‘YOU’RE NOTHING BUT a rich man’s whore!’
The words still burned in Catrin’s ears and she couldn’t seem to shift them, no matter how hard she tried. Hateful words made worse by the fact that they had been spoken by her own mother.
‘What the hell do you think he’s doing when he’s out of the country?’ Ursula Thomas had demanded. ‘Going to bed early, with nothing but a book in his hand?’
Catrin had sat listening to the slurred words, feeling all her confidence drain away. But she couldn’t deny that the accusations had touched a raw nerve and that was probably why she had reacted so defensively. Why her nails had dug into the palms of her hands so hard that it hurt and instead of telling her mother it was none of her business, she had stupidly tried to justify herself. Because that was pointless. Some people only ever saw the dark side of life and her mother was one of them.
She was not a whore.
And Murat was going to bed on his own.
Catrin let her thoughts stray to the exotic Sultan who had changed her world. She had never planned to be a ‘kept woman’ living in a fancy penthouse, but that was the way things had turned out. Just as she had never planned a relationship with a man who was larger than life—a man for whom the rules had to be broken. Only now she had broken the most dangerous rule of all and she didn’t know what she was going to do about it.
Later, he would arrive here from Qurhah. He would take her in his arms and the undiluted pleasure of his kiss would quickly block out everything else. But she wondered for how long. How long before the niggling
doubts returned—along with the growing certainty that she had done what she had vowed never to do?
She had fallen in love with him.
She loved Murat.
It was the worst of all possible scenarios.
She walked over to the window and stared out. How had that happened? Especially to someone who didn’t ‘do’ love? Who had always claimed—with good reason—that she didn’t know what love was. She wondered when that invisible switch had been flicked. The one which had changed everything and made her heart race whenever she thought of him. Was it logical to love a man who was never really there for her, who had never offered her anything but fabulous sex and pretty baubles?
But love wasn’t logical, was it? It crept up on you whether you wanted it to or not. And that was dangerous. More to the point, it was futile. Because the only thing the Sultan had ever promised her was that he could never commit.
Her gaze moved to the distant treetops and the green canopy of leaves which were moving gently in the soft summer breeze. Sometimes it was hard to believe that this apartment was slap-bang in the centre of London—with a view dominated by a park so beautiful that sometimes it felt just like being in the countryside. Just as it was hard to believe that the sleek woman who stared back at her from the mirror every morning really was Catrin Thomas, the small-town woman who had given herself so completely to the autocratic desert King of Qurhah.
Gone was the unruly tangle of shiny curls which had once defined her and in their place were waves of hair so glossy that someone in a shop had once stopped her and told her she should be in a shampoo commercial. Gone were the
cheap clothes she used to buy on her very average salary and the cut-price make-up she used to pick up from the nearby supermarket. These days she looked expensive because she was expensive. A rich man’s mistress. With a price tag to match.
The telephone began to ring and Catrin rushed to answer it as soon as she saw Murat’s name flash up on the screen, because he hated to be kept waiting. But she accepted that, as she had accepted so much else about him. He was a sultan and a king. He ruled a vast and affluent desert region. He wasn’t used to waiting. His time—as she knew only too well—was very precious.
‘Hello?’ she said, breathlessly, because a phone call meant that his private jet was already in the air and soon he would be landing at the small airfield just outside London. And she was nowhere near ready!
‘Cat? Is that you?’
She sucked in an excited breath, because his deep, accented voice always had the same effect on her. It made her stomach twist into knots. It made her skin prickle with anticipation. Only now, of course, it also made her heart lurch with anxiety—because this was not just the ‘friends with benefits’ thing any more. This was—most inconveniently—that stupid thing called love and she must be careful not to show it.
‘Of course it’s me,’ she said softly. ‘Who else could it be?’
‘It didn’t sound like you.’ There was a pause. ‘For a minute I thought you might have gone away and left me.’