cassie's sheikh chapter one

'if she's the bitch i imagine she must be, there is no way i shall let my uncle place his horses at her father's stable,' kasim said. 'it would be the worst thing he could do.' 'but you don't know that,' ben harrison, his friend, constant companion and lawyer told him. 'she may be a perfectly pleasant woman for all you know.' 'a woman who writes for one of those filthy rags?' kasim's eyes flashed with scorn. his face had the proud, regal lines of his ancestors, the bones angled beneath his olive-toned skin, but his eyes told another story. they were a deep brilliant blue, testimony to his mixed parentage, for he was the son of a desert sheikh and the beautiful blonde and blue-eyed daughter of an american millionaire. 'maybe she just does it for a living.' the angles of kasim's face hardened. 'don't try to make excuses for her, ben. i've had experience of her kind, remember?' 'yes, of course i remember,' ben replied. 'but you shouldn't jump to conclusions. you were all set for this deal until you found out that josh's daughter worked for that magazine.' 'my uncle thinks it is the best place available,' kasim said. 'so i shall keep an open mind, but i want to see what they're like on a normal working day, not when everything is cleaned up for inspection.' 'shall i come with you?' 'not today.' kasim's face relaxed into an affectionate smile, the angles softened as he looked at the man he trusted more than any other. 'if i decide to go any further we'll keep our appointment tomorrow – but today will be my little surprise.' cassie rushed out into the hall as she heard the commotion, feeling concerned as she saw everyone gathered about her father. her mother turned to look at her anxiously. 'your father thinks his ankle may be broken, cassie.'

'oh, dad,' cassie said. 'does it hurt badly?' 'pretty bad,' josh livingston said, grimacing. ' it may mean i'm stuck in hospital for a few days, and you know who's coming tomorrow, don't you?' 'an important client,' cassie and her mother echoed each other. cassie understood what was going through his mind. josh ran a small but successful racing stable in newmarket, but the owner who had kept a string of horses with them for the past several years was about to retire from the business. 'maybe they will let you out, josh,' helen livingston said but without really believing it. 'you may not have to stay in hospital.' 'but what if i do? who is going to explain the way we work here to our visitor? joe is great with the horses, but he hates getting involved with owners, it's the reason he doesn't work for himself.' 'i suppose i could try…' helen said doubtfully. 'if you helped me, cassie?' cassie hesitated for a moment. she was meant to be back in london the next day, and they had a magazine to get out – but she was due a few days leave and she could email her stuff through to the office. 'yes, of course. if dad thinks i'm up to it?' she grinned, tossing back her long pale hair, her greenish-blue eyes sparking with mischief. 'you know i'm a walking minefield, dad – dare you risk it?' 'it looks as if i may have to. this ankle is pretty awful, cas. try not to say or do anything daft when mr ahmed comes, won't you?' 'you mean like calling him the sheikh of araby and wearing my harem costume?' 'cassie!' her mother cried horrified. 'please don't joke about this, darling. your father has enough to worry him.' 'it's all right, cas doesn't mean it. i know you'll both do your best, but you're too like me, cas – you'll probably fall flat on your backside just as you go to shake his hand,' her father said. 'shake the sheikh's hand,' cassie said irrepressibly. 'i think i could make up a little song about that…'

'please spare me,' her father begged. 'that sounds like the ambulance outside, love.' he looked at his wife. 'i think i shall need a chair.' 'yes, of course. stay where you are, josh.' as his wife hurried out, he looked at his daughter. 'you know your mother hates horses, cas, always has. she can't bear to go near them. i sometimes wonder how she has managed to live with me all this time.' 'because she adores you,' cassie said and smiled at him affectionately. 'and because you treat her as if she were special, dad. not many women are lucky enough to find a man like that, and mum knows a good thing when she sees it.' 'bless you, love. i'm relying on you to charm mr ahmed, cas. he can be a pleasant chap, but they say he is hard to please when it comes to business and we need his horses. tell him that we shall be able to devote ourselves to his string by next month, and that we are very stringent about security, also discreet – that is important to him. he hates newspapers and magazines…' 'pity about that,' cassie said. 'i might have gained brownie points with maggie if i'd been able to get an interview for our rag.' 'mr ahmed wouldn't be seen dead in your rag,' her father said. 'whatever you do, don't tell him you work for stars & their lives magazine or he will be gone so fast we shan't see the dust.' 'i was only teasing, dad,' cassie said and for once her famous grin was missing. 'i do know how much this means to you, and i promise i shall do my best to pull it off for you. i won't breathe a word about the magazine, and i shall tell him what a wonderful trainer you are. not that i have to with your record. you had six winners last year and that surely speaks for itself.' 'i haven't won a classic for three years,' her father said with a grimace. 'that could all change with mr ahmed's string – if he placed them with us.' 'yes, i know.' cassie looked at him curiously. 'why doesn't he like to be addressed by his title?' 'he is a very private man. he never allows photographs, and is furious if the press catch him anywhere but at a race meeting. he can't prevent that, of course, nor being addressed as sheikh ali bin ahmed in public, but he prefers to keep a low profile in private.'

'he's extremely rich, isn't he?' 'one of the richest of them all. 'the thing is that he…' josh broke off as two ambulance men came in carrying a chair. cassie watched as her father was helped into the chair by the paramedics and taken outside, followed by his wife. helen livingston cast an agonised glance at her daughter as she left. 'you can manage, can't you, love? i may be with your father for the rest of the day. there are a few letters that need typing. you will find them on the desk in the office.' 'yes, of course,' cassie said. 'don't worry about anything here. i'll be all right until you come home, i promise.' and that was quite a promise, cassie acknowledged after her parents had left in the ambulance. she had columns to write for the magazine, those letters for her father, and a routine tour of the yard, just to make sure she knew anything she ought to know before the arrival of the sheikh of araby the next day. a little giggle escaped her as she pictured him, looking much like rudolph valentino, the star of the silver screen in the twenties. 'that's enough of that, cassandra,' she told herself severely. she had no idea of what mr ahmed looked like. he could be thin and dashingly handsome or fat, boring and ugly. and that wasn't important either. he was her father's one hope of keeping the stable going, because without him josh would probably have to sell everything and that would break her father's heart. he had put so many years into this business. a determined look came over cassie's face. if she had anything to do with it, mr ahmed was going to run straight to his lawyers and sign the contract even if she had to – what? oh no, there were limits, she decided. she'd heard about some of these rich playboys, and the one thing she wasn't about to do was fall into bed with him! but if mr ahmed was the private businessman he claimed to be, he probably wouldn't be interested in her as a woman. why should he? cassie glanced at herself in the mirror and giggled. she was exactly miss glamourpants was she? wearing her oldest jeans, a faded sweatshirt, her hair decidedly in need of a wash, she wouldn't exactly drive any man to madness with lust for her. that wasn't important. tomorrow she would be wearing smart jodhpurs, her best riding boots and her hair would be gleaming. but for the moment she

had too much to do to worry what she looked like! she walked into her father's office and switched on his laptop. she was just about to insert a disc with the details of the articles she had prepared for the stars & their lives when she heard a loud crunching sound and an expensive car came to a screeching halt in the gravel outside her window. now who on earth was that? she wondered, getting up to investigate. the car was a very expensive mercedes sports model in metallic silver with a black leather interior, and the hood had been rolled back, which made it appear even racier. oh, no, it couldn't be! cassie's heart sank as the man got out of the car, standing there in the sunshine for a moment. he was tall but not too tall, strong-looking with powerful shoulders and an air of assurance that made cassie's heart plummet all the way down to her white, wedge mules. it had to be mr ahmed! he was turning towards her now and her breath caught as she saw that he was better looking than any sheikh she had seen in old movies on the tv screen. his hair was jet black with a bluish tinge in the sunlight and his eyes – were hidden behind his designer shades. his suit shouted saville row at her, his shoes obviously handmade and expensive. what the hell was he doing here today? she felt like exploding as she glanced down at herself. she looked like something the cat had dragged in and felt worse. oh, why couldn't he have kept to his appointment as arranged? there was no help for it, cassie realised. she had to meet him as she was and grovel. she went swiftly through to the front door, opening it seconds before he could ring the bell. he removed his glasses and looked at her, his eyes going over her slowly in a measured way that made her want to die. this man was used to having the best of everything – and no doubt that included women! – what must be going through his mind? he must think her a poor specimen. hang on a minute! those eyes were blue, bright, clear and devastating. she had always thought men from the middle eastern countries had dark eyes – but his were startling. and she was staring like an idiot! 'i am so sorry,' she said, offering her hand and smiling. 'we weren't expecting you until tomorrow, sir. i'm afraid i'm not properly dressed for showing you round the yard, but i can find a pair of wellington boots and then i'll be with you.'

'and you are?' he asked, his brows rising. he did not immediately take the hand she offered, and she let it drop feeling rejected. his voice had the quality of cut glass and cassie shivered, her knees suddenly feeling as if they had the consistency of jelly. he was clearly a man of authority, and none too pleased by being met by someone who looked as if she'd been pulled backwards through a hedge. 'i was expecting to meet mr joshua livingston the owner of this stable i understand?' 'my father, yes, of course, sir,' cassie said, but her head went up and she refused to be cut down by the slash of his tone. his manner was sending shivers along the entire length of her spine, but she wasn't going to fail at the first fence. 'unfortunately, he had an accident this morning and had to go to hospital. actually, there must have been some mix-up, mr ahmed. i am so sorry to seem at a loss, but we weren't expecting you until tomorrow.' 'so you are miss livingston?' he said and appeared to be considering, his eyes surveying her with a calculating coldness. 'and you are offering yourself in your father's place?' 'it might seem a poor substitute,' cassie admitted. 'i'm not a trainer, but i've been around horses all my life and i love them. i don't have my father's expert knowledge, but i know a great deal about the way he runs the stable – and his head groom, joe green, will be glad to tell you anything that i can't, sir.' 'mr ahmed will do,' he said and his mouth relaxed slightly. she thought he might have been laughing at her, and for a moment her heart did a giddy somersault, but he had replaced his glasses and it was impossible to tell. 'do you think you could find those boots, miss livingston? i shall be calling on you officially tomorrow, but i decided to drive myself down early and take a quick look round this morning. i like to see things as they are, not specially tidied up for my benefit.' 'yes, of course, sir,' cassie said and opened the door of the hall cupboard, taking out the wellingtons her mother used for gardening. they were a bright turquoise, and really little bootees rather than the sensible boots she would have chosen given time, but at least they fitted. 'i hope you won't allow this little misunderstanding to put you off my father's stable. he really is an excellent trainer.' 'if i didn't know that i should not be here.' he glanced at his watch – gold, fabulously expensive – and then at her. 'i have just thirty minutes before i

i often do. but she mustn't even think the word. a raw masculinity that she had seldom met with in the men she knew. across his shoulders for a moment. but the walk was pretty with the blossom trees just beginning to drop their flowers. and not just because she was a journalist.have to fly back to a meeting in london. her voice warm . his mouth curiously sensual despite his aura of power and disdain. stop dreaming of sunlit beaches. vibrant and one of the best journalists on maggie's staff.' 'yes.' cassie felt like a wilting rose under his withering stare. she couldn't help thinking that maggie would drool over this one. 'i assure you it was nothing. 'the vet said we ought to have jester put down. of course.' 'you came all this way for half an hour?' cassie couldn't help being fascinated. bringing her sharply to heel. and how he had saved his previous owner thousands of pounds by working with one particular horse they had all adored. i would go much further on…important business. there was something about him that she found stimulating. cassie livingston. apart from the odd accident. the body under that suit had to be something special! 'shall we go then?' his abrupt question broke into her thoughts. and that wasn't really like her. and the sound of birdsong all around them. she did hope not. the way he could often tell what was the matter with a sick horse just by looking and watching. and few of my meetings last longer than thirty minutes. if only she could get photos – preferably of him wearing something less than his smart silk suit. and get on with the job in hand. this man could probably read her mind – oh. she watched as he bent to remove his own shoes and replace them with a pair of riding boots that had seen a certain amount of wear. noticing the way his jacket pulled tight. iced drinks and fabulous men in bathing shorts. she switched into professional mood as they walked from the house to the yard.' cassie said. it was a matter of only a few minutes. like knocking over her diet drink and ruining her copy. she was babbling like a fool. she was confident. she told him of her father's love of horses. i am a busy man. in her real life. miss livingston. indeed.

'but dad wouldn't hear of it.' 'did you not? i would not like to hear you when that was your intention.' 'i was merely putting the point. unfortunately. 'i hope my father would never think that the better option. but it sired a colt that won for someone else. just what was he doing here? had he deliberately set a trap for her? she paused for a moment.' 'but totally cruel!' cassie cried. but he was also infuriating. the very fact that dad made jester well again was worth all the trouble. slashing at her like a scimitar. 'it was just that we all loved jester so very much. 'there is no need to jump on me as if i had suggested murder. she swallowed her pride.' 'why – did the horse win a race for you?' 'no. infuriated that he could suggest such a thing.and enthusiastic. she might have turned on her heel and left him standing there. he might be the most totally fascinating man she had ever seen. had she been free to behave as she wished.' mr ahmed said coldly. her father was desperate for a new owner.' cassie took a deep breath. slept there every night for weeks until my mother threatened to divorce him – but it was worth it in the end.' cassie clamped down on a sassy retort.' 'i had thought you meant that your father would do as much for any horse if it was sick?' 'yes. counting to ten before speaking. and the only one to profess an interest was this man. 'forgive me. i should not consider placing my…horses with anyone who was not prepared to put themselves to extra trouble to nurse a horse that needed it. of course he would!' 'i am relieved to hear it. he nursed jester himself. giving him what she hoped was a conciliatory smile. i did not intend to be rude. his eyes raking her. wasn't it?' 'was it?' his voice was clipped.' cassie did a quick stock-take of her thoughts. precise. giving him . 'besides.' cassie said. 'it would probably have been more economic to have the horse put down in the first place. miss livingston.

amused by the . sentimental woman. a look that her work colleagues knew well. and she was quite certain that she knew exactly what he meant by the right moment. miss livingston. which gave the air a strong pungent smell and was not what she had hoped for.' if only she could see his eyes! cassie was sure that he was thoroughly enjoying himself at her expense. though the intention was good.' he said and the look he gave her was deliberately provoking. hell. but if i loved an animal that could not be helped i should immediately send for a vet to put it down. they must have had about ten minutes warning of my arrival. this wasn't the time to start having fantasies about a man with beautifully tanned skin and a body to die for! they had reached the yard. and she had a dawning suspicion that he was laughing at her. and news of mr ahmed's arrival must have reached the stable boys and girls because they were working harder than she had ever seen them in her life. mr ahmed. as one of the boys dashed across the yard to remove a barrow from his path. mr ahmed.' mr ahmed looked on with approval. every stable must have been cleaned for piles of dung were piled into barrows waiting to be wheeled out to the dung heap. 'tenderness should be reserved for the right moment. 'i have very little use for it myself – except at the right moment.' 'i think you have scared the life out of them.' oh. oh. and of course his eyes were hidden. i believe that is very true. though her parents and friends had rarely seen it.' 'indeed? how practical you are. thus removing some of the source of the smell. 'i hope you don't think i am a silly. i assure you that i have my wits about me. damn him! he was determined to turn everything she said on its head.' cassie said. for i saw a lad leaning over a gate as i drove by. his mouth firmly set in disapproving lines. thinking about what he would feel was a moment for tenderness was making her knees go wobbly again.' he replied. 'i thought for a moment that i had discovered that rare thing these days – a tender-hearted woman. i care for all animals. not that there was a trace of it in his expression. 'enthusiasm. 'that's what i like to of her cassandra looks. not just horses.' 'yes.

she watched her companion. 'i am aware that my…reputation usually goes before me.' 'which was my intention. 'mr ahmed would like you to show him some of our best horses. who came over to them at his usual measured pace.' joe said and tipped his cap to her. i am afraid you are seeing life at the stable as it really is. 'they had all planned to be so neat and tidy tomorrow.' he replied. miss livingston – or may i call you . apart from where the stables are in the process of being cleaned. 'the yard itself is clean.' he replied and looked so pleased with himself that she wanted to hit him. of course not. 'i doubt that i shall be interested in buying anything. he had hoped to be able to train it up for the classics.' 'well. but would not now get the chance. 'we've one or two you'll like.' 'then show them to me. which was no hardship. i wanted to see what goes on here on a normal day.' he remarked when all the best horses had been paraded. you've certainly managed to do that. because he was gorgeous. she knew that her father had a two-year-old that he thought might be a winner in future years. joe.' mr ahmed said. if that is not too much trouble?' 'no. sir. a little nerve had flicked at his temple. cassie. yes. 'not bad.guilty looks all around her. all of which she knew from previous visits to her father's stables. despite that haughty manner. and i am quite content. miss livingston. no one changed joe. instead of watching the horses.' 'yes.' cassie said and signalled to joe. there are no dangerous objects lying about that might injure a startled horse. allowing his mouth to soften slightly. he was very good at hiding his thoughts.' he was very casual. for if he could win with these horses he could do much better with mine. it may be possible for us to do business. and the layout is good. though in every other way he seemed unaffected. not even an important new owner. now i should like to see what horses you have here at the moment. 'my opinion of your father's skill as a trainer has been considerable heightened. but she noticed a slight stiffening when the two-year-old was led out and walked up and down the yard a few times. could you walk them for him?' 'yes. but we may as well look them over. of course. but cassie caught an odd note and wondered. i approve so far. they will all be up for sale at tatersalls next month i daresay. sir.

he was flirting with her. of course.' . 'hawking or visiting my harem?' again his mouth twitched as if he were nursing a secret amusement. my uncle thought it best for me to know more of the outside world – and he preferred england to america. it wasn't that she didn't find him madly attractive.' he murmured.' 'indeed? what a pity. somehow that did not equate with her picture of a typical sheikh.cassie?' 'yes. of course. i expect?' 'yes. discreetly but definitely flirting. i am a fan of american football. that is what i imagined.' cassie's face flooded with colour for she could not mistake the tone of his voice.' 'the americans might have given you a better grounding in business studies than our universities. quite probably. naturally. though i am not sure i agree with him. only someone who was blind. because that expensive cologne was very.' 'ah…' his mouth quirked as if he were amused. 'horse racing is commonly held to be the first love of your people. i am not given to populist prejudices and fantasy. 'the harbinger of doom if my memory serves me right?' 'you have studied classic literature. sir?' 'i was educated at oxford. now she knew he was needling her! she had suspected it all the time. she breathed deeply. she gave him a look calculated to slay at ten paces. everyone does – though my name is cassandra. for a moment she saw a very different man and her stomach clenched with a feeling she recognised as raw desire. her breath caught in her throat and she had to fight down the urge to touch him. cassie. 'i would have thought…' her words died away for she did not know how to continue. or his manner. if you wish. very sexy! 'always providing that i have any. cassie. 'i should have liked to stir your imagination a little. sir. but now she was certain.' 'really?' she was so surprised that she could only stare. deaf and couldn't smell would find him unattractive. it was the football i was thinking of myself.

though whether with anger or desire she wasn't certain. but then he held on to it longer than was strictly necessary. their visitor had been early and you couldn't pretend that stables didn't have to be cleaned! when they reached the house.' 'yes. 'this is strictly business. you are very kind. which made her pulses race.' 'shall we be seeing you often.'oh. she was at that moment torn between a need to hit him hard and fall into his arms.' she said. sir. even if her father had been here himself. 'i shall not wish to visit the stable again – but i shall expect to see you. sir?' 'perhaps…' he replaced his sunglasses. cassie. she allowed herself a small. cassie. in business i am ruthless. formal smile for she dare not offend him.' 'then you may expect me tomorrow at eleven. 'but there are others better able to give their opinion of my nature.' he said. provocatively. if we like what we see…' 'i am not sure if my father will be able to meet you. i believe there may be hope for you. she offered her hand to him and this time he took it. of course. cassie felt that things had gone as well as could be expected in the circumstances. 'but i know where he keeps everything. only the knowledge that her father's livelihood depended on this man kept her feet firmly on the ground. 'thank you. i think i shall let you find out for yourself. crossing her fingers behind her back.' he was smiling now. cassie?' . and to have my lawyer look at your books. i do not believe that is a word many would use for me.' 'no. in my dealings with others i try to be fair – but in my private life…' he removed his glasses and gave her a look from devastating eyes that would have had her swooning if he had been a chance acquaintance at a party. i shall be delighted to show you. 'will you dine with me this evening. i shall visit tomorrow with my lawyer who will look at your father's papers and accounts.' they walked back to the house together almost in silence. he could not have altered anything.

' 'you have not. but what did he hope to gain by it? she was certain that they had never met. 'when we know each other a little better. i should have remembered that english girls are more reserved.' she suggested in an effort to seem sophisticated and cool. what had he meant by that – he knew her much better than she thought? it was another deliberate attempt on his part to overset her. but if it is not possible i shall be quite content to accept you as his deputy. most women i know would have accepted my invitation immediately. 'quite the opposite. which had gone sadly missing.' he said. though her pulses were racing like the wind. i shall hope to see him tomorrow.' 'i know you. what a surprise! he had completely taken the wind out of her sails. cassandra. 'perhaps another time. as he had played mental games for his own amusement during their visit to the stable. she felt as if she were close to fainting but pulled herself together quickly. 'it was a pleasure to meet you – and do give my kind regards to your father. now her knees had gone completely to mush and she sat down on the wooden bench outside the office window abruptly.' he said and smiled oddly.' 'i did not mean to offend you. what kind of a fool was she? this man was dangerous. started the engine and drove away. and he knew it! she sat for a few minutes in the sunshine trying to recover her composure. 'but i see that i have shocked you.' cassie watched as he climbed into his car. far too charming. well. quite. he was merely playing with her. perhaps it is best that we wait for a while. if she had seen .' he said. reached for her hand and lifted it to his lips to salute it. quite certain. much better than you think. sir. and far too attractive.' 'surely you would not wish to go to so much trouble?' 'i do not fly the plane myself – at least not often.'but i thought you were returning to london?' 'i am – but i can have my plane return this evening.' the touch of his lips against her skin seemed to burn her.

but it isn't serious. currently between partners. 'you look tired. his ankle isn't as bad as we thought but apparently. she had felt the pull of his personality as strongly as that of his fantastic physical aura. just like the brother she'd never had. almost. no! she would be very foolish to get involved with a man who had heartbreak written all over him. cassie didn't often fall for men as swiftly as that – in fact it was five years since she had even taken a man seriously. she still went out with men for the odd drink and dinner. more often she spent time with a group of friends. and her best mates. julie and lydia were single. of course. darling. . he knew that he had a small problem ages ago. they detected a heart murmur…' 'mum!' cassie's eyes widened with fright. well. cassie finished sending her copy online. cassie went to her immediately. sheikh ali bin ahmed had blue eyes.' 'it wasn't serious. a bottle of wine or a shoulder whenever the girls needed it. her last real relationship had ended so badly that it had put her off men for good. it's just that he's had a shock and it's made his heartbeat a little irregular so the hospital wants to keep an eye on him for a day or so. concerned. mum. you didn't forget a man like that! no way! especially when his voice. a wonderful friendly guy who was always there to supply a lift. closed the computer and turned to leave the office just as her mother walked in looking shattered. it's only something slight. 'i hated leaving him but they insisted on keeping him in – for a couple of days. damn him! one out of three was ok. his eyes and the touch of his lips had such devastating effects. but mr ahmed certainly wasn't mr right. you would have come rushing home. she supposed. he was very definitely mr no. don't worry.' 'you didn't tell me. was it dreadful?' 'your father was in a lot of pain. she had her dreams of what mr right would look like – usually fair with blue eyes and a gentle smile.him even briefly at a party she would have remembered. 'oh.' helen livingston caught back a sob. besides. of course. shane was gay. and. and whom she loved to bits.

mum. have that bath and we'll talk later. to discuss something about tomorrow.' cassie hugged her mother. you didn't have to. of course i shall. 'go and have a lovely bath. not much else i could do. darling.probably offering to give up your life for us. i think i shall. shall we have a salad this evening? i don't think i could cook. mr ahmed caught us on the hop. he came a few minutes after the ambulance had left. thank goodness you were here today on one of your flying visits. 'whatever did you do?' 'i took him to the yard. 'i've got a wretched headache. it's his horses your father is interested in.' cassie said. 'go on.' 'no. too. that her father found useful. 'i hope mr ahmed didn't come in here? i've been wanting to tidy it for ages but your father always complains when i do. well. it went quite well.' 'he is coming back tomorrow to go through dad's accounts.' cassie said. cuttings from magazines. he wants you to visit this evening.' 'oh. because you'll want a nice soak. and all sorts of bits and pieces about the anatomy of a horse. i don't know how we would have coped without you. there were racing papers everywhere. 'i'll tidy up a little before i get our supper. mum.' 'what a disaster! i suppose that's the end of josh's hopes. and you're doing so well.' 'really? you must definitely visit your father this evening and tell him all about it. and asked to see the stables.' 'yes. didn't think much of the string we have here at the moment – except perhaps one.' helen frowned.' 'oh goodness!' helen looked shocked. your father is really proud of you – but he's worried about mr ahmed. realising that the office did look rather a mess. i don't think so.' 'well.' 'yes. offices are meant to look like this. and i'll call you when it's ready. you should see .' 'i've got something to tell him.' her mother's eyes travelled round the office. 'i think mr ahmed was quite impressed. it only needs a few things straightened up.' cassie said.' 'thank you.' 'leave it all to me.

