The Best Part of Breaking Up

The Best Part of Breaking Up

The Real Deal

The Real Deal

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The Boy the Tiger Ate

Giuseppe Guido was born beautiful. Golden Olive skin, a full head of jet black hair at only a minute old and eyes so blue that the nurses wept at such beauty. He's mother, a prima ballerina, had fallen in love with a roguish travelling gypsy, followed him, and the magic circus he belonged to across the planet. Elena danced on white stallions while the rogue made love to all the women in every village they pitched up at.
Giuseppe as a small child followed the ring master around during the shows wearing a little top hat and tails, smiling his brilliant smile at all the mothers in the audience who would pay again to see another show with the world's most beautiful boy. He learnt to dance on horses, to climb to the high trapeze, put his head in the lion's mouth much to the horror of all those mothers. When he was nine years old he threw on a clown costume and took a pie in his gorgeous face. A month later, Giuseppe Guido was eaten by Raja the Bengalese Tiger.
That was the end of little Giuseppe Guido's life in the ring. His beautiful face was torn and scarred by Raja's claws, his body maimed by large teeth marks and he shook violently around all the animals.  
Elena dropped her gaze from her child's face drank herself stupid one night and fell from the caravan as it travelled a darkened road through the countryside. The rogue fought such feelings of terror when he looked at his son but one day he stopped travelling and disappeared in the large city they had come to.
Giuseppe was alone and the circus was now he's only family. He grew up strong with muscles carved from shovelling animal excrement and height from stretching and pulling the big top into position night after night. Giuseppe had found a new way to live in the circus by taking ownership of the big top canvas and standing outside it night after night as all the normal people laughed and cried inside.
At twenty-five he was six foot four had a mane of hair to his shoulders and could lift the cannon that launched Franco into the air each night without assistance.
Girls would notice him and admire his body but seeing his face they turned away with disappointment, mostly fear. He dragged himself further and further in to the shadows. There he would have remained if not for he's desire to see the acrobats in the air just one last time.
The night Giuseppe chose to sneak under the bleachers and watch the new Irish troupe that had joined the show was the night he first saw Cathy. Saw her and fell in love so quickly and so deeply no one could save him.
Cathy was a little imp, with hair so richly red that no sunset could rival it. Her green eyes were dewy, like a rain soaked field of grass, she could throw herself in the air with such abandon that Giuseppe could only watch and envy her.  
A girl like that would never be his. He had never had a girl and never had an urge to have one but now his body was changing and feeling odd. Each time he looked at Cathy he had to touch himself. It terrified him and he tried to stay away but then he would hear the music for her solo. He would follow that sound; follow it all the way to stand beneath the trapeze swings. The lights were trained upwards; no one could see the monstrous beauty below. All eyes watched the little flame of red flick, curl and glide above them.  
Patrick, Cathy's cousin would catch her with one hand, over and over again he caught her when gravity was just about to snatch her. Every night he caught her but the night that Giuseppe forgot his place and wandered underneath them the tendon's in Patrick's hand snapped. Cathy launched herself freely into the air but there was no firm grip to hold her and for once gravity could claim her.
She dropped.
The audience started screaming.
The other acrobats scrambled to get down the poles.
The spot lights swung violently back and forth to find her.
Suddenly they trained on a scene that made Patrick gasp.
Cathy was in the arms of that half man Giuseppe. He had caught her. Impossible! Yet, there she was in his arms.
Giuseppe had stopped breathing. He had a whole lot of woman in his arms. For a tiny little thing she had ample curves and they well all sequined and pressed against him. She wasn't looking at him in horror. Awe shined from her eyes.
"Get her out of here!" the ring master hissed skipping around the ring beaming at the audience. "All part of the show folks. All part of the show."
The wild applause followed Giuseppe from the tent as he carried Cathy out into the cool night air.
"You watch me," She said breaking the silence. "I've felt you watch me every night."
"I'm sorry," he answered gruffly not sure where he was meant to be taking her. He led her to his battered down trailer at the end of the field far away from the animal pens.
"Don't be sorry if you weren't watching I'd be dead now." She shuddered in his arms. Giuseppe held her a little closer.
"You are safe."
She startled him, placing a gentle hand on the claw tears of his cheek.
"I know. I can feel it."
