Rashid Ahmen looked at the captivating beauty in front of him. Rarely was he so entertained in church. He only attended because of his devout Catholic parents. Rashid felt no connection with God here. He often felt like he’d die of boredom in the two hours of Latin chanting and ceremony. But today was different. Ignoring the priest’s murmurings and the shaking of the incense, he continued to stare at the girl in front of him. He’d never seen her here before. She appeared younger than his 25 years. The tips of her thick, wavy, highlighted blonde hair caressed the firm curve of her buttocks, and the black, off-shoulder shirt clearly outlined her narrow waste, showing off her creamy white skin that differed from everyone else’s. She certainly wasn’t Arabic like many of the others here.
Time flew by as he continued to study her, trying to imagine what her face must look like. Before he knew it, the service he usually dreaded was over, and everyone was lining up in front of the priests to receive communion. Rashid watched hungrily as a flash of her sumptuous, full red lips appeared on the glass the priest was holding. When she left he tried to glimpse more of her face, determined to seek her out when the family went out to talk with the others. His mother interrupted his thoughts, nudging him towards the line of priests. After ceremonially kissing the priest’s ring, taking a sip of the wine and eating the bread, he hurried out towards the front of the church, determined to finally see the face of the beauty that had held his attention for two hours.
Emma Neilson let out a bored sigh. That had to be the most boring service she ever had to sit through. Being Protestant, she and her family usually attended a more boisterous and exciting church. But ever since they moved to Arizona, Emma and her family hadn’t had a chance to find their proper niche. They were still trying to get settled in their new home, and she was still trying to get settled into the university life, while her younger brother was just starting school. This wasn’t her first time in this church. Last time she’d been here, her family had been visiting old friends. She knew her family had only come to oblige them.
Letting out another sigh, Emma looked around. Knowing absolutely no one, she had nothing to do but stand absently and look around. Bored, she excused herself from her parents conversation group and walked outside to the courtyard. Since she was only 18, Emma found that adults still considered her to young and immature to have a proper conversation with. No one her age was anywhere to be seen. Obviously they found this place just as dull as she did. Seating herself on the edge of a fountain, Emma suddenly became aware of how dreadfully hot it was. Looking around nervously, she finally dubbed it safe to remove her long-sleeved black top. Underneath, she wore only a bra and a dark green camisole, usually used for sleeping. Breathing a sigh of relief, Emma reveled at the feel of the wind against her skin and the cool breeze running its fingers through her hair.
Rashid watched breathlessly as the girl seated herself at the edge of the fountain. Although far away, he could clearly see a pair of cat-like green eyes under a set of perfectly arched brows. Her lips were as beautiful and full as he’d imagined after glimpsing them at communion only a few moments ago. She appeared younger than he’d first thought, perhaps around the age of 17.
Rashid suddenly smiled. Jasmine would kill him if she found out he was here. At 23, his fiancé was a spoiled girl, used to getting her way in everything. He was very sorry he’d let his parents decide whom he should go out with. Everyone thought they would marry, and no one was surprised when he’d half-heartedly proposed to her a few months ago. Rashid had only done so to please his parents. Compared to his older brother, he had few accomplishments to show off and was eager for some praise from them.
His thoughts drew to a halt, and something inside him moved as the girl hastily looked around and then gracefully pulled off her top. His heart thudded against the inside of his ribcage as he thought of what lay beneath. Rashid stopped, chiding himself for his impure thoughts. He really shouldn’t be here, staring at a girl he didn’t know with his fiancé waiting inside. But he couldn’t move. He sat captivated as the wind lifted the soft waves of her hair in the air, causing them to look like spun silk. A smile replaced the worried frown he’d noticed earlier when she’d been with everyone else in the crowded room. She was obviously enjoying herself. Rashid crept out from behind the stone column, wanting to get a better look.
Emma’s serene look changed to one of surprise and horror when she saw a man come out from behind a nearby stone column. She hurried to leave when she saw him slowly approaching, but curiosity stood in the way. Glancing up, Emma returned his gaze. She saw he was tall and fit with tanned olive skin. His black hair was cut short and spiked. Emma felt her heartbeat quicken with each step he took. When he talked his voice was surprisingly calm and low with a slight middle-eastern accent. She felt herself quickly warm to his smile.