her daughter was optimistic like her father. cassie watched her mother leave. maggie grant. may we suggest that you watch this space for further bulletins. dear old dad. he was always on her side! she managed to hide the first half of the pile under a wooden chest of drawers. helen livingston was such a tidy person. reading them as she went. and of middle eastern descent. though the lady smiled and looked delighted at the suggestion. it was a huge pile so she sat crossed-legged on the carpet and started to look through them. cassie started straightening things. she had no intention of hiding everything in the cupboards.mine. the son of the late industrial giant. which were probably full to bursting anyway. surely he could have done something to prevent a picture like this being published? reading the copy under the article her eyes narrowed in sudden suspicion. she must find this office a terrible trial. kasim bin mohamed. she'd thought he hated being photographed! how come he wasn't waving his fist at the camera. seen last night with his latest companion.' helen laughed. moving about the room. for he had collected things that covered a wide spectrum and not just racing. considered their main rival. that much was not in doubt – but he was not mr . then started on the second pile. it was so fascinating to see her father's varied tastes. and just as untidy. but what leapt out at cassie was that her sheikh was not the man she had been expecting when he turned up that morning! so who the hell was he? the playboy son of a millionaire certainly. the gentleman rigorously denied rumours of an engagement. smiling as she found several of her own articles had been cut out and saved. and was the kind of rag that would print anything. that was mr ahmed! he was pictured smiling as he came out of a london nightclub with a beautiful blonde on his arm. mohamed alabdullah as-ahmed. it had been published in a magazine that cassie's chief editor. but she didn't want to fuss. she was smiling over one article when she looked down and her blood ran cold. she could always come in early in the morning and do a bit more if it needed it. at least maggie did insist that her reporters verified any article they wrote as much as possible. but she could tidy those old newspapers away.

especially when her father was hoping for so much from the visit. but sometimes stress can make life uncomfortable for the patient.' 'yes. cassie tore the photograph and accompanying article from the paper. clearly she couldn't worry her father with her problem. which in all likelihood he wouldn't. she would ask her father if he knew who the imposter might be when she visited him that evening. cassie would have to cope with whatever presented itself. at ten o'clock she went . of course. folded it and put into her jeans pocket. in the morning. so she had left him sleeping and come home to be with her mother. she only hoped that no lasting damage had been done. perhaps the real mr ahmed would arrive in the morning and her parents need never know about the terrible mistake she'd made.' cassie said. he was not the man she had been told was interested in buying her father's stable. we may as well give him some treatment. 'we think he has probably been under a bit of strain recently. 'he needs to rest. three hours later. somehow she got through the evening without spilling out her worries to her mother. oh. who was worrying even if she was pretending to be calm about the whole thing. she had been unable to speak to her father because he'd been given something to help him sleep. cassie eased her car to a gentle halt outside her parents' house when she returned from the hospital. even if he had been awake.ahmed. and as he has to be here anyway. who already had more than was good for her. obviously the man she had assumed was mr ahmed had no right to go through her father's accounts for a start – but he probably wouldn't have the cheek to turn up at all.' 'i thought his condition was not serious?' 'it isn't as a general rule. she couldn't wait to show that man this picture and ask him exactly what he thought he was doing impersonating a sheikh – that's if he dared to show his face. did that mean they would receive a visit from the real sheikh or was this whole thing a hoax? if it was it was cruel.' sister told her. and these drugs will slow him down a bit.

they called the horse barmy affectionately. his arms about her. though he had a much grander name and a pretty good pedigree through his sire and dam. she would have had a few words to say that might have put him off his meal. raising her hopes. and he kicked if you didn't watch out for him – but josh said that his spirit was what would make him a winner. making her think he was pleased with the yard when all he'd come for was…just what had he come for? suddenly. kicking up his heels and racing round the paddock like a mad thing. everything had become muddled and she saw herself riding along a sunlit beach on a black horse. but of course in the way dreams always have. and the man who rode with her.up to bed intending to research some material for her next series of articles. which included boiling him in oil and tearing him limb from limb. the imposter must have got wind that there was a good horse likely to come up for sale at tatersalls the next month and. but all she could think about was the picture of that wretched man. and she knew that the lovely warmth it gave her came from the nearness of the man who held her so close to him. it seemed that he'd used the excuse to spy on the two-year-old to get an unfair advantage for the sale. nibbling at the stable girls when they were trying to look after his mother. was wearing the robes and headdress of a sheikh. only to confront the man who had made her restless in her dreams. and he'd even had the effrontery to ask her to dinner! she wished she'd accepted. . cassie thought she knew. in her dream she was breathing deeply. wearing something white and flimsy. the two-year-old her father believed had potential as a classic winner! she'd seen the impostor's eyes sparkle as joe led barmy out and paraded him. she felt the irritation grinding inside her. but at last she fell asleep. also. was he trying to ruin her father? cassie thought of all the things she would like to do to the fake mr ahmed. like floating on air. it was the most marvellous feeling. what a dirty. rotten trick! especially as he'd carried on the masquerade by saying he would be arriving to look at the accounts the following morning. her body melting with desire – and then she woke up and it was morning. because he'd been so full of life as a colt. as a youngster he had been very naughty. her anger and frustration kept her awake for sometime. her hands itching to get at him for what he'd done to her that day. that they were due to be paid a visit by sheikh ali bin ahmed.

'or do you think that sort of thing is against his religion? i'm not sure. cold roast lamb. and an attractive white shirt. it was only a quarter to eleven and she was dressed to the nines in one of her best suits. some spiced. 'i am fine as i am. some plain. because if the imposter turned up this morning she would need her wits about her to deal with him. there was also some goats' cheese. 'it looks wonderful. i do not. 'do you think mr ahmed would stay to lunch?' cassie's mother asked.' hearing the sound of a car pulling up outside. the dream had turned what was a rather sordid reality into something sweet and precious and that was foolish. accompanied by cold asparagus rolled in brown bread and butter. she had spent the morning making her pretty home look as spotless and neat as always. feeling very much like a fashion doll. and a dish of prawns in mayonnaise.' cassie said. mum. . and a beautiful cold buffet was waiting in her large american fridge. 'he can always say no. diced avocado in a dressing that would keep it fresh and green. except to wash her hair.' cassie said. beef. she held her breath as her mother went to the door. are you?' cassie looked at the bowls of rice. she had felt something in her dream that she had never known in a man's arms before. 'or should i simply not ask?' 'i should imagine it is polite to ask if he would like some refreshment. to be brought out should their visitor deign to eat with them. she glanced at her daughter who. artichoke hearts. very different from her dreams. i should imagine he could find something here that he likes to eat.' 'do you think wine – or just chilled water?' helen looked much for dreams! cassie thought as she stretched and remembered the vivid pictures.' helen glanced at her watch. but it had faded and the light of day brought an unwholesome awakening. if you don't feel able to ask him. though wearing a better pair of jeans than the previous day. she must put all such thoughts out of her mind. he won't care what i am wearing. 'don't you think you ought to wear a good trouser suit or something?' 'no. roasted peppers and green peas. if he wasn't put off by my appearance yesterday. ask his lawyer. mum. also a large dish of her mother's special potato salad. hadn't made much of an effort.

.' 'yes. 'you must be miss livingston. feeling relieved because the thought of sitting through a formal meal with him was daunting. and unfortunately. and too fantastic-looking for her peace of mind – but that wouldn't save him.' ben harrison thanked her. mostly salads and things. 'we have been looking forward to your visit.' helen said smiling at him nervously.' he said. mr ahmed. mrs livingston? we can just help ourselves and pick. 'yes. a message from you father i expect.would it be the impostor or…her breath expelled in a little gasp as she heard the unmistakable voice of the man she was itching to see again. introducing his lawyer as ben harrison. oh.' he said and gave her a friendly smile.' he accepted easily. a dreadful habit.' she said. thank you. was he going to be sorry he started this! 'please come in. even if he did make her knees turn to jelly every time he looked at her.' cassie's eyes met the impostor's and the look she gave him made him blink. she held back the biting words until she could be certain of getting him alone. an englishman whom he'd met at oxford and who now worked for him on a permanent basis. of course. 'i expect to be checking records for some hours and it would be nice to eat in the office as we work – if that is all right with you. asked if they could possibly have coffee now and looked at cassie. lovely.' 'oh. 'i'll let you know when it's on the table – in about two hours . 'i shall find time to visit him soon – how long will he be in the hospital?' 'a few days no more. 'i was concerned to hear that josh was ill. but i seldom have time to sit down for a meal. boy. because he was offering to shake her mother's hand. are you ready to get started?' 'if i may i should like a private word with mr ahmed first?' 'cassie?' her mother looked at her in surprise. notching up another mark on cassie's list for daring to use her father's name so familiarly. cassie.' the imposter was as cool as an iced cucumber.' helen was saying. my husband has had to stay in hospital for a few days – but my daughter will look after you. 'i wondered if you and mr harrison would have some lunch when you've had a look at the accounts? it is just a cold buffet.and then you can help yourselves. i am terribly sorry that neither my husband or i were here to greet you yesterday.

i have no idea of what you're talking about. 'tell me – why do you call him barmy?' 'don't try to charm me. mr mohamed? or whatever your name is. cassie closed it.' cassie said furiously. i suppose you think you can buy him on the cheap?' 'ah yes.'in his office if you don't mind. had sent such a wave of desire through her that she felt as if she were caught in her dream again. 'you're not sheikh ali bin ahmed. you're not the man my father intended to do business with – so why are you here? was it to spy on barmy?' 'who or what is barmy? i'm sorry. leaving the door slightly ajar. 'you chose to use ahmed. when he let go of her she almost stumbled.' 'the two-year-old my father thinks is a future classic winner. that horse – i might consider buying him.' he said. the warm feel of his mouth on hers. 'i know you for what you are now and…' she was in full flood. even though hard and impersonal. he didn't turn a hair. 'why did you do that?' 'to stop you yelling your head off and upsetting your mother. grabbed her and kissed her hard on the mouth. but he seemed impervious – or maybe he was so damned sure of himself that he didn't care. damn him! 'and what do you call this?' she held the newspaper photograph out to him. turned and gave him her best cassandra look. it was a cold. 'why are you here. because it is a name i am entitled to use though seldom do. he followed her into the office. now he looked as if he wanted to break her neck.' cassie's clipped tones would have warned any of her colleagues that a storm was brewing. calculated to slay at fifteen paces. a faint smile on his lips. punishing kiss with no tenderness intended and it took her breath away.' 'but you're an imposter!' cassie burst out. i didn't correct you. except that he had been smiling at her then. her voice rising when he suddenly took two steps towards her.' 'i have a string of them. don't you think . and a few more to bring her mind under control. ruthless. she needed a few seconds to get her breath back. and only her feeling of utter shock stopped her striking out in retaliation.' he replied mildly.

that hadn't even occurred to her. mr ahmed.' 'i see. besides.' kasim said his eyes narrowed and angry. 'my father didn't tell me anything last night – the hospital had him on drugs. your string wouldn't suffer here even if my father had to take a short break. 'i work in an office. just to be certain he didn't suffer anything worse than a fall. i know josh quite well. 'and what is your boss going to say if you aren't around for a couple of weeks?' . he may visit you very occasionally once his horses are here. 'that might alter things. oh hell.she has enough to worry her without you provoking a quarrel with the man who is all set to save your father's yard?' 'what?' she stared at him in disbelief.' she said.' cassie said quickly. nothing to worry about. 'but you're not the sheikh…' 'no. now she'd done it! he would walk out in a fury and it would be her fault. but enough to keep him laid up for a few days. i know most of my father's methods and if need be i'll take some time off from my work and make sure everything is done properly. as if he had punched her in the stomach. and i believe he is aware of the position i hold in my uncle's esteem. subject to your father's records being in order – but if he is going to be ill…' 'no. i have the honour of being sheikh ali bin ahmed's nephew.' 'his nephew…' cassie felt awful.' kasim frowned. 'and joe knows all there is to know about horses. but in matters of business he relies on my judgement.' 'and what is your work?' with his cold eyes fixing her like a spear to the ground.' 'i thought it was just a broken ankle?' 'he has a slight heart flutter apparently. cassie couldn't confess something that might make him turn round and walk out. i should have thought your father would have told you about me. 'i conduct seventy-five percent of his business for him. we've met at race meetings at least three times. i'm sure he isn't. horses need settling in when they move to new stables. i had recommended that we bring our string here. 'a personal assistant…' which was almost true but didn't go far enough.

there are the accounts for all the feed and transport expenses that he charges each month.' 'i shall consider accepting it. of course. 'i had better ask mr harrison to come in. just to keep an eye on things – and i really prefer to use my own name. knowing that she had to pull herself together.'i-i can take compassionate leave.' cassie said. you will find dad's records on the desk. of course.' she wouldn't mind because cassie could work from here. wishing that the floor would open and let her through. her heart racing as she felt herself drowning in the blue ocean that was his eyes. realising belatedly that an apology was in order.' 'to save more confusion i suggest you call me kasim in future. she couldn't help it but she kept seeing him stripped to the waist.' cassie swallowed hard. and . mr ahmed.' 'yes. 'i shall have to discuss this with your father – perhaps tomorrow. of course not. damn! she was absolutely mad to let him take her mind over like this. oh. could she? 'well…' he looked at her consideringly. if you wish. 'providing you will allow me to take you to dinner this evening.' she said her voice little more than a croaky whisper. i shall be here in newmarket quite often during the time my uncle's horses are being settled in. he may be feeling better by then. and we really do need to check the records – if you are satisfied with my credentials. but what you probably want to see the most are the breeding and racing records. did he guess what effect he had on her when he looked at her that way? even when he was angry she found him damnably attractive. which had the effect of making her gasp and fight for control of her senses as they went spinning madly once more. maggie won't mind. you may ask ben anything you need to know about me – unless you consider him suspect too?' 'no. 'i apologise without reservation. but she couldn't tell him that. wow! it seemed like the sun had come out after a frosty winter. 'that is very generous of you. cassie.' he said and then quite suddenly he smiled. they go back for twenty years. 'i jumped to conclusions and…' she took a deep breath as his blue eyes swept over her coldly. but when he smiled…she licked her lips nervously. but she was fighting a losing battle. a towel covering his hips and revealing long tanned legs.

kasim walking . she wondered. she saw that he had chosen the racing records.i think you will find they are impressive.' he smiled but made no reply. ben looked anxiously towards her as she came out. ben needs his fix of caffeine before he gets started. and there had been a look in his eyes that left her in no doubt of what was in his mind. kasim had asked her out to dinner that evening. but he'd stayed – providing that she went out to dinner with him. and by the look of the beautiful blonde he had escorted to that nightclub. i shan't.' she told him and then looked at her mother. 'ask mrs livingston if the coffee is ready if you will.' 'what happened in there?' her mother hissed as ben harrison disappeared into the office. he had had every right to walk out in disgust. both men were working. cassie opened the office door for her mother and followed her inside. 'maggie has banned smoking at our office too. 'could you keep the coffee coming please. he was used to dating sophisticated ladies of the world. and as neither of us smoke. mum.' cassie said. mum? we shall need lots of it. who was hovering nervously. we shall need a constant supply – if that isn't too much trouble?' 'no. just what more might he demand as his price for saving her father from going out of business? her thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of her mother with the tray of coffee.' she said and gave a throaty laugh. and thought that he would probably leave the boring financial bit to his lawyer. will you?' 'no.' he said. but even as she said the words. 'were you shouting at him?' 'it was just a misunderstanding. cassie. i promise.' 'i am sure i shall.' 'this means a lot to your father. and then come and join us. after the way she had behaved. of course not. miss livingston? was there some problem?' 'nothing that we couldn't sort. his head already bent over the first of her father's record books. and that means we all need endless cups of coffee or tea. kasim bin mohammed was a playboy. it is all sorted now. 'is everything all right. and some of her own sweet biscuits. please don't do anything silly.

mr henderson. ben didn't lift his head. he ate the biscuit almost absentmindedly. did they imagine they would find anything careless or underhand in her father's books? yet when kasim glanced at her.' he cast a look of mixed affection and ridicule at his assistant. my mother is a wonderful homemaker. 'and ben likes his with cream and two large sugars please. and cassie felt a little indignant on her father's behalf. do try one of these biscuits. obviously indifferent to his friend's comments. . smiling as she offered to pour the coffee. that mare had a twin birth but one of the foals had an internal defect that might have caused it pain and. and then nodded. but she types with one finger and i can whiz through this stuff for her in minutes.' he said.' ben laughed. however.' kasim said. taking his coffee over to the windowsill. 'oh.' 'carry on. and it was plain that they were the best of friends. 'wow! i haven't tasted anything like that in years. her ridiculous heart did a little somersault. giving her a warm smile.about with a book in his hand. miss livingston – the way civilised people drink their coffee. fresh-baked nuttiness. 'we share the same decadent tastes in coffee. still reading the records. wandered over to the table where the coffee was set and picked up a biscuit and his cup.' 'oh. she puzzled over it for a moment. you could take a look at this for me…' cassie went to stand by him. looking at the entry in the book. ben.' 'i do agree. 'yes. helped himself to two biscuits and rolled his eyes as he tasted the crisp.' 'is there anything i can do to help?' cassie asked as she helped herself to coffee and biscuits. my compliments to the cook.' he said. ben sitting at the desk. mum makes them herself – but they should carry a danger warning because once you start you can't stop. clearly they meant to be very thorough. ben. 'if not.' she said giving him a wicked grin. 'perhaps i could call you cassie?' 'of course. 'thank you. i'll sit over here and go through the post. using his own very expensive pocket calculator. where he perched. no sugar. when cassie placed his coffee by his side on the desk. his eyes bright with laughter. he did glance up. 'black. i think. that is exactly the way i like it.

she had noticed a little nerve flicking in his temple and wondered. and some reminders about entering horses for various race meetings. the table in the dining room was loaded with food. she was certain that he had understood the entry perfectly but just wanted her here. she glanced up a couple of times. so why did her mind fill with erotic pictures every time he looked at her? cassie went back to her post.unfortunately. finding herself floundering in that blue ocean. ben on the other hand hardly moved. he stretched and grinned as he followed. he took the book he was looking through with him. she got the distinct impression that it amused him to have her on the end of a string. he made her feel weak inside. later that day. most of them were small meetings and not the kind that would interest kasim. clearly intending to grab something on the run.' he nodded.' cassie moved away. as well as all the fancy bits and pieces in the fridge. she felt breathless. helen had cooked a beautiful cheese and tomato . he had spent the past two hours walking up and down. because her body wouldn't behave itself when she was anywhere near him. turning the page. and when he suddenly looked at her. we had to have it put down. but most were inquiries from firms wanting to sell her father something. did it annoy him that she had become friendly with ben so easily? it wasn't quite as easy to be natural with kasim. like milk chocolate melting in a fondue. it was just that one entry. occasionally perching for a moment. which she could write out the cheques for but would need her mother to sign them. when her mother came in to tell them the meal was prepared. finding that kasim was watching her. there were a few bills. and it happened at least another five times while she was dealing with the post. so she just put them to one side. 'get on with your post then. she would ask joe if they had any plans for the horses that they still had in training before the sale the following week. in fact she hadn't done it in years. he asked her to explain something else. her feelings alternating between wanting to throttle him and jump into bed with him. next to him. a few minutes later. and where did that come from? it wasn't her usual habit to jump into bed with men she hardly knew. but never truly still.

but he was being very nice to her mother. cassie looked at her mother and then took her own plate to sit a little further down the table.' kasim made no comment. and the money that goes with it. kasim sat down and waited for the others to make their selection. 'now that is sumptuous. content for the moment to observe. tasted it. and she liked that. also rice and avocado.' cassie's eyes narrowed as she listened and wondered.' . but cassie noticed that he spent more than a few seconds wandering round the buffet and making his selection. and cut a larger slice. as ben said. quiches that came out of a supermarket and tired-looking salad. i think you could be successful in your own right if you wished. mrs livingston. she noticed that he did not take any of the meat. mrs livingston. which made it look appetising. then added some of the roasted pepper salad and the artichoke hearts. most women have no desire to keep house for their family these days. ate it. mr ahmed. this is all i know how to do i'm afraid. 'you have a lovely home. she ate in silence.' he smiled at her. and you keep it beautifully. when we're working we usually just grab a sandwich or a pizza or something.flan and she had cut her brown bread into chunks rather than slices. we usually get offered sandwiches that curl at the corners.' 'i have a lot of friends who would pay well for someone like you to put a business lunch like this on for them – and please call me kasim. though ben helped himself to some of each.' 'i love to cook. instead of picking at the food and disappearing into the office. and a chunk of her mother's bread. he cut a small section of the flan. he clearly had a good appetite. 'you've gone to an awful lot of trouble.' ben said appreciatively. they want the glamour of life in high-powered jobs. helen laughed and shook her head. 'especially when we have guests.' helen said looking pleased at the compliment. helen. 'is everything going well. 'i wouldn't be any good at it. mr ahmed?' helen asked 'if your husband is as meticulous in his training methods as he is in writing up his records we should deal well together. your husband is a lucky man.

' 'but cassie…' helen looked at her in bewilderment. but once i had i saw that it was all very straightforward. until your father is properly fit again. mrs livingston – and now i think we should tidy up a few things in the office.' 'of course…' kasim's gaze travelled across the table to cassie. i've promised to take a couple of weeks off to help out. 'he will be so relieved.'oh. maggie won't mind.' 'i don't think you need worry about that – do you ben?' 'everything is in order as far as i am concerned.' 'josh would have liked to be here…' 'i intend to pay him a visit this afternoon. i have.' 'good.' 'oh that is wonderful. 'i love my life. he was warm. only she was no mouse. she smiled back. we might as well get it settled this afternoon. 'i am relying on you to keep your promise to be here for a few weeks. there's no need for us to take up any more of your time. we have lots of visitors and i give them coffee and tea. that was an excellent meal. i .' helen said. and of course we entertain friends. rather like a cat waiting to pounce on a mouse.' her eyes met his and she was certain he was mocking her. kasim with his piercing eyes and startling looks was a different matter. it has been a wonderful life. it was easy to feel comfortable around him.' kasim glanced at cassie as she stood up. and then we'll pay that visit to josh. but we shall pay for the equipment to be installed since it is for our benefit. 'it took me about twenty minutes to work out your husband's methods. i am sure you have plenty to do?' 'yes. 'i'll pick you up at seven. i shall want to make certain improvements in the security arrangements for the horses.' kasim said. just what was going through his mind? his expression was expectant. 'it's all right. cassie. even if he did have her at a disadvantage because of his uncle's horses. thank you. i'll ring her later and talk to her. i should be sad if we had to give it up.' ben replied and grinned as he looked at cassie. there is no point in keeping josh on thorns. open and pleasant to be with. 'i've made up my mind and i have my uncle's authority to proceed if i'm satisfied.' helen said a little flustered by the unusual compliment. 'yes. mrs livingston. feed them sometimes. but i don't want to be. mum.

' 'are you sure it wouldn't be best to be honest now?' 'it's all settled. it took you a long time to get over…well. 'i don't want you to be hurt.' she got up to help clear the dishes away.ought to ring maggie. 'let's leave it for the moment. nothing wrong with that – is there?' 'no. her mother looked at her as the two men left. then i'll tell him. once dad is better i shan't be here much. mum.' cassie lied.' 'yes.' he nodded and she thought she saw his mouth tighten. i don't suppose so…' her mother frowned.' 'oh. 'when we know each other better. ben taking another chunk of bread with him as he passed. because she certainly wouldn't be able to do any fresh interviews for the moment. 'there are loads of things to discuss. they haven't been happy where they are for a while.' cassie said. i gather the sheikh wants to move his horses here as soon as possible. shall i? he won't have to see me if he doesn't . 'but i am over it and i'm a big girl now – besides. this is only business. let her know my plans. you know. and then leaving her mother to it.' cassie said. stacking the dirty plates in the machine in the kitchen. fortunately. i do know. mum. she had plenty of stuff on disc and video that she could use for the next magazine. darling. cassie?' 'he asked me to dinner.' cassie said. after all. 'does he know who maggie is?' her mother asked breaking into her thoughts. 'are you going out with him this evening. 'does he know what you do?' 'no and it's best that he doesn't find out. a flicker of disapproval in his eyes. now what was that all about? did he think she was one of those women who only cared about their high-powered job and the big salary that went with it? he should try living on her wages in london! but of course he had no idea what it was like to live in the real world. no. well…' helen looked doubtful. 'he's very attractive of course…' 'it's business. and he trusts me not to do anything that might embarrass him or his uncle. she had better square her leave with maggie.

