Authors: Rima Jean
A New Adult Romance
Copyright © 2014 by Rima Jean
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the address below.
Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
Book Layout & Design ©2013 - BookDesignTemplates.com
Quantity sales. Special discounts are available on quantity purchases by corpor
ations, associations, and others. For details, contact the “Special Sales Department” at the address above.
Caught Between/ Rima Jean. -- 1st ed.
kept her eyes on her book, but the fact that she had read the same sentence five times and still didn't know what it said... The movement of the dark-haired man two aisles up flickered in the corner of her eye, and she bent her head even closer to her book. Her heart quickened as he stood and walked unsteadily in her direction, brushing past her towards the lavatory. His scent wafted at her, a blend of expensive cologne and mint.
Don't look back. Read your book, for God's sake.
How did he smell so good? He'd been on the flight with her from Paris, and they'd noticed each other at the airport, while waiting to board. She'd been self-conscious then, and she was even more so now -- it was 17 hours since her last shower, and she was sure she stank.
She shifted in her seat, careful not to disturb the sleeping wo
man to her left. She was ready for the trip to end. Her neck was stiff, her legs were restless. The tall Saudi in a headcloth across the aisle from her blew his nose in a tissue, trumpeting like a dying elephant.
The scent filled her nostrils again with a small gust of air.
Cedar wood and lemon. And mint.
His knuckles touched her arm as he made his way back to his seat, and Marya took the opportunity to examine what she could see of him. Tall, dark-skinned, hair as black as her own. Dressed in designer jeans that fit him
well. Button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows...
He turned suddenly, meeting her eyes.
Damn. Caught staring, and possibly even drooling.
He smiled before sitting back down in his seat, his dark eyes on her, and she ventured a smile back, her cheeks flaming. She looked back down at her book, the pages a blur of dark scribbles. She was only curious, really. There was such a motley crew on international flights, particularly ones, like this one, that were headed to Amman, Jordan. There were few Americans, many Europeans, and plenty of Arabs of all sorts -- Jordanians, Syrians, Saudis, Egyptians...
glanced down at her worn jeans, her Juicy Couture t-shirt (which now had a brownish stain on it from the "turbulence" during "dinner" on the last flight), her black hoodie and Puma sneakers. She must have screamed
. But the guy in aisle 24, well, he was harder to figure out. He had the look of an Arab, the manner and dress of a European, and the smell of an Miami native. Marya wrinkled her nose -- she'd never been attracted to Arabic boys. They all reminded her of her brothers and cousins.
But this guy was something different. Maybe he wasn't Arabic at all, maybe he was Italian, or Greek...
"Demoiselle, please put your seat back in its proper position, we are preparing for landing." The Air France steward tapped against her headrest, his mouth in a firm line.
She started, quickly pressing the button to raise her seat back. "Sorry." She glanced out the window and sighed, the excitement beginning to bubble up again in her gut. They were finally landing. In Jordan. She bit her lower lip, stifling a smile. Her dream was finally becoming a reality -- she was finally going on an archaeological dig.
Marya looked up to see the same steward glaring down at her with increasing hostility. "Fasten your seat belt immediately. We are going to land."
Marya fumbled with the buckle. "Sorry. Again." She managed a silly smile, but the steward did not smile back. Instead, Guy in Aisle 24 turned and grinned at her, rolling his eyes as the surly French steward hurried past.
Hmm. Not American. Probably not French...
The jolt of the plane as it landed and bounced across the lan
ding strip brought her out of her reverie. It felt like an eternity before the jet finally stopped and the seatbelt sign went out. With that resounding
, Marya was out of her seat, her bag slung across her shoulder.
The adventure begins.
She watched as Guy in Aisle 24 stood four people in front of her, pulling his sleek black duffel bag from the overhead compartment.
She followed the other passengers down the stairs that led to the tarmac. Blinking in the hot, dry wind, they crossed the tarmac to the terminal, the roar of the engines drowning out all other sounds. The Saudi's red checkered
headcloth flapped frantically in the wind and a child wailed for his pregnant mother, his chubby hands covering his ears.
The airport was dirty, hot, and smelled of sweaty bodies.
Marya wasn't surprised -- she'd visited enough Arab countries during her childhood to expect it. In a strange way, the smells and sounds were familiar to her, comforting, even. The baggage claim was a sad sight -- a single conveyor belt that rattled unpleasantly, as if the weight of the baggage upon it was just too much. Wiping the sweat from her forehead, Marya slipped out of her hoodie and looked around curiously. To her surprise, Guy in Aisle 24 stood behind her, his duffel bag at his feet. He smiled at her.
"Hello," he said, holding out his hand. "My name is Ashraf, but you can call me Ash. You are...?"
Marya smiled and tucked a greasy strand of hair behind her ear. She took his hand tentatively. "Marya. Nice to meet you, Ash." His accent was Arabic, with hints of London peppered in.
"You are traveling alone," he said. "Are you visiting family?"
Marya smiled grimly. She looked like a native, then. "No... I'm part of an archaeological team from a Canadian university. I'm meeting up with them here."
"You are Canadian?"
"No," she replied, wondering if she should have lied.
He grinned. "You're American. I knew it."
Marya laughed. "That obvious, huh?"
Ash looked around. "Are you meeting the Canadians at the ai
"No, they got here a few days ago. I don't attend their univers
ity, so I traveled separately." She scratched her chin. "Actually, maybe you can help me. I have to get to ACMER, the American Center of Middle Eastern Research. Do you know how much it will cost me to take a cab there? I'm still getting a hang of Jordanian currency."
Ash raised his eyebrows. "A cab? No need. I can take you there myself."
Marya blinked. "You mean... in your car?"