Giuseppe dropped her from his arms. No one had touched him in seventeen years and then they had been doctors.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, shoved his hands into his denim pockets and strode away from her.
Alone in his trailer he yanked his t-shirt off needing air to touch his ruined flesh. He kicked his shoes off and paced the small galley. The mobile home was too small for a man like him.
There was a soft knock on the door and he could only watch as it opened and Cathy in her sequined costume backlight by the big top lights climbed inside.
"You haven't been with a woman," she said determinedly reaching behind her to pull at the stays of her clothing. "I haven't been with a man."
Giuseppe didn't utter a word as she undressed in front of him. He's throat was desert dry as she swayed and shimmied towards him, her body creamy, silken and exposed to his hungry gaze. He had seen dirty postcards of women but reality was so much better.
"I've felt you watch me. It's turned me on." She shucked out of her bottoms, came to stand right in front of him and reached for him again.
Giuseppe caught her hand in one of his big calloused palms.
"I am a monster," he whispered.
"Because you survived the tiger? Don't you know that makes you a God? These are the marks of a warrior. A boy so strong he was eaten by a tiger and lived." Cathy placed her soft lips on a bite scar over his right nipple.
Giuseppe caught her up in his arms forcing her to straddle him. He had seen the men in the taverns do it to the whores as they took them to bed. It felt incredible to have her sit over his crotch. Her breasts tantalising close to his mouth. He sucked one pert, pink, aureole into his mouth not sure if it was right or wrong to do so. Her moan of pleasure spurred him on.
"You are so beautiful."
"Make love to me."
"I don't know how."
"We can learn together."
Giuseppe walked them through the trailer ducking his head against the thin roof. He had an erection so painful and large he feared she would hate it. This divine creature showed no fear as her coxing fingers freed him from his pants and Giuseppe felt the touch of a woman as primitive and old as time itself.
He growled. He placed his woman gently on the bed and loomed over her. He ran sure fingers over her throat, between the valley of her breasts and circled the neat belly button she had pierced with a ruby.
"Are you all like this?" he questioned feathering his fingers between her nest of curls, feeling the dampness moisten his fingertips.
"Yes. Though we come in different sizes." She grinned up at him.
"This is what I like." He caressed her slender thighs with leisure, cupped her calves and drew her legs apart so that he could settle between them. Instinct was guiding him, instinct and knowledge that he could fit her and it would be exquisite. Her hands were on his testicles stroking them into throbbing awareness, her gentle pressure forcing him to bow his head and rest it in the crook of her neck. She smelt of mint. He bit her tender flesh, licked the love bites soothingly and felt her arch beneath him, her wet folds seeking him out, enticing the top of his penis home.
"Giuseppe please!" She pleaded her hands clenching has ass cheeks pushing him forward.
"And if I hurt you?"
"You won't. You can't. Feel how ready I am for you."
He moved his penis along those waiting inner lips, closed his eyes as he slipped through her entrance. How would he survive this?
Her nails were making half moons on his skin. Her eyes were tightly shut and she was calling to God beneath her breath. It was right to call him. Giuseppe thought, for this was a spiritual ritual and a coming home ceremony to no home he had ever known before. He was enclosed by her yielding warm flesh. Her tiny cry of surprise as he took both their virginities tugging at his heart.
"Cathy Ti Amor. Are you okay?"
"Táim, Táim," she whispered in her own Gaelic tongue. Giuseppe rotated his hips in her cradle pulling away to ram home again. It wasn't nearly enough. Grasping her hips he sat up on his knees impaling her on him, guiding her to rock back and forth.
She was gasping, perspiration gleamed on her skin. Giuseppe gritted his teeth but could not contain himself as she pulsed around his shaft.
"I am a savage!" he gasped tossing her on her side riding her, their bodies sliding up and down in a delicious friction. Cathy was crying, digging into the flesh of his arms, her eyes shining brightly as wave after wave of their mutual climax claimed her body.
They were a sweaty spooning mess.
"Is it always like this do you think?" he asked moving her dampened hair aside to kiss her neck, her collarbone and the curve of her arm.
"The girls talk. They say some men are good but most don't know."
"Don't know what?"
"How to do that." She giggled, stretched her arms above her head and he palmed her breasts feeling her nipples pinch once more.
"I didn't know," he mused, "I felt."
Cathy raked her thumb over his lips. "We haven't kissed." Her face bloomed with a pink blush. He marvelled at her shyness now.
"Do you wish to kiss a man like me?"
"Yes. Forever, Mo grá."
A little bit of their breath mingled and a little part of their souls. Giuseppe claimed her mouth, stroking his tongue with hers, biting the swollen flesh of her bottom lip. His body stirred anew.
Forever was a long time but he thought he could manage it.

