Leila paced the room, still furious. Her heart seemed to pound right out of her chest in anticipation of what was to come. She knew what was to come. Hadn’t he just made his intentions for their evening entirely clear? What did she expect?
The waiting seemed endless. There was a knock on the door and for heart-stopping seconds, Leila watched as the door slowly opened. It was Mira.
‘Would, your Highness, like me to help you dress?’ Mira asked shyly, her eyes peered over to the huge bed that suddenly seemed to dominate the room. Leila saw the expression on Mira’s face and guessed the course of her thoughts. Just like every other female that came into contact with Marco, Mira was not immune to Marco’s charm and his striking sexuality. It was easy to imagine Marco on that bed and perhaps Mira thought Leila lucky. If only she knew.
‘That will not be necessary.’ Leila said curtly. She did not mean to be annoyed but she could not help it.
‘B…but your lovely new things…You have to…’ Mira said as she pointed to Leila’s walk-in closet.
‘Mira, I don’t need your help. Not now. Please go to your cabin and rest. It has been a long day. I just want to be alone right now.’ Leila saw the disappointment in the girl’s face but decided it could not be helped.
Alone again, Leila sat on the bed. Her beautiful but simple wedding dress had served its purpose. She supposed that she should make some effort and look the part of a new bride. There was a collection of the flimsiest silk and lace lingerie in the closet. Marco had insisted on a new wardrobe. A stylist had arrived a few days before the wedding with gowns from some of the top fashion houses. Leila was astounded at the beauty as well as the outrageous price tags of each unique design. She had felt guilty at the extravagant expense and had noted that she could have bought presents for nearly every child in Oudh with the shocking amounts of money that was spent on her trousseau. But Marco insisted. Leila realised that she might have to get used to Marco having his way and she did not like that. She should hate him, she decided again.
She had just decided to head for the closet to find an ‘appropriate’ flimsy thing to wear, when the door opened. It was Marco. He had removed the tailored jacket he’d worn for the nuptials, as well as his tie. The top buttons of his silk shirt were opened, revealing the perfect tanned column of his neck and a seductive glimpse of his muscular chest. The wind had tousled his hair giving him the look of casual indifference. Leila gasped at the sight of him.
Coolly, he leaned against the frame of the door for a moment, a slight smile tugged at his lips and their eyes fixed on each other for what seemed like forever. Steely grey-black eyes, like the beads her mother gave her on her eighteenth birthday bored into her, seeing more than she was willing to reveal. Without breaking eye-contact, he entered the room; one hand sleeked back his unruly hair and the other expertly held two wineglasses and a bottle of champagne. Leila heard the blood rush through her body and her heart pounded away. She wondered if it could be picked up by the sensitive radar system that the captain had showed her earlier when he took her on a tour of the yacht. She unconsciously reached for the bed post and held onto it as if her life depended on it. Marco stopped a few feet away at a side table and proceeded to pour the bubbling golden liquid into the champagne flutes.
‘From my very own vineyard, one of my own creations.’ He said holding up the glasses to the light and then handing her one. There was a coolness to his voice that contradicted Leila’s frazzled nerves.
‘I spent last summer trying to perfect the art of champagne-making. I must admit that it didn’t go too badly. I might just have created the perfect balance…’
Leila’s scant attention was diverted by the mesmerising movement of his lips as he formed each word. Her eyes moved lower until it rested on the open neck of his silk shirt, and then they dared to go lower still. Desperately, she tried to shake away the unwelcome images and focus on the long-stemmed glass in her trembling hands. When he stopped speaking, she looked up and her eyes clashed with his, so very dark now.
‘Don’t look at me like that, Leila,’ his voice sounded almost distressed. Seeing the question in her eyes he continued, ‘like you want me to kiss you… or is it that you want to kill me. I never seem to know with you.’
His free hand reached toward her and trailed the contours of her face. Leila’s eyes closed for a second, revelling in the tender touch.
‘It never stopped you from kissing me before,’ Leila sighed as his fingers trailed lower along the length of her throat. Then without ceremony, he pulled her closer against his hard, aroused body. A surge of desire weakened her and she moaned with a need she had never before experienced.
