Sunday, 14 September 2014
A Snog for Sommer
I don't do an enormous amount of kissing in my books. But this is a special occasion - fifty-eight writers (58!!!) have got together for a fundraiser bloghop. Full details here, where you can access links to all participants. Here's my Snog for Sommer: an excerpt from my Arabian Nights romantic adventure Heart of Flame.
When she was ready, she approached on foot and ordered the Lion Most Strong to stand back, and it released Rafiq who let out a grunt of surprise. He struggled up onto his knees, blinking at her, his face crusted with sand. “Taqla,” he groaned.
She stepped in as he lurched to his feet and punched him as hard as she could in the face. At the last moment he saw her fist and flinched away so her knuckles stuck him only a glancing blow, which was perhaps a good thing because she managed to skin her knuckles on his teeth and split his lip even so. He staggered a little. She clenched her stinging fist, shocked how much it had hurt her and blaming him for that too.
“Taqla—” He lifted a hand in dismay to his bleeding lip.
“You stole my Horse! You dumped me in the desert! You son of a whore!” She was burning too hotly with fury to judge her attacks. When she struck again at his face, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her hard against him, seizing the other hand as it flailed, and wrestling both wrists behind her to pin them at the small of her back. She was still too angry to be afraid. “How could you?” she spat. “After everything we’ve been through! Everything you promised!”
“Taqla!” he shouted as she twisted furiously in his arms. “Shut up! Stop it! Listen to me!”
“I hope street dogs eat your corpse!”
She stopped struggling to draw breath, snarling. He was very strong and held her easily, his face over hers.
“Taqla, I’m sorry.” His eyes burned. “Listen. Listen. I haven’t betrayed you. Believe me.”
“You left me!”
“I had to take the Horse. I am sorry, but I need it to find the house of the djinni. I had no choice. I would have returned it when I could.”
“Tell me your ass is made of solid gold and you shit diamonds! Shall I believe that too?”
He shook his head, teeth bared. “Taqla—I left because I couldn’t bring you with me and see you hurt.”
“Me—hurt? Haven’t I saved your life before now? Haven’t you needed me every step of this journey?”
“Yes!” He turned his face aside so he could spit blood into the sand, then caught her gaze again, his eyes hot with anguish. “Yes. I’ve needed you. But this is different. There’s so much chance of you getting killed—”
“You think I’m afraid?”
“No. Never. Taqla, listen to me. I couldn’t see you hurt for my sake. I couldn’t bear it.”
“We had a bargain,” she snapped. “We were in it together. You get what you want and I get what I want.”
He shook his head as if in pain, and when he spoke again it was under his breath. “I read the scroll.”
“The spell in the Scroll of Simon.”
She felt as if she’d been kicked in the stomach. “Oh,” she said, while the import of his words sank in and the desert seemed to reel about her. It had never occurred to her that he would be able to read Greek. She was suddenly horribly conscious of the way he was holding her up tight against his hard body. “No,” she whispered, trying to shrink away from him. She couldn’t move an inch.
“How could I let myself hurt 'she who loves me the most'? I couldn’t let you risk your life out of love for me.” His voice was soft, all shouting done.
“No, you’ve misunderstood…”
“Taqla, why are you scared of admitting it?”
“I… It isn’t like that…”
“Isn’t it? What is it like then? Tell me.”
She groaned. His lips curved, self-deprecating, as if knowing he was inviting another blow.
“I think I know exactly how it feels. Taqla, is it not obvious that I’ve been falling in love with you this whole time?”
She went still, her eyes widening.
He smiled lopsidedly because of his split lip. “I’ve been like a man sliding down a sand dune, trying to keep on my feet and all the time falling. Can’t you see that?”
She tried to speak but for once had no words. Not even when he bent his head and kissed her through her veil. She felt the warm softness of his lips on hers and the ghost of his breath through the silk. Her heart slammed painfully in her chest, sending the blood roaring through her head.
Quietly, while his lips still held hers, he let go of her wrists. One hand stayed to hold her close to him, but the other rose to touch her face through the folds of her headscarf. Then he drew back a little so he could look into her eyes. She could read his intent. She knew what he was going to do and the voices of warning were roaring in the back of her mind, but still she didn’t resist when he gently drew down the fold of her veil and bared her face, though she shivered at the touch of his fingertips. A warm pleasure danced in his eyes. He brushed his thumb across her lips and whispered her name.
“As honey on my lips, I love you. As breath in my lungs, as water in the desert, I love you.” Then he stooped again to kiss her for the second time, his mouth bruised and sweet and—under the gentleness—hungry. He tasted of blood.
Taqla’s inner voices of reason and propriety were shrieking with dismay now. Rafiq had crossed a line that should never be crossed. She was in terrible danger, they told her. She was a fool, and he was an opportunistic dog, and this was the worst move she’d ever made.
She heard them all, and she let them go. She gave up thinking. She let the future fly from her grasp so that she could feel what was happening to her now, in this wonderful, terrifying moment when the whole world turned inside out and his hands were on her and her body was melting against his in a way that she could never even have imagined. When they broke for breath she reached up and touched his jaw, tracing her fingers over the hard bone and the inflorescence of dark stubble as if to convince herself he was real. A new world of textures and sensations was opening to her. She brushed the outline of his lips and he bit softly at her fingertips.
“I was right,” he murmured. “You do have a beautiful smile.”
She hadn’t even been aware she was smiling. It wasn’t a wide one, just a tentative curve of her lips.
“I’ve never seen it till now, you know.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
Sorry for hiding her smile from him? Sorry for being afraid? She hardly knew. She touched the bloody contusion on his lip. “For hurting you.”
“Oh, I can take worse.”
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