In the morning Giuseppe gazed in the looking glass and no longer saw his ravaged face. He saw only love.
"Giuseppe, you are a man now," the ringmaster told him, gave him a tuxedo to fit and sent him into the ring.
Night after night he would stand below the trapeze watching his lady love intently.
On occasion the impish Cathy would forget to catch Patrick's hand and would land safely in her lover's arms.
"Giuseppe my love."
"I know," he said and took her and loved her like he always did.

Raja, was put to sleep as the boy Giuseppe was carted to a country doctor's practice. He lay dying on a table but across a continent and a large ocean a little red haired girl wished for love on a shooting star.

Giuseppe lived.

The Honest Truth

"Give me a hand with this girls!" Lexi Grainger dragged a large duffel bag across the concrete platform of the Victorian train station. Her best friends Carol and Jemma grabbed the end of her luggage and helped Lexi carry it towards her train. An assortment of passengers were boarding; smiling nervously at each other.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, Please take your seats the train is about to depart."  The nasally sound of the station master boomed over the Tannoy system.
"Hurry on girls I'll miss my train."
"Did you have to pack quite so much Lexi? You're only travelling to Istanbul after all."
"Oh do shut up Carol. It's clear across the other side of the world. Hang on is this Platform fourteen?" Lexi dropped the top of the duffel bag and turned on her heel to look up at the station signs.
"If you weren't going away I would be quite cross with you." Carol dug her fingers into the heavy canvas holding on to the weight of Lexi's things.
"It's fourteen alright." Jemma pointed at the grand dame of trains waiting on the tracks. An ornate 1920's locomotive with six corridor carriages rumbled gently on the tracks. "Oh isn't it beautiful. Lordy I wish I was going on it. You're a lucky duck. Goss fancy your grandmother giving you the ticket."
"Hmm I know it cost a ghastly amount. I don't know what she was thinking.  After the disaster of my 'coming out' she decided a great European tour was just the thing to cheer me up." Lexi righted her duffel bag laughing heartily. "Poor dear she still thinks it's 1935." She shrugged her shoulders, "Never mind girls I get a free trip across Europe. When I get back perhaps I'll take her speed dating or introduce her to eHarmony so she knows how nabbing a 'beau' these days is done."
            "Oh don't be so cruel Lexi. I can't bare it, you're dear grandmother is a darling." Carol held a hand to her face in dismay.
            "Yes a doddering darling." Lexi patted Carol's arm heartily, "Cheer up Car you know I'm only teasing. Now step to it I'm in the second carriage I think."
            "Got your ticket?" Jemma asked, "Gosh isn't it exciting. You're so brave to be heading off alone!"
            "Well now clearly grandmother thought I might meet someone if I was."
            They reached the steps into the second carriage. A porter in deep navy and gold livery checked and punched her ticket before strapping a label to her duffel bag and removing it to a luggage trolley.  It was placed beside some Louis Vuitton chests and Henk suitcases.
            You had to have money to travel with luggage like that.
            Lexi had none.
            Thank you Grandma.
            "Okay girls this is it. Take care of yourselves. I'll see you in a few weeks." Lexi climbed the steps into the carriage.
            "Take care." Carol blew a kiss.
            "Do everything I wouldn't do!"
            Lexi waved and withdrew into the corridor of the sleeper carriage. A turbaned gentleman in a starched white uniform smiled politely.
            "Miss Grainger Welcome on board, please this way, you may follow me. My name is Jadhav. I will be looking after this sleeper for the duration of the trip."  Her butler stopped outside a gleaming polished walnut door. He turned the gold handle and levered the door open into a private bogie. "This is your compartment. This is your key." He gave Lexi a large ornate silver key. A waitron appeared in the corridor he handed Lexi hem a glass of champagne. "And this is for you also." He spoke quietly.
            Lexi looked at the small parcel he handed her suspiciously. "What is it?" she questioned as her fingers grasped the small rectangular box.
            "I am instructed to tell you to take it and not to open it until the train goes through the tunnel."

            Lexi sat alone in her compartment as the train left the station and gradually picked up speed. She placed the unassuming box beside her on the leather seat. The excitement of the day was finally catching up on her.
            Her head was lolling and Lexi was somewhere between alertness and dreaming when Jazz music playing very loudly woke her. The wall of her compartment shook with the vibrations. Frantically she pressed the butler bell. Jadhav appeared immediately.
            "Can you ask them to turn it off? It's intolerable."
            "I will ask Miss Davidson."
            She listened through the half closed door as Jadhav moved along the corridor to the next compartment. She couldn't hear the exchange of conversation but in a little while the butler had returned.
"He says he won't madam."
"He does, does he?"
            "He says who do you think you are the Queen of Sheba? He says does she think she owns this train?"
            Lexi had to giggle at the butler's candour.
            "Can't you move him? Get rid of him?"
            Lexi nodded her head and reached for her handbag. She withdrew a fifty euro note from her purse.
            "I know now what to do," Jadhav said hurriedly.
            "I thought you might." She handed him the fifty.
            "He can go play he's music in the second class carriage."
            Lexi gave him a second fifty euro note.
            "Or perhaps in third."
            "That's good enough for me Jadhav thank you." She shut the door certain that the matter would be resolved now and determined to go back to sleep. As she sat down again the compartment was plunged into darkness.  The train had passed into the tunnel!
"We are about to enter the tunnel of love. Please open your packages now."  An announcement came over the Tannoy. The compartment was plunged into darkness.