' 'no. where the staff should have made sure it couldn't happen.want to…' and how did she feel about that? cassie wondered as she went upstairs. 'your niece was an innocent child and that bastard took advantage of her. glancing at his friend. i have nothing against josh or his wife.' 'he takes my word because i never lie to him. kasim.' ben said as they drove away an hour or so later. she lied – told me she was a personal assistant. and that damned reporter splashed it all over the papers when my uncle refused to give into his blackmail. she is a lovely.' 'a sense of ridicule definitely.' 'my niece committed suicide because a ruthless fortune hunter seduced her while she was at a private finishing school. but the woman she works for did – and you can tell they are friends. who won't mind if she takes a couple of weeks off work. he always does. would she be happy if she never saw kasim again after the settling in period was over? ' i think you are wrong about her. noting the tiny . they seem perfectly decent people – it's just the scheming daughter i intend to take down a few pegs. in my judgement. and he might begin to doubt me.' kasim said with a frown. why didn't you tell sheikh ali that the stables were not suitable? he would have taken your word.' kasim said. 'and he trusts my judgement. why hasn't she told me what she does? when i asked. if she dares to publish one word about me or prints a picture i'll sue the magazine for every penny they've got – and i'll make her sorry she was born. saw his jaw tighten.' ben said and. 'she couldn't write for that rag if she cared about what those damned articles do to people – and if she is so honest. the way she talks about maggie. besides. kasim. 'in my opinion. josh livingston's stables are perfect for my uncle's horses. natural girl with a great sense of humour. if i lied about that my uncle would be forced to remain with a trainer he no longer trusts. her nice.' 'and how do you intend to do that?' ben studied his face.' 'you can't blame her because of what happened to selima.' 'if you feel like that. kind boss.' 'but cassie didn't write that story. selima was so shamed that she took her own life rather than face her father and me.

his mouth taking a grim line. 'i'm the one who has to fend them off as a rule.' ben said. if i don't like the way you're treating her. 'when i'm old and grey and dribbling at the mouth.' 'maybe.' kasim said and laughed.' ben murmured. my friend.' they grinned at each other. and that's no joke.' 'i'm not so sure about that.' 'you never meet an unwilling woman.' kasim laughed.' kasim said. kasim.' 'if cassie betrays you by selling pictures or writing stuff only she could know. or leave the girl alone.pulse flicking at kasim's temple as he drove. a wicked glint in his eyes. either tell josh the deal is off and cut your losses.' kasim said. 'and it's a case of the pot calling the kettle black here.' 'yeah. 'and this is my private business. my advice is to forget it. but i like cassie – and as far as i'm concerned everything is fair in love and war. each knowing that they would walk through hell and high water for the other's sake. ben. yeah. giving him a wry look.' 'i don't have time working for you. 'ok! we're even – but if she gives me any trouble she will be sorry. 'by seducing her and then dropping her? you're playing with fire there. ben – but if she steps out of line she will be sorry. 'remember to remind me to have you shot instead of putting you out to pasture when the time comes.' 'i'm afraid that isn't an option. i reserve the right to take her away from you. ben. 'this from the man who never dates more than once because he doesn't want a long term commitment. the keeper of all your dark secrets and wicked ways. .' ben retorted with a grin. 'i'm not given to rape or the seduction of unwilling women. kasim. 'why don't you?' 'i'm saving them for my old age. i like her and she has done everything to please as far as i can see.' kasim said. off limits as far as you're concerned.' ben replied.' 'and marry her?' kasim's brows rose. 'i work for you because it suits me.' 'you could make a fortune selling them to the press. then she will deserve what she gets – but go easy on her for now. their trust implicit. kasim.

' 'there is always a first time.' cassie said. i shall look pretty daft if he takes me to the local burger bar.' ben said as they drew into the hospital car park.' kasim said. shrugging on a little velvet evening jacket. pick up some things and .' 'no? well.'so here we are then. 'i've been asked to drive her to the airport.' 'do i look all right. i should visit dad and then relax with a good book.' 'he seemed pretty impressed by the food you served today. nor do i wish to. 'last chance to change your mind. one of these days you might just find out. 'kasim flies back and forth to london as readily as you and i pop into town for an hour's shopping. and flaring out mid-calf in a style reminiscent of the kind of thing worn by fifties film stars. well. mum.' the chauffeur said. i'll go back to my own flat. she was surprised to see a chauffeur. slim-fitting over her waist and trim hips. i suppose i shouldn't wait up for you?' 'if i were you.' 'the airport?' helen turned to look as cassie came up to her. she was wearing a black dress.' 'thank you for the quaint english saying. i expect he's used to eating at the best places wherever he goes.' ben replied. but it doesn't surprise me. someone she had never met before.' 'oh. i'm always telling dad how lucky he is to have you.' the doorbell rang even as she spoke. shan't i?' 'somehow i don't see mr ahmed taking you to the local burger bar. 'did you know about this?' 'no.' helen smiled.' cassie said.' kasim said mockingly. 'and so he should.' 'but i'm lucky to have him. 'one of these days. 'you should know that. it wouldn't seem right for a man like that. 'i think i can hear a car arriving – that is probably mr ahmed.' cassie said. 'i've been sent to pick up a miss cassandra livingston. mum?' cassie did a twirl for her mother in the sitting room. and then we'll see. you'll find you've got yourself up the creek without a paddle. 'i have no idea what it means. 'if i'm too late. 'i've no idea where we're going.' 'i never change my mind. and helen went to answer.' helen said with a smile.

she took a couple of sips of wine. stepped into the expensive limousine and sat back.' the chauffeur told her. ignored the rest. cassie was served chilled wine. there were none of the usual problems of clearance. 'i feel quite excited actually. and directed towards another expensive limousine waiting to carry her off to her dinner date.' 'have a good time.' cassie kissed her mother. she put it away.' 'it's fine. feeling a little disgusted by this show of power and what seemed to her a little like decadence! surely kasim hadn't needed to return to london so suddenly. maggie was very strict on things like that. and . flicking it open. but he should be finished by the time you arrive. and cassie felt pity for her and her family.' the chauffeur smiled at her but said no more as he whisked her through the streets to the private landing field where the expensive executive jet was waiting. waving until her mother shut the door. cassie thought. and picked up one of the glossy magazines lying on the seat beside her. money and time. it must be nice to be a rich sheikh and have this kind of influence! what a waste of fuel. the girl looked very young and very pretty. which must all have been seen to in advance of her arrival – diplomatic immunity she imagined. this is the kind of thing you see in the movies. and when she glanced at the date. nuts and olives by a friendly steward. she saw that it contained an article about a young girl who had killed herself over some terrible scandal. on board. love. he sends his apologies. 'mr ahmed will have a car waiting for you at the airport in london. 'he was called back to town on urgent business. because she said young girls were too vulnerable. the flight was short and almost before she knew it she was being helped from the plane by the steward who had looked after her during the flight.' cassie said. don't worry about it. but it has never happened to me before.catch a train back in the morning. clearance was pretty straightforward and they were in the air within minutes. cassie opened it and lost herself in its pages. she realized that the magazine was more than four years old. not wanting to read more of the story. which happened to be the latest' edition. finding a fashion magazine she always bought for herself. she insisted that they only did exposés on hardened stars who knew how to exploit the media themselves.

at that particular moment he was actually standing still. we're on the top floor here. so we ordered in. she saw ben leave the building and come towards the car. glass and the occasional and rare piece of art. she saw that it suited kasim's personality.' ben was frowning.' 'you shouldn't have gone to so much trouble. he hesitated for a moment. could she possibly have been kidnapped? but then as she hesitated. and for the first time wondered if this was some kind of elaborate hoax. but i used one of the best catering services i could find. but almost immediately. unlike anything she had ever seen other than in the most expensive glossy magazines. cassie. looking up at the tower block. giving him ample room to pace.' cassie said as she followed him inside the foyer.' 'shouldn't i have done?' cassie raised her eyebrows. she was surprised as the chauffeur stopped and opened the door for her. even if he didn't care about the money.if he had he could simply have cancelled their date like any normal man. 'you came then. it was minimalist taken to the extreme. he might have thought about the environment! she was feeling slightly irritated by the time they reached the block of fashionable apartments.' he said and smiled at her. very close to another . but kasim insisted on sending the plane.' 'i suggested it. an odd expression in his eyes. i am not sure whether it is a compliment or something you should be wary of…' cassie nodded but made no reply as the top floor was reached and the sharp ping announced the door was opening. 'it isn't like him to do something like that. which as far as she could see still had work going on. with choice pieces of modernistic furniture. it was obviously going to be magnificent. which from her observation earlier that day was how he liked to work. and then. kasim and his builder are still arguing the toss as i speak. they stepped out into a huge open living and office space. 'i bet kasim a fiver that you wouldn't. 'what are we doing here?' 'kasim had some last minute problems with the architect of his latest project. 'a simple phone call would have cancelled the arrangement for this evening. the only part of this building that doesn't still have decorators in. i'll show you the way – i'm afraid the food may not come up to your mother's standards. although still in the grip of unfinished building work.

tall. i had no idea kasim was into development. she hadn't realised he was into development.' ben remarked dryly.' the gentlemen came forward as he spoke.' . but it was important that i return to london this evening.' she said to the architect. miss livingston. and it appeared that the other man had been on the end of a cutting we are in the middle of very difficult negotiations over his latest development. 'forgive me for putting you through all this. a deadly silence seemed to hang over them. of course. come. sir.' kasim said and turned to look at cassie. 'yes. i do accept all that you have to say. he was terrified of whatever kasim had threatened to do to him.' kasim said coming to stand beside her. and they went over her in a slow trail that made her body turn to molten honey. i still have several phone calls to make. i'll introduce you to michael rosen. the husky note in his voice sending shivers down her spine. and then he smiled as he came towards them. grey-haired and impeccably dressed. i prefer the concept of seeing an actual building rise from the drawing board.' 'see that you do.' 'my father was an industrialist. 'the business continues to flourish in america. also to sort out a few minor problems with this building. sir. 'i find property and development fascinating. 'if we're going to eat. and i needed to show him the plans and. and was in the process of more developments. but i leave that to my board and my mother's family to run. 'i shall put extra men on tomorrow and have it finished by the end of the week. kasim clearly owned the building they were in. but i practically ordered kasim back to london at the point of a gun. thin. his eyes were blazing with blue fire. mr rosen greeted cassie with a friendly smile and a warm handshake. 'it is nice to meet you. folks.' 'and the higher the better. who though tall appeared to be shrinking by the minute.' he murmured. cassie. 'a definite improvement on the first time we met. let's eat. so ben ordered a meal brought in for us – johnson is leaving shortly but my architect will be eating with us. 'you must forgive me for ruining your evening. and found the idea intriguing.' the builder said and cassie felt sorry for him. which would probably be as prestigious as this one.

and ben wiped it off for her. she tasted it and found it delicious.' 'goodnight.the caterers had set the food out on the table. ben. refilling her wine glass with a delicious white burgundy at least twice despite her protests. meat in rich sauces. salads. he was a very pleasant companion.' cassie said warmly. there was a varied selection of vegetable dishes. also dressed lobster.' kasim's voice just behind her startled cassie. as did his architect.' 'i wouldn't have thought you were the type who needed to slim. swallowing hard as she saw the little nerve flicking at kasim's temple.' the men echoed her sentiments. i've ordered the car. so my driver will drop you both off.' cassie said as she helped herself to the lobster meat. some of it on little burners to keep the various dishes warm. after they had gone the silence became deafening. her mouth felt dry and she ran the tip of her tongue over her lips. and then to various salads.' 'i eat very little red meat. but i ordered it this evening because i noticed that you preferred the prawns to meat at lunchtime. and cassie found herself laughing often as he persuaded her to try some of the exotic-looking champagne dessert with strawberries that had been ordered especially for her. at least you'll have a little time to yourselves when we've gone. 'i am partial to it myself.' kasim said neatly cutting ben out as he handed her a platter of lobster dressed in a delicate mayonnaise. 'but you may have noticed i prefer not to eat meat myself. and leaving ben to entertain cassie.' 'that's my marching orders. and stepped into the lift. but kasim ate sparingly. mr rosen. 'michael is leaving now. 'well. and plenty of fresh crusty bread. they took their plates with them. 'well. i much prefer fish or cheese. she turned away. 'do you like lobster?' ben asked her as he handed her a plate. hardly able to bear the tension that had . 'if i have meat it is usually chicken or turkey. and plenty of salads. though occasionally i do eat certain types of fish. which he did with some enthusiasm. 'it was nice to meet you. she noticed that ben filled his plate liberally. laughing as some of the cream transferred to the end of her nose.' 'thank you. he has a few questions to put to you. clearly still needing to talk business.' ben said and winked at cassie.' cassie replied. ben. i think that is it.

suddenly sprung up between them. in the melting pot of physical desire.' he murmured. seeing the sudden blaze of fire in his eyes. she was on fire.' kasim replied. me. his tongue softly invading her mouth and tasting the sweetness of the desert she had eaten moments ago. his face giving nothing away. which had hardened at his touch. his lips trailing across her bare shoulder. 'i told my mother i would catch the train in the morning. 'surely you don't expect me to be a virgin in this day and age?' 'i never expect anything. i want to lick you all over. but a part of her mind was warning that she might be sorry in the morning. save for that little pulse at his temple. 'or i could make coffee and we could talk for a while?' 'i shall not return to newmarket tonight. and her heart caught as she turned to look at him. making her arch back into him with a mew of desire. his mouth closed over hers.' kasim said and reached out for her. gently caressing the nipples. 'i wonder what the rest of you tastes like. 'if you want to leave at once i can arrange it. 'i've been wanting to do this all night – all day if i'm honest. slipping it lower so that the valley between her breasts was exposed above her lacy black bra. warm and sweet.' then he was kissing her throat. at the same time his lips touched the back of her neck.' cassie said. her body was clamouring for the lovely release. drawing her into his arms. i have a small flat of my …' her words were lost as he moved in closer. 'tell. why was it that he was able to do this to her with just a look? no other man had ever caused such havoc in her mind and body. her mind telling her to withdraw while her body told her . evidence of her own growing need. cassie. 'you taste of strawberries and champagne.' kasim said at last. her body beginning to melt in the heat of the desire she could feel emanating from him. starting here…' he turned her round. undoing her bra strap. cassie?' 'why do you ask?' she turned in his arms. 'but i would not want to take advantage – or to force something on you that you didn't want?' cassie hesitated. looking up at him. 'you are very beautiful. which she believed he could give her. his tongue just touching a sensitive spot at her nape. he moved the thin straps of her sexy black dress. have you had many lovers. and you smell delicious. cassie felt her throat closing as she looked into his eyes. then slid his hands down over her shoulders.

she saw that he had actually come out of the building and was staring after them.' he said and reached out to trace the line of her cheek with his fingertips. . dialling a number she had used many times in the past as she walked towards the lift. that would only be a few minutes. and made an apologetic face as he moved away to answer. she felt herself sway towards him. she could wait in the foyer until the taxi came. 'you needn't worry. he must have cut short his call and followed her down. a look of annoyance on his face. pressed the button and headed down to floor level. she fastened it. her body aching to be close to his. and if they were as quick and efficient as usual. she noticed that kasim had come to the main door of the building just as her taxi drew away. cassie was torn between regret at what she might have experienced in his arms. to feel the heat of his flesh burning her. she was about to say she needed more time to think about what she wanted when kasim's mobile shrilled. she then reached for her own mobile phone. cassie felt as if she had already stepped into the shower – a cold one. kasim had his back to her as she walked into the lift. blowing its horn loudly as it drew up outside. a rather sleepy night porter pressed the security button for her in the foyer as the taxi arrived. 'why don't we go into the bedroom? we could start out by taking a jacuzzi together. which she knew would probably never have happened if he hadn't answered his phone. and relief at her escape. you won't be my first lover. pulled on her dress straps and slipped her jacket over the top. i always think that is a good way to break the ice…' that meant she was just another in a long line of women panting to get into his bed! suddenly. he muttered something in a language she did not understand. his touch made the heat leap in her and lips parted. rescuing her bra. which she imagined was rude. what on earth was she doing? cassie had made up her mind a long time ago that she didn't intend to be used by a man ever again. her breath coming faster.' she said. but your eyes tell me something quite different. the spell was broken immediately. glancing back.that she wanted this more than anything she had ever wanted in whole life. 'but i'm not sure i'm ready to do this…' 'oh.

it didn't have to be marriage. she had hoped that they might get to know one another during the course of a few visits he might pay to the yard. her own parents had been happily married for more than thirty years. but it wasn't what cassie wanted or needed. she had believed that he cared for her. and he certainly hadn't wasted a lot of time wooing her this evening. she had broken all contact with him. he was obviously a very busy man. and refusing to let him talk to her when he tried to explain that he was going through a bad patch with his wife. few of them actually got married. it would be looking at life through rose-tinted glasses to imagine she might fall deeply in love and marry. especially as she felt that kasim could be important to her. and hardly any of the girls she knew expected to meet someone they would love for the rest of their lives. it was the classic case of a student falling for her teacher. and then perhaps. it was what cassie would like in a dream world. living together with her partner for the rest of her life. . and she'd realized that she was just a little light relief in his life. she had been hurt badly once. but she lived in the real one. making sure that she sat at the back of the room during his lectures. a few years. he had seduced her after taking her out to dinner one night and giving her too much wine. cassie was a girl of her time and she was aware that a lot of her friends had relationships that lasted a few months or on rare occasions. and maybe that was the only kind of relationship he had time for. but a couple of days later she'd seen him with his very pregnant wife. they might become lovers. and he had taken advantage. it hadn't looked that way to cassie when she'd seen him hugging and kissing the lady! she would be all kinds of a fool to get involved with a man who wanted to use her for sex again. but she knew that even in their own circles they were the exception.she was very attracted to him in a physical way. it was a practised routine that had worked well for him in the past no doubt. if they really felt they had something in common. and then straight into the seduction. and she had almost gone along with it! perhaps most women were only too eager to fall into bed with him. cassie admitted as she sat back in her taxi – but what kind of a man was he really? she had felt that he was mocking her at their two previous meetings. when she was still at college and just beginning to understand what men and women were all about. it had been business all the way until he had sent the others away.

perhaps she should have stayed with kasim after all… * kasim frowned as he returned to his apartment. and watching cassie enjoying herself with ben had caused him to have feelings that he was unwilling to acknowledge were jealousy. left suddenly alone with her. of course – but how often was that found these days? sighing. a wry smile touched his mouth as he realised that his approach had been clumsy.she thought she would be willing to settle for something less permanent. reluctantly. he thought and laughed at himself for being too eager. no wonder she had bolted. he had come round to ben's idea of cassie during the evening. cassie was different. she shivered a little in the cool breeze as she went into her own apartment building and ran up the stairs. and more like that of a green youth than the sophisticated lover. she had told him that she wasn't a shy virgin so it stood to reason that she had left because she didn't like being rushed. usually when he planned an intimate interlude switching off was the first thing he did. perhaps because up until now he hadn't found a woman that interested him enough to make time for her. cursing himself for being fool enough to leave his mobile switched on. it had irritated him that business had intruded into an evening he had meant to be private. who more often than not needed to avoid the sexual advances of beautiful women rather than seduce them. but she did want there to be respect and at least warm affection on both sides. she had always enjoyed living here on her own rather than sharing with other girls. she was aware of a sense of feeling lonely. his usual cool detachment had deserted him and he'd found himself wanting to make love to her with an urgency that he had seldom experienced in the past. but he hadn't been thinking clearly. love was the ultimate dream. cassie got out of her taxi as it drew to a halt and paid the fare. next time he would have to make sure there were no interruptions. and he wasn't sure that she was as eager to fit into his lifestyle as most of the other women he met. that was if he got another chance. and then ignored. but as she closed and locked the door behind her. discovering that he found it fascinating to watch her laughing and . he didn't have a great deal of time for commitment to a relationship. because he couldn't forgive what she did for a living.

for pity's sake! he wasn't thinking of making it a permanent relationship. and it irked him. his thoughts going round and round like a fairground wheel. he couldn't recall ever having felt jealous of a woman before. and totally desirable. kasim's uncle had taken him into his home. and most of them hardly drew a second look from him. for the first time feeling vaguely dissatisfied with his life. especially when she'd discovered his little masquerade. and the sparks had flown a couple of times. it was still there inside him. he had deliberately provoked her. lean body. needing to cool off because he still wanted cassie. as a child. and he knew that ben was interested. he had expected to meet josh. so much that it was nagging at him like a toothache. they got on so easily. the skin a soft olive tone.eating with his friend. having been told what she did by his uncle. a woman without a heart. he had believed she would be one of those hardbitten journalists. seemed to like each other and respond naturally. the . smoothing it over a hard. wanting to strip everything away that reminded him of her. after the death of his father in a terrible accident. surely it was just physical? kasim shrugged on a light cotton dressing robe and began to prowl around the huge emptiness of his apartment. after selima's death he had been like a wounded tiger. what was it about cassie that had got under his skin? the cool water felt good cascading over his body as he creamed on the scented gel. lightly sprinkled on his chest and lower belly with fine dark hair. but he met beautiful women all the time. it was a need that had intensified during that evening. and his motive in kissing her had been less a desire to prevent the others from hearing what she was saying than an urgent need in him. what about his own feelings? kasim thought about it as he stripped off and walked into the shower. in his head. he accepted that she was lovely to look at. and though the shower he'd just taken had controlled the physical manifestation of that desire. totally committed to getting what she could out of life. and it was in the enchanting little girl who clung to her new big brother that he had found his salvation. she had come at him with teeth and claws then. wanted her here in his bed. at first he had been curious about a woman who made a living by destroying other people's lives. having been informed that his daughter worked and lived in london. and asked to make sure that her father understood that there must be no revealing publicity. that she was warm and natural. the reality was a shock and at first he had refused to believe what his eyes and ears told him.

building higher and higher as if he could somehow build a ladder for selima to come back to earth and to her loved ones. and move on – but how? that was the problem. and he'd thrown himself into his chosen work with new vigour. he had forgotten how to do anything but work. if she were honest. brief interludes in a hectic routine of work. she just wasn't sure she enjoyed writing for a gossip magazine. but deep down he knew that he couldn't bring back the little girl he had loved. but in the rush to leave she'd left it behind. she could work on something for the magazine but somehow she wasn't in the mood. so just what did he want of life? cassie had a hot bath and then made herself a drink of chocolate. opening it now. taking it to bed with her. she quickly became engrossed in the story and it was nearly two in the morning when she laid it down. and loving hurt too much to be repeated. her job had begun to seem less exciting of late and she had wondered if she should make a change. she loved writing. the child who had given him her love and made him whole again. because she knew she wouldn't find it easy to get to sleep. the last thing in her mind as she turned out the light was – why not? why not give in her notice and take some time out to write the book she'd always thought she might write one day? cassie ate cornflakes for breakfast. he had to put her death behind him. cassie sipped her drink and thought about what she wanted to do with her life. and she'd read half of it. using the longlife milk she always kept in for emergencies. intending to take it with her. yet what else could she do? her eye fell on a book she had picked up the day before she went to visit her parents.waste of such a precious life had made him angry. so he made sure that women were just playthings. she had a notebook and pen beside her on the table and . perhaps now was the time – or perhaps she was just feeling restless because she had walked out on the most thrilling man she'd met in a long time – in her whole life if she faced up to it. it was a thriller by an author she admired. but what was it all for? he already had more money than any one man could possibly want. hunching her knees up to her chest. and despite the charities he supported. it kept on growing relentlessly.

which were some of her favourites.' he tipped his cap to her and went out.' she said. however.' cassie said. the man who had fetched her from the airport the previous evening.' she saw a card. 'i'll come down. next time i'll do better – if you will let me. miss livingston. kasim.made a few notes as she chewed. she knew how hard it was to get anything accepted these days. of course. there was no way she was going to let a stranger into the building without making certain he was a genuine delivery man. but whom she wasn't sure she could trust? . cassie carried the basket of flowers upstairs.' 'thank you – how lovely. 'these are for you. he was carrying a huge basket of flowers. miss. roses and freesias. several journalists she'd met had moaned that they'd had their own books rejected – so why should she have any better luck? hearing the buzzer. she got up and wandered over to the intercom. pressing the button.if you wish?' 'that is very kind of you – of kasim. when she reached the entrance hall she saw that someone else had unlocked the main door and admitted kasim's driver. she couldn't help wondering just what kasim had meant by his message. who is it?' 'delivery of flowers for miss livingston. it was ridiculous.' flowers? who would be sending her flowers? she'd never been sent a bouquet in her life. the idea had been there in her head when she woke. 'cassandra livingston.' 'just as you wish. 'will you thank kasim for me please?' 'yes. forgive me. and it wouldn't leave her be. delighted as she was with the gift.' cassie said. he told me to say i am available to drive you down to newmarket . took it out and read. 'but i shall go on the train a little later. exotic lilies. was there going to be a next time? and would she be foolish to get deeply involved with a man who turned her on like crazy. 'i've never seen anything so exquisite.

darling. cassie jumped in the nearest taxi and went home to pack a large suitcase. 'i'm going to miss you like hell. what beautiful flowers!' 'i couldn't leave them in london. if i thought i could write a decent book i'd have done the same as you years ago. and of course she would continue to send in copy for the next month. but hopefully she wouldn't. she would need a lot more clothes if she was going to help out at her father's yard for the next few weeks. 'but i think you have a lot of guts to go for what you want.' 'well. 'hello. 'i wrote an article once and a young woman committed suicide because of it. it would have been such a waste.' helen opened the door wide as cassie started bringing her stuff from the taxi. 'oh. disappointment and admiration as she offered a month's notice. maggie had given her a safety net to fall back on if she needed it.' cassie .' 'oh.' 'you're not going to try and talk me out of it?' 'would it do any good if i did?' cassie shook her head. feeling oddly free.' she said.' cassie said and hugged her on impulse. i shall keep my apartment and when i've got writer's block i shall come and drink gallons of your coffee. i'm not going to waste my breath. cas.cassie went into the office to see maggie that morning. 'then no. hugged her again and left the office still smiling. 'i knew you were scrupulous but i didn't know why.' maggie smiled.' 'see that you do!' cassie laughed. her friend stared at her with a mixture of surprise. maggie. you know you can come back if you want – and i'll look at anything you care to send in freelance. that's the reason i make sure we never target anyone who can't take it. 'good luck – and you won't fade out of my life entirely.' 'i thought you loved what you do?' 'it's a living. now you know.' maggie said an odd look in her eyes. will you?' 'you should know better. i've never forgiven myself.

