Days of grueling heat in the desert sun had followed as Hakim had used the knowledge taught him by his Bedouin grandfather to seek shelter in the wild for him and his small sister. He had eventually found his grandfather’s tribe. He and his sister had survived, but Hakim would never forget the cost.

A small sound from Catherine brought him back to the present. He realized he had caressing her neck with his thumb. Her eyes fixed on the huge screen, but her body was wholly attuned to him and hummed with sexual excitement.

A month of seducing her toward marriage might very well be overkill.

Catherine reveled in the feel of Hakim’s arms around her and pretended it meant more than it did. It was only natural that he ask her to dance with him. After all, he was her escort for the evening and everyone else was dancing.

The black-tie charity ball was to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. She’d invited Hakim to be her escort, half expecting him to say no, but he hadn’t. He’d agreed to bring her and even to have dinner with her family beforehand.

Her mother and sister were completely charmed by his exotic charisma and enigmatic presence. Even in a business suit and tie, the man exuded sheikhness.

“Your sister is very kind.”

She let her body move infinitesimally closer to his and fought the urge to lay her head on his shoulder and just breathe in his essence. “Yes. She and I are very close.”

“This is good.”

“I think so.” She smiled up at him.

His expression remained serious. “Family is very important.”

“Yes it is.”

She wasn’t sure where this was headed.

“Having children, passing one’s heritage from one generation to the next is also important.”

“I agree. I can’t imagine a married couple not wanting children.”

Finally he smiled. “Perhaps there are those that have reasons, but you would never be one of them.”

She thought longingly of marriage and family, specifically with this man and it was all she could do to keep her smile pasted in place. “No, I’d never be one of them.”

She was unlikely ever to be married at all, but why bring up that depressing thought?

His thumb started a caressing rotation in the small of her back and her thoughts scattered, even the depressing ones.

Closing her eyes, she gave into the urge to let her cheek rest against his chest. He’d probably never ask her to dance again, but she just couldn’t help herself. Instead of acting offended by her forwardness, Hakim settled her more fully against him and danced with her until the music changed to a faster beat.

He didn’t ask her to dance again that evening, but he didn’t neglect her, either. Using his easy sophistication to deflect the interest of other women who approached them with the intention of flirting with him, he kept his interest fixed firmly on her and her heart gave up the battle.

She was in love.




Catherine opened the card attached to the flowers. It read, “For a woman whose inner beauty blooms with more loveliness than a rose.”

Tears filled her eyes and it was all she could do not to cry. She and Hakim had spent the night before at a benefit concert. Catherine had gotten up and spoken on behalf of the children and their hopes and dreams. She’d been shaking with nerves, but she’d felt compelled to make a plea on the foundation’s behalf.

Afterward, Hakim had told her that her obvious love of children and compassion for them had shown even through her nervousness. She’d been warmed by the compliment, but the long-stemmed red roses totally overwhelmed her.

She put the vase on the corner of her desk where both she and the rest of the librarians could see them easily.

Picking up a pile of papers that needed filing, she contemplated the crimson blooms. He made her feel so special, even if they were just friends. Sometimes it felt like more than friendship and her hopes would soar, but what else could it be when he never so much as kissed her?

They spent a lot of time together and her attraction for him grew with each occasion, but he appeared unaffected on a physical level by her.

She wasn’t surprised.

She was hardly the type to inspire unbridled lust in a man like Hakim, but her desire for him continued unabated. Growing with each successive meeting, both it and the desire to be in his company became gnawing needs within her.

Her thoughts stilled along with the rest of her as Hakim walked into the library. She should be used to his arrival by now, it happened often enough and every time since the first, he’d made it clear he had come specifically to see her.

He walked toward her with an unconscious arrogance that she found rather endearing. HE was just so sure of himself, but then he was rich, gorgeous and had been raised a prince. Why wouldn’t he be?