Available Now on Mills & Boon! Pursued By The Desert Prince is the first in my new quartet about The Sauveterre Siblings, two sets of identical twins. Read the first chapter of book one below.
About the Sauveterre Twins...
The first pair of twins, Henri and Ramon, were born to a French Tycoon and his Spanish aristocrat wife. They were attractive and remarkably alike, but once the second set, Angelique and Trella, came along, the four children became media sensations. They were so famous, Trella was targeted for kidnapping when she was nine.
The experience left scars still felt by all of them today. In Pursued By The Desert Prince, Angelique struggles with a sense she's abandoning her sister when she falls for Kasim. He's suspicious of her motives and has family troubles of his own that prevent him from offering anything but a heated affair.
Here's the blurb:
Draped in the Desert Prince’s diamonds…
To ensure his sister’s successful marriage, Kasim, Crown Prince of Zhamair, must stop Angelique Sauveterre’s alleged affair with his future brother-in-law. But when Angelique denies any involvement, Kasim can’t resist the chance to make the feisty beauty his!
Angelique is tempted by Kasim’s offer of a fling—always compared to her twin sister, she’s never allowed to just be herself. They couldn’t be from two more different worlds, yet Angelique blossoms under Kasim’s touch, and surrenders to the desert Prince. But can he give her more than passion and precious jewels?
Angelique Sauveterre picked up a call from her exterior guards informing her that Kasim ibn Nour, Crown Prince of Zhamair, had arrived to see her.
She slumped back in her chair with a sigh, really not up to meeting someone new. Not after today.
“Of course. Please show him up to my office,” she said. Because she had to. Hasna had said her brother would drop by while he was in Paris.
Angelique didn’t know why the brother of the bride wanted to meet the designer of the bride’s wedding gown, but she assumed he wanted to arrange a surprise gift. So she didn’t expect this meeting to be long or awful. Her day with Princess Hasna and the bridal party hadn’t been awful. It had actually been quite pleasant.
It was just a lot of people and noise and Angelique was an introvert. When she told people that, they always said, But you’re not shy! She had been horribly shy as a child, though, and brutally forced to get over it. Now she could work a room with the best of them, but it fried her down to a crisp.
She yearned for the day when her sister, Trella, would be ready to be the face of Maison des Jumeaux. An ironic thought, since her twin wore the same face. As she freshened “their” lipstick, Angelique acknowledged that she really longed for Trella to be the one to talk to new clients and meet with brothers of the bride and put on fetes like the one she’d hosted today.
She wanted Trella to be all better.
But she wouldn’t press. Trella had made such progress getting over her phobias, especially in the past year. She was determined to attend Hasna and Sadiq’s wedding and was showing promise in getting there.
It will happen, Angelique reassured herself.
In the meantime… She rolled her neck, trying to massage away the tension that had gathered over hours of soothing every last wedding nerve.
At least she didn’t look too much worse for wear. This silk blend she and Trella had been working on hadn’t creased much at all.
Angelique stood to give a quick turn this way and that in the freestanding mirror in the corner of her office. Her black pants fell flawlessly and the light jacket with its embroidered edges fluttered with her movement while her silver cami reflected light into her face. Her makeup was holding up and only her chignon was coming apart.
She quickly pulled the pins out of her hair and gave it a quick finger-comb so her brunette tresses fell in loose waves around her shoulders. Too casual?
Her door guard knocked and she didn’t have time to redo her hair. She moved to open the door herself.
And felt the impact like she’d stepped under a midnight sky, but one lit by stars and northern lights and the glow of a moon bigger and hotter than the sun could ever hope to be.
Angelique was dazzled and had to work not to show it, but honestly, the prince was utterly spectacular. Dark, liquid eyes that seemed almost black they were such a deep brown. Flawless bone structure with his straight nose and perfectly balanced jawline. His mouth— That bottom lip was positively erotic.
The rest of him was cool and diamond sharp. His country was renowned for being ultra-conservative, but his head was uncovered, his black hair shorn into a neat business cut. He wore a perfectly tailored Western suit over what her practiced eye gauged to be an athletically balanced physique.
She swallowed. Find a brain, Angelique.
“Your Highness. Angelique Sauveterre. Welcome. Please come in.”
She didn’t offer to shake, which would have been a faux pas for a woman in Zhamair.
He did hold out his hand, which was a slight overstep for a man to demand of a woman here in Paris.
She acquiesced and felt a tiny jolt run through her as he closed his strong hand over her narrow one. Heat bloomed under her cheekbones, something his quick gaze seemed to note—which only increased her warmth. She hated being obvious.
“Hello.” Not Thank you for seeing me, or Call me Kasim.
“Thank you, Maurice,” she murmured to dismiss her guard, and had to clear her throat. “We’ll be fine.”