“Who might you be, I’ve never seen you around here before.” His voice was warm and friendly causing Emma to be suddenly at a loss for words.
“Who wants to know?” He seemed momentarily taken aback at her words but quickly recovered.
“Forgive me. I’m Rashid Amen.” He extended his hand in her direction. Emma took it, surprised at how strong and warm it was.
“I’m Emma. Emma Neilsen. My family just moved here from New York.” She saw a pleased glint in his dark eyes.
“New York? I’m impressed. My family took me there as a child. What I remember most are the tall buildings and thousands of lights. Have you live there all your life?” Emma soon warmed to his conversation, telling him about where she’d grown up and what she loved to do in her spare time. Rashid, in return, spoke also of himself. She was disappointed he got up and excused himself.
“Forgive me, but my parents will be waiting for me. I look forward to seeing you again.” He smiled and walked away, leaving Emma breathless and angry with herself for feeling so nervous around him. She knew her mother wouldn’t like her being outside alone. She was very strict about things like dating and boys, (not that Rashid was a boy). Pulling her top back on herself, Emma walked back inside to meet her parents.
Rashid thought to himself as he walked back to his parents. Shudders ran down his spine at the mere thought of her beautiful smile. He found he liked her straightforwardness as well as her gorgeous body. Reality hit him hard at the sight of Jasmine standing next to his parents who were chatting to some old friends who also happened to be relatives of hers. Rashid’s mother spoke up first.
“Rashid, there you are. We were wondering… Oh never mind that. Jasmine’s family has invited us to dinner tonight.” Her voice was excited. Rashid had to take care to hide his sinking spirits. He fought the desire to pull away when Jasmine put her arm in his and locked her adoring gaze on him. She chatted away to him in Arabic, wining to him about this or that or some minor problem in her life. Rashid ignored her, still struggling not to pull away from her iron grip on his arm. A day didn’t pass without him chiding himself about his relationship with her. He sighed and pushed the thought of the dinner from his mind. Instead he focused his thoughts on Emma. He found that he was already eager to know more about her.
Emma quickly returned to her parents. She was still breathless from her encounter with Rashid. She rejoined her mother just in time to hear they were invited to their new friend’s house for dinner. Emma stifled a groan. Nothing sounded more desirable at that moment than a hot shower and a long nap. The thought of having to sit for hours making polite conversation on the few times she was called upon made Emma sick. Maybe she could get out of it. She could plead illness but it was unlikely her story would be believed. At times it seemed her parents were more focused on making a good impression than on her happiness. They wouldn’t hold back in disciplining her if she acted in a way that displeased them.
After what seemed like hours they left the church and headed out to the car. At home, Emma dropped her bag on the floor and collapsed on the bed. Her eyes drooped closed and she soon drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
Emma woke feeling drowsy and sticky with the intense heat. Even with the dark shades, the sun still found a way through, covering parts of her room in a golden light. Emma sighed and stumbled to the bathroom to shower. A smile touched her lips as cold water immersed her, cooling her body with its smooth touch. When she finished, Emma stepped out, drying and brushed her hair until it hung down to her waste in dark golden waves. She pulled on a forest green tube top and slipped into light low-rise jeans. Her mother probably wouldn’t approve but Emma was still too tired to care. Walking downstairs, she held her breath waiting for her mother to make her usual complaints, but she only gave Emma a stern cursory look and nodded her head in grudging approval.
Emma hastily walked outside. Her parents had finally dubbed her worthy of owning her own car and driving places herself, but their neighbor’s house was so close there was no need to drive. She was about to let out a sigh of relief at getting out of the tight noose of her parents grip when her brother, Jason, poked out next to her. He still wore his church clothes, rumpled from playing outside. Dirt smudged his black pants and covered his shoes. He turned his eager young face to her and begun pleading his case.