His lips claimed hers. Hungry, hot and this time there was no gentle interlude. Consumed by unbridled passion, there was no more need for reserve or control. In one deft manoeuvre, Marco undid the hooks that held her dress in place and removed the diamond and pearl clip that bound her hair in a chignon. The dress fell in a cloud of lace at her feet to reveal another layer of fine Italian lace and silky golden skin.
‘Sei cosi bella. Ti adora.’ He whispered. Words Leila did not know, but said like that, understood. He lifted her effortlessly and placed her on the bed, her long shiny hair framing her. Hovering over her, he started to unbutton his shirt; his eyes roaming and appreciating her golden beauty. She reached out for him as he removed the last of his clothes, impatient for his touch and his kisses. He was beautiful. Breathless by just the sight of his incredible naked body, Leila felt she would swoon with longing. Finally he leaned over her and claimed her kisses once more. His hands roamed her body – caressing, squeezing, and coercing pleasure from every part of her. He murmured more words in Italian while his mouth and fingers explored and controlled. When Leila thought she would simply burst into flames, Marco became one with her.
Marco sensed her body tense and tighten. He searched her face and found confirmation of her innocence. Leila was a virgin. He had married and was bedding, a virgin.
‘Leila?’ he whispered and gently brushed away strands of hair that clung to her damp face.
‘Don’t stop,’ Leila’s voice was a mere sigh.
For a long while they were silent in each other’s arms. It was Marco who broke it. His voice was tender and his hot breath burned her forehead.
‘You have given me the best gift a bride can give her husband on their wedding night.’ He paused and then added, ‘that sounds quite old-fashioned. What I think I want to say is that I am glad I am your first lover.’
He sounded so pleased with himself, she thought.
‘You should have told me you were a virgin.’
‘Why? What difference would that have made?’ Leila was terse.
‘I would have been gentler, at least I would have tried,’ his tone still indulgent and tender. His hands stroked her bare skin.
‘Do you think I was saving myself for you?’ she bit back suddenly as she extracted herself from his embrace and sat up. Her face wore an incredulous expression. Leila knew she was reacting contrary to what she felt. She had just had her first most wonderful sexual experience with a man she was undeniably attracted to, but she felt bitter. To him this was just another conquest; at least that was what it seemed like to her. She realised that she was a novice to his expertise and for some reason it made he feel more than a tinge of jealousy. She did not want to diminish this moment with her incongruous attitude, but she could not stop herself.
‘I was saving myself for the man I love, Marco.’
‘Leila we have just made love. How can you be so brash?’ he said, taken aback by her words.
‘Made love?!’ she threw back as she slid out the bed taking with her and holding onto his shirt to cover her exposed body. ‘We did not make love Marco! That is something two people in love do. We had sex. To consummate this marriage… As you stated in those contracts you made me sign. Have you forgotten?’ She paused. His face was stony except for the clenching of his jaws. And his eyes were burning with anger. But her next words turned his face murderous. ‘This is just part of the deal!’
She fled to the bathroom and slammed the door shut. Marco lay there on the bed utterly stunned by the unexpected turn of the best night of his life. Leila had given him the most wonderful gift and then she pulled it away right from under him. And the worst of it was that she told him it was never meant for him. He slid off the bed determined to pound the door down and tell her that he did not care what she thought. They had made love! But he paused at the door.
He couldn’t do it. She was right. He might have these intense feelings for her but did she feel the same way about him? He needed to see the reality in this situation. Her reason for agreeing to this marriage was nothing more than her fulfilling a duty to her people. He remembered the way she responded to him just a little while ago – passionately – she had wanted him as much as he wanted her. But although she may also sense something between them, for now it might only seem as an inexplicable chemistry, what did it mean to him? A lot more than chemistry, he conceded. He sighed and ran his hand through his hair.
He needed fresh air and some time to think things through. Barging into that bathroom and demanding she see things his way was not going to help. What on earth would he say to her? That he had feelings for her? What feelings? This was crazy. He walked over to the door and left the room.