She was exceedingly cautious about being alone with men, or women for that matter, whom she didn’t know, but the connection through Hasna and Sadiq made the prince a fairly safe bet. If a man in the prince’s position was planning something nefarious, then the whole world was on its ear and she didn’t stand a chance anyway.
Plus, she always had the panic button on her pendant.
She almost felt like she was panicking now. Her heart rate had elevated and her stomach was in knots. Her entire body was on all-stations alert. She’d been feeling drained a few seconds ago, but one profound handshake later she was feeling energized yet oddly defenseless.
She was nervous as a schoolgirl, really, which wasn’t like her at all. With two very headstrong brothers, she had learned how to hold her own against strong masculine energy.
She’d never encountered anything like this, though. Closing herself into her office with him felt dangerous. Not the type of danger she’d been trained to avoid, but inner peril. Like when she poured her soul into a piece then held her breath as it was paraded down the catwalk for judgment.
“Please have a seat,” she invited, indicating the conversation area below the mural. There were no pretty views of actual Paris in this windowless room, but the office was still one of her favorite places for its ability to lock out the world. She spent a lot of time on her side of its twin desks and drafting tables.
Trella’s side was empty. She was home in Spain, but they often worked here in companionable silence.
“I just made fresh coffee. Would you like a cup?”
“I won’t stay long.”
That ought to be good news. She was reacting way too strongly to him, but she found herself disappointed. So strange! She took such care to put mental distance between herself and others. The entire world would have this effect on her if she didn’t, but he only had to glance around her private space and she felt naked and exposed. Seen. And she found herself longing for his approval.
He didn’t seem to want to sit, so she pressed flat hands that tremored on the back of the chair she usually used when visiting with clients. “Was there something particular about the wedding arrangements you wanted to discuss?”
“Just that you should send your bill to me.” He moved to set a card on the edge of Trella’s desk.
She turned to follow his movement behind her. So economical and fascinating. And who was his tailor? That suit was pure artistry, the man so obviously yang to her yin.
He caught her staring.
She tucked her hair behind her ear to disguise her blush.
“Her Majesty made the same offer and you needn’t have troubled yourself. It’s a wedding gift for Sadiq and the princess.”
He noted the familiarity of her using Sadiq’s first name with a small shift of his head. “So Hasna said. I would prefer to pay.”
His gaze was direct enough to feel confrontational, instantly amplifying this conversation into one of conflict. Her pulse gave a reflexive zing.
Why would he be so adamant—?
Oh, dear God! He didn’t think she and Sadiq were involved, did he?
Why wouldn’t he? According to the headlines, she’d slept with half of Europe. When she wasn’t doing drugs or having catfights with her models, of course.
“Sadiq is a longtime friend of the family.” She retreated behind the cool mask she showed the world, ridiculously crushed that he would believe those awful summations of her character. “This is something we want to do for him.”
“We.” His gaze narrowed.
“Yes.” She didn’t bring up her sister or what her family owed Sadiq for Trella’s return to them. The fact that Sadiq had never once sought any glory for his heroism was exactly why he was such a cherished friend. “If that was all…” She deliberately presumed she’d had the last word on the topic. “I should get back to the final arrangements for your sister’s things.”
Kasim had to applaud his future brother-in-law’s taste. Angelique Sauveterre had grown from a very sweet-looking girl into a stunning young woman. In person, she had an even more compelling glow of beauty.
Her long brunette hair glimmered and shifted in a rippling curtain and what had seemed like unremarkable gray eyes online were actually a mesmerizing greenish hazel. She was tall and slender, built like a model despite being the one to dress them, and her skin held a golden tone that must be her mother’s Spanish ancestry.
Cameras rarely caught her with a smile on her face and when they did, it was a faint Mona Lisa slant that allowed her to live up to the reputation of her father’s French blood: aloof and indifferent.
She wore that look now, but when she had first greeted him, she had smiled openly. Her beauty was so appealing, Kasim had forgotten for a moment why he was here and had been overcome with a desire to pursue her.
Perhaps this captivating quality was the reason Sadiq was so smitten?
“About those arrangements… Today went well?” He had understood it to be the final fitting of his sister’s wedding gown and the bridesmaids’ dresses as well as a private showing of other clothes made for Hasna, all taking place on the runway level of this building. Once the last nips and tucks were completed, the entire works would be packaged up and shipped to Zhamair for the wedding next month.
“You would have to check with the women who were here, but they all seemed pleased by the time they left.” So haughty and quick to keep the focus on his sister.
From what he’d heard around his penthouse, the consensus had been a high level of ecstasy with everything from the clothes to the imported cordial to the finger sandwiches and pastries.
“Hasna doesn’t seem to have any complaints,” he downplayed. “Which is why I’m willing to spare her the nuisance of replacing all that you’ve promised her.”