Marya," he answered with a laugh. "I live in Amman. I have a car."
As they stood before the gasping conveyor belt, Ash explained that he was a native Jordanian studying in London, and that he was in Amman to visit his family. "And you?" he asked, turning the questions back to
Marya. "You are not Jordanian by blood? Lebanese, then."
Marya replied, smiling. "My parents are from Damascus, Syria. Hold up, here's my suitcase." As she reached the baggage carousel, Ash pushed her aside gently and lifted her suitcase before it passed them.
stifled a smile.
He's trying to be a gentleman.
"Is there any more?" he asked.
"No, that's it."
"Let's go, then." He began to move towards the exit.
"Wait," Marya said. "What about your bag?"
He smiled, flashing his perfectly even, white teeth. "I don't have one." He lifted his duffel bag. "Just this."
Marya paused. "Then you were standing at the baggage claim..."
"...To talk to you," he finished unabashedly. His black eyes were fixed on her in a way that made her face flush hotly. He no
dded towards the exit. "Come on."
"Wait," she said, hesitating. "I don't know if I should accept a ride from someone I hardly know." She added quickly, "No o
ffense." She imagined her over-protective Syrian parents having a conniption fit when they learned she'd accepted a ride from a stranger.
Ash sighed, the ghost of a smile on his lips. "You Americans."
Marya narrowed her eyes. "I don't think a Jordanian woman would do any differently."
"That's true," Ash conceded. "But then, a Jordanian woman would likely not be traveling alone to begin with, let alone trave
ling to meet up with people she's never met in a country she's never been to."
Shifting from one leg to the other,
He has a point.
She had to smile. "Touché, Ash. You sure English isn't your first language?"
"Come on, then," Ash said, lifting her bag higher against his hip. "Before the Canadians miss you."
He drove a black BMW coupe. As Marya slipped into the passenger seat, she wondered about Ash's family. Money like this was less unusual in Jordan, she supposed, but it was still remarkable. "What are you studying, Ash?" she asked innocently, gripping the soft leather of her seat as they zipped into Amman.
Ash sat casually in his seat, reclined a bit too much in
Marya's opinion, using one hand to swerve between cars, his other hand dangling out the window. "Medicine," he replied. He glanced at her and smiled, and Marya wished he would look back at the road. "And you are studying..." he waved his hand in the air, trying to wrap his tongue around the word. "...archaeology?"
shifted uncomfortably in her seat. She knew all too well what Middle Easterners thought of her choice of studies.
If it's not medicine, law, or engineering, it's a waste of time.
"Like Indy Jones," he added with a grin.
"Sure." She desperately wanted to change the subject. "So how far away is ACMER?" Through the swirls of dust in the street, she saw the date palms lining the median, the white stone apartment buildings, both new and old. Again, she tingled with the familiarity of it all, a sense that she knew this place, even though she'd never been here.
"It's not far," Ash replied, pointing out the brand new constru
ctions to her with pride -- Jordan's largest skyscraper Capital Tower, Rotana Hotel-Amman, W Hotel-Amman, Business Heights, and the Abdali Central Market Place, Jordan's largest mall and shopping center. "It's still under construction, you see," Ash explained. "But it will be magnificent when it's finished."
nodded and pretended to be impressed with the occasional "wow" and "very nice." But the truth was, she couldn't care less about those sparkling new towers and shopping malls. If Ash could prove to her that the minds of the people progressed with their buildings, then she might have been more interested. As it stood, however, Marya wanted to see the age-darkened historic buildings, the timeless souqs, the Roman ruins, Byzantine churches, the pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls...
Soon Ash's careening through the streets of Amman came to an end, and he slowed before an old metal gate. Ash peered through the windshield at a plain brown structure at the top of a hill, b
eyond the gate. "That's ACMER," he said, giving her an apologetic look.
Rubbing her hands together nervously,
Marya nodded and took a deep breath. "Okay."
He grinned. "Let me get your suitcase."
She stepped out of the car and Ash pulled her suitcase around to her. "Shall I help you take it up the hill?" he asked.
Marya shook her head. "Thank you, but I'd like to go alone, if that's alright."
Ash leaned against the polished black fiberglass of his
car, his arms crossed on his chest, and squinted at her. "Can I come and visit you sometime, Marya? Or will you be too busy digging?" He smiled playfully.
For lack of a better place to rest her eyes,
Marya looked down at his clean brown loafers. Everything about Ash was immaculate -- from the gel in his hair, to the enormous, expensive watch around his wrist, to his breath. Despite feeling painfully inadequate, she forced herself to pull back her shoulders and meet his eyes. "I don't know what my schedule will be like yet, so I can't really say."
He flipped a cell phone from his pocket and turned it on. "Give me your number."
"Actually," Marya said nervously, "I'm not allowed to use my cell phone here, because it's too expensive."
A slow grin stretched across his face. "You're going to make me work for it, aren't you? Okay, then." He tucked his phone back into his pocket. "I'll see you later... maybe."
As he made his way back around the car, Marya felt a sudden pang of panic. She hoped her expression didn't reveal her thoughts as she said, "Thank you for the ride, Ash."
Before ducking into the driver's seat, he winked at her. "No problem, love. Good luck."
She didn't wait to see him drive off before starting her trek past the gate and up the hill. Her suitcase bumped along behind her, its little wheels no match for the rocky terrain. She reached the top of the hill, panting, and turned down a gravel path to the entrance of the brown building. A plaque beside the door read, "American Center of Middle Eastern Research." The door was propped open, but no one was inside. Marya rolled her suitcase through the doorway tentatively, looking around the empty room. There was a dusty couch and two love seats, a small coffee table littered with journal publications, and the odd artifact propped here and there on tables and mantles.