She remembered the papers in her hand just as he reached her desk and leaned over to put them away quickly.

Hakim stopped in front of Catherine’s desk, just as she bent to put something away in the lowest drawer.


“Catherine…”

Her body straightened and her intense blue gaze met with his, her mouth twisted in rueful grimace. “Sorry, I just remembered I had to file these—” she waved a sheaf of papers in her hand “—when I saw you”.

“And it could not wait until you had greeted me?” he asked with some amusement.

“I might have forgotten easily.”

Did she realize what she was giving away with that admission? He already knew he had a definite impact on her ability to concentrate, but a more sophisticated woman would not have admitted it.

“Then I shall have to content myself conversing with the top of your head while you finish.”

“Sometimes, you sound so formal. Is that because the Arabic language is a more formal language, or is it because English is your second language and therefore you don’t slip into slang so easily?”

Not for the first time, her rapid change in topic left him slightly disoriented. “French is my second language,” he said in answer to her question, “I did not learn English until I mastered it.”

She tilted her head to one side. “Oh. I’ve always thought French would be a lovely language to learn. I studied German and Spanish in school, but I have to admit I don’t have a facility for it.”

“I did not come to discuss my fluency in other languages.”

“Of course you didn’t.” She smiled. “Why did you come?”

“To see my friend.”

Something flickered in her eyes at the word “friend’, but was gone too quickly for him to interpret.

“How many what, little kitten?”

Her face heated to rose red as he knew it would at the small endearment. Such words were common in his culture between a man and the woman he intended to marry. They were nothing more than an admission of his intent, but they flustered Catherine a great deal.

“How many languages are you fluent in?” Her voice was breathless and he had the not so shocking urge to steal her breath completely with a kiss.

He could not do it of course. Not here and not yet, but soon. He smiled in anticipation, causing her eyes to widen.

“I’m fluent in French, English, Arabic and all the dialects of my people, little kitten.” He repeated the phrase on purpose just to watch the effect it had on her, which was perhaps unfair of him.

It was startling. She sucked in air, grimaced and then whispered, “Hardly little.”

While she was maybe an inch above average in height for a woman, she often made comments as if she saw herself as some kind of Amazon. He stepped toward her until he stood only for a few inches from her and reached out to brush the smooth curve of her neck with one fingertip. “To me, very little.”

She trembled and he smiled.

Very soon she would be his.

Her head tilted back and she eyed his six-foot two-inch frame with unmistakable longing. “I suppose so.”

He wanted to kiss her. It took every bit of the self-disciple developed in his training with the elite guard to step back and drop his hand.

“I came to see if you would like to join me for dinner tonight.”

Her mouth opened and closed with no sound issuing forth. They had known each other for three weeks now and eaten numerous meals together, as well as attending several formal functions. Yet she acted shocked every time he asked her out.

“Come, this is not such a surprise. We had lunch together only yesterday.”

She smiled whimsically. “That’s why I’m surprised. I thought you’d want to spend time with…”

Her voice trailed off, but her eyes told him what she had been about to say. Other women. She had so little concept of her own value. While he should be relieved his duty would be so easy to see through, it made him angry she dismissed herself so easily.

“I want to spend time with no other woman.”

He had no difficulty reading her expression now. Her eyes were filled with both joy and hope. Yes. She was ready. He had courted her long enough.

“I would love to have dinner with you.”

“Then I shall see you this evening.” He turned to go.

“Hakim.”

He stopped.

“You could have called. It would have saved you an hour of driving here and back to Seattle.”

“Then I would have foregone the pleasure of seeing you.”

She looked ready to melt at that assurance and he smiled before walking away. His duty would be fulfilled very soon.

CHAPTER THREE

Hakim took Catherine to his favorite restaurant on the waterfront for dinner. The ambiance was quiet and elegant. Perfect for proposing to his future wife.

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