Yes, she was flustered again and that was right where he wanted her. And Rafe was a bastard because there was no doubt he’d dressed her for this occasion. The brilliantly colored sundress was lovely and modest, but he couldn’t miss the swells of her breasts and the way her skin caught the sunlight. Rafe had trussed her up like a gorgeous bird ripe for the plucking.
“I would have waited,” she murmured.
“But I could not.” He let his hand drop. He was actually surprised that when he looked back on the incident, he meant every word he said. He could remember sitting there listening to the Prime Minister talk about deeply important issues and he’d been watching the clock, waiting for the seconds to tick by until he could talk to her, her slow accent soothing him. He sighed. “It does not matter. I will admit I brought you here for selfish reasons. I thought to dazzle you with everything I have to offer. I have obviously failed.”
That gorgeous skin flushed, and he knew he had her. She just stared at him, clearly uncertain what to say.
“I will leave you be, Miss Glen. Again, I apologize for the deception. I can only hide behind my desire to begin a relationship on equal ground. Please allow my brothers to show you to the rooms I have prepared for you. I will leave you be until such time as we conduct business. I wish you good rest and please enjoy my country.”
Tears pooled in her eyes, but he couldn’t let those sway him. It was time to make his exit and allow the wonders of the palace and her own soft heart to work in his favor. He bowed politely and turned to go, Dane stepping in beside him, Landon and Cooper in flanking positions.
The big former SEAL had a frown on his face. “That was a pretty piece of manipulation if I ever saw one. You’re a ruthless son of a bitch, Tal.”
He walked forward. Dane wouldn’t be the last person he pissed off. By the time this was over, he might lose everyone.
But he would keep his crown. One way or another.
Three days later, Piper walked out of the conference room, her laptop in hand and her heart heavy.
Two days of meetings had been enough to tell her that everyone here took her opinion seriously. She’d met with CEOs, government officials, and a representative of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism Executive Board. Tal had been with her in every meeting, deferring to her, allowing her to speak for the country. Gavin James had been present, introducing her as the representative for both Black Oak Oil and the country of Bezakistan.
And Gavin had been effusive in his praise for Talib al Mussad. Just the night before, he’d taken Piper to dinner and told her stories about the sheikh and his brothers. She didn’t miss the fact that he spoke about his own lifestyle, too, and how much he enjoyed sharing Hannah with his brothers. Baby number three was due soon, and all three brothers were thrilled. They loved their wife. They had an amazing life full of joy and love. Piper was happy for the James family, but couldn’t fathom why her employer had shared so much personal information about his marriage. He must not grasp that the al Mussad brothers merely wanted to take her to bed.
But she was sleeping alone, at least for now. Tonight, they intended to hold a banquet to both celebrate the official alliance between Black Oak and Bezakistan, as well as welcome her to their country. Rafe, Kade—and even Tal—had made it plain that afterward they would like it very much if she gave up her solitary bed for theirs. So far, she’d been demurring. But now… Piper sighed.
What was she doing? Was it really so important that Talib had hidden his full name from her? She actually understood why he’d done it, and it wasn’t like her to hold a grudge. His subterfuge had hurt more than she’d believed possible, and she’d let that rule her actions since her arrival. Now, she was beginning to ask herself some hard questions. If he’d been anyone else, would she have been quite so upset? Had she been using her anger as an excuse to keep Tal at arm’s length because she felt so out of her league? Piper wrinkled her nose. Likely so. And it probably wasn’t fair to him. Or her. Coming to Bezakistan had been, at least in part, about opening herself up to new experiences. But the first thing she’d done was close herself off when fear gripped her.
With a sigh, Piper looked out over the balcony. Every turn in the palace was a surprise. She stopped and looked out over the city. She’d come so far from where she used to be. No more little towns or tiny office kingdoms for her. She’d been given actual apartments. As in more than one. She had a bedroom and a huge office space. And an assistant who constantly talked about how amazing Talib was.
“You are all right, Miss Glen?”
Tal’s voice pulled her from her thoughts. She glanced back his way. He looked utterly perfect in his dark suit. The only hint that he wasn’t completely civilized was the jagged scar that began under his ear and disappeared into his shirt collar along with the dark hunger that lurked in his stare.
She smiled. “Yes, sir. I was just watching the people go by.”
He stepped in beside her. It was the first time in days he’d willingly gotten close, and her whole system went on full alert. Rafe and Kade spent most of their days with her, but she could feel the distance now. They were polite, but more reserved than before. A sad atmosphere hovered around them because the al Mussad brothers were a take-it-or-leave-it deal. Accept one, accept them all, and she’d turned down the sheikh. Since then, she’d been firmly placed in the “look but don’t touch” category and it hurt.
Piper didn’t understand why Rafe and Kade had made an exception for Britney in Accounting. They’d taken her to bed without their eldest brother. Maybe Tal hadn’t known about her. Or he hadn’t wanted the woman. But Piper knew that, for whatever reason, he wanted her.
Still, she couldn’t help but feel brutally manipulated.
“My ancestors built the palace to be at the center of the city. Much of this structure was redone, but the core has stood since the fifteenth century.” A satisfied look passed over his handsome face. “Bezakistan is small, but we’ve withstood invaders from the Huns to Saddam Hussein. We did it with intelligence and efficient use of our natural resources. I hope we continue to do so. I pray we bring this country into a whole new world. We’re on the precipice, Piper. We can do it. We can lead the world. Imagine it, a country utterly dependent on oil bringing about the change to green, renewable energy.”
