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Authors: Iris Johansen

The Golden Barbarian

BOOK: The Golden Barbarian
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She should be afraid …

 … Tess realized drowsily, as she opened her eyes and first saw the huge dark silhouette framed against the blood-red sky beyond the slit of window. In his billowing cloak he reminded her of a fierce hawk limned in fire. Galen.

She wasn’t afraid. There was something supremely natural in waking and seeing Galen watching her. She was glad the waiting was over. The years had passed so slowly, the loneliness had gone on too long. “Galen …” She inhaled sharply as he turned his face toward her. The features were the same, but his expression made them alien to her. He looked younger, harder, his dark eyes glittering in the firelight, his lips curving in a reckless smile that held an element of cruelty. “I think it would be best if we talk,” she murmured.

“I’m done with talk.” He shrugged off his cloak and dropped it on the carpet in front of the hearth. “And I’m done with waiting.”

Waiting. The word stirred something in her memory, a realization that had come to her in that half-waking state only a moment ago. “You’re not yourself. Let’s go back to the palace and we’ll—”

“On the contrary, you’ve never seen me more myself than I am at this moment.” He unbuttoned his shirt, took it off, and dropped it carelessly on the floor. His tone was soft, easy, almost carefree, and yet Tess found herself tensing as if confronted by a wild animal. The comparison was apt because in this moment Galen seemed a magnificent catlike creature, lithe, silken, completely sensual.

Bantam Books by Iris Johansen






















This edition contains the complete text
of the original hardcover edition


A Bantam Book

Doubleday edition published 1991
Bantam edition / April 1992

All rights reserved
Copyright © by Iris Johansen

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form
or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording,
or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in
writing from the publisher
For information address: Doubleday

eISBN: 978-0-307-79437-6

Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Random House Inc., Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Random House Inc., New York, New York




Bantam Books by Iris Johansen

Title Page



About the Author

Excerpt from FINAL TARGET

Excerpt from BODY OF LIES

Belajo, Tamrovia
April 8, 1797

She was going to die!

Tess could feel herself sinking deeper and deeper into the quicksand as each second passed. The muck was already up to her shoulders and creeping higher. Sweet Mary, she didn’t want to die, to slip beneath that slimy surface and never come up again.

It had all happened so fast.…

Apollo whimpered and started struggling once more against the insidious suction.

No, she couldn’t die. If she died, Apollo would also die and this would have been for nothing.

Tess drew the wolfhound closer and stroked
his long muzzle. “Shh. It’s all right, boy. I’ll think of something.”

“It will be interesting to discover what that will be.”

Dizzying relief poured through her as she glanced over her shoulder to see her cousin Sacha, sitting his horse a few yards away. Luck was with her today. Not only were she and Apollo not going to die, but she might get out of this without even a beating. Sacha Rubinoff wasn’t like any other grown-up she knew. Though he was almost twenty-five to her twelve, he never ignored her, and was more apt to laugh than frown at her misdemeanors. “I can’t get out, Sacha. The vine broke and I—”

“What the devil do we have here?”

Sacha had been joined by another rider, and Tess glanced impatiently at the man. Couldn’t he see she had no time for conversation? It was Sacha’s new friend, the barbarian from that outlandish country across the border. “Sacha’s golden barbarian” she had heard her father call him, and she had wondered why. After all, with an olive complexion and dark hair and eyes, he was more bronze than golden. She looked again at her cousin and demanded, “Get us out of here, Sacha.”

Sacha grinned. “Presently.” He turned to the man who had reined in beside him. “I don’t believe you’ve been introduced to my young cousin, Galen. Sheikh Galen Ben Raschid, permit me to present Her Highness Theresa Christina Maria
Rubinoff. I assure you she’s not usually so filthy.” His brow drew together as he ruminated on his assertion. “Though now that I think upon it—”

“Sacha!” The mud was up to her throat, and she was having trouble keeping Apollo’s muzzle above the thick ooze. “Stop teasing me!”

“Oh, very well.” He swung off his gray mare and began looking around for a branch. “I must remember to reprimand your governess, Cousin.” He turned to Galen. “She’s all of twelve years old and apparently can’t read that large Danger sign by the tree.”

“I can read,” Tess said indignantly.” And I know this forest better than you. It was Apollo. He ran ahead of me, and when he got stuck, he began thrashing and sank deeper, and I held onto the vine from that tree and—”

“Had to go in after him.” Sacha sighed as he picked up a long branch and tested it for sturdiness. “Not clever, Tess.”

