Cordelia's Quest for Love Ch. 04bypinkangel2868©
Cordelia had ﬁnished her breakfast and the waiter had cleared away the room service trolley, leaving her with a fresh pot of coffee and the newspaper she had ordered.
She had eaten her breakfast outside on her private patio, in the pleasurable warmth of the early morning sunshine, and by rights she ought to be feeling contently relaxed.
But she wasn't!
Her mobile phone started to ring and she picked it up.
The unexpected sound of her godfather's voice banished her mood of introspection.
He was ringing from a satellite connection, he told her, and would not be able to stay on the line very long.
"How are you getting on with your grandfather?" he asked.
"I'm not," Cordelia responded wryly. "I haven't even seen him yet. He hasn't been well enough, apparently."
"Cordelia—I can't hear you!" She heard her godfather interrupting her, his own voice so faint that she could barely hear it. "The line's breaking up. I'm going to have to go. I'll be out of contact for the next couple of weeks. Government business . . ."
A series of sharp crackles distorted his voice so much that Cordelia couldn't make out what he was saying, although she thought he was telling her that he loved her. Before she could make any response the line had gone dead.
Miserably she stared at the now blank screen. There would be no point in her trying to ring back; she had no idea exactly where her godfather was and she didn't have a number.
It was a pity that she hadn't been able to beg him to send her her passport before the line had broken up! Now her only means of escape from her unwanted marriage was quite deﬁnitely via Blaize.
As a tiny shower of tingling excitement skittered dangerously down her spine Cordelia warned herself that she was being foolish—and gullible! Why had she allowed Blaize to manoeuvre her into agreeing to last night's expensive meal, when surely her purpose could have been just as easily if not even better achieved via a short interlude on the beach with him?
She glanced at her mobile. Perhaps out of good manners she ought to at least telephone to enquire after her grand- father's health. A little nervously Cordelia dialled the number of the family villa.
An unfamiliar male voice answered, throwing Cordelia into confusion. Hesitantly she asked for her aunt, and was asked for her own name. Several seconds later Cordelia breathed out in relief as she heard her aunt's voice.
A little uncomfortably, asked after her grandfather.
"He has had a good night," her aunt told her. 'But he is still very weak. He insisted on going to morning prayers, although he was not supposed to do so. Unfortunately he had instructed his manservant to drive him there before I
realized what was going on. I am so glad that you have rung, Cordelia. It will mean such a lot to him to know of your concern."
The genuine warmth and approval in her voice was making Cordelia feel even more uncomfortable, and rather guilty as well, even though she tried to reassure herself that she had nothing to feel guilty about.
"You are being wonderfully patient," her aunt continued. "I promise you it won't be long now before you will be able to see him. I had intended to telephone you myself, to ask if you would like to go round the spice souq tomorrow morning, and then perhaps we could have lunch together?"
"I . . . that sounds very nice," Cordelia accepted lamely.
Feeling even more uncomfortable and guilty, she quickly ended the call.
She needed to see Blaize, she decided ﬁrmly, to make sure that he realized she was the one in charge of things and not him. He had said that he would make contact with her, but she was being driven by a sense of anxious ur- gency.
She wanted . . . needed to see Blaize now!
Half an hour later she stood on the beach, trying to cope with the frustration of explaining to the anxious to please lifeguard and the young man who was now in charge of the windsurfers what she wanted. But they didn't seem to recognise Blaize from her description, Cordelia slowly forced herself to count to ten.
It wasn't their fault that they didn't know Blaize! The fault lay with her, not with them, for not making sure that she was able to get in touch with him. Thanking the two young men for their attempts to help her, she made her way back to her hotel.
It was lunchtime but she wasn't really hungry; the emptiness inside her could not be satisﬁed with food! She had been infuriated by the way Blaize had tormented her about her virginity, and disturbed by her own physical reaction to him. Of course there was no way she had really wanted him to kiss her last night, but just supposing that he had.
Quickly Cordelia pressed the lift button, hoping that no one had noticed her ﬂushed face or the ﬁerce shudder that had gripped her body.