She had to grin because he was really good at selling the pure intentions stuff. “You’ll make a fortune off the patents alone.”
He turned, his smile flashing. “Naturally. I intend to be an innovator, not a fool. There is much money to be made, and I will have it for my people.” He stopped, his expression turning somber. “Please tell me you are you coming to the banquet tonight. We are hosting it for you and your employer, you know.”
“Of course I’ll be there.” As the only representative of Black Oak currently in the country, she didn’t have much choice. With Hannah due soon, Gavin had returned to the States. “Rafe and Kade worked me over.” In fact, they wouldn’t let up. Everywhere she went, one of them was there to escort her. And to make her feel comfortable again. She looked up, and sure enough, Kade was standing at the door to the west wing of the palace. He didn’t approach, just sent her a ridiculously sweet smile that made her blood pound. Before they had played naked games on the airplane, she never would have realized what that smile meant. Now she knew he was thinking about playing around, and in the dirtiest way. But at the moment, he wouldn’t do a thing about it.
“I am sure they have tried to work you over, Piper. They would kill to work you over. I am the one holding them back. My brothers growl every time I walk in a room because they know that if it hadn’t been for me, they would already be in your bed.”
She flushed. She couldn’t get used to how they talked openly about sex, especially between more than two people. Just the day before, she’d met their mother, and the lovely British woman had sighed when she talked about her four husbands. Four. Piper couldn’t figure out where to put three men, much less four. Maybe they tag teamed, like in wrestling. “I don’t think they’re missing much by not being in my bed. I’m sure they told you that I’m not exactly experienced.”
“They told me you were beautiful when you took your pleasure. They told me you were so hot they thought the plane would go up in flames. They told me they’d never wanted a woman the way they wanted you that night.” His dark eyes held her. Of all three brothers, he was the most intense, the most magnetic.
Kade was the one who made her laugh, forced her to take everything less seriously...and made her think wicked thoughts. Rafe, with his sexy sophistication, was the one she could talk to about books and movies and all the sights she wanted to see, as well as the pleasures he yearned to give her.
And Tal? Tal was a mystery. He’d been her crush, but that man had been more down to earth. The Tal she’d known through instant messaging and computer chats had been teasing and playful and so smart, but she’d been able to argue with him. This Tal was intimidating, his features beautiful and slightly cold. And she couldn’t stop looking at him, wondering what was going on in that head of his. He was pulling her in despite her best attempts to stay aloof.
He leaned in, his face softening so that cold edge to his beauty fled, leaving only the man behind. “Piper, you do not have a romantic interest at home, do you?”
She shook her head. She had the feeling he already knew that.
His fingers brushed across her face, skimming against her skin and making her shiver. “Then why won’t you try seeing what could develop between us? Is it still me? I know you like my brothers. How can I convince you I will be good for you as well?”
Piper didn’t know what to say, so she bit her lip and said nothing.
He moved in, invading her space, but she couldn’t seem to move away. He was so close she could feel the heat of his skin. She had to force herself to breathe. It was insanity. She was a virgin. Not particularly by choice, but she’d never honestly cared enough about a man to go to bed with him. And that had been true of her fiancé, too. If she’d learned one thing since coming to Bezakistan, it was that she’d never been in love before. Being around the al Mussad brothers made her realize that because she was pretty sure she was falling head over heels for them.
“I want to kiss you, Piper. Don’t tell me no.” His eyes were right on her lips, looking down at them like he was a starving man and she was a ripe piece of fruit.
“But Kade...” His youngest brother was standing there, waiting for her. It didn’t seem right.
“Oh, my lovely Piper, you don’t understand us at all.” He never turned away, merely kept those gorgeous dark eyes on her, but he spoke to his brother, his voice rising. “Kadir? May I kiss your girl?”
That sexy laugh of Kade’s floated toward her. “Please, brother. Kiss her well. Make her ours.”
Tal leaned in, his lips brushing hers. The first touch sparked against her skin, and she opened her mouth to gasp, but he cut off the sound, his tongue surging in.
Electricity pinged through her body. Piper lost the will to worry about what anyone would think. Her hands came up, clutching Tal as he pulled her close, drawing her into his heat. She would have to thank Rafe for forcing her into heels because otherwise poor Tal would be bent in half. Even with the four and a half inch stilettos, he still bent down to take her lips. He was the tallest of the brothers, his body the broadest as if he’d been built that way to wield authority. Through the rich material of his perfectly cut suit, she could feel how firm his muscular body was. Everything feminine inside her softened, yearned to get even closer. Ached to surrender.
His hands tangled in her hair, pulling it out of the staid bun she’d fashioned this morning. He didn’t prevaricate. He didn’t play. He tugged on her hair and dominated her mouth. She could feel the hard line of his erection against her belly.
Her breasts tingled, felt heavy—burned for his touch. And she was doing that thing again, getting wet and ready. It had practically become her default state since she’d met these men. Constantly surrounded by them, every day she endured a needy ache she didn’t know quite how to combat. Every night, her solitary bed had become an exercise in broken sleep and frustration.
Tal gave her one last kiss, then released her. He took a deep breath, rubbing their foreheads together. His usually steady voice was just the slightest bit shaky. “Piper, this banquet is meaningful to my brothers and me. Thank you for agreeing to come.”
“You’re welcome,” she said automatically. Her brain was still mush after Tal’s kiss.
“And afterward…will you come with us, allow us to see if we can make you happy? My brothers and I don’t enter into relationships lightly, but we all want very much to be with you. I assure you, we will treat you like a queen.”