestyle she had enjoyed in St. Louis. Not that she was complaining, Lacey hurriedly assured herself. She was willing to forego many comforts and conveniences for the one thing she couldn't get back in the States: Hafiz.
Lacey shivered with anticipation and handed the coins to the newspaper boy. She practiced her Arabic and felt a sense of accomplishment when the young man understood her. Lacey shyly tugged at the bright orange scarf wrapped around her head and tucked in a wayward strand of hair.
Maybe she was ready to show Hafiz what she had learned over the past few months. She wasn't fluent and didn't know everything about the culture, but she was getting impatient. It was time to meet his family and friends.
Lacey bit her lip as she imagined making that demand. The idea made her uncomfortable. She had been stalling. Not because his family was royal but because she was worried she would push too soon.
Lacey didn't want to give an ultimatum. The last time she'd taken a stand she had lost everything. She wasn't ready to lose Hafiz. Unlike her parents, who had no problems walking away from her in pursuit of their dreams, Hafiz hadn't been able to bear leaving her and had brought her to his home. Well, not his home, but his home country.
As much as she wanted to be part of Hafiz's life and share her life with him, she needed to be patient. She had to trust that Hafiz knew what he was doing. Lacey sighed deeply. She wasn't used to allowing another to take charge.
But she was in a country that followed different codes of conduct. She was also in love with a prince, and she didn't know much about royal life. Her presence in Hafiz's world required delicacy.
Lacey was amazed that Hafiz could even breathe among all the rules and regulations. But not once did he complain. His strong shoulders never sagged from the burden. The man was driven to attack every challenge and reach a goal he never discussed, but Lacey guessed that world domination was just the beginning. His obligations were never far from his mind. That is, until he was in bed with her. Then the world stopped as they fulfilled every fantasy their bodies craved and every wish their hearts desired.
Pleasure nestled low in her stomach, beneath the stifling black gabardine caftan. Lacey stuffed the English newspaper into her plastic shopping bag that contained the crimson desert flowers. She hoped the article offered good news, although she couldn't imagine the press saying anything less than flattering.
She hurried off the curb, and the blowing horn of a filthy truck had her jumping back to the sidewalk. Reddish clouds billowed from the dirt road and settled into a fine layer on her soft black boots.
She waved her hand in front of her face, blinking away the grit. Lacey wrinkled her nose at the tart smell of animals, car fumes and rotting sewage. She knew the small country just recently came into wealth, but if this was a decade of progress, she was grateful she hadn't seen the unenlightened country.
A memory flickered of Hafiz talking about his country when they had first met. He'd spoken with love and pride about the rich heritage and romance of the desert. Hafiz had described the tribal music and the exotic spices lingering in the starry nights. When he'd told the story of how the sultanate had been named after the first sultana, Lacey had thought Ru-daynah had to be a romantic paradise.
Never trust a man's idea of romance, Lacey decided as she determinedly stepped into traffic. The high-pitched ring of bicycle bells shrieked in her ears as she zigzagged her way across the street. She dodged a bored donkey pulling a cart of pungent waste matter. A bus whipped past, her plastic bag swatting against one of the male passengers hanging outside the overcrowded and rusted vehicle.
Lacey hurried to her apartment in earnest. Shadows grew longer and darker as the sun dipped precariously closer to the horizon. She nodded a greeting to the armed guards at the gates of the condominium complex. The men, all in olive green uniforms and sporting bushy mustaches, waved her in without a pause in their conversation.
She scurried across the bare courtyard, pausing only as a big insect with a vicious-sounding buzz flew in front of her. Gritting her teeth as she shuddered with revulsion, Lacey turned the corner to access the private elevator that would lead her straight to the penthouse apartment.
She halted when she saw a man waiting for the elevator. Lacey barely had time to gasp as her mind snatched a flurry of disjointed images. A white flowing robe. A golden chord over the white kaffiyeh that covered his hair. She didn't need to see the man's face to sense the impenetrable wall of arrogant masculinity. Of power and privilege. There was only one man who enjoyed a life with no limitations or impossibilities.
"Hafiz?" she whispered.
Prince Hafiz ibn Yusuf Qadi whirled around. "Lacey?" He moved forward and stared at her. He slowly blinked and frowned. His sexy and glamorous mistress was wearing a shapeless caftan and a hideous scarf. There wasn't a hint of makeup on her pale face, but she was still a stunning beauty.
"What are you doing down here?" Prince Hafiz plucked off her sunglasses. He needed to see her eyes. He could always tell what she was thinking and feeling when he met her bright blue gaze.
After he snatched the glasses, Hafiz pushed down the head scarf and was rewarded with a cascade of copper-red curls. His fingers flexed. He wanted to touch her hair. Fan it out and allow the last rays of the sun to catch the fiery color. Sink his fingers into the soft weight as he kissed her hard.
Instead, he slowly, reluctantly, let his hand fall to his side. He gripped her sunglasses until the tips of his fingers whitened. He could not touch her. Not here, not in public. One graze, one brush of skin, and he wouldn't stop.