What on earth was the matter with her? Cordelia derided herself scornfully as the lift carried her smoothly and effortlessly upwards. She might be a virgin but that did not mean she was sexually repressed or unaware—so naïve and vulnerable that all it took to arouse her was one look from a predatory experienced male!
But if Blaize had kissed her . . . If he had then she would have had the common sense to reject him and send him packing, she assured herself ﬁrmly. Theirs was a business relationship and that was the way she intended it to stay!
The lift had stopped. She got out and made her way to her suite, holding her breath as she opened the door. But this time there was no virtually naked man reclining on her bed. Much to her relief! Or so she told herself.
Half an hour later she was still trying to decide what she was going to do with the rest of her day. A little restlessly she paced her terrace. She wasn't really in the mood for the beach. The guidebook she had found suggested several walks through the city which took in various points of interest. Quickly she went to ﬁnd it, picking it up and ﬂicking through it.
There was one walk which took in the older parts of the town, including a tour of the home of a former ruler. It had now been turned into a museum documenting the social, cultural, educational and religious history of the area.
Firmly Cordelia told herself that it would do her good to have something other than her grandfather and the problems he was causing her to occupy her mind. After changing into a pair of white linen trousers and pulling on a loose long-sleeved cotton top, Cordelia left her suite.
Outside the afternoon sunshine was strong enough to have her reaching for her sunglasses whilst she waited for the concierge staff to summon her a taxi. Out of the corner of her eye she saw an immaculate shiny black stretch limousine pulling up a few yards away from her.
Curiously she watched as a ﬂurry of anxious attendants hurried to open doors and several very important-looking robed men got out of the vehicle. Watching them discreetly, Cordelia suddenly stiffened, and then relaxed, shaking her head
ruefully. Just for a second she had actually thought that in proﬁle one of the robed men looked like Blaize! How ridiculous! Of course it couldn't possibly be him! It wasn't only her preoccupation with her grandfather she needed to clear out of her thoughts, she told herself grimly as she headed for her waiting taxi.
She had spent so much time inside the museum that outside it was going dark, Cordelia realized as she drew a deep breath of evening air into her lungs, her head full of everything she had just seen.
It wasn't just Zuran's history and past she had just experienced, it was also part of her own—which of course was why the contents of the museum had so absorbed her.
Inside the museum, for the ﬁrst time she had actually felt a sense of awareness and recognition of her Bedouin roots, and with that the ﬁrst tentative, uncurling delicate tendrils of belonging. For the ﬁrst time in her life she was actually
recognising and acknowledging that she needed to know more about this country—not just for her mother's sake but for her own.
There was a faint scent on the wind that caused her to lift her head and look towards the desert. There on the wind was the scent of her past, her destiny, and instinctively her senses recognised it. She was part of a proud race of people who had roamed this land when Cleopatra had been Queen, when Marco Polo had made his epic journey along the silk road.
Without thinking about what she was doing Cordelia reached down and scooped up a small handful of sand, letting it trickle slowly through her ﬁngers. Her country . . . Her eyes blurred with tears. Fiercely she blinked them away.
A group of people hurried past her, accidentally jostling her, and the mood was broken. It was almost dark and she was hungry. She hailed a cruising taxi and gave him the address of her hotel.
Hesitantly, Cordelia scanned the hotel foyer. She had booked herself a table for dinner at the complex's Italian restaurant, but now, standing in the foyer and realising that she was the only woman there on her own, she was beginning to have second thoughts. But Zuran was an extremely cosmopolitan and safe country, she reminded herself stoutly, and the complex was geared to the needs of the visitor—even a solitary female such as herself.
Tonight she had dressed a little less dramatically, in a simple black linen dress that buttoned down the front. Its neat square neckline showed off the delicate bones at the base of her throat and the proud arch of her neck, just as the plain gold bangle she was wearing on her wrist revealed the fragility of its bone structure. The bangle had originally belonged to her mother, and Cordelia touched it now, seeking its comforting reassurance.
She wasn't used to dining in public alone but she refused to eat a solitary meal in her suite!
The clerk at the hotel's guest relations desk assured her that she didn't have very far to walk to the Italian restaurant—which, he explained, was situated in its own private courtyard and could be reached on foot or by gondola.