Lexi groped around for the light switch and as the brass lights illuminated the room she took up her grandmother's present. Tearing away the brown paper package she encountered a plain brown box beneath. Using her fingernail to slice through the tape holding the flaps together she opened the box and frowned as she peered inside. Her fingers drew out a flaming red, cut away, halter neck, teddy, made from sheer lace. She held it up in the air in bemusement. Why on earth would grandmother give me such a thing? She wondered stretching the very little fabric that there was between her hands - two bra cups, a cheekini and a wisp of lace panelling. Lexi shook her head and tossed the undergarment away. A small embossed card glittered up at her.
With love from Val & Tyne.
Who on earth were they?
The door of her compartment hit the wall and a tall, dark haired man stepped inside.
"William Thorne!" She exclaimed. "What are you doing here?" The man her grandmother had dearly hoped would make her an offer of marriage was glaring at her with deep blue eyes. Of course he had turned out to be as poor as a church mouse. Grandmother would have none of that. Poor church mice were intended for wealthy heiresses who didn't have grandmothers.
"This is a much better compartment. It is finer than mine." He said casually dropping a small piece of hand luggage on the floor. He removed his jacket and hung it on the back of the door.
"What are you doing?"
"Where would you like to sleep top or bottom?" he asked slapping the couchette.
"William you can't stay here."
"You've had me thrown out of my quarters. I shall not be put out because of you my dear."  William continued to undress.
"You? You're the gentleman next door?"
"Was the gentleman next door now I'm the gentlemen with you!"
"You can't stay here I'll have you thrown out."
"No good darling I'll just tell them that you invited me." He wriggled his eyebrows at her but then his eyes fell on her new sexy lingerie. He whistled lowly.
"Planning on entertaining were you?" he asked picking up the scrap of lace and twirling it around his finger.
"Certainly not!" she cried.
William pouted exaggeratedly. "Try it on for me."
Lexi's eyes were like saucers. "I will do no such thing." She sat down in a hurry and folded her arms over her chest.
William sat down beside her. Knee to Knee. Hip to Hip. She couldn't shift away. He turned her face to look at him. For a moment he simply gazed at her plump lips.
"Play nice Lexi. Remember how nice you were on the balcony at Claridges?"
"I remember nothing of the sort."
"Liar," he growled and kissed her hard.
It took her all of five seconds to succumb and open her lips beneath his in an age old invitation. She remembered the balcony in violent Technicolour. Will had persuaded her down to her slip that night. His hands on her skin, his lips in her hair, his p.... well it was best not to remember that!  Lexi pushed him away.
"Not this time William Thorne."
"Sweetheart. It is a very long trip to Istanbul. Surely you could oblige and entertain me while we chug along hmmm?"
"William, I am not your consolation prize! Jump off at the next stop and go back to Lady Christina Rosslyn."
William frowned at her. A look of pure confusion swept across his handsome face.
"So that's what has been going on," he told her sitting back and sweeping a large hand through his sleek hair.
"Explain yourself William."
"I wondered why you left your own party so early. It was very unlike you. Who put the idea of Chrisie into your head?"
"You and Chrisie," Lexi hissed, "Are more than an idea in my head!  It's all over London that you two are an item. Engaged in fact."
He had the audacity to laugh loudly at her. "Chrisie and I are not now nor have ever been engaged. You should not listen to ideal gossip my love." He stretched a hand out to twirl a strand of her blonde hair around his fingers.
"I..." she shucked in a long ragged breath, "What did you just say."
William stared at her intently. "My love." He shrugged his shoulders. "You are you know. You are my love."
"I am no such thing!"
"Yes you damn well are," he shouted crossly but he was smiling all the same, "Now be a good girl put on the negligee and let me show you how much I love you."
Lexi didn't think to argue. She was too astounded by his admission. She took the daring teddy from him and took three steps into the tiny ensuite attached to her compartment.
It didn't take long. The red lace covered her breasts and mound but she was bare everywhere else and the three small triangles where transparent. William was in his boxers when she stepped out.
"Rarr," he simply said. Lexi blushed to the roots of her hair. "Jesus Lexi you're hotter than a firecracker lit at both ends." William drew her into his arms and slipped his hands beneath the lace of her cheekini. His palms flattened on her curvy cheeks.
"Will, Tell me again," Lexi whispered.
"Lexi Grainger," William said solemnly, "I love you despite your penchant for believing idle gossip and despite your medalling grandmother who would do well to stay out of it all."
"I love you too William Thorne. Despite my medalling grandmother and despite the fact you're as poor as a church mouse."
William shook his head."Lexi, Lexi. You must stop listening to rumour."
"Grandmother said...."
"You're grandmother told you I was penniless and that Lady Christine Rosslyn was my sugar mommy. All of which is very untrue."
"Hmm..." William nussled one pouting nipple through the lace cup. Lexi gasped and grasped the hair on his head tightly.
"Untrue?" she insisted refusing to get carried away. Just yet.
"Yes my love untrue. I am very rich."
"Rich?" she sounded like a parrot but her thoughts were scrambling as William slipped a finger into her panties.
"Filthy rich.  How else do you suppose to be on this train, in a compartment beside me, wearing this rather expensive teddy?"
"Grandmother..." Lexi sighed.
"Oh my dear girl you're grandmother had nothing to do with it." William sat down and pulled Lexi on top of him. "She only gets credit for wasting both our time. You and I are getting married Lexi, just as soon as I get you out of this teddy."
"Is that a rumour?" she asked badly.
"Lexi Grainger," William tossed her on her back and loomed over her, "That is the honest truth."

