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Darker Side of Desire & the Sheikh's Pregnant Prisoner(66)

By:Penny Jordan

“A clingy, dumbstruck lover?” Something hard entered his eyes. “Or a disgruntled husband?”

“No, no husband—” she half choked on the word “—and no lover either.”

“I’m hiding from myself,” she said, giving voice to the sentiment that had been gnawing at her for a while. “For one night, I wanted to be someone else, something else. I wanted to be daring and beautiful and a woman who lived in the moment. I wanted to be anyone but me.” She caught the wistfulness in her voice and colored. “I’m sure you could not understand even if you tried.”

He smiled and the grooves in his cheeks made his square jaw even more masculine. Straight white teeth gleamed in the silvery light, the lower lip jutting out in its fullness.

Having grown up surrounded by arrogant, unbending men like her father, King Theos, and half brother Andreas should have made her impervious to the aura of power that surrounded Gabriel, should have made her wary of that ruthless quality that pretty much had ruled her life when her father had been alive.

But it didn’t.

For some unknown reason, she had always found herself drawn to Gabriel. To his confidence and arrogance.

“What makes you say that?” he ventured softly, as if he really wanted her opinion of him.

“You are Gabriel Marquez. Your reach and power…you own every space you enter, isn’t that what they say?”

He shrugged, as if it were all matter of fact. “I have strived all my life to become what I am, to own everything I do today. And, no, I have never wished to wear another’s skin.”

Gray eyes searched her face. The perusal sent heat rushing to her cheeks. Long fingers drifted lazily onto her hips and every nerve in her body pulsed and stretched taut. As if it were possible to become smaller or less curvy by willing one’s body to shrink.

If he noticed her instinctive reaction to his touch, he didn’t heed it. Back and forth, his fingers traced the curve of her full hips, like butterfly kisses.

But it was rapt attention that went to her head, as if she had drunk something to make her euphoric. No man had ever looked at Eleni without the consequences of what and who she was.

Either she was an asset or a liability.

Either she was too low because she was illegitimate and held no real position of power in Drakos, or she was too much of a hassle to get involved with because she was close with her powerful brothers, the Princes of Drakon.

She belonged neither with the palace staff, nor on the wall of the East Hall that was graced by centuries of members of the distinguished, blue-blooded House of Drakos.

“Then my disguise, and my attempt at grabbing this moment under it, must seem like a joke to you. Pathetic even.”

“You’re wrong, querida. Even I need escape sometimes. Even I have to face the fact that I cannot control everything. That I cannot control fate and all the games it plays with us.”

A thread of something in his tone tugged at her. As if there was something this powerful man needed that she could provide.

“I came…because tonight I cannot escape what tomorrow brings for me. Because tomorrow I face something I dread.”

“Gabriel Marquez, afraid of something?”

Those grooves of his winked at her as he smiled again. “Shh…querida. You will spill my secrets and ruin my reputation. Now, tell me, what is it that you want tonight?”

The answer to a question had never come so easily before. “A kiss. I want a kiss.” She swallowed at the flames of desire that licked at his gray eyes. “From a man who wants me. Not a pity kiss, Gabriel.”

Hands on her hips, he swiveled her with masculine ease. Too shocked by the sudden contact, Eleni turned willingly.

A glass pane stood in front of them, reflecting their image. Even though she was wearing four-inch heels, he still easily overpowered her in height. She barely came to his shoulder. And his breadth—he was so overpoweringly male.

She felt like a doll, a fragile doll, compared to him. Not at all a practical, matter-of-fact woman, but a flimsy, fantastic creature of the night.

Even in the moonlight, it was clear that she was turned on. Her eyes glowed with gold flecks; her mouth, painted vivid red, was wide and vulnerable. She looked stunning, a mix of innocence and desire.

“Do you still think I would kiss you out of pity, querida?”

“No,” she said loudly, the whisper of his touch filling her with a sense of feminine power.

Swiveling in his arms, she vined her arms around his neck.