Angelique was tall in her heels. Not as tall as him, but taller than most women he knew, and she grew taller at his words, spine stiffening while her eyelashes batted once, twice, three times. Like she was filtering through various responses.
“All that we’ve made for her,” she corrected, using a light tone, but it was the lightness of a rapier. Pointed and dangerous. “Why on earth would you refuse to let her have it?”
“You can drop the indignation,” he advised. “I’m not judging. I’ve had mistresses. There is a time to let them go and yours has arrived.”
“You think I’m Sadiq’s mistress. And that as his mistress, I offered to make his bride’s gown and trousseau. That’s a rather generous act for a mistress, isn’t it?”
She repeatedly spat the word as if she was deeply offended.
He pushed his hands into his pants pockets, rocking back on his heels.
“It’s a generous act to arrange a private showing for such a large party at a world-famous and highly exclusive Paris design house.” It hadn’t been only his mother and sister, but Sadiq’s mother and sisters, along with cousins and friends from both sides.
The cost of something like today wasn’t so high as to imperil his riches, of course. The groom’s family could equally afford it and given the extent of the Sauveterre wealth, and the rumors that the family corporation had underwritten this folly of an art project in the first place, he imagined Angelique wouldn’t be too far out of pocket, either.
“Had this afternoon been the only line item offered at no charge, I wouldn’t have batted an eye,” he said. “But the gown? I know my sister’s taste.” He imagined it had easily run to six figures. “And to throw in wedding costumes for the rest of the party? Including mothers of the bride and groom?”
“Sadiq’s parents and sisters are also friends of the family.”
“Plus a full wardrobe for Hasna to begin her married life,” he completed with disbelief. “All at no cost? This is more than a ‘gift’ from a ‘family friend.’ If I had learned of it sooner, I would have taken steps long before today.”
Hasna had been chattering nonstop about her big day, but what did he care about the finer details? He was glad she was marrying for love, he wanted everything to go well for her, but the minutia of decor and food and colors to be worn had meant nothing to him. It wasn’t until he had noted she was grossly under budget—not like her at all—that he had quizzed her on when to expect an invoice for the dress.
“If I’m Sadiq’s mistress, then I should want the fat commission off this! I would have told him to make his bride come to us as a payoff for losing his support—which I don’t need, by the way.” The hiss in her tone sliced the air like a blade. “That is not the way it went at all. Hasna didn’t even know Sadiq knew us. She said we were her dream designer and he arranged it secretly, to surprise her. We’re the ones who decided not to charge him.”
“Yes, funny that he would have kept this tremendously close ‘friendship’—” he let her hear his disdain “—such a secret from the woman he had been courting for a year and professed to love. I might have understood if he was paying you off.” He wouldn’t have condoned it, not when Hasna had fought so hard for a love match and had managed to convince him that Sadiq returned her feelings, but at least he would have seen the why of this ridiculous arrangement.
“Have you discussed this with Sadiq?” she demanded frostily, arms crossed. “Because I am as insulted on his behalf as I am on my own.”
“Sadiq is plainly not capable of doing what is needed. I will advise him after the fact.”
“I am not sleeping with Sadiq! I don’t sleep with married men, or engaged ones, either.”
“I’m fairly confident you stopped sleeping with him once the engagement was announced. I can account for his whereabouts since then.”
“He knows you’re watching him like that? With these awful suspicions about him?”
“I don’t judge him for having lovers prior to settling down. We all do it.”
Although it annoyed him that his brother-in-law had slept with this particular woman. Kasim didn’t examine too closely why that grated. Or wonder too much about how such a soft-spoken man had managed to seduce her. Sadiq had always struck Kasim as being more book-smart than street-smart, earnest and studious and almost as naive as Hasna.
This woman was surprisingly spirited. She would dominate someone like Sadiq.
Which more than explained why Sadiq hadn’t been able to end things as definitively as he should.
“And I’m…what?” she prodded. “Trying to coax him back by outfitting his wife? Your logic is flawed, Your Highness.”
Her impertinence took him aback, it was so uncommon in his life. The most sass he heard from anyone was from his sister and she typically confined it to light teasing, never anything with this much bite.
He found Angelique’s impudence both stimulating and trying. She obviously didn’t understand who she was dealing with.
“Why are you arguing? I’m offering to pay you for the work you’ve done. The more you resist admitting the truth and promising not to see him again, the more likely I am to lose patience and pull the plug on this entire arrangement, Hasna’s tears be damned.”
“You would do that?” Her jaw slacked with disbelief. “To your sister?”
She had no idea to what lengths he would go—had gone—to protect his family.
He wouldn’t allow himself to be drawn into yet another inner debate about his actions on that score. It still wrenched his heart, especially when Hasna still cried so often, but he had done what he had to. Ruthlessly.
