It was cold!
Shannon winced as tendrils of auburn hair stung her cold cheeks and she hastily tucked them back under the hood of her cherry red parka. The wind was increasing steadily and standing in the doorway of the large department store she was exposed to its full fury.
An ironic smile flickered across her face as she watched the hotel doorman further along the street glance in her direction once more. It was obvious that he was curious about her being here. Idly, she wondered if he remembered her from the past. Probably not, she decided. After all it had been six months since she had last visited that particular establishment.
One hour later as the cold howling wind pressed her damp dress against her unprotected legs Shannon conceded that it would have been more sensible to wait to speak to Kalim in the hotel lobby where it was warm and dry.
However, when she had made her insane decision to come and ask him for his help, she had thought it would be less embarrassing to speak to him on the street. Besides, she admitted honestly to herself, it also gave her a slim avenue of escape should she come to her senses and run away. After all, he would hardly chase her along the street. Her lips twisted into an ironic smile, aware he would do exactly that if he was so inclined.
She was a fool for coming here. She knew that. But she had no choice. Kalim had the power and authority to save her beloved brother's life. All the other avenues she had tried in an effort to secure his freedom had ended in stalemate and red tape.
The sight of a large black limousine stopping in front of the hotel sent her jangling nerves into overdrive, and the small flag with the royal insignia of Bashram flapping on its bonnet made her knees go weak.
When she had discovered that Kalim was in Melbourne her first instinct had been to leave the city as fast as possible and at this moment she was fervently wishing she had followed that impulse.
An odd mixture of joy and anxiety raced through her veins as she watched the tall, dark haired man alight from the car and stand on the rain wet footpath. His presence was the answer to her prayers. If she had the courage to pay the price she knew he would demand from her for his help.
He stood with his legs slightly astride as if he owned the world. Well, he did own a good part of it, she acknowledged with a touch of cynicism. Slowly, her eyes inspected every inch of his large frame. At six feet two inches tall he towered over her by more than a foot. In the past his height had always made her feel cherished and protected. Now it intimidated her utterly.
He still prowls while he waits, she mused, her eyes hungrily following his leashed movements. Like a panther pacing back and forth in its cage, chafing at its confinement, and if she was stupid enough to go through with her crazy plan then she would be the prey. If she had even a modicum of common sense she would turn and walk away now.
Shannon was unaware that it was already too late to escape, that her presence had been noticed shortly after the car had come to a stop. Had the man who was watching her so intently determined that she posed a threat to Kalim he would have negated that threat forcefully. A smile flickered on his face. He was enjoying her dithering. During the past six months that young lady had made his life hell.
“Oh, Kalim,” she whispered. A sadness for what might have been brought tears to her eyes as painful memories of love, passion, and happiness reminded her of the past.
“A love that you threw back in his face,” She muttered. “Now you expect him to help you?”
An impatient sigh whispered past her lips when she realized she was talking to herself again. It was a habit she had gotten into over the past six months when she had been so completely alone and isolated from all her friends and acquaintances.
She almost had a panic attack when she realized that after today there would no longer be any need to hide, constantly moving, trusting no one. In a very short time Kalim would know her exact whereabouts. It was strange how that thought both frightened and excited her at the same time.
With a determination born of desperation she straightened her shoulders and marched through the puddles that covered the wet footpath. Her trembling hands sank deeply into her pockets and her fingers clenched into tight fists as his back drew steadily nearer. Her anxiety increased as the distance separating them decreased. Her heart was racing in her chest and she was trembling as she halted behind his back.
Now what? She could hardly tap him on the shoulder and say guess who. Suddenly, she had an insane desire to giggle. Get a hold of yourself, she admonished herself sternly. Her nerves were jumping all over the place. Her mouth was so dry that, for a moment she could not speak.
“Hello Kalim.” She finally managed to murmur in a squeaky voice.
Kalim turned when he heard that softly spoken female voice from behind. It couldn’t be! He had not heard those soft tones in six long lonely months. He had never expected to hear them again. Shannon could not be here. It was wish fulfillment on his part. His imagination was conjuring her up because this was the place where they had first met on a rainy day like today.
Shannon attempted to speak but failed miserably. She was breathless, she realized in amazement. Dear Lord, she could not go through with this insane idea.
She had forgotten just how much his charisma affected her senses. Just standing near him, close enough to reach out a hand and touch him was making her lightheaded and igniting the fires of desire that she had tried so desperately to forget.
A dark blue business suit clothed his tall, muscular body. It was very suave and elegant and accentuated the sun bronzed skin of his lean face. His high cheek bones and full sensual lips made her breathing quicken and awoke unwanted memories.
His face was striking, his features fierce and stamped with autocracy, and his hair was midnight black. However, his most distinctive feature was his brilliant green eyes, surrounded by thick black lashes and black level brows that bridged them. At the moment, they were filled with a mixture of shock and disbelief.
She knew exactly how he was feeling she was experiencing much the same whirlwind of emotions. One part of her wanted to turn and run, but another part wanted to throw herself into his arms.
The lines around his eyes and mouth showed his thirty-two years of age. He had celebrated his birthday five months ago, she recalled. She had cried all that day because she was not with him to celebrate the day of his birth. The gold cufflinks she had purchased for his present were packed away in the bottom draw of her dressing table. Instead, she had left him a ‘Dear John’ letter to celebrate his birthday.
Shannon flicked her tongue over her dry lips and promptly lost her breath when his eyes followed the movement.
“I realize this must be a shock,” her voice trailed away when she realized she was talking rubbish.
Kalim swept his gaze over her slim frame, lingering on her full breasts pushing against the fabric of her coat. Her small, lissome figure was clothed in a familiar red parka. She had been wearing that parka the first time they met. Five foot-one inch tall she reminded him of a pixie, an elf that he could pick up and put in his pocket. But Shannon was not a nymph.
He knew her intimately, knew that she was a warm, passionate woman. Her pale blue dress matched the color of her eyes. Eyes that no longer gazed at him with warm blazing love glowing in their depths. Now they held uncertainty and apprehension.
Perhaps she was not classically beautiful, but to his eyes she was perfection. Her hair was covered by the hood attached to her coat and he experienced a feeling of de’ja’vu. History was repeating itself with a vengeance.
Shannon was growing increasingly uneasy at his continued silence and intense scrutiny, and she shifted nervously from one foot to the other. Say something she wanted to scream at him, instead, she sucked down a deep breath and stated baldly, “I’m in trouble. I need your help.”
“Need me?” The angry bitterness in his voice made her wince. “No, Shannon.” A cynical smile curved his lips into a tight line. “You never needed me. You proved that when