This is How it Starts

 "My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Sheikh Rahim Sayf bin Hasnawi to the Christmas Ball."            Rahim folded his gilded invitation as it was returned to him and placed it in his trouser pocket. With the assured steps of a man who had it all, looks, land, wealth and power, he walked down the steps into the Belle Époque ballroom.  This grand old dame of houses was in desperate need of rescuing by the National Trust.  They could have found a more modern and glamorous venue for the ball he mused as his fellow guests turned to look at him with open curiosity. They were using his money to fund the evening's festivities, he would have thought, a six star hotel would have been appropriate. He had donated six million pounds to the archaeological team that were due to begin excavating the pre-byzantine sites that lay on the outskirts of his capital city in January. He had given a further one and a half a million pounds to present the archaeological plans at this party tonight. The powerful and influential members of British antiquity society were all assembled to see these plans unveiled. The Christmas Ball was an excuse to celebrate the start of the archaeological dig. Christmas wasn't celebrated were he came from. Hadyar had been a kingdom since the fourth century BC.  His family had controlled it since the year seventy-eight Anno Domino. He was the absolute ruler, King of Hadyar, Protector of Qatba and the Scropian of the desert. Rahim had other titles but he didn't like to use them.He could sneer and laugh at these foolish people celebrating with their ridiculous decorations and dressed up trees, finger foods and flutes of champagne, he could but he didn't.  He had been educated at Westminster School, London and then Cambridge. He had spent weekends in friend's country estates hunting and shooting. He knew that old houses were enchanting, a warmed mince pie could be delicious and a glass of mulled wine intoxicating.  As a tall, balding, bifocals wearing gentleman approached him he also understood that sometimes small talk was a necessary evil.            He had not come here to examine the architecture, or to drink mulled wine, nor munch on pastries. He hadn't come here to see the host either. Or chat to the man's trophy girlfriend.  It didn't matter to him if the building fell down around his ears, the tree caught fire and the wine was sour. He was only interested in seeing his money spent wisely, good publicity being fostered for his nation and perhaps a much needed boost to the tourist economy of Haydar.            "Your Highness! It is a great honour that you could attend this evening," Peter Grolier said approaching Rahim with a distinctive bounce in his step. Clearly he was pleased to see him. Rahim smiled indulgently. Seven and a half million pounds pleased.            "Yes. I came to see what my money is paying for." Rahim took a flute of champagne from a silver tray that was being passed around by a waiter in white livery. He didn't drink alcohol but he need not shake Grolier's hand when a glass occupied his own.            "And we are thrilled to show you. Have you seen the displays in the saloon?" The host of the evening's event smiled. "There are wonderful photographs of the archaeological site and some of the scattered finds that we have found on the surface."            "Perhaps later." Rahim dismissed the idea at once. He didn't care about shards of broken pottery and corroded pieces of metal. He only cared about meeting the chief archaeologist for the first time and extracting a promise from him of success for the project. "Where is Mr. Reeves?"             "Mr. Reeves?" Groelier asked stupidly. It was stupid because Rahim knew he understood the question and he wasn't in any mood to be lied to tonight.  He hadn't come seven thousand kilometres to be told his chief archaeologist wasn't at this party.Rahim had allowed this Reeves man dodge and hide from him for six months. They communicated through email and occasionally he spoke to the man's assistant on the telephone but he had yet to meet him himself. Rahim liked to know who he was dealing with. He liked to look a man in the eyes, shake his hand and measure him up against his own impressive height. He had allowed Reeves six months of freedom.  That was five months longer than he ever gave any man.            "Yes Peter," Rahim said icily, "Mr. Reeves. The chief archaeologist."            Peter Groelier visibly gulped and Rahim glared at him suspiciously. Why was Mr. Reeves so elusive? Rahim had the distinct impression that not all was right with the situation.            In the end people always talked. Rahim had that kind of power over people.              He could always rely on that.            "I believe Miss Reeves is in the conservatory."            Rahim nodded his head dignifiedly but snapped it up suddenly as Peter Groelier's words sank in."Miss?"Groelier was gulping again. He really was an insipid little man."Eliza Reeves our chief archaeologist. She's in the conservatory.""Mr. E. Reeves is a woman?" Rahim's voice boomed out across the ballroom. People turned and stared. Understanding dawned on him. The lack of communication, the time wasting, the deliberate little errors that meant he never got to speak to the archaeologist. They had been hiding the fact that he was a she! Colour warmed Rahim's face and his hands curled into fists. Gritting his teeth he said more calmly than he felt."You employed a woman despite my wishes?""I assure you Your Highness Eliza is the best in her field. She is an expert in pre-Byzantine culture in the Middle East.""No women. I said NO WOMEN."  Rahim shook visibly. "She's in the conservatory you say?" he said and abandoned Groelier and his platinum blond girlfriend. The whispers racing around the ballroom were of no interest to him. Rumour be damned his concern was only for finding this woman.            