Taking a gondola was too dangerous, Cordelia decided. It might remind her of last night and Blaize! She started to frown. All day she had been on edge, expecting Blaize to get in touch with her, but he had not done so. Because he had found someone more proﬁtable to spend his time with, both ﬁnancially and sexually? She had already seen that there was no shortage of admiring women eager for his company.
Pausing in mid-step, Cordelia ﬁrmly reassured herself that the funny little ache she was experiencing had nothing at all to do with any jealousy. Her? Jealous of Blaize's other women? How ridiculous!
The clerk had been right when he had told her that the restaurant wasn't very far away. Cordelia turned a corner and found herself in the courtyard he had mentioned to her.
The middle of the courtyard was ﬁlled with fountains and pools, the jets of water from them making intricate patterns suddenly broken by an unexpected powerful surge that sent one of the jets soaring into the air, much to the delight of a group of watching children who screamed and clapped their hands in excitement.
Smiling indulgently, Cordelia made her own way towards the restaurant.
Given her previous evening's experience, with the 'Parisian' Michelin-starred restaurant, she supposed she should have expected that the Italian trattoria would be equally authentic, and it certainly was—right down to the strolling musician and the appreciative genuinely Italian waiters, who ushered her to a table and handed her a menu.
Half an hour later, when Cordelia had just started to relax and feel comfortable as she sipped her wine and enjoyed the seafood starter she had ordered, the restaurant door opened and a group of brashly noisy young men burst in.
Cordelia could tell from the reactions of the restaurant staff that they were not entirely at ease with the loud-voiced demands of the new arrivals. To Cordelia, familiar with the behavior of a certain type of European male, it was obvious that the men had been drinking. Their attitude to- wards the staff was bordering on the aggressive, and although none of them looked particularly intimidating they were in a pack, and like all pack animals they possessed a certain aura of volatility and danger.
They were speaking in English, demanding that they were given a table large enough to accommodate them all and refusing to listen when the maître d' tried to tell them that the restaurant was fully booked.
"Don't give us that, mate," one of them objected. "We can see for ourselves that you've got plenty of empty tables."
Discreetly Cordelia affected not to notice what was going on when the waiter removed her empty plate and returned with her main course. But as she thanked him for her meal, she suddenly heard one of the men saying, 'Hey, look at that over there—the brunette sitting on her own. We'll have that table there, mate,' he continued, pointing to the empty one next to where Cordelia was seated.
She tensed warily. She could tell that the maître d' was trying to persuade them to leave, but it was obvious that they had no intention of doing so. She tried not to betray her discomfort as they surged round her, sitting at three of the tables close to her own so that she was almost surrounded by them.
They were ordering more drinks whilst making crudely off-colour comments about their sexual proclivities and deliberately staring at her, trying to force her to return their eye contact.
Cordelia wasn't exactly frightened. She lived in London, after all, and considered herself to be relatively streetwise.
But in London she would never have been eating on her own, or been in a situation which would have made her so vulnerable.
She was uncomfortably aware of the diners at the two other tables, young couples with children, getting up and leaving, whilst the raucous behavior of the men around her became even more unpleasant.
Although she hadn't ﬁnished her meal, Cordelia recognised that it was impossible for her to stay. The newcomers were making no attempt to order a meal and instead were becoming even more disorderly. A bread roll ﬂew past her head, quickly followed by another as two men on tables either side of her began to hurl them at one another.
"First to get one down her dress gets a free round!" one of the men sang out.
Cordelia had had enough.
As calmly as she could she stood up, but to her horror, instead of allowing her to walk past them, the men immediately surrounded her, making openly sexually suggestive comments both to her and about her to one another that made Cordelia's throat and face burn with disgust and anger.
She could see that the restaurant manager was on the telephone, and the maître d' was doing his best to assist her, begging the men to step back otherwise he would have to ask them to leave.
"Going to pick one of us, are you, sweetheart?" the most obnoxious of the gang smirked at Cordelia. "Or shall we choose for you? Which one is going to be ﬁrst, lads?" he demanded, turning to his friends.
