“You’re a virgin.” He nuzzled her cheek, but she didn’t feel any sexual intent in his touch, just a sweet affection.
Because she wasn’t some sexy thing who made a man crazy with lust. In the last few minutes, she’d thought maybe… But oh, god, they were just being nice, just killing time on a long flight. She’d come on to Rafe, and they’d felt sorry for the silly little virgin. They were amusing themselves at her expense.
“I think we should get to know each other better.” Rafe’s logic hit her system like an iceberg splitting the Titanic open and laying waste to everything inside. His tongue had been inside her body. How much more did he need to know? It was an excuse. He didn’t want her. Or he didn’t want the responsibility of taking her virginity. It was an old-fashioned idea and, for a moment, she wanted to argue with them, to tell them she could handle it.
“Let us hold you for a while.” Kade wrapped a hand around her waist. “We will keep you close while we sleep. When we get home, we will sit and talk.”
Right. They would talk about what a nice girl she was and how someday, some faceless, nameless, but really smart guy was going to see her for the beautiful woman she was, blah, blah, blah. This had meant so little to them, they hadn’t even bothered to get naked. No, they’d stripped her to the bone and kept their pants on because they didn’t want any more intimacy with her.
All the lush sensuality and wonder she’d felt just moments before turned to ash. “Get out.”
Rafe’s head came up. “Piper, everything will be fine, habibti. Rest. We will take care of you.”
She was deeply aware that before they’d shown her how beautiful this could be, she would have acquiesced and taken what they offered. She would have enjoyed being cuddled between them like some fragile doll they were too afraid would break. Or some gift they meant to give to someone else because they didn’t want it themselves. But she wasn’t the same woman she’d been even a few hours ago. And she wasn’t going to lie here, humiliated and vulnerable, so they could feel good about consoling the idiotic virgin. “I asked you to leave, Mr. al Mussad. Are you going to honor my wishes or are you going to stay here against my will?”
“Please don’t do this. You do not understand.” Rafe blanched as though he’d just realized she meant what she said. “Habibti, your virginity is important. It is precious.”
She pushed her way up and grabbed the shimmering gown placed across the bed. If she didn’t, they would argue and cajole until she gave in and hated herself all the more. She clutched the silky fabric to her breasts. “Fine. It’s a precious flower. Excellent. I’m completely intact. You’ve done well. Now go away.”
Kade frowned, rising to his feet and circling the bed. He would be the dangerous one. He would charm and cajole. She had to stand her ground against him. “I’m not going anywhere, Piper. You act as if we are rejecting you. We’ve done nothing of the sort.”
She didn’t want to argue semantics with them. She wasn’t stupid. They could put it in a million flowery words and it amounted to the same thing: She was good enough to play with, but not tempting or pretty enough to make love to. She was deeply sure she would eventually discover that their rejection was a “cultural” thing. Well, she was heartily sick of hearing about their culture and all the ways she needed to change.
“I asked you to leave, Kadir. If you don’t, I will. And I can assure you that when I get a chance to talk to the sheikh, I will certainly mention how his brothers treated me.”
“I assure you my brother will be thrilled I managed to leave you intact,” Kade snarled at her, getting into her space with a challenging stare. “He sure as fuck better be. I’m on edge right now, Piper. Denying myself is not something I suffer often or well. It would be best if you did not push me.”
Everything that was female in her rose to his masculine challenge. She wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d started beating his chest. “I think you don’t have much trouble denying yourself, Kade, not when it comes to me. Just go away and find some other fool.”
Kade’s eyes flared, but his brother put a restraining hand on his chest.
“Stop. This can only end one of two ways, and both of them would be very bad for us. You must calm down. You cannot fight or fuck your way out of this. She needs time.”
Rafe’s very calm voice set her on edge. Piper kind of wanted the fight. At least if they fought with her, she could pretend that she roused the same emotions in them that they created in her. “I don’t need time. I understand now. Just…leave.”
She refused to go. Oh, that had been the original plan, but what they’d done was just mean. They’d manipulated her for some reason she couldn’t understand. Maybe it had been a fun game to see just how far she would go. Maybe she would find herself on a plane right back to the States tomorrow because she’d proven to be immoral and not worthy of admission into their precious country. It didn’t matter. Whatever was going to happen would simply happen. There wasn’t a lot she could do about it now. Since they’d stripped her of every bit of her control, she wanted to stand her ground now and make them retreat.
Kade turned and stormed out, slamming the door behind him. Rafe picked up his shirt and shook his head.
“This is not how I would have ended the evening, habibti. Please reconsider. I can call Kade back. Let us hold you. This is all we can offer you now.”
She wished he would just leave. “Please go. I’m tired. I need a shower.”
His eyes narrowed slightly, and she saw plainly that he was forcing himself to walk away. “I will leave for the night, Piper. But do not think for a second that this discussion is over. It has just begun, and the minute the plane sets down, we will be in my country and playing by my rules. I might seem like the softest of my brothers, but never forget that I am a prince. Royalty has taught me to be ruthless, and I get what I want. Sleep well.”
The door closed behind him, and he left Piper alone. With shaking hands, she walked to the shower. As much as she washed, she couldn’t rid herself of the feel of their hands on her. When she finally slept, she dreamed that she was between them, wrapped in their love.
The wheels of the plane touched down, jarring Kade from his deeply unrestful sleep. He sat up and wondered why he’d even tried to sleep in the uncomfortable as hell chair.