The conservatory was a late nineteenth century masterpiece of architecture. The glass ceilings were as high as the roof of the house and the entire gable end of the ballroom was enclosed by the hot house. Tall exotic palms, cacti and orchids grew heartily in the artificial heat of this glass room. Amongst the foliage the sound of music and conversation was muted and for a moment Rahim was alone in the shadows.              He was better in the dark. He was used to travelling across the desert sands in the blackest part of night. He had often hidden in the dark. It was familiar. It was useful. He heard her before he saw her. His first glimpse at her stopped him in his tracks.            Eliza Reeves was standing alone staring beyond the windows at the snow covered landscape. He saw a set of delicate fingers touching the soft petals of an emerald green fern. She wore a scarlet, silk dress and her liquorice black hair tumbled down to her waist in soft curls. A diamond clip pinned the hair from her face over her right ear and her scent reminded him of Freesias. For several moments he simply stared at her vision. The silk dress draped over some very appealing curves. Her skin looked soft and creamy. Her hair looked as if silk worms themselves had spun it. Rahim forgot to be angry as his body responded swiftly and embarrassingly. He hadn't fallen in lust with anyone since he was a teenager. Rahim, King of Haydar was in lust now."You like to hide in the shadows." He spoke very softly. He always spoke gently when he wanted the element of surprise."It comforts me." Eliza Reeves whispered and turned very slowly on her heels. Her lack of reaction intrigued him. Greater mortals than her had often been surprised when suddenly thrust into his company. Nothing broke the surface with this woman. Rahim had his first proper look at her face.  Gently rounded, with high cheekbones and a tall forehead she was very beautiful. Her green eyes were ringed with hazel and eyed him coolly.  "Your Highness." She curtsied.It surprised him."I see you are familiar with me but I have not had the pleasure of making your acquaintance before. You have been deceiving me Eliza." It was a deliberate ploy to use her first name. He would show her, her place."If I have it was poorly done Your Highness," she said innocently. "My appointment to this dig was not a secret.""Yet you and Groelier managed to hide the fact that you are a woman from me until tonight. A week before the dig begins.""A necessary white lie. Your ban on women is a ridiculous rule.""It's a necessary rule. Where I live, where the excavation site is located is no place for a woman.""So there are no women in your country?""Don't be obsequies. Women in my country are protected and valued. We do not put them in unnecessary danger or risk. I will not permit any woman to work on this excavation."Eliza smiled slyly at him."King Hasnawi I already have your permission."Rahim didn't know if he wanted to slap or kiss the smug expression off her face."The contract," he muttered understanding dawning immediately.Eliza shrugged her delicate shoulders and he thought about slipping his fingers under her dress straps and pushing the silk down her torso."The contract you signed King Hasnawi giving me unlimited access to the excavation for a period of one year.""Damn it." Rahim muttered lowly. He never swore. If you had to swear then you didn't have the vocabulary to speak eloquently. He wanted to shout something rougher and darker at her. He closed his eyes and counted to ten. "I cannot allow this.""You have no choice Your Highness. It's legally binding." Eliza tossed her ebony mane over her shoulders. Rahim snapped. He gripped her small waist with his big hands and lifted her up back against the wall of glass. He surprised her this time. She gasped audibly."It is no country for women. It is wild, barren and dark. There are gangs that roam the sands looking for women. A white woman would be a great trophy." Rahim's lips hovered over her own. "Would you like them to own you?" he muttered breathing in her flowery scent. "Would you like them to take you?" He pressed his growing erection against the flat planes of her stomach. "Would you have them sell you to the highest bidder?""You would protect me."  Her words were self assured and confident."Habibi, you need protecting from me most of all."Her eyes glittered like Venus rising over the desert horizon on a pitch black night. Her mouth was full and plump like a ripe juicy fig. His body thrummed with the need to feast on her beauty. His mind wanted to throw her from him.His heart.His heart wanted a piece of her soul."Your Highness if anyone needs protecting I believe it is you."  His chief archaeologist slanted her head and brushed her satin lips tantalising over his. "From me!"No one dared touch a King without permission. She had kissed him!She had dared kiss the Scorpion of the Desert!Rahim let go of her waist and she landed delicately on a pair of six inch, silver, sequined heels.This woman was a harlot.Her place was in a harem not giving him advice on one of the most important programmes of government his country had ever had."Then may the Gods help you Eliza. I fully intend to protect myself where you are concerned."  He gripped her chin with his long fingers. "You may never need to fight off gangs of white slave traders but you will have to fight me."  His mouth hovered over hers. His hand stroked the long column of her throat and brushed his chest against hers provocatively."And I fight dirty. For one year you will be in my country. You will learn the error of your ways.""A year is a long time Your Highness.""I will only need a day."Rahim pushed her away."Merry Christmas Eliza. I look forward to a very good New Year." 

