As You Desire by Connie Brockway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
WOW! LOVED IT, LOVED IT, LOVED IT! That´s all I have to say. :)
And here's my favorite passage (excerpt available at CB's website, so this isn't a spoiler):
“And Blake.” Harry shook his head in disgust. “Such affectations.”
“You are calling someone affected?” she asked, raising her brows. “You, who employ two secretaries, one for your Arab dealings and one for your English? You, who are too high and mighty to write your own correspondence?”
Harry grinned. “That’s different. At least I don’t commit the sin of triteness. Calling you a ‘rose.’ An ‘English rose’ at that. You must forgive him the hackneyed compliment. Old Blake’s not much for originality, I’m afraid.”
“I thought him charming.”
Harry made an unconvinced sound.
“I did. I suppose you could do better?”
“Well were I to make the effort to extol a woman’s beauty, I could certainly do better than to drag out some tired old cliche about a rose.”
“You are the most monumentally egocentric man I know,” Desdemona said, trying to keep the trace of admiration out of her voice.
“You are unconvinced?” Harry asked, taking a sip of coffee and crossing his legs. “Allow me to demonstrate… and please bear in mind that I improvise.”
He spread jam over a piece of toast, studying her quizzically as he did so. She felt like a specimen, standing there under his scrutiny. She took the chair next to his and started buttering her own toast with supreme indifference. She was not a specimen.
“Let me see. Nothing floral. In fact, I think we’ll dispense with the vegetative allusions all together. Animal?” he asked rhetorically. “Perhaps a gazelle? No,” he dismissed the idea, chomping into his toast. “Too meek. Too inconsequential. This is difficult, Diz. To blandish a woman about her physical appearance is so limiting.”
“Yes,” she said dryly, burying a pinprick of hurt. He couldn’t think of anything to compliment her on.
“All right, then,” he finally said. “I’d begin with the way you stand.”
“Stand?” He’d caught her off guard. She blinked.
“Slender. Upright. Face lifted for the sun god’s caress,” he murmured slowly, musingly, as if to himself. He cocked his head, his eyes traveling lingeringly over her body, and she recognized the potent attraction other women must feel when Harry looked at them this way. As if she were the central point upon which all of his world turned. As if he lo—
“Why, look,” he asked in a hushed voice, some thing surprised and painful and pleased in his tone, “even Ra himself cannot resist you. Only see how he lathes your cheeks and brow with his heated tongue”— he reached out, brushing his fingers over her tanned cheek— “marking you with his golden kiss?”
His words were too graphic, too carnal, and she was too aware of his fingers skating along her cheekbone and over her jaw line. He’d never spoken to her this way before. Her heartbeat quickened, thrumming in her throat and in her wrists. She shivered. He smiled. His hand retreated.
“How can a mere mortal man stand a chance if even the gods are so enamored?” he whispered. “And how can one single image describe you? You are a country, a country of unexplored sensation and whim, veiled in dawn, shining, shedding light. See how the long fluid line of your throat flows to your breasts?” If he heard the intake of her breath, he ignored it. “Or how their blue-shadowed curves ripen above the smooth plain of your belly?”
She should stop him, he went too far, but his voice mesmerized her, like sweet, honeyed wine, warm and languorous.
“Your mouth.” He paused, and her lips felt suddenly sensitized, tingling as his gaze fixed on them. “Your mouth is a sweet well sealed against me, keeping me thirsting for the clarity of your kiss. Your flesh is like the desert sand, warmth and shifting strength beneath its golden color. Your palms open, fingers flexed, are minarets, delicate and elegant. And your body… it is the Nile itself— the camber of your back slipping so easily by the narrows of your waist and jettied hips to the lush delta below.”
He stopped. She heard the intake of his breath. “You are my country, Desdemona.” Yearning, harsh and poignant and she felt herself swaying toward him. “My Egypt. My hot, harrowing desert and my cool, verdant Nile, infinitely lovely and unfathomable and sustaining.”
His gaze fell, shielded by his lashes. An odd, half-mocking smile played about his lips. “You’ll never hear old Blake say something like that.”
She swallowed, unable to speak, her senses abraded by his stimulating words, her pulse hammering in anticipation? Trepidation?
“Remember my words next time he calls you a bloody English rose.”
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