“I couldn’t let him die.” The mud was almost up to her chin, and fear tightened her throat. “Can you … hurry?”

Sacha extended the branch out over the mud pool. It lacked a foot of reaching her. “You can make it. Let go of the dog and move slowly across and grab hold. I’ll pull you in.”

The branch appeared to be sturdy enough, and she knew how strong Sacha was. In a moment she could be on safe ground. She looked longingly at the branch.

Then she shook her head. “I can’t leave
Apollo. He’d start thrashing and go under, You’ll have to think of something else.”

Sacha’s grin disappeared. “There’s no time, Tess. Don’t be stupid. He’s just a hound. You’ll go under yourself in a few minutes.”

Panic soared through her, and she could feel the tears sting her eyes. She was going to die, after all. “I
leave him.”

Sacha began cursing beneath his breath.

“You must be very still.” It was the other man speaking to her. Galen Ben Raschid removed his elegant dark blue brocade coat and laid it over the pommel before slipping from the saddle. “Try not to move at all until I tell you.” He jerked off his gleaming black boots and tossed them aside.

“You’re going in after the stubborn chit?” Sacha shook his head. “That’s my task, friend.”

Galen smiled. “A prince of the realm up to his ears in mud? Leave it to me. A little dirt and an uncivilized brigand are nothing out of the ordinary. Do keep that branch handy, though.”

He stepped onto the quicksand. He was a big man, his weight far greater than Tess’s, and he immediately sank to his knees. By the time he reached her, the mud was up to his waist.

“Hold tight to the hound,” Galen said as he searched beneath the surface, found and grasped her waist. “Don’t try to help me.” He lifted her head and called, “The branch, Sacha.”

Tess murmured soothingly to Apollo before shifting her grip from his neck to his middle.
“What if his nose goes under? He won’t be able to breathe.”

“We’ll be out of here in a moment. You might start worrying about breathing yourself.”

“Apollo is my responsibility.” She added absently, “You’ll take care of me.”

“I will?”

“Yes.” She had no doubt that she was safe now. From the moment he had slipped his arms about her waist and started pulling her toward firm ground, she had felt a strange sense of boundless security. She glanced around and met his gaze. “I know you won’t let me go.”

His arm instinctively tightened on her waist. “No, I won’t let you go.” He looked away from her. “I’ve gone to far too much trouble to lose you now. Another few inches and I’ll be able to grab the branch, and then we’ll let Sacha do the work.”

“Better than getting filthy in that muck,” Sacha called cheerfully. “I have no fondness for playing in the mud. I’ve thought it over, and I believe I’m actually doing you a favor, Galen. You might never have had this experience in Sedikhan. Of course, you have sand dunes, but what about—”

“The branch.”

Sacha extended the branch a little farther, and Galen grabbed it with his free hand.

Sacha backed away, working the branch hand over hand to pull them through the mud. In a moment he was reaching down and jerking Galen out of the quicksand.

“Dear Lord!” Sacha exclaimed. Galen was
coated with gray-brown mud from his chin to his stockinged feet, and Sacha began to roar with laughter.
. This is wonderful. I wish your
chères amies
could see you now. Perhaps they wouldn’t be so eager to come to your bed.”

“Or perhaps they’d be more eager,” Galen said dryly as he turned and lifted Tess onto solid ground. “It’s not my fine looks that make them open their thighs.”

“What a cynic you are. You have no faith at all in the fair sex.”

Galen glanced meaningfully at Tess. “This is no talk for children to hear.”

“Tess?” Sacha shook his head. “She may be a child, but she’s not ignorant. She grew up at court and knows the way of things.” He turned to Tess. “Don’t you, brat?”

“Talk later.” Tess was struggling, tugging at Apollo, trying to get him out of the mud. “Help me.”

Galen pushed her aside, grabbed the wolfhound by the shoulders, and lifted him from the muck onto safe ground.

The borzoi immediately repaid him by shaking his lean body, sending mud flying in all directions.

“Ungrateful wretch.” Galen wiped a splotch of mud from his cheek.

“He couldn’t help it,” Tess defended the animal fiercely. “Dogs do that. You can’t expect—” She rounded on Sacha fiercely. “Stop laughing at him. My lord Ben Raschid was very brave and does not deserve this from you.”

BOOK: The Golden Barbarian
8.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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