It didn't help that Lacey wanted to greet him with a kiss. The sight of her closed eyes and parted lips whirled him back to the first time he'd seen her. That fateful night he had entered the luxury hotel near the St. Louis waterfront.
The lobby had bustled with activity and there was a piano bar to the side. The deceptively languorous music had caught his attention, but it was her singing that had made him turn around. Soft and clear like the voice of a well-bred lady, but so rich and velvety that it sparked his wicked imagination.
And when he had seen her, his heart had slammed against his ribs. Lacey was an intriguing mix of contrasts. She had looked like an innocent girl, but her voice held a wealth of experience. Her red hair had flowed past her shoulders like a veil, touching the simple blue evening gown. It should have been a modest dress that covered her from her slender neck to her delicate ankles, yet it had lovingly clung to every curve.
Hafiz had known she was trouble, but that hadn't stopped him from walking toward the piano as she'd coaxed a longing note from the ivory keys.
She hadn't seen his approach as she closed her eyes and raised her flushed face to the sky, swept away from the music. And he had allowed her to take him with her.
Hafiz forced himself to the present and away from the untroubled past. His gaze drifted to the voluminous black gown veiling her body from his eyes. For some reason, that irked him. "What are you wearing?"
She opened her eyes and frowned before she placed her hands on her hips. The movement gave him some indication of where the soft swells and curves were underneath her outfit. "I could ask the same about you," she said as her wide eyes roamed over his appearance. "I have never seen you like this. It's straight out of Lawrence of Arabia"
Lacey's voice was deep and husky as the desire shone in her eyes. When she looked at him like that His skin flushed and pulled tight. How did this woman make him this hot, this fast, without even touching him?
His body hardened, and he gulped in the hot desert air. He could take Lacey against this hidden corner and capture her cries of ecstasy with his mouth within minutes. All he needed was Hafiz shook his head slightly. What was he thinking? The last thing he needed was for the sultan to discover he had a mistress living in the shadow of the palace.
"This is a dishdasha," he explained gruffly as he tried to contain the lust that heated his blood. "I wear it for royal functions. Now explain what you are doing outside alone."
She held up her plastic bag and lightly jostled the contents. "I went shopping."
"Shopping," he repeated dully.
"Yes, I wear this whenever I leave the apartment." She glided her hand down the black gabardine with the flair of a game show model demonstrating a prize.
"I know Rudaynah only asks tourists to dress modestly, but I don't know if I fall in that category. I'm not quite a tourist, but I'm not quite a resident, am I? I didn't want to take any chances."
Hafiz barely heard the question. Whenever she left? She had done this more than once? Routinely? What did she do? Where did she go? And with whom?
It wouldn't be with a man. He knew he could trust Lacey. She had fallen in love with him that first night and saw no reason to deny it.
But he didn't like the possibility that she had a life apart from him. He was the center of her world, and he didn't want that to end. "Whenever you leave?" he asked as his eyebrows dipped into a ferocious frown. "How often do you go out?"
"You don't need to worry about me." Lacey's smile dropped. "Or are you worried that one of your friends or relatives will meet me?"
Hafiz heard the edge in her tone and felt her impatience. He surrendered to the need to touch her and delve his hands into her hair. He needed to feel the connection that sizzled between them.
Hafiz spanned his fingers along the base of her head and tilted her face up. "I thought you spend your days playing your music," he murmured distractedly.
"And dreaming about you?"
"Of course," he said with a slanted smile.
Her smooth brow wrinkled as she considered what he said. "I can think of you while I'm shopping. I'm talented that way."
"No." His sharp tone stanched any argument. "No more excursions. You don't know the language or the country."
"How else am I going to learn if I don't get out and"
"You have servants who can shop for you. Yes, yes." He held his hand up as she tried to interrupt. "You've already told me. You're not comfortable with the idea of someone waiting on you. But they are here to take care of you."
"You can't hide me inside all the time," she insisted as she pressed her hand against his chest. His heart thudded from her touch. "I'm not Rapunzel."
"I know," he said resignedly. She often mentioned that European fairy tale. She once told him the basic story line, but someday he needed to read it in case there was more he should know.
Lacey leaned against the wall and sighed. Hafiz flattened his hands next to her head, her sunglasses dangling from his loose grasp. He stared at her mouth, his lips stinging with the need to kiss her.
But this was as close as he would allow himself. If he leaned into her softness, he wouldn't leave.
The tip of her tongue swept along her bottom lip. "Hafiz, we're outside," she reminded him, her voice hitching with scandalized excitement. "You shouldn't be this close."
He knew it, but it didn't stop him. She was his one and only vice, and he was willingly addicted. He had already risked everything to be with her. Each day he made the choice to risk everything for her. But now the choice was taken away from him, and it was all coming to an end.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a pretty good story. I liked the depth of Lacey and felt I could really connect with her. My heart was broken each time the Prince left her. I felt that what she was going through was quite true to being heartbroken by someone that you think you love. I love getting to look at other cultures and learning about their customs, and seeing Lacey try to adapt to their ways was interesting. Overall a pretty good story.