“Emma can I PLEASE walk with you. Mommy and Daddy always tell me what to say and do when we go to someone’s house for dinner, and Mommy will be mad I got my pants dirty.” He brushed his pants in a vain attempt to remove the dirt stain. Emma looked into his pleading eyes. At 4 years old, her brother had somehow managed to gain a soft spot in her heart. She smiled.
“Of course you can, but your not leaving here with those shoes.” Taking a wipe from inside her car, Emma carefully wiped his shoes and managed to remove the dirt from his pants. She finished quickly and nervously pulled him along in a fast walk. She knew her parents would kill her if she arrived late. Walking quickly, Emma made her way to their friends’ house, all along trying to figure out what she would do to amuse herself while her parents talked. She breathed a sigh of relief when she walked into the driveway and saw on a clock on the door that she was early.
Emma bit her lip in indecision. She had no wish to go in until she absolutely had to. Oh well, no use waiting out here, she thought to herself as she guided her brother gently up the steps to the door. A girl a few years older than Emma greeted them. Emma thought she must be their friend’s niece, Jasmine. She smiled and motioned for them to enter.
“We weren’t expecting you so soon.” She said, all the while examining Emma critically as if what she wore was the most scandalous thing she’d ever seen. Then, as if Emma was a child, she inquired, “Where are your parents? Surely they are also here.” Emma was just opening her mouth to speak when she spotted a man walking out of the kitchen nearby. Before she had a chance to even gain a moment’s recognition, Jasmine grasped his arm possessively and dragged him toward their group.
“This is my fiancé, Rashid Ahmen. His family and mine have been friends for as long as I can remember.” All the while she gazed up at him admiringly, hungrily. Emma suppressed a surprised gasp. She thought she could detect a glint of annoyance in Rashid’s eyes at Jasmine’s fierce possessiveness towards him. His fiancé didn’t seem to notice.
“Darling, this is-”
“Yes we’ve met.” Now it was Jasmine’s turn to look annoyed, only she didn’t hide it so well. It was obvious by the look on her face that it grated on her to know her fiancé had talked to another women without her knowledge. Rashid extended his hand toward Emma, who took it a bit shyly. He smiled warmly, holding her gaze for a moment.
“It’s nice to see you again. I had no idea you’d be here tonight.” Emma felt a warm surge shoot up her spine. She hastily removed her hand before Jasmine could do anything more than shoot her an icy look of frustration. She quickly introduced her brother who appeared lost to the tension in the room. She was painfully aware of Rashid’s dark eyes boring through her the whole time.
Rashid watched Emma closely. Every move she made seemed to invite his gaze to come closer. Every inch of her appeared more beautiful than the last time he’d seen her. Her top showed off her narrow waist and her hair seemed to gleam more brightly, drawing attention to the thick, golden, satiny waves. When she’d looked at him with her deep green eyes fanned by those thick lashes, he found himself shaken to the very core of his being. Without a doubt, she was the most beautiful creature he had ever laid eyes on.
Dinner was a boring affair. Everyone chatted on without addressing Emma once, and she had to constantly pretend not to notice Rashid’s heated gaze pointed towards her. She was grateful when her mother told her to take Jason, who had turned very fidgety, home. Emma hastily snatched him up off the chair, thanked her hostess for her hospitality, and rushed quickly to the door. Outside, she let out a relieved sigh as if she’d been holding her breath for the whole three hours they’d been inside. In a few moments, Emma and her brother were safe inside the confining walls of their home.
After helping him bathe and reading him a story, Emma put Jason to bed and went to her room to finish a research paper. Two hours later, her parents had still not returned. She looked at the clock. The hands displayed 11:00 clearly. Sighing, Emma snuggled under the soft, downy covers. Her last thoughts were unconsciously of Rashid holding his arms around her, protecting her from her parents’ sometimes very abusive moods.
Rashid moved in his seat, anxious for dinner and conversation to be over with. It was nearly twelve, and still no one showed signs of weariness. Emma’s father looked to be more and more drunk with each beer he drank. Her mother, although not drunk, was getting louder and louder still in her speech. Her laugh was annoying at best, obnoxious at worst. Rashid wondered how Emma could live with people like this. Finally, he could put up with it no longer. Pushing his chair back, he quickly stood up, causing all eyes to momentarily fall on him.
