But that was cowardly, she told herself. She had to face him no matter how powerfully he affected her. Just extend her hand, offer a brief, polite greeting and pull back. Then calmly step out of Ramzi’s office and…run.
Shantra stepped forward but her feet felt odd, as if they were…floating. Looking up at the man, she realized that he seemed more than a foot taller than she was, but he was most likely only about three inches over six feet. All of her brothers were about the same height but somehow, this man’s size made her feel small, vulnerable.
She wasn’t small! She wasn’t vulnerable either! She was creative and strong! She knew how to take care of herself, and had her own income that she had used to help grow her business.
Of course, these men knew nothing of her work and they never would. It was her secret world, her life, which she controlled and managed without their masculine condescension. As she extended her hand towards the man, she told herself over and over again that she was strong, that she wasn’t afraid of anything!
But then his strong fingers closed over hers and heat shot up through her arm, startling her. She tried to pull back, her eyes flashing up to his, but his grip tightened around her fingers and she was once again trapped, once again vulnerable.
The man’s eyes flashed and his fingers curled around her smaller hand, trapping her and intensifying her trembling. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Princess Shantra. I haven’t heard a great deal about you. You must be one of Kilar’s best kept secrets.”
Her brother laughed softly, oblivious to the increasing tension between the other two people. “Shantra could never be described as quiet, but she isn’t one of those women that craves the night life or the spotlight.”
The stranger’s features didn’t move in any way, but there was a sense that he was smiling at her for some reason. She was fascinated by his eyes and she stared into their dark depths and realized that there was a band of yellow around the outside of the dark iris. But even those fascinating irises weren’t completely black, or dark brown. Somehow that yellow band made him…no, there was no way that she could say that this man was soft. Not in any way was he soft. His shoulders were broad and the hand holding hers was rough, almost as if the man worked in construction or something like that. Her heartbeat accelerated even more with that discovery, although why rough hands would do that, she had no idea.
She took a deep breath and stepped back, relieved when he released her hand.
Her brain wasn’t functioning properly, she thought. Her brother was talking about something, although she had no idea what that might be, his words muffled as she tried to recover from the intensity of this stranger’s touch.
And then there was silence. She looked up and realized that both men were looking down at her expectantly. “I’m sorry, what were you saying?”
Shantra knew that her brother was trying hard not to roll his eyes. “I was asking if you could take Mia’s place tonight for dinner. She still hasn’t recovered yet.”
Shantra nodded her head, intensely relieved for a change of subject. Anything to get her out of this man’s presence, she told herself. “Of course. I’ll help in any way I can,” she told her brother. Mia was Ramzi’s wife and had just delivered their daughter, an adorable baby girl with a head of thick, dark hair. She was a week old and already Ramzi was spoiling his little daughter. Shantra’s two nephews were pretty excited about having a little sister too.
“It’s settled then,” Ramzi said and Shantra took that as her cue to escape. “If there’s anything else Mia needs, just let me know,” she said and walked towards the doorway.