The Cast Aside Bride

The woman, standing on the steps of the cathedral, was wearing his mother's wedding dress.  It was as familiar to Rhys as the veins on the back of his hand. It had been created for her by two men Val and Tyne whom his mother had often referred to as her angels. It was beautiful gown, for a beautiful bride, too beautiful to give to a charity store, when his mother had passed away six months before. Instead, Rhys had wrapped it carefully in black crepe paper, placed it in a box and sent it back to the two men, now old gentlemen, with a note attached.
   Such a beautiful dress deserves another beautiful bride.
  Now it perfectly framed a willowy red head. A beautiful bride had found the beautiful dress.Falling to mid-calf it flattered her tall frame. Sleeveless with a close-fitting V-neck bodice it showed off her hour-glass figure perfectly. While the extended shoulders and a flared skirt reflected the femininity the woman exuded. The pearl satin it was made from shimmered in the light and complemented her pale skin, she was statuesque and stunning.
The woman stood alone, a bouquet of white Tulips falling limply to her side, her face tilted upwards towards the weak spring sunshine. Rhys was afraid to approach, for fear she would flitter away in fright, but he knew that this was no coincidence, and he had to speak to her or live to regret it.
Carefully, he climbed the steps of the cathedral. The footfall of his soft, Italian, leather shoes gentle but she heard it nonetheless. Fathomless green eyes opened and looked at the source of the noise. Their eyes met and held. Rhys felt the world tilting as his blue eyes held her forlorn gaze. She was trembling, with tears jittering on the edge of her eyelids, undecided whether to fall.
"That's a beautiful dress," he said very quietly, reaching the step she stood upon, and stepping onto it so that he stood eye to eye with her. That was unusual. There weren't many women who met his six foot two height inch for inch.
"It was for a wedding," she told him, holding up the Tulips and idly pulling delicate petals from a stem.
"Your wedding," Rhys stated without question.
"And the groom—where is he now?" Rhys held his breath for the answer. It was Valentine's Day and he suddenly wanted to believe in destiny and cupid. Her answer was suddenly very important.
"He didn't show. I sent the guests away." The woman let the petals in her hand fall to the ground. As they spiraled in the breeze to land on the cold, grey, granite steps, Rhys did the only sensible thing he could think of. He kissed her.
Gentle fingers cupped her chin, tilted her face and caught her lips between his. He felt her hands reach forward against his chest, her fingers curling into the cotton of his shirt and Rhys drew her into his body with his free arm. Their matching height fitted their bodies together perfectly and with a gentle nudge Rhys coaxed her leg to rise and wrap about his. They were connected in every intimate way a man and woman could be while standing in a public place with all their clothes on. And it wasn't enough—not nearly enough. He reluctantly broke the kiss running his thumb across her lips to ease the separation.
"Why did you do that?" she whispered, her breath ragged as she tried to drag air into her lungs.
"You looked so sad.  I thought it might cheer you up."
"I've never been kissed like that before—" She held her hands up to her blushing cheeks.
"Not even by the groom?" Rhys was bad enough to ask. He was glad he was the first one to kiss her that way. He wanted to be the last one to kiss her that way.
"Never by him—Trevor wasn't much of a kisser." The woman shrugged her shoulders and gave a hollow laugh, "That should have been the first clue right? He wasn't the marrying kind. Not to someone of my sex anyway," she muttered and dropped her head, "I've been an idiot."
"He's the idiot—" Rhys kissed her again, briefly because resisting the urge to do so was futile. "—for leaving someone as special as you go. I would like to thank him."
"Whatever for?"
"Because now I get to show you what a kiss should really be like," Rhys' fingers drifted into the soft locks of her red hair. He swept the silken strands aside and brushed his lips against the soft skin below her earlobe. His lips continued to trail an exploratory path along her jaw and they returned to the sweet torture of her lips which were parted, swollen, and waiting to join with his once more. "And where a kiss should lead," he muttered tangling his tongue with hers.
Her pupils were dilated so that only a thin rim of green circled her desire drenched gaze.
"Where does it lead?" her words were a hushed sigh taken by his kiss.
"Let me show you." Rhys stepped back and held out his hand. For a nanosecond he waited for her to tell him to take a hike. As well she should. He wouldn't blame her but he didn't want her to.
"Sex," she stated somberly.
Rhys shook his head, "Not sex beauty—love. I want to make love to you, with you, over you. In every way we can imagine. Let me show you how good it can be."
She placed the flat of her palm against the cotton of his blue shirt and felt his heart beat racing. She smiled, a coy little smile; that lit up her face and hinted at the minx he knew she probably could be.
"Do you promise?" she asked placing her hand in his, her grasp strong and assured.
"And the rest! What's your name beauty?"
"Aimee. My name's Aimee."
"Rhys," he pointed to himself, "Rhys and Aimee go together well don't you think?" he was teasing her with that question. It made her blush again and he liked the spot of pink shading her flawless skin.
"This is madness," she whispered as they walked away from the cathedral. By passers smiled in their direction looking at the tall, dark haired man in his navy, tailored suit and the beautiful red head in her couture wedding dress. A spring wedding on Valentine's Day what could be more romantic? Rhys smiled freely at them all.
"So mad it's probably sane. Should we go to your place?"
Aimee shook her head at him. "No—no there will be people there. They will be waiting to tell me that it's okay, that there are plenty more fish in the sea." She laughed exuberantly, "And they'd be right."
"Mine then—where no one can disturb us for as long as we want."
Rhys kept a riverside, penthouse, apartment in the city whenever he had business in the financial district. He took Aimee there. She didn't oh and ah at the spectacular view, or run a soft hand over the minimalist furnishings complimenting the decor. Dropping her bouquet on a walnut end table she followed her nose to the bedroom. Rhys followed her sashaying hips willingly but his foot scrunched on a piece of paper, an envelope, that had been slipped under the door. He picked it up, slipped his fingers under the flap, opening it, and drawing out a sheet of fine stationery. A note in inked copper plate script was written upon it.

Master Taylor,
To quote you "A beautiful dress deserves a beautiful bride."
We hope you don't mind but we found you that bride.
All she needs is a groom.
Perhaps you could oblige?
Affectionately yours,
Mr. Val & Mr. Tyne

Rhys held the note reverently in his hand and walked carefully into his bedroom. Aimee had removed her shoes and was standing by the base of the bed expectantly. She licked her lips nervously.
            "How do you want me?" she asked him quietly.
            Rhys set the note down on his bureau and went to take Aimee in his arms.
            "I want you forever."
On the other side of the city Mr. Val called to Mr. Tyne who was rummaging in the back of the shop.  He emerged carrying a satin trimmed tuxedo over his left arm.
            "Trevor—" he said to the pale faced young man perched on a Victorian, velvet, Tete a Tete sofa in the middle of the shop. "We have just the suit to make you happy."