“I need some fresh air. I’m just going out for a moment.” He mumbled, hoping desperately that no one would insist on coming with him. Rashid wasn’t surprised when Jasmine spoke up, eagerness sounding clearly in her high, accented, voice.
“Oh Rashid, let me come with-”
“No.” he responded firmly before she could finish. “I’ll only be a minute.” Without another word, and ignoring Jasmine’s hurt look, Rashid opened the door and stepped outside, happy to be released from his parent’s cage and his fiancé’s hungry look.
Emma struggled and ran but she couldn’t escape her father or the leather belt in his hands. It was happening again, nothing EVER changed. Once again her father had found some trivial reason to beat her, or he was just plain drunk. She suddenly tripped and could almost feel the sting of the leather against her back. She wanted to scream but no sound could escape the confines of her mouth. Everything started going black when…
Emma woke up from her dream in a cold sweat. Her breathing was heavy, and her chest heaved in a desperate effort to get more oxygen. Shoving off her confining covers, she stepped out of bed and changed into a halter bikini. Her parents weren’t home yet so it looked like she could afford a little dip in the pool. Stepping quietly outside, Emma dove into the pool, letting the cool water erase her fear and apprehension.
Rashid stopped walking long enough to see Emma dive into her pool and sink into the clear water. She rose up again and began swimming from one end of the pool to the other. Without thinking, he walked over to the gate leading to the backyard. Leaning against the gate, Rashid watched Emma, an amused smile on his face. His breathing almost stopped when she floated on her back, her hair floating around her like a blanket of silk, and the parts of her breasts exposed where her black bikini didn’t cover them glistened from the clear water. Her eyes were closed in a gentle, quiet serenity.
Suddenly, Emma’s eyes flashed open. Surprise and something akin to terror marred her beautiful features when she saw Rashid standing there, staring at her. She stopped swimming and held his heated gaze defiantly in her own.
A few moments passed before Emma asked, “What are you doing here?” Her question was simply stated and to the point.
“Just thought I’d drop by.”
“Are my parents coming home?”
“No. They're still enjoying themselves, very much I might add.”
“Is my father… drunk?” When Rashid nodded and gave a small chuckle, he saw Emma pale and another flash of terror cover her face. She quickly exited the pool and hastily pulled the towel around her body.
“You should go, my parents could be back any minute.” She turned away from him and went to walk inside. Rashid stopped. He couldn’t just let her go now. He just wanted to talk to her for just a little while. Before Emma’s hands could close around the handle of the sliding door, he called out to her.
“Wait! Couldn’t I just come in for like… a few minutes?” His voice sounded desperate, almost pitiful, making him wonder what he was doing at the beck and call of a woman. He was about to turn away, when Emma turned around and walked toward him. Her lithe, wet body still glistened in the moonlight, and the wet hair framing her face made her look like a goddess. The rhinestones on her black halter bikini gleamed and sparkled, accenting her shining green eyes. Her slender fingers bewitched him when she undid the latch to the gate.
Emma’s heart twisted inside her ribcage. What would she do if her parents returned? She must be crazy letting a man she hardly knew into her backyard. Walking toward a stone bench, she sat down, moving over so Rashid could sit next to her. Her rubber band dropped and she stooped to pick it up, her towel falling off and showing her back in the process. Emma went cold at her error.
Rashid looked in horror at the dark red marks on Emma’s back. She obviously didn’t want him to notice because she quickly went to cover herself again. She avoided him as he implored her with his dark eyes.
“What… What happened to you?” Rashid didn’t want to believe what he knew was true so deeply in his gut. He hadn’t missed the terror in Emma’s eyes when he’d told her of her parent’s activities that night or the lash marks and bruises on her creamy white skin. Rashid wanted her to tell him that she wasn’t abused, that she’d hurt herself some other way, that she didn’t suffer daily from physical abuse. The look in Emma’s eyes only confirmed it.