' 'did kasim send them to you?' helen asked as they entered the spacious hall.' 'you don't think it would be wrong to accept?' 'of course not. nothing like that. but i must be around if i'm needed here. 'you will never guess what he suggested. because it might worry her and spoil her pleasure in the cruise. you and dad could both do with a holiday.' cassie advised. dad will be home by the time the sheikh's horses arrive. if you're sure…' helen's face lit up. 'your father is coming home tomorrow afternoon. kasim would be offended if you did. mum.' 'well.' a look of excitement had come into her eyes. the hospital is very pleased with his progress – and kasim has arranged for us to be taken on board his yacht the following day. i could pop into newmarket town centre first thing in the morning.' 'go to jane's. 'everyone kept looking at them on the train. i shall be here to hold the fort. 'i can see to what needs to be done here. and we're going on a ten-day cruise in the mediterranean.' helen smiled at her daughter.' 'he hasn't changed his mind about bringing the sheikh's horses here?' 'oh no. did she look any different? she certainly felt it. it's really just sending our horses to tattersalls and then getting the stables thoroughly clean. 'i thought i might buy some new clothes. mum. if i can manage it i'll come with you. where the flowers had the effect of bringing in the sunshine and perfume of a lovely garden. 'he telephoned me earlier this morning.' 'are you sure maggie won't mind?' 'everything is settled. what do you think of that?' 'it is extraordinarily generous of him.' cassie took her suitcase upstairs to unpack. 'treat yourself to some really nice things. she took the basket and stood it on a shining oak coffer.' she wasn't going to tell her mother that she had given up her job for the moment. . you haven't had one in ages. he insists that your father needs a good rest before he starts training sheikh ali's string.giggled. besides. someone asked me if i was going to a wedding. i felt like an idiot but i wasn't going to leave them behind. she glanced at herself in the mirror.

three of the horses had been sold privately and were due to be fetched that afternoon. kasim had gone to a lot of trouble to please. past high. cassie slept well that night but woke early to take a look around the yard and discuss their timetable for the day. 'but if i'm not needed here this morning i shall take my mother shopping. neatly clipped hedges that hid various stables from prying eyes. once he was better and she was really into the book. the memory of his kiss was sweet. restaurants and a post office in the main street. . newmarket was a pleasant busy little town with its fair share of shops. the drive into town was short. just why should he do that? the previous evening she had thought he intended a casual seduction. the others would go to the sale ring the following week. clingy top. discovering that writing a full-length novel certainly wasn't going to be a walk in the park.first the extravagant basket of flowers and now this wonderful surprise for her parents. and she could still feel the touch of his hands at her breasts. there were several shops selling clothes. but now she had begun to wonder. and got the car ready. newmarket was often called the headquarters of the racing world and a lot of valuable bloodstock was grazing in those paddocks.' cassie said.' she returned to the house. but cassie and her mother made straight for one that stocked the kind of clothes women bought for ascot and weddings. her stomach clenching on a swirl of desire as she let herself remember. did a quick change into a fresh denim skirt and a pink. cassie held her breath each time the phone rang that day but her mother took the calls and it was usually one of her friends or someone from the racing fraternity ringing to see how josh was getting on. it would take months of work but she could combine it with helping her father. 'we can make a start on giving the empty stables a thorough cleaning tomorrow. she would go back to london. she spent most of the evening making notes for the story she had thought of on waking. kasim was a busy man but perhaps he would make time to visit the stables again soon.

' 'thankfully. cas.' leaving her mother to take her exciting parcels inside.' 'it gives the crew something to do. i wonder what we can give him for lunch.they spent an hour and a half buying three new dresses. 'that's if he has time to stay…' 'i had better walk down and see what he wants. i've got my mobile. your father thinks he has potential and so do i.' cassie remarked as she parked her own car. 'i don't think i've ever spent so much money in my life. two summer skirts. i was afraid we might be in trouble if we lost the yard. it was very kind of you to offer my parents a trip on your yacht. seeming very much at home. blue eyes that did wicked things to her libido. 'i'll ask him if he will stay and let you know. it looks as if that is settled. the clothes look good on you and i know dad thinks you don't spend enough on yourself.' cassie said as she swung the car into the lane leading past the stables. cassie walked down to the yard. 'then it's about time you did.' 'that's great. 'have you been enjoying yourself?' 'we've been buying my mother some new clothes. there you are.' helen said as they left after paying for their purchases. it was the one kasim had been driving that first day. a variety of tops and a smart pair of white slacks. 'it seems as if we have company. she saw that joe had led barmy out and that kasim was stroking the horse's neck. 'ah. her heart missed a beat as she caught sight of the sports car parked there.' cassie said.' kasim said.' 'i always get what i want. mum. feeling as if she were being sucked under in that . the two men turned their heads as she approached.' kasim said his eyes moving over her in a way that made cassie tingle right down to her toes. mum.' helen said practically. mischief lurking in his eyes – those blue.' 'yes. 'it means we'll get to keep him if you are successful. 'i've decided to make an offer for barmy.' she looked into his eyes.' 'i have been very careful recently.

but her stomach spiralled with desire. 'i drive this myself. shall we have coffee before we leave? i'll ring mum on my mobile while you finish up here.' 'no. 'always?' she asked with a smile. some of the other passengers found the sight highly amusing. the others are for . but will you want to waste your time bringing me back?' 'it won't be a waste of time. just determined. i have no appointments for the rest of the day.' she was breathing normally again.' he said firmly.' kasim said. i brought them home with me. 'how many cars do you actually have?' 'about six at the last count.' 'on the train?' his eyebrows quirked in amusement as she nodded. cassie. when he smiled like that she found it difficult to breath let alone think up clever repartee. he opened the door of his car for her. 'i have an appointment in cambridge this afternoon. will you come with me? we could have lunch at the garden house and then you could go shopping for an hour or so – unless you've had enough shopping for one day?' 'i can find something to do. 'i should have liked to see ocean. 'you are a very lucky man. 'always. besides.' she moved away to let her mother know what was going on and then returned to kasim. 'and thank you for those wonderful flowers.' 'yes.' 'you're not the only one. 'i want to see your father again. perhaps i should.' he said and the look in his eyes hit her somewhere in the ribs.' 'you should have let sam bring you. it was almost new and smelled of leather when she slid inside.' cassie smiled but made no answer.' 'then i accept with pleasure.

no one else has lasted more than a few days. 'if you would like to be. i don't go in for one-night stands. they are very trustworthy. though it often doesn't get near the papers. but there is always the risk of abduction. i know. 'that might be enough to put you off men for life?' cassie laughed. i do not have any particular enemies. the friends of wealthy celebrities are sometimes held for ransom. speaking of which…' 'yes. mainly because her chest had gone tight and her mouth was dry. i am not sure that i can offer the kind of relationship you would consider worthwhile. it was rude of me to leave like that without a word.' 'that wasn't my intention.the convenience of people i employ or my guests. 'that sounds good. 'almost. because i don't mix in politics. 'i was going to say that i consider it unsafe for young women to ride alone in a taxi at night.' she agreed. cassie.' kasim was thoughtful.' 'yes.' 'i see. once it becomes known that you are my constant companion it could be unwise to trust strangers. but i would like to get to know you better. we prefer to keep that sort of thing private if at all possible.' 'that makes it slightly better – but i must ask you to be careful in future. the other night i was frightened by how swiftly things were moving. my work intrudes too often for me to have enough time.' 'it was rude of me to answer the mobile. . but not quite. 'i'll be honest with you. kasim. i didn't even know he was married until i saw him with a woman who was very pregnant and someone told me that she was his wife.' she swung her long.' 'am i going to be your constant companion?' cassie could only think of those particular words. the others didn't sink in.' 'i've used them before.' kasim replied. cassie. her long hair swinging back from her face. slender legs out of the car as he opened the door for her. i prefer it to ordering taxis. but you said i wouldn't be the first?' 'a very brief and unfortunate mistake with my tutor at college.' kasim replied as he drew the car to a halt outside her home.

but for the horses my uncle will be stabling with you we need more. it has .' cassie said. she'd had one bad beautiful she looked when she laughed like that! there was a natural enthusiasm for life that was very appealing.' frustrated. ben had been speaking the truth when he'd said that it wasn't fair to blame cassie for the article that had devastated his family. i know your own security has been adequate up until now.' 'no. cassie. a few days earlier he might not have cared but somehow he was reluctant to hurt her. jealous – but not bored. she took the opportunity to slip upstairs and change into smart slacks and a silk shirt. wanted to be close to him. her body was melting in the heat of his look and she wanted him. 'so we'll take things a little more slowly?' 'just for a while. there are people around who think nothing of stealing a horse and holding it to ransom. but you can't be too careful. 'though we've been free of infection for a long time. to feel the lean hardness of his body pressed close to hers. 'that's if you won't find it too boring?' 'i doubt i shall feel bored around you. her eyes were bright with excitement as she looked at herself in the mirror. but any plans for a swift seduction had just been trashed. though most of the time was spent talking business. but now the future looked promising. angry. the garden house hotel was a treat and she wanted to feel right. 'we shall do a specialist clean after the other horses leave.' cassie said feeling suddenly shy. she had thought her chances of anything happening between them had gone after she walked out on him. kasim had a tight schedule worked out and wanted to start moving as soon as the yard was ready to take his uncle's string. kasim felt a surge of desire. she wondered what kasim would say if he knew that she was actually longing to try out that jacuzzi with him! they ate what was for kasim a long leisurely lunch. that's why i want to get a state of the art security system installed. she certainly didn't need another. she smiled but made no reply and when her mother came to welcome them and say that coffee was ready.

happened in the past, though we kept it out of the papers.' 'yes, of course. i am sure my father would want you to have complete freedom in that respect.' 'the first horse i want to bring down is very special.' kasim told her. 'dawn lady was a classic winner herself, as you probably remember, and a favourite of my uncle's. at the moment she is in foal.' 'should she be moved?' 'she isn't due for a month. your father will be back long before then,' kasim assured her. 'and i'm not satisfied with her present conditions. the reason my uncle chose to move to your father was because we trust him to go to extra trouble for a horse that needs it. when you told me what your father did for jester, i knew we had made the right decision.' 'i thought you had decided i was too sentimental?' kasim's eyes teased her. 'i wasn't sure about you, cassie, but your father's methods had my complete approval.' if he kept looking at her that way, cassie wasn't sure how long she could wait before jumping into that jacuzzi with him! 'and am i still on trial now?' 'let's say that were both on trial, shall we?' cassie nodded, sipping her wine. so was that a yes or a no? cassie spent an hour at the main library in the lion yard, doing some research on various aspects of the book she was planning to write. it was going to be a country house murder, and there were things she needed to know about police methods, forensic tests and court procedures. she made a list of books she would need to do her research in full, and then headed back to the hotel. kasim arrived some twenty minutes later. he glanced at his watch and frowned as he saw she was drinking tea. 'have i kept you waiting long?' 'no, not long at all. i had finished what i wanted to do so i came back to wait for you. this is a lovely spot. i've been watching those ducks on the river bank and thinking.'

she had a notebook on the table in front of her in which she had been writing, but she closed it as he sat beside her, feeling slightly conscious. as yet she had told only one other person of her plans, because she wasn't sure she would actually be able to do it when it came down to it. 'have you been busy?' 'i've been doing some research.' 'for your work?' 'yes, in a way,' she said and smiled at him. 'did your meeting go well?' 'it was straightforward,' kasim replied a little coolly. 'i'm part of a consortium that wants to build a big leisure complex with a new luxury hotel, swimming pool, gym, golf course and tennis facilities.' 'oh, i hadn't heard about that,' cassie said interested. 'it sounds exactly what the area needs. will it be in cambridge or somewhere outside?' 'we are in negotiations for buying land outside the city,' kasim told her with a slight frown. 'we have preliminary planning approval, but as yet nothing is settled.' 'well, i wish you lots of luck with it,' cassie said. 'shall i order tea for you or shall we go?' 'i'm ready to leave if you are.' cassie stood up at once, picking up her bag and knocking her notepad to the floor. kasim picked it up for her, glancing at the open page. he saw the words police and courtroom in bold handwriting before closing it and returning it to her. 'something important?' 'just some notes i may need,' cassie said. 'it's for something i'm writing – at least i may be writing. i'm not quite sure just yet.' 'you write reports for your boss perhaps?' 'yes, sometimes,' cassie agreed because it was true. she bit her lip, realising that she couldn't go on hiding things from him. if he found out he would be furious. surely he knew her well enough by now to know she wouldn't harm his uncle, for she would be harming her father at the same time. 'i ought to have told you before, kasim. i sometimes write articles for a gossip

magazine – but before you throw up your hands in horror, i never write anything that isn't already in the public domain, and i usually do interviews with celebrities with their full permission. i wouldn't dream of writing anything about anyone i knew personally, and i certainly wouldn't risk alienating your uncle by writing about his private affairs.' 'you know that if you did, i would immediately take steps to remove my uncle's horses from your care.' kasim's eyes were on her, but she had a feeling that her revelation hadn't come as a surprise to him. 'yes, of course, but i wouldn't do it anyway. my father made it quite clear when i began writing for the magazine that i was never to use anything that came to me by way of being his daughter. he hears a lot of stuff in the racing world, and some of it gets repeated in my hearing. i have never used it. maggie wouldn't ask me to. she is very scrupulous.' 'that is not my experience of maggie grant,' kasim said coldly, confirming cassie's suspicion that he had known who she worked for all the time. 'she once wrote an article that had devastating effects on my family.' 'maggie…' cassie stared at him in dismay. 'was that girl something to do with you? maggie told me that she would never forgive herself for what happened – a young girl committed suicide over an exposé she wrote.' she saw disbelief in his eyes and laid a hand on his arm. 'really, she does regret it terribly, kasim. she was young and her editor wanted something sensational. if she had known what would happen…' 'she ruined my niece's life. selima couldn't bear the shame so she killed herself. it devastated our whole family.' 'yes, of course it would,' cassie said and her eyes stung with tears. 'believe me, i would never do anything like that, and i know maggie is very sorry that she ever did. she is really very nice.' 'i hope you haven't told her anything about us?' 'no, of course not. please don't be angry, kasim. i promise i shall never betray you in that way.' they were standing outside in the sunshine now, but there was a cool breeze from the river. he nodded, his expression relaxing slightly. 'i am sorry if i sound harsh, cassie, but selima meant a great deal to us all – and to me particularly. i have never forgiven your friend for what she did,

' 'perhaps. a nerve flicking at his temple. but he didn't say anything more. 'tell me exactly how it works. i do trust you to keep your word.' 'if i had wanted to do that i would have told my uncle that the yard simply wasn't suitable.' 'i understand. 'but i'm not a very forgiving sort of man.' she said and grinned. kasim. perhaps you should know that before we go too far. it was to discover that josh was out of hospital and looking fine.' 'if i ever betray you i'll take my punishment and accept it. 'words never prove anything of themselves in my experience.' kasim laughed as he closed the door on her.' cassie said. she made a mistake. it doesn't work that way.' she said. of course i do.' kasim told him as they sat drinking coffee in . i'm afraid life hasn't been that easy for me – but now that i know you a little better. 'because personally. when they got back to the house. and as far as he was concerned it was a closed door. 'if we have need to press that button what happens next? i hope we don't set off a terrible shrieking noise that will upset the horses?' 'no. leaning forward to kiss her softly on the lips.' he said. you will understand me better when you really know me. and if i reserved judgement for a while i'm sorry. he had managed to hobble round the yard with the aid of crutches.' he said.' he said. despite his wife's protests.' 'i am beginning to know you. he was glad she had told him at last.' 'good. and then jumped into the driver's seat. i can't wait to know you very much better.' 'shall we just leave it at that for now?' cassie asked as he opened the door for her to get into his car. it isn't in my nature to be too trusting. cassie. 'but if you knew maggie – if you could bear to meet her – you would know that she isn't really bad. 'and i am beginning to like what i know very much. 'ben said i was wrong to blame you for something that you didn't do. i expect loyalty and i reward it – betrayal i punish. and anyone can do that once. i can only ask you not to punish my father for what i do as a living. 'i can't beg you to believe me.' he said and smiled.and it killed something in me. and he was full of enthusiasm for kasim's ideas for the new security system.

just in case. a buzzer will sound in your office in the house to alert you or your wife that there is some trouble. 'but i think cassie was right. that is all you will ever see and you hear nothing. i didn't realise you needed this kind of security. 'there will be just two lights in the yard – green means it is set in neutral and red means it has been activated. 'would you like some more coffee – or a piece of that cake i made this afternoon? it is to a special recipe using almonds.' kasim said. 'a key will be kept in josh's office. smiling oddly. honey and vegetable fat. if that doesn't happen within five minutes all hell will break loose. josh. kasim. though he loves england.' helen said. i am sure it is.' 'it makes life a bit complicated for you. we have the same system in all our buildings.' 'i love them too but only to browse. doesn't it?' cassie said frowning.' kasim replied. but the clothes are too expensive.' helen said and laughed. and though we may not be as big or important as kuwait or saudi arabia. 'my uncle married her last year.' 'shulie is spoiled and she knows it. your cooking should carry a health warning – it would make us all greedy if we gave way to it. my uncle spends much of his time in his own state.' 'my uncle has them all the time. though so far we've never had cause to use it.the pleasant parlour. 'but shulie keeps him happy. and money is for spending. but before that you make a phone call to the number i shall give you and tell them it was a false alarm.' 'then i shall try just a small piece.' kasim replied. isn't it?' 'oh yes. his first wife died some years ago and he had been lonely after…' he broke off his eyes meeting cassie's. we have special arrangements with the police. they will know immediately where the trouble is and contact the local police.' he replied. 'but his case is different because he is the head of state of his own country. 'you can use that to turn it off. helen. but it is also connected to a private security firm.' . which will be extended to include your stables. we have important resources of oil. of course. 'you don't have bodyguards.' 'what happens if someone sets it off by accident?' cassie asked. 'i buy a few of the special chocolates and treats from their food hall. his wife shulie practically lives in harrods and harvey nichols when she is staying in london.

' he said. 'but i really have to go. 'probably this weekend.' she said and got to her feet.helen smiled and served him the cake. now i have to heed the call of duty. 'would you walk to the car with me. cassie?' 'yes.' 'can you? i am not sure that i can.' 'i'll make time. 'ring me if you can – and come down when you have a few hours free.' 'don't worry about it. and she wasn't the vindictive sort anyway. and i don't want it to be like that for us.' they walked outside together.' he promised. but i know how busy you are. in fact. dwelling on her as she met his gaze. pulling her close. when he relaxed like this he was a wonderful. i can wait. i sneaked off today and my secretary nearly had a heart attack rescheduling. i shifted some of today's appointments to tomorrow so that i could spend time here. she is always in a rush to do something else.' kasim said as he finished his coffee. ' i must be going i'm afraid. i'm sorry if i put you through the third degree this afternoon – but i have to be careful for my .' his eyes moved to cassie. warm person. but she doesn't give herself time. and she liked him very much. his mouth closing over hers. cassie. 'if i asked you to come i couldn't spend more than a few minutes with you.' 'young girls…' kasim said. she had seen the other side of him earlier that afternoon. kasim standing with his keys in his hand. his eyes flashing wicked mischief at cassie.' his hot gaze sent shivers down her spine and she swayed towards him as he reached out for her. obviously reluctant.' 'then you must go. of course. caressing her lips in a way that spoke of his hunger. 'i have an evening full of appointments. 'i wish i could stay here longer. but i have appointments back to back for the next few days. but it gave her a warm feeling inside to know that he was openly teasing her. cassie. but she wasn't going to do that! she had no reason to hurt him. and it made her tremble inside. 'cassie isn't a bad cook.' she said and reached up to touch his face. kasim had warned her he was not a forgiving person and she could imagine what he might be like if anyone betrayed him. 'i'm sorry you have to go. she put her chin in the air.

but now it's over. making her tingle with a sudden rush of desire. i still have some transatlantic calls to make but i wanted to hear your voice. her brief affair had been just a young girl away from home trying her wings. was he serious? her heart was racing as she waved to him. she would feel it vibrate if it rang.' 'i wish you were with me. did they really have a future together? the idea made her tingle with pleasure. it had happened the moment she first saw him.' 'there's no need. though she hadn't recognised the signs because she had never loved a man before.' he said and stroked her cheek with the tip of his fingers. i wish you were here. all we have to think about is the future – our future.' 'don't work too hard.' .' kasim said. because she had fallen in love with him. cassie…' she stood back as he got into the car. she had given him her mobile number and she had it lying on the bed beside her so that. kasim.' 'then i wish i was there. she knew deep down inside why it meant so much. 'cassie speaking…' 'my meeting has just ended. cas.' 'i don't know how to do anything else.uncle's sake. kasim called her at half past eleven that night. i think that maybe we have one.' 'yes. if it happens. 'i'll take that picture with me when i finally get there and i'll see you as soon as i can. i promise you that. his hand rising to salute her in the mirror. it won't be through me. kasim.' 'where are you?' 'in bed. watching as he drove away. this was something different and she could feel a bubble of happiness beginning to swell inside her. of course. having set it to mute. the last thing i want is a scandal of any kind. 'i'm glad we got it out into the open. the wind blowing her hair across her face as he disappeared behind high hedges and vanished from her sight.