“We’re here, sir. The limo is waiting to take you to the palace. The luggage will follow shortly. His Highness has been in touch with the pilot to make sure the flight went smoothly. He’s expecting you all within the hour.” The very competent hostess handed him a thermos of coffee.
He needed it. His head hurt and his back was going to need a serious adjustment. “Thank you. Is Ms. Glen awake?”
It was a stupid question. She wouldn’t have stayed in bed during landing, but he couldn’t exactly ask if Ms. Glen was still pissed as hell that he and Rafe couldn’t fuck her last night.
The hostess smiled serenely. “She has already had breakfast and is looking lovely and fresh and ready to meet the sheikh.”
The hostess walked away, and Kade sat back as the plane began the long roll down the runway. This airport was private. He didn’t have to worry about paparazzi here. But once away from here, that would change quickly.
Rafe walked out looking a bit like Kade felt. His eyes were tired and there was a slope to his shoulders that let Kade know his brother hadn’t slept well, either. “Piper isn’t any happier this morning than she was last night. It is a good thing we ‘forgot’ to bring the suitcase of clothes she’d packed or I fear she would be right back in her dowdy wardrobe out of sheer spite.”
It had been Kade’s idea to leave behind the trunk of her old clothes. He’d made sure there were no mementos or special objects in the case. Just her old clothes that would help her cling to her old life. “All of this could have been avoided if our brother wasn’t such a prick.”
Rafe’s phone rang. He grimaced. “Speak of the devil.” He took his phone and hooked it into the conference room’s sound system. Rafe clicked the answer button right before he shut the door so Piper wouldn’t hear the conversation. She might just demand to be taken home if she did. “We’ve landed, Talib.”
“Excellent.” His brother’s deep voice flowed out of the speakers.
Half the time Talib was his hero. The other half, he was everything Kade himself could never be. Self-sacrificing. Stalwart. True. He was the very image of the last sheikh, a man who had brought their country enormous wealth and who had fought off invaders almost all his life. “How is our little Piper doing? She is well?”
“She is pissed off,” Kade shot back. For all that he loved his brother, he was still mad about not giving Piper what she needed last night. What fucking century were they in that the sheikh had to take her virginity?
He could almost see his brother’s brow arching as his voice became coated with ice. “Piper is angry with the accommodations? They were not to her liking?”
Rafe sighed, sending Kade a glare. “Piper was overwhelmed with the plane. She was sweet and gracious with everyone we met. Once she settles in, she will represent the palace with true grace. Piper was upset because she does not understand our customs, and you will not allow me to properly explain them.”
“How so?” A deep chuckle burst forth. “Ah, did you and Kade play a bit more than you should have? That explains Kadir’s surliness. I’ve begun planning our handfasting banquet. It is only a few days away. You’ll have your turn then. I must say, I’m a bit surprised you’re this eager to bed Piper. She hardly seems your type. I rather thought I would have to fight you over wedding her.”
Kade looked at Rafe, who had a little shit-eating grin on his face. He held up a hand when Kade was just about to question Tal’s eyesight.
“We all know how short we are on time, brother. I understand your reasons for wanting Piper. She is intelligent and understands the chief business of our country. While she is very smart, she is also innocent of our very worldly ways. She will likely be content to live in peace and quiet. The women we previously discussed were all used to the glamorous life.”
Ah. Now Kade understood. Tal was selecting their bride based on very strict criteria, and if there was one thing Tal wouldn’t want it was a wife who would want to make headlines and cause gossip. Piper, while absolutely lovely and feminine, didn’t possess the hard-edged conventional beauty associated with models, actresses, and jet-setting royals.
“Yes, I do believe she will be advantageous on many fronts.” Self-satisfaction oozed from his voice. Tal got that tone when he negotiated a big deal or pushed through legislation he was proud of. “Now, why was she angry? Did you two frighten her?”
So he didn’t know everything. “I told you before we suspected she was rather innocent. I can confirm that she’s a virgin.”
“That is excellent news.”
“She doesn’t want to be, and she’s a little pissed off that she still is.” And Kade’s cock was definitely angry.
Rafe sent Kade his patented “shut the hell up and let me deal with him” look. “But we agreed that we would handle this following all of the traditions of our ancestors, including the fact that you must be the first to take our bride. Unfortunately, we could not explain that we’d whisked her away to be married to three princes and her maidenhead belonged to our oldest brother. I prefer to keep my head on my shoulders. I also was unsure if she would simply jump off the plane.”
“She is a reasonable girl,” Tal argued. “It’s why I selected her. I doubt highly that she will throw a fit when she realizes she’ll have three husbands to depend on and provide for her, and she will have a job unlike any she could have aspired to. Trust me. I know this girl. She never expected to have half so much. She will be grateful.”
Kade very quietly slapped his hand to his forehead. His brother thought he knew Piper because he’d talked to her over the internet? He was wrong. He might know the business side of Piper, but he had no idea how sweet and hot the woman was. And how stubborn she could be. Kade had thought about her all night. Piper wasn’t just going to let them walk all over her. She would fight for herself.
He wanted her. That was easy. Resisting was getting tougher every hour because he was learning to admire her. Even as she’d tossed him out of her bedroom last night, his dick had been hard, while his heart was getting soft. The last several days had been spent completely focused on Piper. He’d learned that she was quite smart and filled with resolve. She challenged him. Kade liked to be the playboy. His older brothers took care of the kingdom. They didn’t need him, but Piper made him think he needed to take charge of something.