When his cool lips slid over hers, Eleni jerked at the contact. For a huge man known for his arrogance, Gabriel kissed with a tenderness she couldn’t believe. He tasted of whiskey and dark passion, and Eleni pressed into him shamelessly.

As if on cue, his kiss deepened. She gasped and his tongue flicked into her mouth. Stroked over the warm crevices with wicked intent. Tangled with her tongue in an erotic play that had her moaning.

Hard. Hungry. Hot. He kissed her like he wanted to sink into her. Like she offered him that escape he desperately craved.

His kiss rained sensation upon her, set every nerve on fire. Eleni sank into him gratefully while his hands moved over her hips, up to her shoulders, and then clasped her cheeks.

Long thumbs traced the lines of her face, desire painted on his stunning features. He dipped his head again and took her in another stinging kiss.

Her senses in a haze, she barely paid attention to his words. How could she when he nipped at her lower lip as if he meant to devour her?

When he kissed her as though he needed her more than air?

Low and rough, his words sent shivers through her spine.

Cool air hit her eyes and only then did Eleni realize that her mask had loosened.

The warm, male embrace immediately turned into a cold frost. Heat dissipated from her and she had to blink to see.

Her delicate mask dangled from his fingers, and a scowl etched his brow. He stared at the mask in his hands and then at her. Again and again, back and forth, as if he couldn’t believe the sight in front of his eyes.

Her lips burned with his kiss, but this was not the same man. He looked at her as if—she searched his expression—as if she had somehow betrayed him.

“What is the meaning of this, Ms. Drakos?” The mask fell at her feet with a whisper. “What the hell kind of a joke is this?”

She stepped back, the steel in his tone cutting through any foolish delusions she might still be clinging to. “It’s not a joke. It’s nothing,” she whispered and turned away.

Barely had she gone two steps before a vise-like grip had clamped over her upper arm and turned her. “Why are you here tonight? What do you want from me?”

The nerve of the man! “You approached me. You…you ordered me to stay and keep you company. You…I only spoke the truth.”

“So I’m supposed to believe the Plain Princess of Drakon—” he bit out her moniker with such sarcasm that Eleni flinched “—walks around masquerade balls, accosting men for kisses? That this is your nightly routine?”

“I did not accost you at all. And yes…I wanted a kiss. I wanted to feel less lonely for one night. I wanted…” Her voice caught, but she didn’t back down. “Which scenario threatens your masculine ego—that a woman could want to kiss a man, or that in your arrogance you think I came here looking to somehow trap you into kissing me?”

“You lied to me, Princesa. I asked you straight and you said you didn’t know me. Maybe you even got a little power trip from the fact that you knew who I was and I didn’t know who you were. Maybe it’s a little game you play every night with powerful men.”

“You’re crossing the line!”

“I’m sick of deceit and lies. If it is a kiss you want, here it is!”

If Eleni had had any sense, she would have slapped his arrogant jaw, hard. But no, when he touched his lips to hers again, she melted. She had no will or control over her body.

When he licked the seam of her lips, she gasped open for him, like a sunflower.

When he plunged his tongue into the cavern of her mouth, she shamelessly pressed against him.

His hands moved to her bottom and he pressed her against him, until she felt the evidence of his arousal. Until the hard planes of his body were stamped onto her soft curves. Until she was moaning, spreading her legs to feel more of him.

The kiss was over before it had begun, and yet it seemed to spin her senses. And the man who had delivered it looked at her as if she had agreed to sell her soul for pennies. “If you’re that desperate for a man, maybe ask one of your powerful brothers to set you up with one, Princesa,” he said mockingly. “The next man you play your little game with might not be as forgiving as me for your duplicity.”

Eleni stared at him, shaking from head to toe, burning with the unspent desire that he had aroused in her. Desire, she now realized, he had aroused with the sole intention of punishing her.

“I would not kiss you again if you were the last man on earth, Mr. Marquez,” she shouted but he’d already gone.

Try as she might to fight the temptation, she couldn’t help but run her fingers over her stinging mouth. Couldn’t stop tasting him on her lips.