A Careful Man's Rebel Daughter 

The Argentinean was glaring down the aisle at the moving bridal party with a vehemence that unsettled the meek, old, sacristan. She crossed herself against the devil and retreated from the chalice of the chapel.
   ‘You are pregnant!’ Lautaro Vásquez enunciated each syllable at the top of his heavily accented voice.
   ‘You told me he wouldn’t be here!’ Natalie Whitman cried, the wail from her lungs echoing along the walls of the nave. 
   ‘He declined the invitation? Lautaro?  Lautaro is the father of your baby?’ Flora, the bride, turned on the arm of her new husband looking at her oldest friend in shock.
   Jaeger stepped away from his wife and stood blocking Lautaro’s path, ‘Taro please this is my wedding day,’ he said colour warming his cheekbones.
   ‘And she,’ Lautaro pointed accusingly at Natalie, ‘is having my baby!’ He prowled down the aisle avoiding Jaeger’s attempt to stop him and reached the deceitful temptress. Natalie was rooted to the spot where she had just looked up and seen the dark god of her dreams standing in the aisle.
   ‘It is mine is it not?’ He questioned glaring at her with such naked anger that she felt faint.  
   She shook her head violently but couldn’t meet his eyes as she whispered, ‘ it’s not yours.’
He grabbed hold of her arms, drew her towards him; inclined to shake the truth from her lying limbs. ‘You look close to popping. We slept together eight months ago.’
   ‘This is a church!’ Flora protested but neither Lautaro nor the woman carrying his unborn baby heard her. He forced Natalie to look directly at his face. Her porcelain complexion had turned to white but those amazing emerald eyes of hers flashed at him defiantly.
   ‘I was your first lover querido. Unless you have changed the habit of a life time I bet I’m still your only lover.’
   ‘No there was someone else.’ She would say anything to convince him the baby was not his.  
   ‘Liar! Treacherous woman you lie,’ he snarled, ‘Si me muero, le perdono. Si vivo veremos!’ Lautaro began to drag the lying, cheating beauty to the door of the church.    
   ‘Taro! Taro!’ Jaeger and Flora’s cries followed them out into a blizzard of snow. He marched ahead; the deep snowdrifts only a nuisance to him at his great height of six foot five inches. They crossed through an ancient cloister connecting the chapel to the castle. His hand was clasped around her fragile wrist propelling Natalie forward. The cold hate of a wronged man gurgled in his veins and he was blind to anything and everything except finding some privacy.
   Why was he here?  She questioned silently bending her head against the driving snow. She had been so careful to make sure he would not be at the wedding. If she had known he would be here, on the edge of a frozen lake in the High Austrian Alps, she would not have agreed to be bridesmaid. She was in her final trimester, had risked travelling to the edge of the world amongst the towering turrets of snow to celebrate a Valentine’s Day wedding. It should have been wonderfully romantic. 
   ‘Please I can’t...’ Natalie cried tripping over her dress and falling into the deep snow. He growled impatiently, picked her up with little effort and drew his overcoat around them both.  The swell of her belly rested against his strength and her head fell against his shoulder as dizziness overcame her. 
   For a moment the warm curves of her body enticed the Argentinean but he was sensible to her powers now and she would never fool him again.
   ‘Your room?’ he demanded carrying her over the threshold. 
   ‘The first floor...third room,’ Natalie grated out.
   Behind the closed door of her master suite Lautaro placed her down on the edge of the bed. Her dress was soaked with damp, her skin was wetted with melting snowflakes and an uncontrollable shiver took hold of her body.
  ‘Quítelo,’ he said holding a towel tightly in his fist.
  ‘Translate damn you.  I don’t speak Spanish.’
  ‘You’ll learn. Take your dress off.’
  Natalie stared at the demonic man in front of her, ‘I’m taking nothing off.’
   ‘I’ve seen it all before. Your dress is soaked through. Take it off. You are risking my baby’s health.’
  ‘No you risked my baby’s health dragging me outside. How are you going to apologise to Jaeger and Flora. You just ruined their wedding!’
   ‘They are too loved up to let it bother them for long. A Valentine’s wedding what sentimental rubbish. Take it off Natalia or I’ll remove it for you,’ he warned using the Spanish version of her name. Lautaro was the only one who called her that but he said her name differently now with no tenderness. The treat was in the set line of his jaw and the dark depths of his black eyes. 
   Feeling for the side zip she dragged the metal clasps open and shucked out of the forest green satin tugging it over her ripe bump. There was silence as the father of her baby stared at her swollen belly. He moved forward knelt in front of her and began to wipe gently the moisture from her skin. His caress feathered over her shoulders, down over her burgeoning breasts, down over her bump. The towel fell to the floor and his hands replaced it feeling what they had created together beneath his fingertips. 
   His gentle touch still had the power to switch her on. Her body tingled with remembered pleasure. She could close her eyes and lean back on the mattress but his harsh words against her ear shattered that thought.
   ‘What’s the father’s name if I am not him?’
   He lifted her head with a firm grip on her chin so that she had to look at him.
   ‘You lie.  You lie with your mouth but your eyes shine the truth.  The child in your womb is mine and now so are you.’  

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