Emma saw the look in Rashid’s eyes. She realized that he knew the hell she went through every day of her life. Just knowing that he was aware of her situation mad her want to burst out in tears. Emotion had always been her biggest enemy. Over the years she’d learned to control herself, but right now Emma felt like she’d loose it. What was wrong with her? Just looking into his eyes made her want to pore out her every worry to him. Unspoken words passed between them until Emma finally opened her moth to speak
“Now you know.” She didn’t have to say anymore, she knew Rashid understood.
Rashid heard the pain of unshed tears in her voice. He wanted nothing more than to hold her in his arms, sheltering her from all the hate, pain and anger she’d ever known. Without thinking he brought his hand up to her face, cupping her cheek. Rashid heard her breathing quicken as he brought his lips down to meet hers. They were smooth and tasted as sweet as he’d imagined. His kisses were gentle at first and then more passionate and insistent. His hands traveled up, running his fingers through her hair and then down to her waist, gently caressing her firm stomach with his thumbs.
Rashid felt Emma’s lips melt under his and sigh softly in pleasure when his tongue invaded the warm crevices of her mouth.
Emma reveled in Rashid’s warm touch. She’d never felt such love before, only from God, but sometimes when her father beat her, it felt as if even he’d deserted her. With each kiss she could feel her desire rising. Her heart thudded inside her ribcage as he began to massage the muscles in her stomach. She found herself wanting him even though she’d only just met him that morning. Being with him felt so right. Emma felt so protected and wanted in his warm arms. She felt so far away from everything she was so afraid of. He was taking her away to another world where no one but he could touch her.
Emma suddenly pulled away. Rashid shouldn’t be here. She barely knew him. He barely knew her. She’d been wrong to feel so comfortable with him. Rashid felt her resistance against him
“What’s the matter?” He lifted Emma’s chin to meet his face.
“You have a fiancé.” She averted her eyes from his.
“I don’t love her.”
“We barely know each other.”
“I know all I need to.” He kissed her again, this time holding her whole body against him. Suddenly the gate banged open and Rashid felt Emma’s body go cold and then begin to shake inside his arms.
Emma looked around Rashid to see her father stumble through the gate. Her mother was right behind him. How foolish she’d been to believe her parents wouldn’t find out. How foolish she’d been to think she could go one day without getting whipped.
Emma felt her lips begin to quiver. She clamped them together so they would stop and her father wouldn’t see her rising fear. As he walked closer, Emma thought she would faint from terror.
Rashid felt Emma press her body closer and closer to his. Her body quivered violently and her breathing came in terrified pants. He looked around to see what could be the matter. His fears were confirmed; Emma’s father walked toward them, fire in his cold eyes. Pulling Emma’s trembling body closer, Rashid became acutely aware of the fire building inside him. She needed him and he was only too happy to protect her. He rubbed her back soothingly; reassuring her that he was there. Emma’s breathing almost stopped altogether when her father’s loud, angry voice filled the air.
“What the hell is going on here?” His voice was slurred and his tone was low. He stumbled toward Emma and attempted to snatch her from Rashid. Rashid only held her more closely, silently measuring the distance from where they were sitting to the gate. His thought were interrupted when Emma’s father raised his voice yet again and reached out his hands in another vain attempt to grab his daughter.
“Let go of my daughter you bastard or I’ll kill you, too.” His arm went out, and before Rashid could stop it, his hand came down with a stunning force onto Emma’s cheek. Her neck jerked back causing her to let out a small, helpless whimper and suddenly collapse limply against Rashid, her eyes closing faintly. When her father drew out the whip and raised it to beat her, Rashid blocked Emma and let it come down on him. The sting was terrible, making him wonder how Emma had survived such beatings. He saw her mother made no move to stop her husband from beating their daughter. The look she gave Emma was equally furious.
Before the whip could come down on him again, Rashid made a dash for the gate, taking Emma with him. He ran quickly along the road to his parents home, ignoring the violent screams of protests behind him. He quietly entered a back door and noiselessly managed to carry Emma upstairs to his room. Rashid carefully laid her limp, motionless body on his bed and went to get a cool compress for her bruised cheek. It was beginning to turn an ugly blue-purple color. Suddenly, Emma began to shiver violently. He covered her with his thick, quilted blanket. Her shaking suddenly ceased and her breathing went back to normal.
