Elias felt a hand on his forearm. “Will you walk with me, monsieur? I am in need of fresh air,” Pepiot’s daughter asked. He nodded.
“With pleasure, mademoiselle.” He offered his elbow and she hooked her thin gloved hand into the crook of his arm.
Out in the garden, the sun was disappearing behind the horizon, painting the darkening sky in hues of orange and pink. A translucent crescent moon hung just over the trees. The soft breeze played with the wayward strands of Jaime’s dark curls along her ivory neck. Elias led her down the path into the garden maze, sauntering slowly and silently, unwilling to break the spell of the sultry night falling around them.
She spoke first. “Tell me of your country. Are there nights like these?”
Her eyes reflected the sunset. “Morocco is a land of great mystery. And it is hot.”
With a raised eyebrow, she glanced at him sideways. “Ah,” she mocked. “A romantic description… How will I know if I would like to travel there someday if you do not describe it to me properly?”
“It is not a place for a woman such as yourself, mademoiselle.”
“Would you care to explain that, monsieur?”
Elias spied a garden bench and led her to it. As they sat, he expounded. “To begin, women wear far more – clothes.” He waved at her in a sweeping gesture from her head down to her toes.
She glanced down at her own attire. “Is there something wrong with my wardrobe?”
“No, mademoiselle. It very much becomes you. But in Morocco there are laws. Laws which require a woman to be covered, to save her from the marauding eyes of men – and to save the men from desiring that which does not belong to them.” He was careful not to look at her as he spoke.
“I see. Does it bother you then? To see women uncovered, as you say?”
And here is where he made his first grave mistake, for when he turned back to her and met her gaze, his heart leapt within his chest and rose to his throat, choking the words from him. Elias must have appeared to have something incredibly interesting to say, because the lady leaned in expectantly, awaiting his reply.
Her eyes imploring dark almonds, her full lips red and inviting, and her creamy white velvet skin – so much skin, tantalizing him into submission. He would keep up his charade of servant-hood indefinitely if it meant forever with her.
To his credit, he did try to stop himself, but in the end his hands betrayed him and moved independently of his will. Before either of them knew what was happening he had removed his gloves, and his hands impulsively cupped her face – the fairness of her skin fairly glowed in contrast to his dark complexion.
The feel of her smooth flesh against his hands spurred him forward, and he pulled her face to him and crushed her lips greedily with his own. In the back of his mind a still small voice whispered, If you are caught, you are as good as dead.
He answered the voice with a thought of his own, Ah, but without her, what difference does it make?
So intense was his passion, so imbibed with an overwhelming fog of desire, Elias could not say how she had responded. His mind was in a haze as he drew back from her.
Therefore, he did not see it coming.
Not until her tiny gloved hand burned across his face in a scorching blur of fury did he realize perhaps he had overstepped his bounds.