The maître d' intervened, protesting, "Please, gentlemen, I must ask you to leave—"
"We aren't going anywhere, mate," Cordelia's tormentor told him drunkenly.
"Oh, but I think you are . . ."
The coolly incisive sound of Blaize's voice cut through the loud-mouthed vulgarities like tempered steel slicing into ﬂaccid ﬂesh, his appearance shocking Cordelia even more than it obviously did the gang.
Instinctively she turned towards him, her expression betraying both her disbelief and her fear.
"In fact, I think I can safely say that not only are you going to leave the restaurant, you are going to leave the country as well."
One of the gang started to laugh.
"Come off it, mate. You can't make us do anything! There's only one of you and a dozen or us, and besides . . . we're here for the races, see."
"The restaurant manager has already summoned the police," Blaize informed them coolly. "There is a law in this country against men harassing women, and in Zuran laws are reinforced."
Cordelia could hear sounds of new arrivals outside the restaurant, and it was obvious so could the gang.
Suddenly they began to look a lot less sure of themselves. Blaize was holding out his hand to her. Shakily Cordelia pushed her way past the men and went to his side, just as the restaurant door opened and several stern-looking uniformed police ofﬁcers came in.
"Come on," Blaize instructed Cordelia, taking hold of her arm. "Let's get out of here . . ."
Cordelia was only too glad to do so. And only too glad of the protection of his ﬁrm grasp on her arm as he ushered her back to her hotel.
She could see the grim look on his face, and the way that his mouth had compressed, somehow making him look very austere and stern.
Once they were inside the hotel, Cordelia thought she saw him give a small curt nod in the direction of the guest relations desk and the clerk seated there, but as he bustled her towards the lift she decided that she must have imagined it.
As the lift moved upward, Cordelia expelled a small shaky sigh of relief.
"You don't know how pleased I was to see you—" she began, but Blaize stopped her, his expression forbiddingly grim.
"What the hell where you doing?" he demanded furiously. "Why didn't you leave? Surely you must have realized . . ."
The unexpected harshness of his attack coupled with its unfairness shocked her into silence.
The lift stopped and they both got out. Her legs, Cordelia discovered, were trembling and she felt slightly sick.
Outside her suite, she tried to open her bag to ﬁnd her key card, but her ﬁngers were shaking so much she dropped it. As she bent down to retrieve it Blaize beat her to it, picking up her bag and opening it. Absently Cordelia noticed how tiny it looked in his hands. He had well-groomed nails, immaculately clean, and his ﬁngers were long and lean. The ﬂeshy pad just below his thumb mesmerised her, and she couldn't stop staring at it.
Distantly a part of her recognised that she was probably in shock, but that knowledge was too far away and vague for her to really comprehend it. Instead she simply accepted it gratefully as a rational explanation for the tremors that were now beginning to visibly shake her body, and the tight, aching pain that was locking her throat and preventing her from defending herself.
"Do you realize what could have happened if the manager
hadn't . . .?"
"I tried to leave," Cordelia told him, suddenly managing to speak. "But they wouldn't let me."
They were in the suite and the door was closed. Her shock suddenly accelerated out of the distance and ricocheted towards her. Tears ﬂooded her eyes and her body shook violently.
Now the anger she could hear in Blaize's voice sounded different.
As he repeated her name he made a sound, somewhere between a groan and a growl and then suddenly he was holding her in his arms.
Valiantly Cordelia forced back her tears. She could feel Blaize's hand stroking her hair. Tilting back her head, she looked up at him, and kept on looking, drowning in the molten mercury glow of his eyes as her lips parted and her head fell aback against his supporting arm.
"Cordelia . . ."
As he lowered his head she could feel the warmth of his breath tantalising the quivering readiness of her lips. She had wanted this . . . him . . . from the moment she had walked into her room the previous day and seen him lying on her bed, she acknowledged dizzily, as she breathed in and felt the hard pressure of his mouth against her own.
Passion! It was just a word! How could it possibly convey all that she was feeling, all she was experiencing—every nuance of sensation and emotion that burned and ached through her as his mouth moved over her own, taking her deeper and deeper into a world of dark velvet forbidden pleasure?