Rashid rolled Emma onto her stomach so he could get a better look on her back. He was stunned to see deep red lash marks running all across the length of her back. Some of them looked fresh while others looked to be old wounds. Still, it looked like she would be forever scarred, both mentally and physically. Unaware, Emma flipped onto her backside again, drawing his attention to the curls framing her face. One trailed all the way down to the curve of her breasts. Suddenly Emma opened her eyes, horrified to see him staring at her so closely and to find herself in what she assumed to be his room, in his bed.
“What-What am I doing here?”
“You don’t remember?” Suddenly Emma closed her eyes and began to knead her forehead, wincing at the pain of one of her frequent migraine headaches. She gave Rashid a painful smile.
“Yes, I remember now.” She continued to knead as the pain cursed through her whole head. Emma had to bight her lip to keep from crying out.
Rashid saw tears escape Emma’s eyes. Gently removing her hands from her forehead, he put his own hands in their place and massaged her forehead with his thumbs. He smiled as a sigh of relief escaped her lips. Her eyes soon closed in exhaustion, and Rashid found it hard to resist her red heart-shaped mouth and soon found himself planting a kiss on it. She responded even in her sleep, surprising him when her tongue slowly licked his and her arms came unconsciously around his neck, her fingers softly caressing and massaging him. Rashid could feel his desire and his pulse rapidly rising at her gentle touch. He wanted her so badly. Emma’s eyes fluttered opened slightly and she smiled at him almost deliriously. His heart stopped for a moment as she locked her gaze in his and then closed her eyes again. An overwhelming surge of tenderness flooded over Rashid as he struggled to control his desire. Turning off his light, he went to sleep on his couch near the open window.
The next day Emma woke to heat surging through her whole body. As she weakly opened her eyes, a wave of nausea overtook her. Her chest heaved in a desperate effort to get more oxygen and her head began to pound once again. Slowly moving her head to the side, Emma could clearly see Rashid slowly waking on the couch near his open window. She began to pant. What was wrong with her? She felt so hot and her mind could not make sense of anything. Closing her eyes, Emma tried to forget everything that happened the night before. Her father yelling and beating her. Her mother screaming. Rashid holding her so close she could still feel the heat his body.
Rashid got up to check on Emma. Her eyes were clouded, barely seeing him. She was sweating so much, the roots of her hair had turned from dark blonde to a medium brown. Her eyes were dark with pain and agony. Placing his cool hand on her forehead, Rashid could easily tell that Emma was sick with fever. He ran to get a thermometer and hastily stuck it in her mouth. It read 104?F. Quickly, he pulled her limp body to him and put her in his bathtub, filling it with cold water. Her eyes fluttered open as the water swarmed around her body and her lips soon began to quiver. Rashid held out his hand to her, surprised at her strength as she grasped it as if he were her lifeline.
He wasn’t surprised when his mother walked in. He’d told her of the whole situation earlier, hoping for the help and gentle understanding he always received as her baby. Without a word, she began to place cool towels all over Emma’s body, and after about five more minutes asked Rashid to take her out of the tub and lay her on the bed again. After sufficient care from his mother, Emma was soon relaxing again under his covers, a serene look on her beautiful face. His mother left and Rashid never felt happier that Jasmine had made no promise to visit that day.
Emma was fully awake and able to sit up in bed a few days later. Her appetite had returned and she was eating a bowl of soup when Rashid walked in. Her smile made his heart stop. She was dressed in a pair of low-rise jeans that hugged her waste and thighs and a long-sleeved white lace blouse with sleeves that flared at the bottom. It was opened enough so he could see part of her black lace bra. Sucking in his breath, Rashid took a seat on the couch so he wouldn’t be tempted to touch her. Angry at the way Emma made him feel when he was around her caused him to speak sharply in the opening of their conversation.
