It was a gamble she was born to make...***
Raised in a brothel at a young age, Allegra Synnford quickly learned that survival meant taking charge of her destiny. Now, a renowned courtesan skilled in the pleasures of the flesh, she chooses her lovers carefully--vowing never to be vulnerable to any one man. Until a mesmerizing Sheikh strips that control from her...
With a man who wasn't used to losing.
Sheikh Shaheen of the Amazigh has been hiding from his past for a long time, but not enough to forget how another courtesan made him abandon his life as the Viscount Newcastle. It's why the yearnings this dangerous temptress ignites within him are so troubling. Worse, thoughts of Allegra pervade every fantasy, threatening to undermine his cover. With old enemies circling, experience tells him he must resist her charms at all cost. In fact, he's betting on it. That's a risky wager when it comes to a woman of pleasure. But Allegra has her own reasons for playing games...with a man who can't afford to lose.
"I'm afraid, monsieur, that it's you who doesn't understand the rules of this game. I pick my lovers, and I never enter into a liaison on such short acquaintance."
"And I never take no for an answer," he murmured.
She struggled to suppress a tremor. God, but the man had a wicked voice. She immediately clenched her teeth. It irritated her that she couldn't control her reaction to him. Over the years, there had been many men who had arrogantly declared they intended to become her lover, and they'd all failed. But this man's confidence unnerved her. She believed him when he said he wouldn't take no for an answer.
The worst of it was she knew a liaison with him could have devastating consequences. Just the way her body responded to his told her it would not be a simple dalliance. He would bend her to his will, and not since Arthur had rescued her from Madame Eugenie's had she allowed any man to do that.
"It would seem we are at an impasse," she said, trying desperately to keep her voice steady.
"Are we? Then one of us must yield."
Something about the determined glint in his eye kindled a firestorm of panic inside her. He narrowed his gaze at her, his mouth curved in a seductive smile. As his hand captured her chin, her trepidation vanished in a wave of heat and she barely suppressed her whimper of desire when his thumb stroked her lower lip. Dear God, what was wrong with her? She needed to end this madness now, before she really did surrender to him
"I shall be happy to have you yield to me, monsieur," she said in a breathless rush.
"Doing so is not in my nature. But for a kiss I might be persuaded otherwise." The amusement in his voice made her stiffen.
"A ki--you arrogant beast. I have no intention of--"
The scents of cedar and anise drifted across her senses just before his mouth silenced her. The outrage holding her rigid evaporated in an instant, replaced by a sharply pitched desire.
Up until this moment, pleasure had been a simple, uncomplicated experience for her. But this was something altogether foreign. It was raw. Primitive. Completely out of control.
His tongue laced across her lip until she willingly parted her mouth for him. He tasted hot and savage, just like the desert. She'd always enjoyed kissing, but this was a hedonistic assault. He didn't take--he cajoled.