' joe said. and was something her father often did when he was taking on new horses – just in case. joe ambled over to have a word.' 'is there anything you think may be a problem?' cassie asked. removing his cap to scratch his thatch of dark ginger hair. all of which he had already told her the previous evening.' josh laughed. dad! there is nothing that joe and i can't take care of. 'that mr ahmed is a fast worker. and they chatted about the sale the next week. cassie saw her parents off the next morning. and all she could do was take each day as it came. 'go. kissed her cheek and got into the car with his wife. the three empty stables were wide open and the brickwork was being steam cleaned. kasim had sent one of his fleet of limousines for them. but joe didn't recognise the allusion to the mafia film and nodded sagely.' cassie said and giggled. cassie. in the end she gave him a little push towards the car. could he learn or would they only ever have minutes or hours snatched out of the routine of his life? she put the phone under her pillow and switched out the light. though not many others shared her wicked sense of humour. cassie waved them off and then walked down to the yard to check on the horses. and they would be waited on like royalty for the next few days so she knew she had no need to worry about either of them. turning over on her side to sleep. her father would have understood the joke at once. ten horses were going under the hammer. she had fallen in love with him. but barmy wouldn't be one of them.' 'perhaps he made him an offer he couldn't refuse. would they ever be able to have a proper relationship? kasim's life was geared up around work and by his own admission he didn't know how to relax. there was no point in worrying about it. it was one of the reasons she'd never found anyone . her mother was excited. you will be home before the sheikh's horses arrive. which would ensure they were ready for their new occupants. as he always said. but it seems he's managed to persuade mr trevor to sell to him directly. though her father kept giving her last minute instructions. 'i thought barmy would have to go under the hammer with the others.cassie looked at her phone as it went dead. he's a rich man so they say. so stop worrying and enjoy yourself. 'i daresay as you're right.

listen. enjoying the warm sunshine. have you been ringing me long? i've just been down to the yard.' 'that's it.' 'several times. 'dawn lady has been kept away from the rest of them for a couple of weeks as a precaution so she should be fine.' kasim's voice sounded slightly annoyed. and away from the main block. and we'll use the one at the end. i've got meetings all day and i may not get another chance to talk to you – but i wanted to tell you.' joe said.' she walked slowly back towards the house. you go. there was no cool breeze today and it felt like summer.' 'that's sooner than you expected isn't it?' 'one of the other horses at the present stables has developed a cough. we're sending dawn lady down to you today. it must have happened by accident because these jeans are tight.she wanted to settle down with! 'do we have any horses racing this week?' 'there's a couple at goodwood this saturday. if that's all right with you?' 'why not? i shall be here. 'right.' 'and will you be going?' 'yes. but all our horses are healthy so . i can come down and check everything is ok for once. 'why is your mobile switched off?' 'is it?' she felt in her jeans pocket and then swore under her breath. can you warn joe she is coming and find a place for her?' 'yes. they have been good ones for us all. nothing important. 'cassie livingston speaking…' 'cas. but mr trevor wants to be there for one last time. of course. as she walked into the office. yes. though it was still only may. 'i never do as a rule. there are three empty stables that have just been given a thorough clean. but we want to make sure there are no slip ups. 'just small events. it's a bit larger than some of the others.' joe said and smiled at her. i'll get back to the office then and go through the post.' kasim said. it will be nice for you to say goodbye to mr trevor – and say a big thank you from all of us for the last few years. the phone was ringing. impatient.

dawn lady will be fine. she wanted him here now. did you make mr trevor an offer he couldn't refuse?' she heard kasim chuckle at the other end and knew he had understood. it won't be the first time we've had a precious lady as a resident. 'i have to go now. as dad says. did your parents get away all right?' 'yes. darling. don't worry. they say it will be up and running by this evening. seems he was thinking of selling the horse to your father. answered her father's post . but it was important that joe knew what was going on so she gave him a ring on his mobile and told him to expect dawn lady at any time. 'not quite. but i might have if he hadn't been so happy to oblige. but i shall be there without fail on saturday. cas. he was very happy to accept my offer. not that it is likely to happen.' 'that's what i was relying on. i'll ring you this evening if i can – it may be late. because he wanted josh to continue training him even though he couldn't carry on himself.' 'that's ok. i'm going to sit up and watch some of my father's video collection. mum was excited. sorry to pop this on you so suddenly. she wrote up the report for the yard. when i told him barmy would remain with josh. then she went into the kitchen and made a jug of coffee.' 'i can think of at least one other. 'it will make things easier for your staff if there should ever be trouble.' he said.' kasim's phone had gone dead and she wasn't sure whether he had heard her last statement or not.' 'dad will be pleased and so am i. in style.' 'keep being pleased with me and i'll be with you soon. made a note that dawn lady was expected that day. but everything is under control.she shouldn't be at risk here. 'by the way.' 'i'm glad about that. kasim. the men are working on that security system.' 'just in case.' cassie giggled.' he said and the sudden gravel in his voice made her aware of raw desire.' 'it can't be soon enough for me. that minute. dad had to be shoved into the car. taking it into the office as she got down to work. one other thing. oh. but there was no point in asking for the moon.

feeling a sinking sensation. 'i'm sure they would never have moved her if they thought it might endanger her. moving uneasily and rolling her eyes. 'i should say this mare will deliver in a couple of days. just in case. and sliced some tomatoes and cucumber. wandering into the kitchen again. and not just in terms of money.' 'my father went on holiday this morning. joe. more nervous than she should be after a simple journey. the mare was just being walked a little before being shown her new stable. cassie went back to the horse. but cassie was concerned because this mare was special. he had just that second come in from making another call and said he would pop down at once. 'you need to keep a careful eye on this lady.' cassie said. 'i'm looking after the stables for a few days. stroking her and feeling her tremble. i'm surprised your father didn't know that the minute he set eyes on her. whoever sent her took a risk. she ought not to have been moved so near her time. it wasn't unusual for horses to be nervous when transported to a new home. the vet's examination was quick. she is very precious.' 'well.' 'yes. not longer than a week.' joe said. we didn't expect any complications. 'i'm sure she will be all right when she gets used to us. 'i think i'll ask the vet to come and have a look at her. she was lucky. dawn lady snorted. but she quieted again as cassie stroked her neck. she cut herself a piece of the quiche her mother had made the previous day.' she said. she had just finished eating when joe rang to say that dawn lady had arrived. i am pretty certain i'm right. she was certainly nervous. she took her empty plate into the kitchen. taking the food back to the office to eat while she continued her work. 'keep her walking gently. thorough and gentle. but it's best not to take risks.' . and then looked at cassie. which her father had already signed. she seemed slightly restive and cassie noticed that she was sweating. he nodded to himself a few times. i was thinking much the same myself.' 'but they thought she wasn't due for a month.and wrote out cheques for the bills.' cassie said.' simon rush said. and then walked down to the yard.' cassie rang for the vet straight away. there might just be a problem here and cassie was relieved when the vet's landrover drove into the yard. cassie.

' cassie said. besides. you'll have to keep a strict watch over her. i'll send the head lad in my place.' cassie told him. there was nothing kasim could do.' cassie said. they would just have to cope as best they could. but she's been sweating again. she knew that he was busy and miles away. i'm not sure i should leave her. which should help her to settle – but make sure you don't leave her for more than an hour or so without checking she is all right.' joe said. moving about a lot. cassie. we'll manage. but if we're still anxious about her then you must. 'she was fine for a while. even if it is in the middle of the night. she tried ringing kasim on his mobile but it was engaged. have his evening meal and then come back at about nine that night. 'don't you worry. walking back to the house. it would be dreadful if anything happened to dawn lady or her foal soon after their arrival. cassie. it took a few minutes before she stopped sweating. but she couldn't help being a little worried.' joe said looking worried. 'i think i ought to cancel my trip to goodwood this weekend.'well.' joe said and smiled.' 'i couldn't leave you in the lurch. i am always available to you. cassie. he had insisted that he would stay at the yard overnight to watch over the mare. 'we shall have to be very careful. i'll give her a mild sedative. she rang six times throughout the afternoon with the same result.' simon said.' 'i know we shall. of course we will. 'how is she now?' 'she seems a little bit edgy to me. watching as the mare was given the injection. cassie returned to the yard at about six that evening. she had arranged for joe to go home. it was impossible! so in the end she gave up. but then she seemed to be much quieter and was perfectly happy to be led into her new stable.' 'let's wait and see how she is.' . 'she may have recovered by then – or she may have had her foal. 'if you need me call me.' 'yes. but cassie had been equally insistent that he must go home for a few hours first. it's a pity if you have to stay here.

a couple of the girls were just finishing up for the evening. simon rush came towards her.' cassie nodded. simon.'i'm here. cassie. told his wife that she needed him at once.' 'oh. 'thank goodness you're here. kasim would be so upset if anything happened to the mare and so would josh! she mustn't let them down. i'll get off home but i'll be back as soon as i've had my supper. and she didn't want it going off at the wrong moment.' cassie said as she saw the vet's landrover pull into the yard. i've been around when a mare is giving birth before.' cassie said relief sweeping over her. i was just about to panic. thank you. thank goodness. with your father being away. he was a bit worried about her earlier. she stood talking to the mare for several minutes. then stood talking to barmy for a few minutes. if i think she needs help i shall be on the phone to you and the vet straightaway. i know what happens. but she had stopped sweating and there was no other visible sign that she was about to give birth.' . at once she could see that there had been a change. 'simon thought he would just call in and have a look at that mare. and then rang the vet. clearly in some trouble.' she shut down. which was now lying in the straw of her stable. cassie dialled joe's home. cassie took a walk around the rest of the stables. her sides were heaving and it was clear that she was about to give birth within a very short time. his wife told her that he was already on the way to the stable. stroking her nose and feeling her tremble.' 'all right. and as cassie opened the door to look at her she saw that her sides were heaving. because she was probably going to have to help the vet if the signs were what she feared.' he said. switching off her mobile. then walked back to dawn lady's stable. picking up her frantic vibes without needing to ask. 'he's here. she fed him a piece of apple she had brought for him in her pocket. 'it's a good thing i came. the mare had moved further into her stable. her eyes rolling as she snorted. and she had a few words with them. he looked at the mare. 'i had a bit of a hunch earlier that it might be as soon as this evening.' 'i was just ringing valerie. joe. her heart racing.

lady. it was a pleasure to do anything for cassie. 'don't worry. because the last thing the mare wanted now was human beings crowding her. and it would be as well to keep an eye on her every few hours. she needed to be alone to bond with her foal.' they all left the stable. nosing her foal. i'm sure she will. 'what are you going to call her?' 'little darling for her stable name. watching as the tiny filly nuzzled at its mother looking for milk. 'look at her. 'isn't that just the most beautiful thing you ever saw?' 'it's pretty special. 'you are a good brave girl. her throat caught and her eyes were misty. 'because she is and she was so little trouble to deliver.' she said after he'd apologised for the fourth time.' simon rush agreed and smiled as he saw her face light up with delight. 'oh. and the mare was on her feet. because she was such a lovely person. she was such a warm.' 'yes. i think our princess knows exactly what she's about. and then left it to the mother to finish off. she's a star. he gave her an injection to combat infection. he had rushed straight back but he'd had a puncture on the way. and was so apologetic that cassie felt sorry for him. the vet wiped some of the membrane away.' cassie whispered. giving girl and he understood what this meant to her and her family 'besides.' 'well. delivering her foal in a sudden whoosh that took cassie's breath away.' he said and smiled at her.' the vet assured her. but i'm sure she will be all right. and then nature's miracle took place before their eyes.' for the next half an hour cassie was on autopilot. they will both be fine now. 'i'll call in to take a look sometime tomorrow. all she needs is a little bit of help.' cassie agreed. that's exactly what dawn lady did. licking it clean and staring at them as if she wondered what all the fuss was about. joe arrived as soon as he could. too concerned to think of anything but the mare and kasim's feelings if anything untoward happened.' cassie said. and your baby is beautiful. look.'i doubt it. but of course her proper name will be up to her owner. doing everything the vet asked of her. she's doing it all by herself. and there was nothing they could do that she couldn't manage alone. .' and apart from a little help supplied by the vet.

'i shall walk down and look at her a couple of times this evening. i didn't have to do much.'would you like me to stay around for a while?' joe asked as the vet drove off. i think they ought to have realised something was wrong. because there must have been some before they sent her off.' cassie said. fortunately. as she went in. the warm gurgle sending reassuring vibes down the line to the man on the other end. you did the right thing. and don't worry. but just after joe left to have his supper.' 'we had a bit of a crisis…' 'are you all right?' 'fine. she had wonderful news for him. i'm glad to say dawn lady and her foal are both fine. i noticed that she was in a bit of distress. i think they ought to have known. joe. i'll be here by five at the latest. and i've seen quite a few new-born foals. simon came over immediately and said he thought she might foal within a couple of days. it came as a bit of a shock to us too. and she saw kasim's name flash up on the screen. 'yes. but i can find some tack to clean or something. 'i think she will be ok as simon said. those damned fools must have known before they sent her!' 'yes.' 'why did you switch off again? i've been ringing for ages.' 'good grief.' . except hand him things – but it gave me a fright.' she had a last walk around the stable. then headed back to the house. she took out her mobile and switched on. of course. but if you could come in half an hour early in the morning – just to be safe?' 'yes. she was sweating and unhappy when she arrived so i called the vet.' 'what?' cassie laughed. there's no need.' 'no. 'i was just about to ring you.' cassie assured him with a smile. too. they should have seen the signs. simon was on his way and he got there in time to assist her. and someone got their dates mixed up – that filly is full term if i'm any judge.' 'yes. her heart gave a little jolt. it rang before she had time to catch her breath. 'goodnight then. it was those idiots the other end.

and that doesn't give me much rest. i don't know what it is about you. she was in a hurry to get it over with. what do you wear in bed?' 'the same as marilyn…' she heard kasim's laughter and knew that he had picked up her train of thought. cassie. 'you can lie there and think about me instead. we were assured it wouldn't be for another month – but they've been messing up a lot recently and that's why we decided to make the change. . husky chuckle in his voice and she knew he was pleased with her news.' his voice was throaty.' cassie said. cassie. 'i've got to go.' 'i'm not sure i can wait.' cassie laughed. dawn lady is great and so is little darling. 'you're as bad as dawn lady. 'it's called dune…' 'by christian dior i think?' kasim's voice was a caress. darling. sending shivers down her spine.' he said.' 'good. i want to feel you lying close to me. by the way. i've been dying of frustration all day. kasim. i want to relish every moment when i do actually get you to myself. making her tremble inside. say hello to little darling for me. i shan't get much sleep either.' 'i can't wait – and i can't wait to see you.' 'well. 'i've been thinking about you all the time. it all turned out well. cassie.' 'i'll be walking down to take a look at her later this evening. 'oh. but you've got under my skin. kiss you… have you.' he groaned and she could hear a ringing sound in the background. you will love her when you see her. i had no idea. as if his hands were stroking her from hip to thigh. to touch you. but i'll be with you as soon as i can on saturday. 'if you keep talking like this.' 'is that what you're calling her?' there was a warm.' cassie laughed softly.'i'm sorry you were put through that. i want you. her eyes bright with naughty humour. i feel like getting in my plane and flying down this evening – but i have another meeting scheduled in half an hour. 'is she lovely?' 'beautiful. god.' 'it will soon be saturday.' 'that's not what i had in mind.

and to saying goodbye . but fell asleep almost immediately. hardly knew him. and she realised that she had never been here alone at night before.' 'there's a call on the other line. joe told her they had had barmy out on the heath early that morning. but i want to make certain. the morning was grey and overcast. but mare and foal were doing fine. but already he had become a huge part of her life. kasim. she wasn't nervous because she was used to living alone. that was the problem with falling for a successful tycoon. discovering a new one that she hadn't seen. she would watch this and then walk down to the yard to check up on dawn lady. joe was playing it down but she could see that he was excited about the sheikh's horses coming to the yard. she laid her phone down on the table as she wandered into the kitchen and made herself a sandwich. which wasn't a very hopeful outlook for the future. and that he was doing well. she took her coffee into the sitting room and looked through her father's extensive collection of videos. it looked interesting. and at half-past twelve she tumbled into bed. making her feel that it was going to be a long day but in fact a heavy post and a walk down to the stables took up the pre-lunch hours. i have to go.' kasim shut down. and she believed it might last for a while. cassie paid three visits to dawn lady's stable that night. but she felt oddly lonely. the house seemed big and empty. it's business. because he really did sound sincere – but even so he would be away from her such a lot of the time. and that was ridiculous! she'd never really had him. i'll see you soon. and cassie ended the call. perhaps it was because she wanted to be with kasim. because she shared his love of thrillers in films as well as books. kasim hadn't rung again and she was feeling a bit low.'simon told me she and her mother will be fine. the sound of his voice made her feel so alive that when she wasn't with him everything else seemed dull and meaningless. she had pleasant dreams that made her murmur kasim's name but on waking the dreams had vanished and she was aware of an ache deep inside her because she was missing him. she knew that at the moment she was becoming important to him.

to their previous owner the next day.' . a feeling of pleasure invading her. cassie?' 'of course i can. don't be nervous of meeting him. and i shall be there to protect you. cas. cas. joe. i shan't have more than a couple of beers but it's best to be safe. 'yes. he is rather a gentle man actually. that sounds sensible.' cassie wanted to giggle but she kept a straight face as she walked back to the house. i imagine he is very excited about the foal?' 'very. of course. entertaining the sheikh wasn't how she had hoped to be spending the weekend. i may not be able to get down on saturday until late…' 'oh.' 'yes. furious with the idiots who put dawn lady and the foal at risk. 'still you can't be too careful.' 'oh…' cassie felt a spasm of nerves in her stomach.' 'he does understand that my father isn't here?' 'yes. that's a pity. and looking forward to meeting you. but my uncle is flying in tomorrow. 'cassie?' he said sounding urgent. i was looking forward to showing you little darling in the morning. we don't want you up before the magistrate for drunk driving in charge of a horsebox!' 'as if i would!' belatedly. 'i'm sorry but something has come up. what time should i expect you back?' 'it will probably be late.' 'yes. i shall have to meet him when he arrives. but very pleased with you. of course. the boys and girls will do their work as usual and i'll keep an eye on things after they've gone.' 'this is something i want you to keep to yourself. he will probably want to see the foal so i should expect a visit on sunday morning. her mobile shrilled as she was making coffee and she smiled as she saw it was kasim. joe realised that she was teasing and laughed. but if i can get away i'll be down during saturday evening. of course. i might travel on sunday if there's a bit of a party. 'are you sure you can manage here.

'i shan't risk driving back on sunday. my father's was a marriage of mixed religions. cassie. my mother didn't convert. so you needn't worry.' he was silent for a moment.' 'i shall be waiting for you. we had a sort of celebration.' 'he can be to those he likes. 'what would you rather i did with you?' 'well you could start off with kissing my toes and then work up.' 'he sounds lovely. and he sees christmas purely in that light. then i'll fly down and be with you.' 'you soon will. 'like christmas morning…do you have presents at christmas. 'have i said something wrong?' 'i was lost in contemplation.' he heard the giggle in her voice and she knew he was smiling from the tone of his own.' . told him all he needs to know.' 'wearing dune i hope?' 'and what else?' 'that i leave entirely to you…' kasim was laughing as he switched off. in my uncle's house any time is a good time for giving presents.'promise – that you'll be here.' he promised her. she had hoped that kasim would arrive early on saturday.' cassie murmured wickedly.' he said.' 'i've always thought that the things you wait for are the best. once i've seen my uncle.' he said. when my mother was alive we had presents at christmas. when she got to unwrap her presents! when joe heard in confidence that the sheikh was paying them a visit on sunday. just like christmas. cassie smiled to herself. i'm afraid this is a quick call. kasim? i don't really know anything about you. he told cassie that he would be back late that evening. but it sounded as if it would be worth the wait. not necessarily to protect me. but different. 'i'll be back tonight and i shan't drink anything that is remotely alcoholic. and it meant another few hours of waiting. cassie. but i promise i will come on saturday evening. 'if my uncle hadn't asked me to arrange certain things for him i would fly down there tonight. 'and yes. and he didn't ask her to – and later.

but tried to be patient.' cassie told him with a grin.' 'i doubt if he will dare come here. i shan't lock the yard gates. cassie.' 'it couldn't be easier. . 'it is impressed into my mind in letters of fire. if you do have any reason to be worried just press it. you just open that and press the red button. that's simple enough. there really was nothing to concern her. 'i saw that bobbie mills. she spent some time talking to the boys and girls at the yard when she paid them their wages. i told him to get lost – but i'd watch out for him if i were you. they were a happy crowd who loved what they did and worked well together. cassie was longing for the hours to pass so that she could be with kasim. he hates joe for sacking him and i think he might try to cause trouble.'joe. after all. you are the least of my worries. except what to wear when kasim arrived… kasim made one hurried phone call to tell her he would be there by about nine that evening. the day was pleasant but seemed endless. 'so it can't be set off by the horses then? i see.' joe said. cassie. 'have a good day.' juliet told her just as she was leaving that evening. you can do that after you get back – but i shall walk down once or twice just to make sure everything is all right. because he deserved it. it is always best to be safe.' 'you do know how to work the new alarm system. joe was worse than her father.' cassie said and watched as he opened the little box on the inside of the stall they were standing in. asked me what was going on up here. but there was none of the pillow talk she had come to expect. 'that's the beauty of this system. always careful – but that was why they valued him so much.' 'i've been brought up with that motto.' she assured him.' she was laughing inside as she walked back to the house. don't you?' 'i think so – but it won't hurt to show me again. always meticulous in checking everything. the stables were half-empty and dawn lady was thriving. she was sure that there was nothing to worry about.' cassie said and waved them off as they set out on their bikes. 'he kept asking questions about the yard. she was glad he was going to have a day out at the races. and she thought he must be with someone.

but she hadn't been in any hurry. she was almost ready to start on the first chapter. and cassie knew they were coming for barmy. they went straight by without so much as a glance. and she fed dawn lady a piece of apple. made herself a coffee but didn't eat anything. of course! he was her father's big hope for the classics and if they wanted revenge he was the ideal target. she watched the news at seven on the twentyfour hour service. the security lights were full on and she could see that one of the two men was the groom joe had sacked for being persistently late and lazy. she was pretty sure dawn lady was fine. not like the smart horsebox joe was driving. and immediately she was alert to danger. but she didn't want to take any chances. she had a pat and either a piece of carrot or apple for each of the horses. satisfied that everything was fine there. blessing kasim for having them installed in every stable. please don't let it be the mare they were after! as usual her thoughts were for others. then closed it again. and her father always made time to look at the horses in the evening. she opened it and pressed the red button. talking to her softly for some minutes. because she had some nice salads in the fridge that she hoped to be sharing with kasim later that evening. kissing his nose and feeding him the slice of apple she had saved for him. her first call was the mare. but the men didn't seem to have noticed. a red light had begun to flash on the corner of the main block of stables. when she saw two men get out. glancing out of barmy's stable. she decided to walk down to the yard and take a look round before getting changed for the evening. at a quarter past eight. she went immediately to the little security box. that sounded a bit rough. it was a cloudy night. .she wandered up to the house. she knew at once they were up to something. ending with barmy. very little light in the sky apart from the security lamps that came on as she approached. because she'd had other things on her mind. she saw that an old style horsebox had been driven into the yard. 'beautiful boy…' she was inside the stable with him when she heard the sound of an engine and was startled. who was her favourite apart from the mare and foal. and then made a few notes for her book. but no. kasim would be so distressed and so would her father if anything happened to dawn lady. 'how are you my lovely boy?' she asked. she walked round the stable. she held her breath as they walked past dawn lady's stable.

she had been warned only that evening that he might try something. glaring at bobbie. 'i know exactly what you're up to bobbie mills.' the stable lad said and sneered.' 'damned idiot.' 'you touch barmy and you'll be in prison so long you'll forget what your home looks like. and kasim had placed his trust in them by buying the horse. she didn't need a weapon! she would just face them down. all the passion and love that was in her came rushing to the fore. cassie opened the stable door and went outside. bobbie. but she hadn't believed he would dare.' 'i thought you said the place would be empty?' the other man said. it ain't worth the bother. they hadn't reckoned with her being here in her father's place. they were shocked to see her.' 'she's lying. they weren't going to take barmy without a fight! cassie loved that horse and she knew her father had a lot of dreams wrapped up in his hope of a classic winner. 'i ain't afraid of her. and the police will be here in ten minutes.' 'i bloody shan't then…' bobbie said and took a run at cassie. but joe had his staff well trained and everything was put away after it had been used so that it couldn't injure a horse that panicked. she wished that there was a weapon to hand.' his companion muttered. 'get out of my . wrestling with her as she struggled to stop him getting to the horse's stable.' cassie said fiercely and moved forward. which might be in another hour. there was no way she was going to let her father and kasim down! cassie wasn't afraid of a former stable lad. she realised that the men probably knew her father was away and that joe had gone to goodwood. 'she can't stop us taking that horse. your face will be on every security camera in the yard. and she seized her advantage. 'you'll have to get past me first – and that carries an even stiffer penalty. stopping the two men dead in their tracks. how long would it take for the police to get here? knowing the local constable he would probably amble over here when he felt like it. even if his companion was a great lout of a bloke. well. 'leave it. 'you little twit! you said there was hardly any security. and you won't get away with it.

stunned by something that must seem to them like a nightmare. shockingly.' the men froze. i would have come in but kasim told me that if this ever happened i was to wait because the response would be swift. but bobbie made a run for it. which she had locked behind her with the new safety locks. 'i'm all right…' 'cassie!' she heard the agonised note in his voice.way bitch or it will be…' cassie fought him as best she could. the surrounding area is covered and you cannot escape. bringing him down with a superb tackle that wouldn't have disgraced england's world cup rugby team! and then joe was there beside her. she needed him so badly and he was here. 'i don't think they do that sort of thing anymore. bobbie's companion stayed where he was. she heard the sound of a helicopter overhead and a bright light was shining down on them. 'damn them! i hope they throw them into the deepest darkest cell they can find and leave them to rot. your highness. 'stay where you are. she went to him and he opened his arms. but he punched her in the face and sent her staggering back. the helicopter was hovering and keeping the bright light trained on them. relief washing into his face as he realised she .' cassie began and then her breath died as she saw kasim coming towards her. suddenly.' he took a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at her cheek. raising his hands into the air. cassie's eyes were bright with mischief as she gazed up at him. enfolding her. one of the security men took a flying leap at him.' his face was a picture of outrage.' 'cas!' he looked down at her. and then. the side of kasim she had never seen. looking at her anxiously. cassie. she shook her head and was about to take a run at him again as he attempted to open the stable door. not in england anyway. a great wave of emotion rushed over her at the sight of him. from which a trickle of blood had begun to run. and cassie knew this was the powerful sheikh coming out. 'i arrived just as the red light flashed on. all of you!' a loud voice hailed them. saw the way his eyes went over her. and then six huge burly security men came rushing into the yard. cassie would have laughed at the look on their faces if it hadn't been so awful. he didn't get very far. 'your exit is blocked. if i'd been five minutes sooner…' 'it's all right. but it looks as if i ought to have followed my instincts. 'i'm sorry those devils did this to you. i'm not hurt.

and i was there anyway. he put his arm around cassie's waist. 'why on earth didn't you just let them take barmy? the police would have tracked them before they could get out of the county – that's why we have all these special measures in place. sir.' cassie said. 'i had other plans for this evening.' cassie said. 'that bastard must have hit you hard.' cassie said her eyes sparking.' kasim replied and smiled oddly. so that you and your staff don't take risks. though she could feel her cheek just beginning to ache. did you imagine i would hide in the stable while they simply walked off with him?' 'she's always been the same. 'can you walk or shall i ask the police to move so that i can fetch my car?' 'of course i can walk.' 'as you have been. 'i wasn't afraid of that stable lad we sacked. 'best not argue with her. and she was glad to sit down while kasim bathed her cheek with cold water and then made her a cup of tea.' 'we'll see about that. cas.' 'we'll have the doctor out to look at you. you don't know his temper. wrongly handled he would have started kicking and playing up and he might have been injured.' 'it's a good job i think otherwise then.' kasim said touching her cheek with his fingertips.' joe told him with a shake of the head. 'but i think they may have to be delayed for a while.wasn't badly hurt or distressed.' she said. by the time they reached the house. he will probably give you a sedative.' 'yes.' she swore aloud in .' he said.' 'i wasn't letting them take barmy.' 'so did i. 'but i shall be glad to get in and bathe my face – and i'd love a cup of tea and a painkiller. however. just take her home and give her a drop of brandy. kasim. i think you are right.' 'just when i wanted to look my best for your uncle's visit. her face had begun to ache quite a bit.' 'huh!' was cassie's reply to that. 'you'll have a black eye in the morning. 'i couldn't let everyone down. 'given the choice i would have sacrificed the horse.' kasim said with a grim smile.