“Are you in the habit of getting sick every time you’re afraid of something?” The smile was wiped off of her face, but instead of feeling satisfied, Rashid felt his heart twist in self-hatred. He could see her desperately searching for an answer and lower her head to hide her sensitivity to his words.
“Emma, I’m sorry… I’m just…” Rashid lost himself in the dark depths of her deep green eyes when she lifter her head to be level with his. Almost unconsciously, he walked over to the bed and sat down next to her, gently reaching out to caress the red mark on her cheek.
“What… What I meant to say was, how often does your father-?” Emma moved away from him. Rashid saw her features harden when she looked at him again.
“Whenever it pleases him. Almost every day. When he’s drunk it’s the worst. He can’t seem to stop…” She looked out the window, a dazed look of remembrance on her face. “It’s better that way than when he wants me to… submit to his pleasures.” Rashid was stunned.
“You mean to say, your father… rapes you?” Not waiting for an answer he continued. “How long has he…?”
“Ever since I was 13.” Rashid was too horrified to process the terror she must have gone through.
“And your brother?”
“My brother-” Emma turned her face toward his once again, looking like she’d just committed murder. “My brother is… mine. My mother knew what it would do to our family’s reputation if our friends knew my father had ruined me, causing me to produce his child.
She forced me to keep silent and have the proper papers drawn up.” Rashid hardly heard her. How could anyone hurt their own child?
“Your…son. Does he know about this?”
“No. My father says he will kill him if I tell him.” Emma suddenly collapsed on the bed, choked sobs racking her body, her calm, controlled composure crashing around her. Rashid went to her and cradled her in his arms.
“I’m…such a…such a terrible mother. I’ve… I’ve lied to him…I…” she stopped, unable to go on as the tears streamed down her face and her body pressed closer to his for support. Rashid could offer no words of comfort. He could only hold her and let the torrents of tears free themselves from the confines of her body. When her arms wrapped around him, he could resist no longer. Gently lifting her chin, his lips found hers. They tasted sweet and also salty from her tears. Slowly, Emma stopped crying as she found herself caught up in the wave of love and tenderness she felt so clearly from him. She closed her eyes as Rashid kissed her eyelids, her hair, the crevice in her neck and finally her lips again. She found herself slowly melting to him and his desires, wanting him, needing him desperately. She could feel his finger gently opening the buttons on her blouse one by one until all of them were opened and his hands closed firmly around her waist. Emma’s skin tingled with pleasure and she could easily feel his thudding heartbeat under her fingertips when she caressed the skin below his jawbone.
Rashid stopped when the door flew open and in walked Jasmine. A look of horror, dismay, anger and something he couldn’t identify covered her face. Rage seemed to emit from every pore of her body. Rashid was something else, too. Desperation. Desperation to keep what was obviously no longer hers. Letting Emma go, he concentrated his efforts on grasping Jasmine’s wrists as she flew at him with astounding strength and accuracy.
“How could you do this to me? You promised yourself to me, only to lie around with this… this whore.” She screamed and ranted at him until he finally silenced her with his stunning, breaking statement.
“Jasmine, listen to me. I was wrong to say I would marry you, but if you weren’t so blasted spoiled, you would’ve noticed that I have absolutely no feelings for you at all. I don’t love you. I have no desire for you whatsoever.” Rashid paused before bringing down the final blow. “Jasmine, I’m breaking our-”
“No.” Rashid was stunned. He looked back at Emma.
“No, Rashid. I don’t belong here with you. You belong with Jasmine. She loves you and has so much to offer. I was wrong to allow your… advances toward me here today. Even if you weren’t engaged it would still be wrong.” Hastily buttoning her blouse, Emma rose to leave, not lost to the look of smugness on Jasmines face. “I’m going back to my parents and-”
“No, Emma… They’ll kill you. I can’t let you…”
“Rashid, please. Thank you for everything you did and….thank your mother for me.” Before he could see the tears in her eyes, Emma fled from the room leaving Rashid with Jasmine who still smiled smugly.
“Shut up, Jasmine.” Rashid turned her harshly toward him. “I’m breaking our engagement.” With that he left her standing there, stunned by this refusal to satisfy her empty lusts for him.
