Authors: Kris Pearson
TAKEN BY THE SHEIKH
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Love and thanks to Philip for the covers and the unfailing encouragement and computer un-snarling. And to my friend Kendra—whose sharp eyes and quick brain make her a great critique partner.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is co-incidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Kris Pearson
Cover design © by Philip Pearson
Cover photograph dreamstimes.com
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the US Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior permission of the author.
Free first chapter of Kris’s novel, ‘Seduction on the Cards’, at the end of this book.
Laurel de Courcey stared at the cliff in dismay. After her exhausting trek through the desert she had to climb
The unexpected barrier at the end of the gully rose up steep and crumbling. The tiny stream she’d been following seeped out from under the daunting rock-face. What was on the other side? Rafiq hadn’t warned her about this—simply ordered her to walk, and said she’d find ‘a house’.
Well, there was no house in sight. And did she trust him anyway? He might be all taut muscles and flashing eyes, but she had to remember he was only the lesser of two evils. The other men in his group? Her body convulsed in a sudden shudder just thinking about them.
She tried to banish the hideous memory and gulped the last of her water, refilled the bottle from the life-saving trickle, clenched her teeth, and attempted the hazardous scramble up out of her temporary hiding place. How she wished she had his strength and endurance!
Long minutes later she hauled herself over the top and lay panting. Black spots whirled across her vision. She squeezed her eyes closed, and still the spots flickered and jumped. Finally she raised her head.
a house—or some sort of half-concealed building anyway. A high plastered wall hid much of it, but an arched gateway, softened by cascades of pink blossom from a gnarled tree, looked inviting.
She rose wearily and staggered onward. Palm-fronds and other lush greenery came into focus as she limped nearer, and she feared the unexpected oasis might be a mirage after the endless inhospitable miles of sand and rock.
But no—the gate was real. She stood in the dancing shade of the blossoms and tugged the bell-rope. Within seconds a small wrinkled woman appeared, bustling toward her with colorful long skirts fluttering around her legs.
Laurel pulled Rafiq’s note from her jeans pocket and smoothed it out. Would this be the woman she was supposed to give it to? She held it forward.
The impassive dark face lit up. The gate swung open. The little woman whisked the note from her fingers and became extremely animated, urging her in and rattling away with great enthusiasm.
“Laurel,” Laurel said, tapping her chest with a finger.
“Yasmina,” the woman replied, thumping her own.
“Yasmina,” Laurel tried. This brought nods and smiles.
“Rafiq?” she asked. More nods and smiles, but also an unmistakable gesture of ‘not here now’.
Yasmina re-read the note with close attention, all the while chattering in her own language, and drew Laurel along the path and in through the doorway of a turreted old house with thick stone walls. The blinding light outside made the interior seem dim and restful, and the relative coolness washed over her skin like a blessing.
After progressing through a long hallway, they arrived in a high-ceilinged bedroom. Yasmina threw open a further door, and Laurel stood amazed as the servant started water gushing into a marble bath from an ornate gold spout. She must look desperately hot and dirty if this was how she was welcomed!
The little woman emerged—smiling and gesturing that Laurel was to treat the room as her own. She trotted off, and Laurel sank down on the bed before her legs gave way under her. What on earth would happen next?
The bath looked blissful once she managed to rise to her weary feet again. Yasmina had thrown a handful of fresh rose-petals into it. Laurel assumed she’d been tidying up full-blown blooms as they proceeded up the path together, but plainly the flowers had been intended for this. Fragrant foam grew ever deeper in the water as the bath filled. A selection of French soaps spilled from a basket at one end of the huge tub. It all seemed way over the top for a semi-deserted relic so far from civilization.
She stripped and bathed, shampooing the gritty sand from her long fair hair and letting the delicious warm scented water soothe away her aches. When she returned to the bedroom she found all her clothes had disappeared and a gauzy mauve robe had been laid on the bed. She slipped it on, admired its bands of amazing gold embroidery, stretched out on the bed to consider the strange turn her life had taken, and plummeted into an exhausted asleep.
At once the nightmare hit again. The wind from the desert moaned eerily. Palm-fronds clattered, but otherwise very little moved as the small seaside resort of Kalal drowsed in the afternoon heat.
A solitary vehicle coasted to a halt just behind her.
Laurel half-turned when she heard the door creak open, but she had only a split second to register the fast-moving dark shape of a man before brutal hands dragged a bag down over her face. As fast as that, she’d been trapped.
A scalding cascade of horrendous possibilities flooded her brain. Terrified, she screamed at top volume, dropped her sketching pad, and kicked backwards with every ounce of her considerable determination. The heel of her shoe connected with what she hoped was her captor’s shin.