'but i agree – providing you don't try to send me off to bed like a little girl. gazing up at him.' kasim said and shook his head.' 'perhaps some may not appreciate it.' kasim said and bent to kiss her forehead. and it might be an idea to let him give you a sedative. cas.' kasim said. the way he was looking at her made her heart turn over.' cassie said.a very unladylike way and he grinned. though he tolerates it.' 'i don't want that. 'i noticed that the first time we met. he would. and you share the same sense of humour.' kasim agreed. 'all right. 'it proves it all works – and that we couldn't be in better or braver hands. he doesn't share my love of american films or my own sense of humour. right?' 'if that's is your wish. and she was tingling right down to her toes. in this case it happens to be mine. my love.' 'yes.' 'unfortunate humour some people think.' 'oh. because i am certain your father would have done very much as you did.' kasim said. 'but how did you know that?' 'because you are very like your father. and i'm damned if i'm going to waste it just because some idiot hit me.' 'you need to sleep.' 'i'm not sure that's an actual trade off.' cassie said and giggled. 'i dare say my uncle would not pick up on some of your jokes. 'i've been waiting for today all week. 'what kind of an impression is that going to give him of our security?' 'the very best i should imagine. cas. i want to make sure no real damage has been done – apart from the bruise you are undoubtedly going to have. 'now i'm going to telephone for the doctor and after he has been we'll talk about what comes next…' .' she gave him a careful smile.' kasim said. 'i think i'll call the doctor out just to be on the safe side.' 'just like mum.' cassie said. trade off – you have the doctor and i don't insist on a sedative.' 'well. 'ouch! it hurts to laugh. when i go to bed you come with me.' 'don't you start – that's dad's favourite saying.

'i think the shock may come out later. thank you. just in case. i'm a man first and foremost.' cassie said at once. he examined cassie's face. i inherited the title on his death but i prefer not to use it. my father was the eldest brother. i was teasing. i haven't eaten all day and i'm starving. your highness earlier. which made cassie wonder just how kasim managed to snap his fingers and get the kind of attention that just didn't happen often enough in real life. but i can give you a mild sedative if…' 'no.' he said and laughed. 'yes.' 'then would you kindly help me make us some supper and then take me to bed?' 'oh. 'i thought you said you .' 'how did you manage that?' cassie asked after kasim had seen the doctor to the door and returned.' 'are you a sheikh too?' cassie was curious. but we hope to delay that for a few years yet. 'i was only too glad to be of service. i look after the business side of things. and we share responsibility for any decisions made on behalf of our people.' she said and stood up. i'm sorry to have troubled you. 'i'm ashamed to say it. declared that no bones were broken.' 'i'd better feed you then. 'it would be best if you weren't alone tonight. a faint smile in his eyes. it was no trouble at all. 'it makes no difference to us. i suppose one day he will want to retire and i shall have to take on the pomp and ceremony bit.' he said. but it works wonders.' kasim said. 'we have to make an appointment to be ill around here as a rule. 'i have some painkillers and i shall be fine. but he preferred to live in america and leave state matters to his brother. 'i thought you would never ask. tested her for signs of concussion and found none.cassie's doctor came out within a short time. and i leave the politics to my uncle.' 'sometimes it helps to use the title. cassie. gasping as he swept her off her feet and started towards the hall and the stairs.' he replied. i didn't really think you were…' she looked at him a little uncertainly.' 'when i called you. thank you. cas.' 'oh. and declared her reasonably sound.

' her eyes were large and luminous with love as she gazed up at him. 'your phone calls made it almost impossible to sleep without having erotic dreams. she was burning up with the heat of their mutual desire. 'yes. 'are you sure about this.' cassie gazed up at him contentedly.' she whispered against his lips. her face still hurt but what the hell.' she said. pushing the door open with his knee. and he headed in the right direction.were hungry?' 'i am but mostly for you – the food can wait.' his chuckle was deep and husky. which were somehow very her. kasim asked for directions. standing with his arms about her. sometimes i've felt like telling them all to go to hell.' she pulled a rude face at him and then wished she hadn't. he stood her down. i'm thirty two next month. her wisp of lace bra followed it to the carpet. cas. 'let's get rid of this shall we?' he said. she pointed with her foot.' 'which was?' 'three months ago. unbuttoning her shirt and slipping it off her shoulders.' he said. 'it was new for my twenty-first birthday. looking down into her eyes. her body thrilling to his nearness and the burning heat in his eyes. bending his head to kiss her very softly on the lips. so do i. my darling. her body trembling with anticipation. 'i've been wanting to be with you every minute. her body melting into his as he trailed his lips down her cheek to her throat. 'i like it. sending little whirls of delight winging down her spine. and standing on the threshold to look around him. and he . cas?' 'i've never been more sure of anything in my life. 'you must tell me if i hurt you. i feel like a child snatcher. she wasn't going to pass this up for a little thing like that.' 'join the club.' 'baby. and she knew that he had been having them too. approving of the colours of apricot and cream. his tongue delicately licking at her.' he said. nice.' 'good.

depositing her carefully on the covers. picked her up and carried her to the bed. before . before trailing his hand over her thighs. and then he rose. and kasim was kneeling at her feet. his fingers seeking out the moistness there and stroking gently for just a moment. for a while as he lavished her breasts with sensual. so that when he came she was lying on the crisp.i've never…' 'i know. and beyond her control as he kissed and stroked. and i want to show you how good loving can be. making her gasp and writhe as the sensation took hold of her body. which.' he said and moved so that he was lying beside her. her fingers working in his dark hair. bending so that his face was level with her feet. her body was begging for him. so that he could kiss them. he trailed his lips and tongue the length of her smooth legs. and between them. giving her the kind of pleasure that even her most erotic dream could never match. her cries frantic with the desire that raged through her like a forest fire. teasing the hardened nipples with his tongue and causing her to arch back whimpering with pleasure at the wonderful sensations he was arousing. he took even this last pleasure slowly. 'beautiful. gave up the ghost and fell open to reveal a matching wisp of lace that barely covered the v-shape of curls nestling between her thighs. consuming her and him in the flames. he knelt beside her on the bed. doing things to her that she had never even imagined. and then they had joined the rest of her things on the floor. when at last he entered her. cassie threw back the duvet. he buried his head against the centre of her femininity. she felt as if her body was liquid fire. almost. i want to teach you to enjoy your body. to thrust even more deeply into her the next time. a spasm of such exquisite pleasure shot through her that she cried out his name. 'and these…' he fumbled with the zip on her jeans. 'kasim…' she breathed. 'it feels so good…. kissing her fair curls. with a little help from cassie.' cassie smiled up at him.bent his head to flick delicately at her breasts. teasing motions of tongue and lips. thrusting into her and then withdrawing. he lay still within her. never dreamed that it was possible to experience such sensation. 'you are sweet and innocent and lovely. teasing and turning her. the calm within the storm. as he moved away to strip off his own things. my darling. parting them so that he could kiss and tease her moist femininity with his tongue. she had never known she could feel like this.' he whispered throatily. cool cotton sheet.

i'll come and help. 'i was hoping we would have at least tonight and tomorrow.' 'it doesn't happen often. 'but for the moment i am hungry. 'you made it happen for me. 'i should like to be a fly on the wall at those times.' 'i think you are the special one. but i have never felt quite like this before.' she whispered shyly. his eyes moving over her with appreciation as he realised that the shirt was all she intended to wear. you are very special.' kasim murmured and his throat sounded croaky as if he too had experienced something special. his hand shadowing the arch of her back. my friends have quite a bit to say on the subject at times. he reached for his clothes and began to dress.' kasim said. 'i didn't know it could be so…so wonderful.' 'it's something to look forward to. i really wish we had a jacuzzi. ever deeper inside her until something in her reached out to meet him and they reached the ultimate climax of all. 'sex is always good if things are right between a man and a woman.' she said.' kasim laughed and rolled away from her.' . 'i'll help you make supper and then i'll have a shower. 'i think my education has been sadly lacking.' 'i've never done any of those things.' she said and wriggled over to the side of the bed. fingertips playing on her spine as she lay with her face pressed into his shoulder and he murmured sweet words against her hair. i know it isn't that way for a lot of girls. they lay still. she slipped on the shirt she had been wearing earlier. kasim still holding her close to him.' 'does that mean you have to leave soon?' cassie felt a sinking sensation.' 'in certain elements. gazing up at him. 'however. why don't you stay there and i'll find us something to eat and bring it back?' 'no. afterwards.' cassie said.beginning the rhythmic assault once more. my darling. pushing deep. i think i can undertake to fill in the bits you don't know – given the time and opportunity. her eyes dark and intent. 'but a shower can be rather nice to share with the right person. but i'm afraid we've never got around to that.' he agreed with a straight face but a lurking humour in his eyes. 'i never knew it was possible to feel like this.' he said.

'pretty please. raising her eyes to meet his now. 'it isn't what you want. but that isn't really satisfactory is it?' cassie avoided his eyes. 'why don't you whip up a salad and i'll make the eggs?' 'you can cook too?' 'if asked nicely. which seemed to be invading her mind.' he said. but none of them meant more than a brief hour or so of pleasure. though sometimes i shall have to be there – but he can take some of the meetings. and fresh poached salmon. 'let's eat.'and we shall.' 'will that have a detrimental effect on your business?' 'perhaps.' 'she put some in the freezer for me. and most of them were forgotten five minutes after they left. 'how are you going to manage that? you scarcely have time to fit in everything you have to do now. i shall simply not be as available as i have been. cas.' he shrugged. 'ben has been telling me i should for ages.' kasim said. they drifted in and out of my life.' 'what do you fancy? i have loads of salads in.' she admitted.' he said. .' 'isn't it?' she asked as they stood at the top of the stairs. 'but the way i feel at the moment is that i'm willing to take what i can get.' 'i'm going to have to delegate.' 'i make a great omelette.' she said and stood on tiptoe to kiss him on the lips. and i defrosted a loaf earlier. i'm starving. i shan't try to deny that there have been other women in my life.' he murmured wickedly. is it?' 'i must admit i would like to be with you every night. cheese.' 'that has always been the offer before.' cassie said. and he's right. personal assistants. and there are secretaries. 'anything else wasn't an option – but this is different. reading her thoughts. he can do most of what i do. 'that should do it. eggs.' he said. it isn't going to be that way for us. 'is there any of that bread your mother gave us? i haven't tasted any as good as that in a while.

i'm afraid i'm not as good a cook as my mother. but there's no reason i shouldn't – if that's what you're asking. and then the working week would begin and they both had commitments. kasim?' 'yes. either the christian variety or the muslim. 'i wasn't sure if you drank wine. i'm so sorry.' 'i'm not sure that i believe in god at all. pouring some for them both. 'is there a reason for that. 'what do you mean?' 'my mother died in hospital of a painful and malignant tumour on the brain. but they both believed in a benevolent divinity – but when they needed their god to help them he wasn't there for either of them. i'm not a member of a strict religious sect. 'stop tempting me. but she wasn't going to let that spoil the magic of this special night. cassie. he opened it. i think it is because of my parents.' he told her with a wry twist of his mouth.' he said and his eyes lingered on her breasts as they peaked beneath the shirt. i had no idea. for tonight perhaps.' 'religion is very much a personal thing.' 'i don't often. 'it broke . 'i go to church at christmas and i suppose i believe in a way. he couldn't bear it after she died and he drove his car straight over the edge of a ravine. he really did. it was fun cooking together in the kitchen.' 'not many people know. of course. woman! i need to eat. no. and my father died of his grief.' 'oh. i shall have to ask her to show me again.'it is rather special. because i need to keep a clear head.' 'why?' she looked at him curiously. kasim had found a bottle of white wine in the fridge. kasim had promised to make more time for them. but she knew that still didn't mean she could have him all to herself.' 'you have other talents.' cassie felt a prickling sensation at the nape of her neck. cas. but i'm not a regular worshipper. though mum is.' cassie smiled. mostly i stick to sparkling water. but the next day his uncle would be here. my father was devout and so was my mother. if i don't eat meat it's from choice.' she said sipping her wine. her cheek still ached and she knew the bruise was coming out because it felt tender. they prayed to different gods. kasim.

her heart ached for him. 'come and eat and tell me how wonderful these omelettes are. and i've preferred to live alone. and some of them are men – but they are strictly friends.' cassie said. 'not bad for an amateur. she tasted it carefully and nodded. no wonder he and his uncle hated them! 'i'm so sorry. wash it away in the tide of her love. 'most of my friends are in and out of relationships every few months. that's quite true. 'not even a girlfriend. but…' she shrieked with laughter as he grabbed her and kissed heart. 'i don't think he gave me a thought.' she said and laid her head against his chest.' 'that's something you don't know for certain. i've got loads of friends.' 'it must have been awful for you. i lost both of them in a week and i couldn't stop crying and hating them for leaving me. 'i know your father was suffering but he should have thought about you. 'it beats mine and mum doesn't have your extra talents. of course. and he did of course. i think she saved my sanity. dad helped me to buy a small apartment of my own. 'i think my mother could teach you a thing or two.' 'and what about you?' 'i haven't lived with anyone. 'your father seems pretty happy to stay married to her – and there aren't many survive as long as they have these days. because of a man who had betrayed her and an article in a magazine. and she longed to ease his hurt.' cassie said.' 'no. 'does it still hurt very much?' 'not as much as it did.' cassie caught the teasing note in his voice and tried a mouthful of the one he was offering her. i lacked for nothing.' 'he adored her.' she went over to him.' .' kasim said.' kasim said.' she teased.' and then he had lost her too. selima was only a little girl then and she called me her big brother and hung around my neck every chance she got. her eyes dancing with mischief. he knew my uncle would take me in. sliding her arms about his waist.' kasim said truthfully. not even love.

'it would make things easier if you came back with me. i don't want to be apart from you for another week. not after what happened this evening. 'supposing i asked you to try moving in with me for a while – see how things work out?' 'yes.' 'and now?' kasim's dark eyes were intent on her face.' 'i promised my father. of course not – but i can't leave the yard until dad gets back. next weekend i shall be able to return to london. i can't do that. but would make a wonderful horse for her to ride when she came down to visit. 'surely you don't need time to think it over?' 'no. promises. . i just hadn't found anyone else i liked enough. the gelding was probably past its best over the flat. cas. but perhaps she ought to ask kasim first what he thought of the idea. she went out with the horses a couple of mornings. cas.' 'promises. 'well.'so the tutor did put you off relationships?' 'no. her heart racing. if you insist on staying. 'but i can't leave you here alone. i shall move a security guard in…' he saw the militant look in her eyes.' 'why?' he frowned at her. and i can't go back on it.' 'no.' 'and i have meetings all next week. i gave him my word that i would keep an eye on things.' kasim said. 'and don't think you've got your own way. not the kind i can delegate. i want to be with you.' she mocked and he grinned. 'no arguments or i'll put you across my shoulder and carry you back upstairs. 'i want to be with you as much as i can. kasim – but it is only for a few days. and then i'll move in with you.' she said. i think i might like that.' he amended. after i've eaten my supper. but these meetings are important. riding a horse that had been a favourite with her in the past. i shall have a lot more to say on this subject before we're finished. i don't think so. kasim phoned every night that week and cassie found that she could just about get through the days by working on her book every minute she wasn't at the yard or working in her father's office. if you want me to?' 'of course i do!' he glared at her. she thought she might ask joe to bid for misty lad for her at the sale.' 'so i'll take you back with me on sunday afternoon.

sit down.' cassie said. 'i thought it might be dirt but it is a bruise. told me the police would have got them within minutes anyway. i have something to tell you. isn't it?' 'it was. cassie. it did us both the world of good.' 'how are you. and kasim would be with her on saturday.' 'i knew there was more to it.' she said and kissed her mother's cheek.she was counting the days until she saw him again. we have never been so spoiled. both of them looking nicely tanned.' 'i told you so!' helen gave her a husband a triumphant look. it does. but the best bit was being on kasim's yacht.' 'something important.' her mother assured her. 'does it also concern kasim?' 'yes. i shall bring a tray of coffee and then we'll talk.' her mother cried and hugged her. 'i've had a feeling all week. 'it has been as calm as can be since then – besides. 'you look wonderful. 'but it has almost gone and i'm fine so don't start imagining things either of you. her parents were due home on friday afternoon. cas?' 'yes. darling?' 'i'm fine.' 'oh. kasim scolded me for trying to stop them taking barmy. i am so grateful to him for everything.' her father said.' her mother said. mum. the week seemed to crawl by but at last the car arrived carrying her parents home. dad.' her mother said. both of you. 'cassie. 'you didn't say a word of this to your father when he rang. 'how are you. 'did you hurt your face. 'the shore trips were interesting. but there was no way i was going to let them upset him.' 'well. you can forget it now. did you have a good time?' 'the most marvellous time of my life. even your father. nothing to do with the yard – this concerns me.' she said. fit and more relaxed than she'd seen them in ages. and she knew he felt the same. dad?' josh was looking at her oddly. deciding that . cassie. cas?' 'yes…there's a faint bruise.' cassie sat down in the armchair facing her father.

if he is the man i think he is he won't mind humouring an old guy. there are bound to be differences. dad!' cassie jumped up and threw her arms about him.' helen said. that's wonderful.' her father's eyes went over her for a few seconds.' cassie admitted. but love isn't everything. very much. i do. if i marry kasim i would want it to be for life. i am going to move in with him. i want you and mum to be happy about this.' . i love him so much that i don't think i could be happy without him.' 'cassie. and he is coming to fetch me back to london tomorrow. 'i knew he liked you a lot the first time he came here. and since we shall be living in london or america for much of the time. 'i love it that you care about me. cas. but that is one of the things we would need to cover – also who gets custody of the children if we do split up one day. there are differences in religion. kasim's parents had a mixed marriage and they both kept their own faith.the coffee could wait. i know there are difficulties.' 'yes. i can't see that it is a problem. 'well. cas? it seems rather quick to me.' 'what about if he decides to take another wife?' 'i suppose it is possible. customs. though i suppose he follows the customs of his people when he is with his uncle. mum.' 'i love him. cas. 'he has asked me to marry him. but i love kasim. after we've been to visit his uncle at the palace of katar. and a whole way of life. and then he nodded. kasim isn't a strict muslim. and then. but so far it hasn't intruded. dad.' 'oh. dad – but i'm not planning on a short-term relationship.' cassie looked at her father. i shall give kasim my answer. 'dad?' 'are you sure about this. if you love him that much i shan't stand in your way – but i'm still oldfashioned enough to want that chat with him.' 'thanks. especially when we are in kasim's own country. 'but not as many as you may think.' 'i know you are old enough to make your own decisions. but before you marry him i want to talk to him – and that's not because i don't like him.' 'yes. but you are my little girl and i don't want you to be hurt.

and i don't think divorce will ever come up – do you?' 'not as far as i am concerned. 'the answer is that my uncle banned polygamy years ago. after all. kasim rang her when she was in bed that evening.'dad!' cassie's eyes were brimming with affectionate tears. you and your mother can sit and have a good natter.' 'well.' cassie giggled at the picture this conjured up.' helen said after josh had gone.' 'he is pleased for you really.' 'kasim! you sound very feudal. i'm a one-man woman.' 'where my woman is concerned i can be a positive tyrant.' 'how disappointing. so consuming that she knew nothing could stop her doing whatever he wanted. she told him what had passed between her and her parents and he chuckled. of course. 'well. 'i do love you!' 'humph. love.' her father said sounding as if he had a frog in his throat. it might be as well to clear the air before you jump in too deep.' . he did raise a couple of good points. 'i think it is a good thing you asked me to marry you. not an affair. you won't have any need to get the whip out. she imagined that he would think it only right and proper. if that is the kind of life you've been leading. she was already in way over her head.' 'it's you that makes me want to be disreputable – in the nicest possible way. it was marriage he was proposing. still. 'i don't blame josh one little bit. and she didn't think kasim would mind one bit. 'but he would have been the same whoever you married. i could just see you in black leather wielding it while i beg for favours at your feet. i'm going to hobble down to the yard.' cassie smiled but didn't say anything.' he said. it was nice to know she was loved that much. so it is one wife at a time. her love for kasim was so powerful.' 'you had better be! there are still a few deep dark dungeons around where i come from – and any man who dared to take a second look might find himself spending a few days of contemplation down there. it is high time you settled down and became respectable.

she couldn't believe it when he walked in just as she was drinking her second cup of coffee. i like to give . he was carrying a huge basket of flowers. won't you?' 'scout's honour! i have one last meeting this evening and then…you won't believe this. which he presented to her mother.' 'good. 'i haven't forgotten what you said. which he offered to her with a rueful smile. 'i thought we'd have saturday with your parents. pleading and downright bribery. 'how did you manage that?' 'with a lot of bullying. when i told him you use these odd quotes all the time. i intend to hang around for a long. and ben gave me an old-fashioned look. long time. 'i won't do it all the time. feeling a lovely warmth steal over her. she might be spending the rest of her life with him. 'you will be here tomorrow.' 'hold that thought. just one more night alone and then she would be with kasim for ten whole days. you'll get used to it.' 'i don't believe it!' she cried her heart leaping with joy.' cassie said and laughed softly. 'if you hang around me long enough.'so that's my sleep gone for tonight. cas – but this is an anniversary for us. and a small box. but otherwise it's all systems go…' 'thunderbirds.' 'don't worry. and i can't wait to be with you again. i love you.' 'oh. and that was the best feeling in the world.' cassie said. but i'm like my uncle. if that isn't rushing you too much?' 'it sounds wonderful. promises…' cassie said and ended the call.' cassie said. cas. then come here – and on sunday we'll fly to katar for eight days. 'all week i've been coming up with these odd sayings. it's exactly a week since…' he left the sentence unfinished because her mother was there.' kasim said. i've wangled it so that i'm free for ten days. 'i shall have to raid my wardrobe for summer clothes. he gave me a crash course. a bottle of very expensive single malt whisky for her father. i'll be there by the time you've had your breakfast. kasim was as good as his word. kasim.' 'promises. she snuggled down in bed. if things went well for them. right?' kasim laughed.