And would do it again.
But he would not see his sister’s heart broken again. She loved Sadiq and Sadiq would be the faithful husband she desired him to be. If that meant fast-tracking a new wedding gown, so be it.
He let Angelique read his resolve in his silence.
She stood there with her chin lifted in confrontation, trying very hard to look down her nose at him. “All I have to do is say that I’m Sadiq’s mistress and this goes away?”
“Plus send me the bill and never contact Sadiq again.”
“I can give your money to charity,” she pointed out.
“You can. The important thing is that you will not be able to hold the debt over Sadiq’s head.”
“Ah, finally I learn my real motivation.” Her arms came out in amazement. “I was beginning to think I was the stupidest mistress alive.”
“Oh, I’m quite in admiration of your cleverness, Angelique.”
His use of her name made her heart, which was already racing at this altercation, take a jump and spin before landing hard.
“Have we arrived at first names, Kasim?” It was a deliberate lob back, not unlike when she played tennis with her siblings and she was so well matched she had to throw everything she had into each swing of her racket.
This man! She had spent years developing a shield against the world and he brushed it aside like it was a cobweb, making her react from a subterranean level. It was completely unnerving.
His lashes flinched at her use of his given name.
“Your insolence toward me is unprecedented. Take extreme care, Angelique.”
Her fingernails were digging into her own upper arms, she was so beside herself. She used the sharp sting to keep a cool head. She had training for this type of negotiation, she reminded herself. He thought he was holding a small fortune in seed pearls and silk hostage, but he was actually holding a knife to the throat of her sister’s happiness along with the debt their family owed to Sadiq.
Given that, there was no way Angelique wanted to jeopardize the wedding arrangements or cause a long-term rift.
Listen. That was the first step, she reminded herself as her ears pounded with her racing pulse. Apparently Kasim felt he wasn’t being heard.
“To be clear,” she said with forced calm, “you believe I’ve orchestrated this to put Sadiq into my debt?”
“Perhaps not financially. His family is wealthy in resources and political standing as well as actual gold. You’ve managed to neutralize yourself in my sister’s eyes, so she couldn’t possibly see you as a threat if you were to move in at a later date for whatever Sadiq was deemed useful for.”
“Can I ask how you concluded that I’m so cold-blooded? Because even the online trolls don’t accuse me of this sort of thing.” She was nice! Her family regularly told her she was too nice.
“If your heart was involved, you would have refused this commission altogether. If you wanted to retaliate for a broken heart, you wouldn’t be trying so hard to please Hasna. No. I’ve told you, I’ve had mistresses. I understand exceedingly practical women. This is an investment in your future. I accept that on a philosophical level, but not when it risks my sister’s happiness. That I cannot allow. So.” He nodded decisively at the card he’d left on the desk. “Send me the bill. Do not contact him again.”
He made as if to leave.
“Wait!” She leaped forward and grabbed his arm.
He froze, gaze locking onto her hand on his sleeve for one powerful heartbeat before he lifted his eyes. His face was filled outrage and something else, something glittering and fiercely masculine.
“Have we arrived at that level of familiarity, Angelique?” He pivoted in a swift move to face her, taking her own arm in his opposite grip.
It was the sudden dive and snatch of a predatory bird catching prey in its talons.
They stood like that in what seemed like a slowdown in time. Her heart pounded so hard her lungs could barely inflate against it.
“We’re not finished t-talking.” Her voice came out painfully thin. She knew she should release him and step back, but she was quite blown away by the masculine interest that flared to life in his gaze.
She wasn’t falsely modest. She knew she was beautiful. It was one of the reasons camera lenses so often turned on her. Men looked at her with desire all the time.
There was no reason she should react to this man’s naked hunger. But she did.
A very animalistic sexual reaction pierced deep in her loins, flooding her with heat and… Yes, it was reciprocal desire. He was looking at her as if he found her appealing and she certainly found him as attractive as they came. There might even be something chemical here because her gaze dropped involuntarily to his mouth. Longing rose within her.
His lips quirked.
She knew he was reading her reaction and was amused. It stung. She felt raw and gauche. It was the bane of her existence that she couldn’t always stop whatever feelings were overtaking her. This was so intense it was unprecedented, touching her at all levels. Physical, mental, emotional… He held her entire being enthralled.
“We are finished talking,” he said, while his arm bent against her grip. His hand arrived at her waist, hot and sure. His other hand tightened slightly on her arm, drawing her forward a half step, commanding, but not forcing. “If you would like to start something new, however…”
Don’t, she ordered herself, but it was too late. His mouth was coming down to hers and she was parting her lips in eager reception.
~ * ~
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Be sure to watch for Book Two in The Sauveterre Siblings, His Mistress With Two Secrets.
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