Emma ran down the stone steps, desperate to be free of her constant confusion. Before she could get any farther than the front door, a hand grabbed a hold of her shoulder. She turned around, only to see Rashid’s mother staring at her with a sort of pitying look on her face.
“Where are you going Emma?”
“Home. I can’t stay here. Thank you for-”
“I’m sorry…I’m afraid…” she stopped a moment before going on. “Your parents have… died.” Emma was put into a momentary state of shock, unable to fully process what had just been said.
“Your father collapsed from alcohol consumption. When your mother rushed to bring him to the hospital, they… crashed. I’m so sorry Emma.” Emma slowly sat down on a nearby bench, still too in shock to cry or say anything. Rashid came downstairs just as she made a desperate dash for the door, running outside and not stopping even after she heard Rashid’s voice behind her. She barely noticed when it started to rain and was soon soaked to her skin. All she could think about was Jason and how she was failing him yet again with every moment she was detained. Emma reached the gate and pulled it open, running across the cobblestone path of the backyard into the house. She could still hear Rashid calling her name, his tone turning desperate. Not listening, Emma rushed into the house, screaming for Jason. She found him huddled in his room, tears streaming down his face. Running to him, she pulled his tiny, shaking body to her, gently soothing him, tears running freely down her own face.
“It’s all right baby. I’ll never leave you again. I promise.” She pulled him tighter, as if to reassure him. He stopped crying long enough for her to gently convey to him her long hidden secret. “Jason, I’m your real mommy.” Emma held her breath in anxiety as Jason looked at her, his eyes suddenly filled with a mixture of happiness for his newfound fate and sadness for what had just recently taken place.
“Don’t ever leave me, Mommy.” His small arms encircled her neck and Emma felt herself begin to sob with happiness. She didn’t notice Rashid stepping into the room, until he was right next to her.
“Let’s go back to my place. You and Jason can stay there for a few days.” Emma ignored the refusal on her lips and let him guide her out of the house, pulling Jason behind her. It was raining heavily, and by the time they reached their destination, Emma was once again soaking. She shivered under Rashid’s tight grip and was relieved when they were inside, sheltered from the non-stop pattering of cold rain in their bodies.
After Jason was settled in bed and Emma had changed out of her wet clothes, she walked downstairs. Rashid had driven back to her house and brought back some of her clothes so she wouldn’t have to borrow any.
Rashid looked up from his seat next to the blazing fireplace as Emma walked down the stone steps. She looked ravishing in a black halter dress traveling only to the midpoint of her thighs, showing off her slim legs. Walking towards him, he could see how the warmth of the fire lit up her eyes, making them turn a delicious soft color. Her lips smiled when she saw him and there was no longer any traces of tears on her delicate features. Before he could sit up to greet her, Emma sat down next to him, the firelight dancing in her eyes.
“I want to thank you for what you did. We’ll leave soon just as soon as I can get everything in order. I’m taking us back to New York.” Her words tumbled out, not at all as she’d planned. When he didn’t respond she got up only to feel his hand on her arm, stopping her.
“I broke off the engagement.”
“What?” Her dark eyes searched his, and her body tensed suddenly as he drew his arms around her waist, sending tingles up her spine.
“You’re the one I want. I love you…Aesera.”
“Aesera? What’s that mean?”
“It’s my new name for you. It means you’re beautiful. You’ve captivated me.”
“I like it.”
Rashid felt Emma’s body slowly relax against his and a smile replace the frown on her face. “I want you and Jason to stay here with me.” He buried his face into her hair, pulling her closer. “Marry me.” Rashid smiled when Emma’s arms encircled his neck, and her fingers raked his hair, pulling his head down to hers. Her lips brushed his before becoming more insistent; forcing his open, surprising him with her passion. Rashid pulled away for a moment.
“Can I take that as a yes?”
“Yes.” She whispered. Rashid grinned, watching how the firelight bounced off of her eyes, before once again pressing his lips against hers. Her body was warm against his, and her hands were like fire against his skin, but it was nothing compared to the fire in his heart.
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