' . and then against her ear. 'i shall forgive you this time.' he murmured. which would match the pendent his uncle had given her. when we get home. kasim had phoned ahead.' she said and lifted her face for his kiss. it was obvious that he emerged feeling totally satisfied. 'you are very. i give most of my american profits to charity. 'because i want you to enjoy the things i can give you. but her eyes told him that she couldn't wait to deliver. though she knew she was going to have to get used to it. very wicked.' she told him.' 'oh. stopping on the way back to have dinner at an expensive restaurant on the way. so i'm not going to develop a guilt complex.' 'thank you. very softly. the rest of the day passed in a haze of pleasure.' 'i shall need a little time to get accustomed to this kind of life. helen had prepared a magnificent lunch for them all.' she said and her eyes stung with silly tears. 'you can give me my present later. they left newmarket at six o'clock. he brought out a bottle of special champagne he had been saving for this day.' cassie gurgled with laughter. and they were shown to a discreet table in the corner of the room where they could talk privately. 'but i enjoy nice things as much as most girls.presents.' 'i am glad to hear it. but kasim smiled. the deference shown them by the head waiter was a new experience for cassie. kasim. 'i'm so lucky to have found you. i haven't had anyone to spoil in a long time – and there's no point to having money if you've no one to share it with. cas. and whatever it was kasim said to josh in the privacy of his office. 'they are beautiful.' she whispered back. cas. and they all had a glass. the menu prices made her raise her eyebrows.' he said. 'don't worry. so i think we can enjoy ourselves for a special occasion without feeling guilty.' 'as far as i'm concerned i'm the lucky one.' cassie opened the box and saw it contained a pair of teardrop diamond earrings. though kasim only sipped his once.

he had such a beautiful body. but he made no comment. property is something you can usually rely on. it had a corner bath. 'you'll want to keep your apartment for the moment. 'i've been waiting for this…' his eyes devoured her as she stripped off the briefest of panties and a wisp of lace bra. that was one of the small points she and kasim had to iron out over the next few days -–but not tonight.' 'there's plenty of time to think about that. and one from maggie. 'just tell me what you want and one of my lawyers will see to it. lifting her effortlessly. the water in the jacuzzi was warm and silky soft against her skin. a large walk in shower and a huge jacuzzi with gold plated fittings. strong. i wouldn't sell if i were you. she was aware that he was aroused and knew immediately what he wanted. she had missed him so much. moving her toes to such effect that he gave a little growl and reached out for her. parting her legs to straddle him. because she knew that marriage to kasim was what she wanted from life – but it would be a bit scary once her boats were burned. 'you don't have to worry about anything like that now. there were only a couple of messages from friends. enjoying the bubbles frothing around her as she relaxed and watched kasim climb in. 'alone at last.' kasim said as he drew her close to him. easing the . and all she wanted was to be with him.they called at cassie's flat to pack a suitcase and she took the opportunity to play back her answerphone.' kasim told her.' she wasn't sure why she wanted to wait a while before she did that. and the colour of his skin was gorgeous. people always need somewhere to live. she bent her head to kiss him on the lips as his hands encircled her waist. to share the magic of the love they had discovered – and she couldn't wait to try out that jacuzzi. and then she went down on him. she ran the bottom of her foot up his thigh.' she said. they were standing in his bathroom. she was perfectly capable of renting out an apartment when she wanted to. even if there is a dip in the market.' he said. you can probably let it out. asking her to ring her sometime. 'but i think it is a good idea to rent it out rather than sell. 'but once we're married. cassie stretched out. cas. powerful but without excessive muscle. she saw kasim frown as he heard it.' cassie didn't answer.

' 'you won't have the energy to work all night once i've finished with you.' cassie nodded. when i get up to work at three in the morning i don't want to freeze. 'god. an adequate meal and coffee. they are heavy and too warm. it won't go through the ceiling. bending her head to kiss him once more.' 'yes.' cassie giggled as a shower of water cascaded over the side of the tub. then. there was a large flat screen on which cassie watched one of her favourite films while kasim did some work on his computer.length of his hard shaft into her soft moistness. licking a drop of frothy cream from his upper lip. 'kasim…' she gave a little shriek of laughter as his hand cupped her bottom. they dried each other with large warm towels and then went into the kitchen to make cups of frothy cappuccino. 'i seldom need more than a sheet. which they took into the bedroom. they were served freshly squeezed fruit drinks. reaching out to pull her down to him. .' 'i'm glad about that. 'don't worry. this is a wet room. one i hope to break.' she promised and leaned towards him.' he said. but made them both weak from laughter.' 'it has become a habit. that's wonderful…' 'we're going to get the floor wet. their loving was a riot of mischief and mayhem that transferred much of the water from the jacuzzi to the floor. 'but you shouldn't be working at that hour. kasim.' he agreed. afterwards.' 'i like it kept at an even temperature.' 'your apartment is warm. 'i don't like duvets. 'i'm going to teach you to enjoy life. kasim's bed was kingsize and had fresh white linen sheets with a light honeycomb coverlet. 'i think you are.' the flight to katar was as easy and pleasant as everything kasim arranged.' she murmured as his strong arms lifted her once more.

. not in the least what cassie had expected after seeing kasim's stainless steel and glass towers. 'oh. she had her own laptop with her and could have worked on her book. instead of dark there was light with pink marble floors. after all. cassie felt the welcome coolness of marble floors. kasim. you'll know that yourself. old-fashioned and heavy. a fountain that tinkled into a pool and flowers everywhere. what woman wouldn't enjoy wearing beautiful clothes? at the palace.' he told her. on their arrival at the airport they were met by a sleek limousine. she had always been independent since getting her first wages.' cassie said walking over to the open patio windows. 'i'm not going to force you to buy anything. but kasim was right. lots of gleaming glass.' he'd said and kissed her. but after a night of passionate loving. the temperature was soaring and cassie was glad of her practical long-sleeved cotton dress. its walls were gleaming white and the windows were small to keep out the heat of the day. they were met by one of the sheikh's aides and conducted to kasim's personal apartments. besides. here the traditional style had been swept away. the shops in katar would simply send their accounts to the palace as always. powerful overhead fans and an efficient air-conditioning system. and she really didn't mind. but that all changed when they reached kasim's own suite. but you will need clothes when we're married. 'i like this. she preferred just to sip a cold drink and watch the film. there were roses climbing the trellis. cas. billowing white curtains and soft leather sofas. the building was like something out of an arabian nights film. she looked out on a small private courtyard. what is money for?' cassie couldn't argue with that. 'no arguments. the furniture in the reception rooms was hardwood. kasim had told her that he would be opening accounts for her at the top london stores. which was thankfully air-conditioned.he had promised that there wouldn't be much time devoted to work during this trip.' 'we all have our own private gardens where we can be alone. that is beautiful. her life was going to change and she had to get used to it.

'for now a quick shower and then you will be taken for tea with shulie while i visit my uncle.' 'if i couldn't stand the heat i wouldn't be in the kitchen!' kasim laughed and kissed her.' 'do i get to see him later?' 'we may dine together this evening.' 'but so peaceful.' 'my shulie lives for her shopping. 'i think it must be lovely to live here. a jacuzzi. i'm afraid the ladies sit away from the men at those times.' cassie said and then smiled. here it is very quiet. i have my friends but i like english people.'but there are also the communal areas with tennis courts and a swimming pool.' sheikh ali said with an indulgent smile. i hope you and kasim will visit often. i am not sure what has been arranged. they dined informally that evening.' 'i should love a swim. cassie. and was absolutely delicious. having already met shulie and discovered that she was a delightful girl of more or less her own age. cassie tasted a little of each dish served and exclaimed over the different flavours.' 'you don't have to apologise.' cassie said. 'it is good isn't it?' shulie said smiling as she exclaimed over one delicious sweetmeat. 'or better still. i like london.' he promised.' shulie agreed with a laugh. sometimes we eat by the pool informally. that's exactly what we are. 'but we travel much of the year. i am not sure which shops i like the best. she particularly liked the delicate sherbets that were served between courses and were so cool on the tongue. kasim. our shops have nice things but london is so full of life. many of which were very spicy.' 'i wouldn't want you to be offended. 'i am glad you like our food. to england. cassie was quite relaxed as they sat in the cool of the evening.' 'we'll save that for later. the meal was served by soft-spoken attendants in white robes and sandals that made no sound.' 'some of the time. at other times there will be a grand banquet. america and paris. cas – but when we're a family. . i know that's the way things are here – you did explain last night.

' 'your uncle must love her very much?' 'he enjoys giving her things. 'perhaps a little spoiled?' 'extremely spoiled. 'very pretty. but most were pleasant and not in the least disturbing. kasim.' she was wearing her pendent and earrings that evening with a v-necked cool white cotton dress that reached her ankles but had no sleeves. 'he must have been devastated by his daughter's death.' 'your highness is very generous.' 'just don't stop loving me.' shulie told her.' 'good – because it hurts you. i would be pleased if you would join me.'but her pleasure is mine. 'i think it is a family trait.' cassie said but he merely shook his head. i believe he tries to give her the things he can no longer give selima. though more expensive. i had wondered if it would be possible to swim.' 'yes. no one else comes here for an hour at those times.' 'all things are possible here. if she said it was only for her use it would be. 'you have only to ask. 'i swim every morning at seven. 'i think i could bear anything but that…' there were many things to learn and discover during the time that they stayed at the palace.' cassie said. . she must have whatever she wants.' shulie said confidently. she chose the times she wanted to use the pool. i understand. 'but that is over now. and i never want to hurt you.' kasim confirmed and laughed. and she noticed that shulie's outfit was much the same.' kasim's eyes looked bleak for a moment. of course. i see no reason why we should speak of it again.' he said and reached for her. 'and in the evenings at six o'clock.' cassie said.' 'yes. 'she gets all her own way.' 'we all were.' 'so what do you think of shulie?' kasim asked later when they were alone in their suite. over the top she had put on a lace long-sleeved shirt to cover her arms. very pleasant.

' he said.' 'so. but kasim admitted that he was relieved to be returning to london.' kasim told cassie. at any rate. 'do you think you can accept this part of our lives.' she stretched up to kiss him on the lips.' he said with a rueful smile.' ished…'the eight days they spent visiting with kasim's family were a happy. we shall share everything.' she said. it did not matter to shulie that she was excluded from her husband's business affairs. 'your parents will want to be there and my uncle will be satisfied simply to know that we are to be married. my darling?' 'yes.' 'we'll marry in london.' cassie said. 'it's my home. relaxing time. once we get back i shall have a lot of catching . and he pressed her against him. but we cannot change centuries of practice overnight. even revered perhaps. 'here we must conform. darling. but their wives are mostly spoiled and always protected. 'yes. i do not deny that some of the stricter sects treat their women less favourably. cassie knew that kasim would always talk to her of his day when they were alone so perhaps shulie talked to her husband more seriously at such times.' 'that is what so many westerners cannot understand – our women are loved. as soon as it can be arranged. or that at public functions she was expected to join the other women. 'i love you too much to worry over what is a small part of our lives. cassie? or will it make you feel that you are being treated as a second class citizen?' 'i do not think it will be too difficult to accept. 'from what i've seen the men pretend to be hard and important. of course i shall. she seemed completely happy with her life. held as something precious not to be sullied or insulted by the eyes of strangers. you will marry me. 'but in london or america.of course cassie's father had been right to say that she would come up against differences of culture and custom. there are charities and commissions working to help bring enlightenment where we can and to alleviate the suffering and poverty that ignorance can bring. 'but i'm afraid we shall have to pay for our holiday. but unfairness and prejudice can occur in any society.' 'we shan't quarrel over what neither of us can change. but although strange at first she soon came to accept them. sheltered and protected.' his eyes were serious as they held hers.

i thought we might spend some time there after we're married. that suits you. 'you won't regret not having a church wedding?' 'i wondered…' she looked at him thoughtfully. kasim.' cassie said. cassie quickly settled into the new routine. 'mum will want to arrange our reception.' cassie said. 'people get married in all sorts of places these days. cas. she is a friend and i want to tell her about us in confidence. ask all the boys and girls from the stables – make it a fun day. but . better than a register office affair in town. you won't mind that?' 'we'll have a civil wedding but the reception can be whatever you want.' 'that's what we'll do then. just that we shall be getting married. kasim was often at a meeting until late in the evening. she spent several hours each day working on her computer. couldn't we have it at my parents' home? we could have a marquee in the paddocks. cas.' once they were back in london. i must pay maggie a visit. particularly about my uncle.' 'that sounds good.' he studied her face for a moment or two. i think it would be different. we can fly everyone out for a couple of days.' kasim smiled and kissed her. 'i wouldn't dream of it. and i also have to clear out my desk at the office.' 'of course not. but please.' 'as long as you remember that. but after that we'll go somewhere we can be truly alone. naturally you are free to see your friends. i suppose the press will know soon enough. darling.' 'yes. we must have a party soon – the best place would be at the villa in the algarve. no private details.up to do. as informal as possible?' 'would you like that?' 'yes. 'a fun day – yes. kasim. of course.' 'well.' he pulled a face. and i'll make sure it is a day to remember. mostly at her own apartment.' 'you haven't told her anything?' his brows rose? 'i thought you were going to email her in reply to her phone message?' 'i did – just to say i would be in touch soon. 'it will take me three weeks or so to clear the decks. i have things to do myself.

her mother was excited at the idea.' 'then that's it then. she asked for maggie but was told that her friend was away on holiday. 'i like it that you're getting married here. 'why don't you wait a bit. to ask if they would be happy to let kasim arrange for the wedding at their home.' 'will do?' ruth said. shaking his head at her in a mysterious way. 'i'm not at the flat much these days. lydia and shane when she returned to town. kasim's name meant nothing to them and they were just pleased that she had met someone who made her happy.' cassie said. she saw julie. invite them to be her guests.' he refused to tell.they had at least a part of each day together. 'i haven't told anyone in town until . her wedding was just four weeks away and she wanted to see her friends. 'tell her to ring me on the mobile when she gets back. after lunch cassie went into her old office to clear out her desk. we shall plan a surprise for you.' 'i just want you to be happy.' 'what? tell me!' 'then it wouldn't be a surprise. dad. cas?' 'we know this is right for us. cassie laughed.' 'i am happy. a few days after their return she went down to see her parents. though her father still had reservations. 'just as long as you're sure?' 'i couldn't be more certain. please don't worry. she'd gone just after cassie flew to katar so it was probable that she hadn't received the email cassie had sent her.' he smiled at her.' she smiled and hugged him. lunching with them at a favourite restaurant. 'did someone tell me you were getting married soon?' 'who told you that?' cassie was surprised.

she saw that he had finished his call and was just about to say something when he turned to face her. because it meant that they would have longer together. but she wanted something special and she thought she knew where to look. clutching her parcels. she felt a surge of pleasure that he was home early. when she walked out of the lift she saw that he was already there. kasim probably wouldn't be back for a while so she had plenty of time to prepare a meal and change into one of the outfits she had bought that day. his back towards her. she had enjoyed her afternoon and was feeling happy as she took the lift up to the penthouse. she had decided against a traditional wedding gown. it was almost six o'clock when she returned to the apartment. i'll tell her to ring you. such anger in his face! what on earth could be causing him to look at her in that way? 'what is it?' she asked.' 'then perhaps you should look at this!' kasim thrust a magazine at her.' 'someone mentioned it – terry stinging and hurtful. 'it's what i wanted to tell maggie. kasim wouldn't be back for ages so she might as well go shopping. on the mobile. cassie felt a sinking sensation inside. however.' cassie was smiling as she left the office. there was such contempt.' cassie nodded. it was the latest copy of the magazine she had worked for until recently and the cover picture was of kasim himself. 'why are you angry?' 'don't pretend you don't know!' his voice was like the lash of a whip. it was impossible to keep a secret for long. 'i have no idea what has upset you. the look in his eyes stopped cassie in her tracks. congratulations. he works for a racing paper and we have a drink sometimes.' 'she will be back next week. 'what does it say?' .

his father's terrible suicide. there are things in there only you could have told her. i went into the office to see her today.' he said coldly. 'how could you do it. i'll have every copy withdrawn and trashed before it hits the streets. the betrayal of his niece and her tragic death.' 'i haven't seen maggie for weeks. . she is going to be very sorry. cassie? i trusted you. i've instructed my lawyers to apply for an injunction. 'i'm not a fool. 'if you read it all the way through you'll see that. cas. kasim. maggie was saying that the family had suffered too often in the past but had perhaps found new happiness. and then kasim getting into his mercedes sports car.' 'hiding until the storm breaks i suppose? well. 'but this isn't meant to hurt or humiliate. she knew immediately why he was angry.' 'you don't think i had anything to do with this?' surely he couldn't believe that? 'didn't you?' his manner was scornful. it's very sympathetic…' kasim snatched it from her and threw it to the floor. also one of sheikh ali at the races receiving a trophy for one of his horses. because it was about his mother's last illness.' 'do you know what that would cost them?' cassie stared at him in horror.'everything i asked you not to tell her. would he really use his wealth and power to destroy what was only a small independent? 'they will be bankrupt before i'm finished. but she is on holiday.' 'just what did they write?' cassie hunted feverishly through the magazine until she found the offending article. maggie is saying that your uncle spoils his wife.' she said. it ended by hinting that kasim might emulate his uncle by marrying soon. told you things i've never told anyone else. as cassie read further into the article she realised that it was actually a very sensitive and sympathetic piece. there was a picture of shulie wearing western clothes and happily shopping for more clothes in harrods. and then it went on to talk about a brighter future for a family that had known its share of tragedy.

if i had known i would have asked her not to do it.' 'i know that and i'm sorry it happened. if he thought so little of her he didn't love her.' she turned and walked into the lift. you can't expect me…' the rest of what he had to say was lost as the door of the lift shut. kasim. 'but i don't want you seeing her again. i think maggie was trying to apologise for what she did before. cas. they were all going somewhere.' his eyes stabbed at her accusingly. the thought of returning to her lonely flat was unappealing. she didn't like it one little bit. she didn't like what she was hearing.' 'what? you will say it is over between us?' she stared at him but he said nothing.' cassie ignored the girl at the reception desk and walked outside.' 'but she couldn't have known these things unless you told her. it's over. you have to choose. either you give your loyalty to me or…' 'or what?' 'cassie stared at him as the coldness spread through her. her eyes were stinging with tears by the time she reached the foyer. the streets were filled with people as she began to walk. you can have my things sent over to my apartment. .'that isn't the point! it is an intrusion into our private affairs. i'm leaving now. it was a lovely summer evening. i told you i didn't have anything to do with it – don't you believe me?' 'i'm not sure what to believe. 'any journalist worth her salt could have researched this. 'then let me say it for you. the last thing i want selling on every newspaper stand in the country.' his eyes smouldered with anger. hurrying home to loved ones or to meet friends. 'cas! don't be such an idiot. how could kasim accuse her of being disloyal? how could he think that she would tell anyone the things he'd told her in confidence? she hadn't even told her parents. 'miss livingston! phone call from mr ahmed for you.

'this is different from the last time. besides.' ben was reading the article. 'her mother said she hasn't rung. how could kasim think for one minute that she would ever betray him? it was so hurtful. she isn't there – unless she has forbidden them to tell me. this is a monthly not a weekly and they take some putting together. clearly he hadn't done anything but work himself into a state all night. it must have been written weeks ago. 'i went round to her apartment last night but she wasn't in – at least she wasn't answering. can't see . 'any decent journalist could research this stuff. one minute she had been looking at clothes for her wedding and the next her world had come tumbling about her ears. and he was still wearing the shirt he'd had on the previous day.' 'what about her parents?' ben eyed kasim thoughtfully. magazines go to the printers some while before they're distributed.' 'then she couldn't have got her information from cas.' ben picked it up and glanced through the piece. she felt empty. i might have accused her of telling maggie grant things i'd told her in confidence.' 'that doesn't sound like cassie. he looked awful. all her plans for the future had suddenly ended. he didn't appear to have shaved that day and there were dark shadows under his eyes.' 'then you imagined wrong. she had never felt so lost and alone in her life. 'you had a quarrel – what exactly did you say to her?' 'i'm not sure. that trash in the magazine. looking at ben as they talked in his apartment the next morning. they send in their copy for these things at least three weeks before publication.besides she didn't have her bag with her so she was unable to pay for a taxi.' 'are you sure? i imagined they worked like newspapers.' kasim said. so bitter. tears were beginning to run down her cheeks as she turned the corner of the street and stepped out into the road… 'i've tried ringing her apartment and her mobile.' ben frowned. i was so angry. bewildered by the swiftness of it all. probably more.

and then you grovel. ben – but first i have to find her. it had just hurt and angered him so much that she could have talked about his affairs like that.' kasim said. and she would have told you if she couldn't. there's no one more loving and loyal than cassie. you've been a fool. ben? she said it was over…' 'can't really blame her. but when he thought about it he knew that ben was right. 'right.' kasim muttered rubbing a hand over his chin.' 'have you tried ringing the hospitals?' 'hospitals?' kasim's face went white with shock.' ben said. most of this stuff was on public record. kasim.' . nothing actionable that i can see. 'you don't think…' 'she's either with friends or lying in hospital. if you don't know that you don't deserve her.' 'i do know it. pretty harmless in my opinion. i'll do anything she wants. during the long lonely hours of the night he had cursed himself for not talking things over with cassie sensibly before flying off the handle at her.' the look in kasim's eyes was bleak. damn you. your uncle is held up as an example to western husbands to follow – it's an exercise in public relations and quite sensitive.' 'i was angry – upset. you'll just make a fool of yourself if you go for an injunction. any journalist could research it. if we ring alternate numbers we'll get through much quicker.. i'd bet you were pretty rough on her. i don't know what i can do. cassie wouldn't do something like this – she's too honest and straightforward. she may not forgive me. better to grin and bear it. i'll use the office line. 'knowing you. 'what the hell am i going to do. i've been going mad all night. first of all you have to find her.' 'i'm a stupid fool. if she'd known about it she would have tried to stop it.' ben reached for a muchthumbed copy of yellow pages. 'want my advice?' 'i need something.' 'i wasn't asking.much wrong with it myself.' 'you should have known it wasn't her fault. 'use your mobile.