It caused a guttural male voice to let loose a vicious curse in the local language and she enjoyed a fleeting flash of triumph. But then an iron-hard hand closed over her face, pressing her lips painfully back against her teeth. And a steely arm wrapped around her waist and heaved her forward and face-down.
Her scrabbling fingers told her she’d landed on a slab of foam rubber on a hard floor.
Doors banged, a motor revved, and she jerked backward as the vehicle took off at high speed.
Shudders of panic took over then. Huge fluttery tremors ran up and down her spine.
She was blind. Cruel hands had yanked a drawstring tightly around her neck so the bag was closed, and cut off any vestige of light...any hope of seeing where she was being taken.
She struggled and kicked in the swaying vehicle, and suffered the further insult of a warm weight moving to pin her down to the no-doubt filthy mattress.
“Be still!” a man’s deep voice growled close against her ear.
She was so astounded to hear accented but obvious English she momentarily froze before resuming her frenzied bucking and struggling. But she had no hope of escaping from under his strong body.
Hard hands grabbed her wrists, and she heard the snick of handcuffs and felt the smooth hard metal against her skin. Her whirling brain registered she was now one step more helpless.
Fingers trailed from her wrists to her elbows and back to her useless hands. It was almost a caress. Her heart thudded even more rapidly as the implication sank in.
“Be still,” he muttered again. “We do not mean to hurt you as long as you cooperate.”
With her shoulders flattened down under his chest, Laurel’s breasts were squashed against the floor. The man’s hips were exactly above hers. His bony pelvis ground against her bottom as the vehicle swayed and braked. A long hard thigh clamped either side of her own, pinning her down, holding her captive.
And between those impressive thighs the firm masculine bulge felt all too obvious. Desolation engulfed her then.
“Lie still and it will go easier for you,” he growled, lifting his upper torso off her which at least gave her poor breasts some relief.
But the shift in weight drove his hips even more firmly into hers, and there was no escaping the intimate press of his body. She willed her legs to weld together as shattering images exploded across her brain.
What did they want from her? One minute she’d been wandering happily in the sun, thinking of the children she was caring for, and inventing a family of her own. In an instant, future imaginings had been ripped away and replaced with the desperate danger of the present moment, and this cruel man, and not nearly enough air.
Blind and half-deaf, she used the senses she had left to get some sort of fix on her situation. There was him—who was strong and muscular because he now had her firmly confined. There was the driver. And there seemed to be another hoarse voice in the front seat, too. Presumably that was the man who’d grabbed her in the street and pushed her in to be held down by this one?
So three of them at least. Awful odds. She didn’t stand a chance.
Absolute terror engulfed her as she tried to drag big gulps of dead air into her laboring lungs.
“I can’t breathe,” she shrieked in a panic—almost more scared of suffocating than of any other eventual fate.
Hands slid around her neck, probing until they located the drawstring holding the bag fastened. She shuddered to feel callused fingers on her exposed nape...on the tender skin under her jaw. Her heart thudded with a fast panicked beat.
“Not another sound,” the man grated. But at least he’d loosened the drawstring and let in a little light and some much fresher air.
Laurel lay there gasping like a stranded fish, gulping in oxygen—oxygen laced with the oily smell of the vehicle and a soft spiciness from the man who pinned her down on the mattress.
She heard a hoarse and somehow dirty comment from the front seat. Her captor chuckled above her. The vibrations from his body travelled down into hers, setting her nerves even further on edge if that was possible.
“What?” she snapped, with little hope of a translation.
“He says I have the best job,” came the unexpected reply in that deep husky voice. “But only as long as you remain sensible. I don’t want to hurt you, but if you struggle I may have to.”
To her horror a terrified moan escaped from her throat, and a cackle of laughter erupted from the man in the front.
The vehicle—some sort of van, she assumed—continued to career along, swaying from side to side, bumping into hollows, grinding up slopes and tipping down again. They’d left the dusty level streets of Kalal miles behind, and must be out in the desert country by now.
The endless empty inhospitable desert country—where it would be very hard to find her.
The man eased his weight away to one side, which provided a small increase in comfort.
“Thank-you,” she muttered. For surely she should co-operate as fully as possible to ensure her eventual safety?
“My pleasure,” his voice murmured right beside her ear.
His pleasure to move to a more comfortable position for himself? Or to have enjoyed the proximity of her body to his?
Utter pig. Disgusting criminal kidnapping terrorist pig.
She tensed as his hands slipped around her neck again, sliding in under her jaw and up over her mouth. The temptation to bite his hateful fingers was almost beyond her conscious control.
But somehow she held still and was rewarded by her suffocating blindfold being eased upward until the air flooded in and her face was in daylight at last. Her red cap—or rather
red cap—had been knocked askew when the bag was forced down over her head. Finally she nudged it back up into position so the stiffened peak no longer rasped at her nose.