' cassie said. 'can you walk down to the car or shall i ask for a wheelchair?' 'i'm fine. she saw shane waiting patiently for her and smiled. he said and gave her a big smile.' cassie said and went out into the corridor clutching the bag of painkillers she had been given.' she said.' cassie said ruefully. 'it was very foolish of me to walk into the road without looking. thank you.' 'yes.' 'your friend is waiting in the corridor. i don't have any money on me so i couldn't ring for a taxi. shane – i'm not ready to talk just yet. 'thank you for coming so promptly. a sprained wrist is the least you could expect. but you must keep your promise and take things easy for a few days.' 'a hug would be very nice. miss livingston. my wrist hurts but the rest of me is all right. 'who is a silly girl then?' 'me for not looking where i was going.' 'you know i am always there for you.' ben said.' shane said. 'after an accident like that.' he said. but apart from a few bruises her encounter with a man on a bicycle hadn't left any lasting injuries. 'and a cup of tea when we get back to my flat – could we call for some milk and things on the way?' 'already done. 'don't ask. cassie. 'we are releasing you into his custody.'if anything has happened to her because of what i said…' 'you're wasting time. you look as if you need a good hug not a lecture. her wrist was aching like mad. 'at least. i shall.' 'yes. i know.' 'you were lucky it wasn't a car or a bus. 'but i'm not going to scold you.' 'you know where i am. and she was wearing a sling.' sister said.' sister raven told her as she confirmed that the doctors had agreed that she could go home. 'you're sure you want to go to the flat and not kasim's place?' 'quite sure. 'i was lost in thought and i didn't see the bike.' cassie said.' she said.' he gave her a questioning look.' shane said.' . 'i thought you might be a bit low on supplies as you hadn't been living there for a while. 'remember i care about cassie too…' 'you were very lucky.

i thought you would come here. unless you've brought my things?' 'of course i haven't brought your things! you're coming back with me where you belong.' kasim said. 'i'll see who it is.' cassie said. 'look. 'how did you know where i was?' 'ben and i rang round all the hospitals in london. 'we were told we had just missed you so i came here and ben went back to my place.' he went over to the door and opened it without bothering to check who was there. 'you don't own me.' . i did ring her to tell her what had happened. i could ring round and see if anyone is free this afternoon…' 'i am fine.' cassie said.' 'well. 'stay there. moving as if to answer it. are you sure you are going to be all right here on your own?' he asked.' cassie said fiercely. you can leave.' shane said. 'i have to do some work. you would know that i would never betray you. 'hey! who the hell are you?' 'cassie!' kasim said as he ignored the man whose carelessness had let him in. shane. i can do most things for myself. pressed the button for the ground and went whizzing down just as another lift arrived on the third floor and two men got out. not a broken back. * shane made a pot of coffee and some toast. setting the tray on a table beside her. you were right. and then gasped as he was pushed aside by a very disturbed looking man. honestly. but i'll come over this evening. it may be julie. kasim – and you certainly don't love me! if you did. 'why the hell didn't you ring me and ask me to fetch you from the hospital?' cassie put her feet to the floor and sat up. which he brought into cassie as she lay on the sofa with her feet up and her computer open beside her. 'so now you've seen me. it will just take a little longer…' she broke off as the doorbell rang. looking at him warily.' 'i am certainly not coming back to be told who i can have as a friend and who i can't. 'please don't worry about me.they walked into a lift which had just come up to their floor. i have a sprained wrist.

i never meant to hurt you and i've been wretched since i realised that your accident was my fault.' 'who said it was your fault?' cassie was standing up now. cas. i was angry and i said things i shouldn't…' 'unforgivable things!' 'yes.' 'thank goodness. you were upset and you walked in front of that bike. 'ring me when you're ready. but whatever it takes. 'but i'm asking you to forgive me.' she said and a flash of temper came out.' 'and then lose your temper next time you think i've done something underhand!' 'it won't happen again. glaring at him. i'll do it. some of her anger evaporated as she looked at him. cas. 'i spent last night contemplating the fact that i am a damned fool and that i deserve to be horsewhipped for what i said to you. i know i deserve to be .' he said and reached for her hand. not ready to forgive him that easily. 'i'll say goodbye.' you know i love you.' he said. please give me a chance. cas. and cassie saw that he was deeply affected by what had happened.'i know that. cas.' 'i did…' he moved nearer. 'of course it was my fault. i love you. 'you didn't try to kill yourself?' 'of course i didn't. i've learned my lesson. sitting beside her on the sofa as she sat down again. i know they were pretty rotten. 'please tell me that it was an accident.' shane said. you didn't try to take your own life?' his voice was broken.' he said and ran his fingers through his hair. 'i was more likely to try and kill you when i got over the shock. she pulled it back. i don't know what i can do to make amends. 'i know i was a brute.' kasim's face worked with emotion. 'you look as if you shaved in a hurry. husky with emotion. folks. judging that he wasn't needed.' neither of them heard him.

cas. cas. won't you? name your terms. 'you will. i should have returned her call. ben made me see that i was barking up the wrong tree. but i do love you. 'yes. i was brought up to be an american child. i'm not one of those men who wants his woman to do exactly as he says. but i wasn't ready to tell her about us then.' .' 'i'm glad. kasim that's why i would never have hurt you by telling anyone what you told me. and i'll apologise if i do.' cassie said. because i might.' 'that's if i give you another chance?' cassie raised her brows but her lips were trying to smile. and suddenly i had no parents and i was whisked away to live in another country and follow another culture.' 'if i could wipe out what has happened i would.' 'i never meant you to feel that way.punished. 'you told me it was a sensitive piece but i wouldn't believe you.' 'and that is my fault.' 'something like that.' 'that was ben's point. and i've decided to ignore it.' he said and laughed as her brows went up. it's just that i feel protective of my privacy. ben told me i would make a fool of myself if i tried to stop it coming out. just to check it with me. if it hadn't been for selima i think i should have just curled up and died…' 'and that's why you are so sensitive where she is concerned. there is nothing defamatory in it at all. but i'll try not to. if i'd known i would have asked maggie not to publish her story. i do understand. i think that is why she rang me. 'he really read me the riot act.' kasim said and smiled wryly. i want it to be a partnership.' kasim said. i hated him for years for abandoning me. but i didn't know. cas. told me i didn't deserve you – and the thing is he's probably right. 'you thought i would be angry and you didn't want to spoil things between us. i can't promise that i won't ever lose my temper again. her anger vanishing as she felt her heart reach out to him. i always have.' 'it doesn't matter. 'it would have made things so much worse – and someone else might have done an exposé if you had. cas.' cassie said. when i thought i'd lost you i understood how my father must have felt when my mother died.

because we need four of us so that i have someone to talk to while you get to know maggie. and it's a lot more than a hundred diamond necklaces.' she told kasim when he raised his brows at the changes she had made. and piled a few paperback novels on the shining coffee tables. 'i know what that costs.' 'but which god?' she asked. some cushions. which she had used to cover the back of the stark black leather sofa. 'but i want maggie to feel comfortable. 'you can have your apartment back as it was tomorrow.' 'there is one thing i want.' she said. kasim.' kasim said and put an arm about her shoulder. gazing up at him as he held it to his cheek. 'is that all? nothing more?' 'i think that is quite enough. 'yes.' kasim sat and looked at her for several seconds and her heart sank.' 'thank you. it will cost me. when . i want you to let me ask maggie to dinner. 'because i love you too much.' she said and now she really was smiling. 'besides. holding her gently. a hint of mischief in her eyes as she gazed up at him. we can invite ben too. this time she let him.' kasim said. a bright throwover. she had ordered lots of flowers. 'i think i shall spend the rest of my life thanking god that you weren't killed.' 'i quite like it. but the future had an awfully bleak look and the reason i didn't see that damned bike was because i was crying. kasim. 'because he sure as hell was looking out for us last night!' cassie glanced around the apartment. cas – but i shall do it and a lot more if you will give me the chance to show you how much i love you.' he said and reached out to take her hand.'really?' 'yes – anything. i wasn't going to kill myself last night.' 'cas…' he said and took her into his arms.' 'i don't have much choice. 'yours or mine?' 'ours. if he rejected her proposal she didn't think they would ever manage to sort out their differences. kasim.

and you can take over some of the committee work from me if you like. cas. but it won't do for when we're a family.' kasim said and shrugged. 'the food smells good. when i hinted at marriage i thought there was someone else.' 'we arrived at the same moment. 'i thought you said you were interested in property?' 'who isn't? all my friends are trying to get a foothold on the ladder.' she whispered to kasim and he looked puzzled but she only smiled and went forward to greet her friend. flicking back her long hair. i've always kept it. are you cooking or did you order in?' .' kasim said.' 'a new house?' cassie looked at him in surprise. cas. 'you know i wouldn't have done anything to hurt you. turning. 'you met maggie in the foyer then.' 'when are we going to have time to live in all these places?' cassie asked and laughed. darling. she saw that maggie and ben had arrived together. 'that's the first i've heard of it. by the way? can i read it?' 'not yet. just in case i ever decided to live there. 'i'll get a few more chapters finished and then print it up for you…' she broke off as she heard the ping of the lift.' 'of course i know you wouldn't hurt me. 'just where is this house going to be?' 'that is a surprise.' she said. i wrote that piece ages ago but only just decided to use it. and i'm sure you'll like the house my father built for my mother.our new house is ready. 'i think you will like it but i shall be keeping the apartment anyway so we shan't be tied to one place – and when we get a chance we'll pop over to the states and meet some of my mother's people. a couple there. which warned they had visitors. 'plan a seems to be working fine. we just seem to have rather a lot of it. how is it coming on. cassie. we give lots of our money away. you can furnish it how you like. and from the way they were both smiling it looked as if they had hit it off straightaway. that is.' 'don't get a guilty conscience. a couple of weeks here. 'oh.' she smiled at ben. i think you will like them. it will make my life easier and give you something to do – when you're not writing your book.' he said and came to kiss her cheek.' cassie said and embraced her with one arm. 'why on earth didn't you tell me about kasim?' maggie exclaimed as they embraced. 'sorry i can't hug you but i sprained my wrist the other day and it is still sore. this is fine for me as an office.

but i gave up meat some years ago and i'm not sure i could eat it now.' kasim said. he is looking for new authors and he has read some of your work.' cassie agreed and her eyes met kasim's. 'you are coming to my wedding. 'you look very well.' he said and nudged her as maggie went over to kasim. he looked at maggie and raised the gin bottle.' she said. blooming in fact. it isn't something you can do overnight. 'how are you getting on with the book? i know a publisher who is interested if it is a thriller. maggie?' 'wild horses wouldn't keep me away.' 'how are you. 'shall i see to the drinks.' 'don't i just. kasim will be having cold poached salmon. just that i'm still taking painkillers for my wrist. ben.' cassie said but her eyes didn't quite meet his. ben didn't persist. instead he went over to the drinks cabinet and began mixing a gin and tonic for himself. 'but mum's shepherd's pie is to die for. it does. ben.' 'i'm not sure when it will be finished. being in love must suit you.' 'water for me. 'i am almost tempted to try some of cassie's shepherd's pie.' she replied.' 'i seldom eat red meat. cas.' he smiled at cassie as she sat down on one of the sofas and maggie sat beside her.' 'any special reason?' 'no. i'm not driving this evening.' maggie asked. plain tonic with ice and lemon for cassie. 'what would you like?' 'gin and tonic please. cassie? let them talk for a few minutes before we intrude?' 'good idea.' 'yes.'i'm giving you my mother's special shepherd's pie this evening.' 'i wouldn't expect it to be easy – but three chapters and a synopsis would . 'but as it is a special occasion i shall have wine with our dinner.' cassie said. maggie loves it and so do i. and you could have it too if you don't fancy the pie. admires you as a writer. 'just a tonic water for me this evening please.

'i buy it every month. i see that you do. i thought you might like to have a say about what goes into it. 'yes. 'i knew you read it all the time and i bought it last week.' maggie said. it's one of your wedding presents.' 'then perhaps you would like to offer maggie the job of editor?' kasim said. maggie. i even go for long walks when i'm thinking an article through. i might be able to give him that much as soon as next week.' he said. cas. 'yes. 'shellie is one of my favourites. but you can have it early.' 'did cassie tell you that is the way i work?' 'no. you have so much space – room to walk about when you are thinking.' 'would you call this a top magazine?' kasim handed her the glossy fashion magazine that cassie always bought for herself. kasim. i wish i could attempt a book.' 'but you love her?' kasim asked and smiled as maggie nodded her head. do you like the magazine you work for?' 'not much. i guessed. i envy you your space. 'cas is one of the bravest women i know. 'i love your apartment.' 'what would you prefer to do?' 'fashion is my first love. but i tried a couple of the top magazines and they turned me down. 'i've always had to pry everything out of her bit by bit.' . tell me. i'm like a tigress at times.' cassie said. of course. well. 'it's what i often do myself. 'did she tell you that she was hurt saving one of kasim's horses from being stolen?' 'cas never tells me anything. it is a living.' maggie said.' 'yes.' maggie said.' 'and mine. but i'm not as brave as cas…' ben brought them their drinks. and looked at kasim.' maggie said.' 'i shall look forward to reading it. she is the most private person i know.give him some idea of whether or not he likes it. i'll see. which means that we are bound to like each other.

'i've always loved that magazine so there won't be that many changes – but i . 'it was particularly special because you offered maggie the job. 'i take it that you are pleased with my choice of a gift?' 'it beats diamonds any day. 'well.' 'yes. i would love to be your editor.' 'you didn't give the last editor her marching orders?' 'no. but she is a good editor.' maggie said.' 'my contract says i have to work a month's notice. 'the previous editor objected to being sold to a playboy millionaire.' kasim said approvingly.' cassie promised. 'and the answer is yes. did you do it to please me?' kasim laughed. he turned to cassie.' maggie chimed in. i am reliably informed that she said she didn't intend to be ruled by some playboy sheikh's mistress.' 'now that is enthusiasm. how soon can i start?' 'as soon as you like.' kasim said as they lay together after making love. haven't you anything to say to me. his hands encircling her buttocks as he slid her over to lie beside him. that was some thank you.'you bought me a fashion magazine as a wedding gift?' cassie stared at him in shock. 'and i can moonlight in the meantime if need be. 'well. and she bent down to blow gently on his ear. and there was mischief in her eyes. and walked out on us – so you will be doing us a favour. kasim.' cassie said.' 'good thing she's gone. cas. her mouth quirking at the corners.' cassie said and smiled down at him. leaning up on his elbow to gaze down into her eyes 'yes and no. maggie. 'i don't know what to say…' 'say thank you very much. of course. kasim grinned and said nothing. eyebrows arching. but after that i am all cassie's. cas?' 'i'll say it later. 'i thought it might earn me brownie points. and we did need one. she was still sitting astride him amongst the tangled sheets.' kasim answered. 'if she can't get her facts straight she would soon have been on her way.' he admitted.' cassie said and giggled as he pulled a suggestive face at her.' 'i see you are going to be a tyrant to work for.

and he understands me. 'no need to ask if you're happy. since then we've talked about all kinds of things that we hadn't before. i was afraid you might have made a mistake when kasim rang here looking for you. that doesn't mean to say we shan't quarrel. 'i thought you two never had cross words?' .' 'everyone quarrels. 'i seem to remember vague promises made a while ago…' 'and one should always keep a promise.' cassie said. 'time with you will always have first place on my agenda. your book and the charity work i shall have to make an appointment to see you soon. 'and it cleared the air.' lying beside her now. no. i know kasim much better now.' helen said as she looked at cassie's shining eyes.' cassie said and smiled up at him. shouldn't one? cassie teased.' 'i was thinking about leather…' he said wickedly and laughed as cassie giggled.' he murmured.' cassie said and leaned over to kiss him. 'maybe that will be on my list of presents for you…' cassie went down to stay with her parents the day before her wedding. 'i shall have to think of something to reward you for that. darling. and after that i am shifting at least a part of my workload to some of my top employees.' 'now that is the best present ever.' 'that is another of my wedding presents to you. kasim.can think of a few bits and pieces here and there. 'what with the magazine.' cassie stared at her in fascination.' 'oh.' 'we had a quarrel but it's sorted now. i don't think so. but it does mean that we shan't fall apart. her arms sliding up around his neck as he drew her close once more. 'i've arranged to have ben chair all my meetings for three weeks so we can have a proper honeymoon. she had had all her wedding clothes sent down there rather than the apartment because they would be flying off to the villa in the algarve after the reception. kasim trailed his finger down the silken arch of her back.' helen said. i don't think he will ever doubt me again. 'when your father was threatening to come up there and sort kasim out i reminded him of some of our quarrels when we were first married. mum. 'i'm so glad it has all turned out right. kasim.

when she came down that morning dressed in her wedding outfit her father's jaw dropped in amazement.' it turned out to be a day of surprises all round. each side of the carpet a row of standard roses bloomed. massive pavilion had been set up a little further away from the wedding chapel. inside it was set with tables with sparkling white cloths and flowers in the traditional way with a deep blue carpet laid over a temporary floor so that they could dance in the evening. and it suits you.' cassie lifted the box and took out the contents. but we loved each other and we sorted it out. i just hope kasim will like it. 'what do you think?' 'well. mum. red this time and sprinkled with rose petals. he will love it.'then you thought wrong. 'you needn't worry about that. yet a third. kasim had arranged for a big pavilion to be erected in the grounds of the stables. i think it is a fun idea. a white carpet and masses of white roses and lilies. and one that the bride and groom. darling. their perfume filled the air of what was a wonderful summer day. 'we used to have stand up fights in the early days.' helen said and laughed. this is meant to be a fun day. . there was also a much smaller pavilion in which the wedding itself was to take place. her family and friends would all remember. outside the marquee was another carpet. who shook her head. 'yes. 'i know he and dad are planning something so we shall just have to see who gets the biggest surprise.' she eyed the large brown box on cassie's bed.' helen said and laughed. and garlands were strung over an arch above them. but cassie wasn't allowed to go near that until after the ceremony. he glanced at his wife. i think that is the best kind of marriage. mum. remember?' 'may i see?' 'of course. laying them out on the bed so that her mother could see them. 'i've been dying to look – is that the dress?' 'yes.' cassie giggled. but don't expect the traditional stuff. it is certainly different. and this had been set up to look like a las vegas wedding chapel and was decked out with billowing white drapes.

beautifully crafted of red leather and studded with brass. a circus ringmaster and several harem girls amongst the costumes her friends had donned. they each had one of the sheikh's horses. but i think he is going to get an even better one. clowns. but the full regalia of an ottoman sultan. his turban a rich white silk with a large amethyst pin holding it at the centre of his forehead. i'm not sure what kasim will think. and instead of a bouquet she carried a white riding whip with roses wound around the handle. 'i rather like it.' josh said. one of the lads led barmy forward as cassie got out of the car. white silk shirt and a white soft leather jacket with cowgirl fringes on the sleeves and across the back. shane was wearing the clothes of a regency dandy and looked wonderful. you certainly kept you word when you said it was going to be a fun day. which left out the word obey – kasim's idea – and quite short. his smile when he saw her was a picture. cassie's heart turned over. his tunic and trousers were of white silk edged with purple. and then she saw the big white ribbon tied to his rein. she had a white stetson hanging down her back on silk ribbons. 'well. and a card that read: i belong to mrs cassandra mohamed. the wedding service was the new one. but as she walked towards kasim. flowers were bound into their manes and tails. she saw that one of her surprises was the little crowd of boys and girls from the stables.' she said. 'i thought kasim's idea of a surprise was way out. which was garlanded with ribbons and more roses. there were harlequins. her short boots were also white leather with a sprinkling of rhinestones. and cassie's eyes danced with mischief as she took her place at his side. kasim. the lad grinned as cassie stopped to pat her favourite.' cassie murmured her throat closing with emotion as she realised that barmy was yet another of her wedding presents. and there was a band of rhinestones around the brim.' cassie was taken to the marquees in a white limousine. 'oh.'all cassie's own idea. as she got out of her car. complete with beauty spot on his cheek. within a few minutes they were back out in . and she saw that several of the guests had joined in the fun. and their saddles were of the eastern style. he was wearing not the traditional simple costume of his people.' cassie was wearing skin-tight white leather pants. everyone was laughing. some with what looked like jewels.

kasim. the girls and boys from the yard were all racing to get the available cars. 'oh. 'i do love your costume. 'i've always wanted to have a go at one of these. with the painted horses cassie had loved to ride as a little girl. 'is today what you wanted it to be?' 'it's more than i could ever have dreamed. pulling her towards the dodgems ride. 'did you like your surprise.' cassie said. and in the next several minutes there was a fierce competition between kasim and the lads to see who could bump who the most.' cassie said and laughed huskily. there was hurdy-gurdy music playing and all the old fashioned roundabouts. kasim.' cassie cried as she was showered with confetti from all sides. you have a go. dodgems.' kasim said and grabbed her hand. cheering them on. she insisted on riding the painted horses. kasim and i'll watch.' 'i can see we are going to have arguments about what we see on the dvd. and to cassie's surprise the third tent had been taken down to reveal a funfair. after that. dad. cassie stood at the sidelines. drawing back at the last moment. 'i told you i was brought up as an american boy.the sunshine. cas?' kasim asked as they took their places at the high table ready for the meal and the speeches to follow.' he said and smiled at her. 'go on. and then at a summons from a loud gong everyone trouped into the main marquee to have the wedding breakfast.' 'i love what you chose.' he looked at her oddly but did as she asked. can i go on a roundabout please?' 'of course you can.' 'i can think of other things i would rather do. and i loved the old cowboy films where the heroine came in at the end dressed in white leather and sang a song.' kasim said and his eyes gleamed. i was tempted to wear harem pants but thought i'd keep that for another day.' 'i'll give this one a miss. 'that's if we ever get round to watching a film. 'that is the most marvellous surprise.' she said. darling. 'can i look forward to more fetching outfits?' 'you will just have to wait and see…' . swings and lots of stalls.

' she said and giggled. cassie's first impression was of a long. kasim. 'this one is to please me. repeating himself. including the bride and groom. 'how did you know i like them?' 'they are fun cars and yours is rather fancy with white leather upholstery. kasim. contained a magnificent diamond necklace.' he said and smiled. 'oh. a naughty gleam in his eyes.' he said.' kasim said. 'i shall keep it for very grand occasions.' 'more presents? don't you think you've given me enough?' 'i've only just got started.' he said.' she did so and discovered it was the deeds to a house near newmarket. low building bathed in the glow of lights that shone amongst the lush greenery. it is wonderful. cas.' he handed her an envelope and a small box.' she said and reached up to touch his cheek. she giggled as kasim carried her over the threshold. she opened the box first and discovered a key – the fob carried the logo of a mercedes sports car.' 'i've only just got started. 'i have never been happier. 'you are a very wicked man. not the one kasim drove but the slk. kasim. 'open your envelope. which was very much a woman's car in her estimation.' he handed her a box.' 'i was hoping you might wear it later. 'are you happy?' 'you know i am. . and then kissed her as he set her down on her feet. 'on its own?' 'i can see the possibilities.' she said. because i wanted to give you something. and something cassie had always fancied but never mentioned. cas – and then we can go to bed.' 'that's good. having left later than they had planned because everyone was having so much fun at the wedding that no one wanted to was early morning when they arrived at the villa. which when she opened it. 'two more presents.

'in fact i can't wait…' cassie avoided him and ran outside. 'shall we go to bed now? are you tired. i know you love visiting them. a purposeful gleam in his eyes. as she surfaced. 'i thought you would like to have a place near your parents. wearing her lacy underwear and then dived into the pool. 'my lovely water nymph.' 'we certainly can.' cassie flung her arms around him. but here we can do as we like. 'can we swim together?' she asked. and we shall get down to the stables as often as we can. and now i am wide awake. i've had enough fun and games for a while. 'let's go inside. 'you are so good to me. i want to kiss and touch every little piece of you.' 'i want to make love to you. she heard the splash as kasim dived in after her and then she was suddenly grabbed and pulled under. kasim.' 'and i love you. and lifted her face for his kiss.' he insisted. she saw the patio windows opened out onto a huge pool and gave a little cry of pleasure. 'yours later. 'i slept a little on the plane coming here. stripping off her fine lawn skirt and skimpy top. but as soon as i fell in love with you i knew it was the place for us. she stood there for a moment.' she said.' he said and moved towards her. 'at your uncle's home i didn't like to ask.' 'my turn first. 'i shall be more spoiled than shulie if you are not careful. 'i adore you more every minute.' 'as my royal master commands. i was having it built as a gift for my uncle before i met you.' he said and smiled down at her.' kasim said. 'is that our new house?' 'it's your house. when they surfaced together she was spluttering and laughing as he hoisted her in his arms. i can build something else for my uncle.' he murmured. looking at him over her shoulder. i want to show you how much i adore you.'kasim?' she stared at him in surprise.' 'i don't think it would be possible to spoil you. then lowered her to kiss her on the lips. kasim.' . 'i want to feel you inside me.' cassie said. darling?' she shook her head. discarding them on the tiled surround as she reached the edge of the pool.' as she wandered through to the bedroom.' he said and drew her close to kiss her.

'explain.cassie laughed as he hauled her out of the water.' 'surely there's something you want?' cassie pushed herself up on to one elbow. i am full of you now and i want nothing more. a teasing light in her eyes.' kasim said and bent down to kiss her softly on the lips. gazing down at him. i've no plans to go anywhere. they towelled each other dry. a long time afterwards. 'you mean…you don't mean…do you?' 'cassie gurgled with laughter as she saw the dawning delight in his eyes. taking time to kiss lingeringly.' he said. that's why.' 'it is the best present i've ever had in my whole life. 'i think mum half guessed but i didn't tell her. 'for a long time there was an empty space inside me. i can't guarantee it will be a boy first time.' cassie said teasing him. they lay talking. 'well. as long as i have you too. carrying her back into the bedroom. his face hidden against her hair.' kasim said and lay down beside her.' 'not even a son?' 'a son?' he sat up and looked at her.' 'well. but a daughter wouldn't be too bad for starters. 'isn't there something else that might make your life complete?' he shook his head. to touch and give pleasure until they could wait no longer and fell into the cool linen sheets of their bed. you drove the emptiness out. and i wanted to save it for tonight. 'can't you think of even one thing?' 'to see you in that black leather outfit you promised?' 'that too. it was my best wedding present to you. 'i think i have everything i want of life now.' 'a daughter to spoil would be wonderful. but you haven't answered my question. mystified. cas. his hand moving slowly down the length of . woman. 'and a son to take to football games would be great – but either will do. you've lost me this time. would it?' 'so that's why you wouldn't go on the dodgems with me! 'yes. gathering her to him.' cassie said. kasim holding her pressed to the length of him. kasim. and i had no idea how to fill it.

'there is one little thing that i thought we might try…' she whispered against his ear and kasim gave a shout of laughter.' kasim said.' 'i never doubted he'd want it for a minute.' 'well. 'do i have to start being more careful with you now. 'i gave maggie my three chapters and a synopsis last week and she told me today that her publisher friend is very interested in seeing the rest of the book.' she said.' he said. have a very inventive mind – but i think life with you is going to be lots of fun. i don't need to put my feet up just yet. cas?' 'oh.' cassie said and gave him a provocative look.her spine.' and of course it was. 'my wicked woman. 'you. everything you do is perfect. so i shall have something to keep me busy when i'm forced to take things easier. . because that's what loving and being in love are all about. 'i read a bit of it when you printed it out and i can't wait to read the rest – but then.

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