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Authors: Sharon Kendrick

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Defiant in the Desert

BOOK: Defiant in the Desert
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Defiant in the Desert

Only scandal will do

Sara Williams’s hand in marriage was bought to cover a debt. But she’s determined never to marry anyone!

Diplomat Suleiman Abd al-Aziz must deliver Sara to her desert destiny. But with Sara set on escaping her marriage by seducing him, his iron will is sorely tested!

The Sheikh’s Undoing

Life in the fast lane!

Independent Prince Tariq Kadar al Hakam counts on no one. So when a car accident leaves this dynamic sheikh reliant on his sensible PA, Isobel Mulholland, he’s furious!

But with Isobel at his beck and call, could her enchanting touch, in fact, be Tariq’s undoing…?

Dear Reader,

I love men of the desert. Powerful men with hard eyes and dark hearts—and sexuality no woman can resist. The two heroes you’ll find in this book are both such men—though their natures are very different.

In
Defiant in the Desert,
Suleiman Abd Al-Aziz has been given an unwanted mission. He must return reluctant bride Sara Williams to the desert, to marry the Sultan of Qurhah. But Suleiman wants Sara for himself—just as she wants him.
And both of them know that their love is forbidden.

This is a story of a couple who have all the odds stacked against them. Who have to fight duty and tradition, as well as their own desire. It is, if you like—an
impossible
love story.

The Sheikh’s Undoing
is a complete contrast. International tycoon Sheikh Tariq is a player—and bedding women is his favorite pastime. Tariq’s long-suffering PA, Izzy Mulholland, hates the way he lives his life, but at least she can turn her back on it at the end of each working day.

That is, until Tariq has a prang in his sports car and needs a week’s respite in Izzy’s country cottage. Which is where she learns that you don’t have to
like
a man to want to share his bed….

I adored writing about these powerful, often infuriating men—and the two feisty women who make them question everything they’d previously thought about life, and love.

Let me know which desert man captured
your
heart….

Love,

Sharon

Desert Men of Qurhah
Their destiny is the desert!

The heat of the desert is nothing compared to the passion that burns between the pages of this stunning new trilogy by Sharon Kendrick!

Defiant in the Desert
December 2013

Oil baron Suleiman Abd al-Aziz has been sent to retrieve the Sultan of Qurhah’s reluctant fiancée who is determined to escape the confines of her engagement—by seducing him!

In February 2014 read
Shamed in the Sands

Princess Leila has always wanted something different from her life. So when sexy advertising magnate Gabe Steele arrives to work for her brother, Leila invites royal outrage by convincing Gabe to give her a job.

And coming soon…
The Sultan of Qurhah’s story

The Sultan of Qurhah is facing a scandal of epic proportions. His fiancée has run off, leaving him with a space in his king-size bed. A space once occupied by his mistress—Carly Conner. And now he wants her back—at any price!

SHARON
KENDRICK

Defiant in the Desert

All about the author…
Sharon Kendrick

SHARON KENDRICK
started storytelling at the age of eleven and has never really stopped. She likes to write fast-paced, feel-good romances with heroes who are so sexy they’ll make your toes curl!

Born in west London, she now lives in the beautiful city of Winchester—where she can see the cathedral from her window (but only if she stands on tiptoe). She has two children, Celia and Patrick, and her passions include music, books, cooking and eating—and drifting off into wonderful daydreams while she works out new plots!

Visit Sharon at
www.sharonkendrick.com.

Other titles by Sharon Kendrick available in ebook:

THE GREEK’S MARRIAGE BARGAIN
A WHISPER OF DISGRACE
(Sicily’s Corretti Dynasty)
A SCANDAL, A SECRET, A BABY
BACK IN THE HEADLINES
(Scandal in the Spotlight)

Defiant in the Desert

To Peter O Brien—the intrepid Irishman—who taught me some of the mysteries and miracles of desert life

CHAPTER ONE

‘T
HERE

S
A
MAN
downstairs in Reception who says he wants to see you.’

‘Who is it?’ questioned Sara, not bothering to lift her head from the drawing which was currently engrossing her.

‘He wouldn’t say.’

At this Sara did look up to find Alice, the office runner, staring at her with an odd sort of expression. Alice was young and very enthusiastic, but right now she looked almost
transported
. Her face was tight with excitement and disbelief—as if Santa Claus himself had arrived early with a full contingent of reindeer.

‘It’s Christmas Eve afternoon,’ said Sara, glancing out of the window at the dark grey sky and wincing. No snow, unfortunately. Only a few heavy raindrops spattering against the glass. Pity. Snow might have helped boost her mood—to help shift off the inevitable feeling of
not quite fitting in
which always descended on her at this time of year. She never found it easy to enjoy Christmas—which was one of the main reasons why she tended to ignore the festival until it had gone away.

She pushed a smile to the corners of her mouth, trying to pick up on Alice’s happy pre-holiday mood. ‘And very soon I’m going to be packing up and going home. If it’s a salesman, I’m not interested and if it’s anyone else, then tell them to go away and make an appointment to see me in the new year.’

‘He says he’s not going anywhere,’ said Alice and then paused dramatically. ‘Until he’s seen you.’

Sara put her purple felt-tip pen down with fingers which had annoyingly started to tremble, telling herself not to be so stupid. Telling herself that she was perfectly safe here, in this bright, open-plan office of the highly successful advertising agency where she worked. That there was no reason for this dark feeling of foreboding which had started whispering over her skin.

But of course, there was...

‘What do you mean—he’s not going anywhere?’ she demanded, trying to keep her voice from rising with panic. ‘What exactly did he say?’

‘That he wants to see you,’ repeated Alice and now she made another face which Sara had never seen before. ‘And that he craves just a few minutes of your time.’

Craves.

It was a word which jarred like an ice cream eaten on a winter day. No modern Englishman would ever have used a word like that. Sara felt the cold clamp of fear tightening around her heart, like an iron band.

‘What...what does he look like?’ she asked, her voice a croaky-sounding husk.

Alice played with the pendant which was dangling from her neck in an unconscious display of sexual awareness. ‘He’s...well, he’s pretty unbelievable, if you must know. Not just because of the way he’s built—though he must work out practically non-stop to get a body like
that—
but more...more...’ Her voice tailed off. ‘Well, it’s his eyes really.’

‘What about his eyes?’ barked Sara, feeling her pulse begin to rocket.

‘They were like...black.
But like,
really
black. Like the sky when there’s no moon or stars. Like—’

‘Alice,’ cut in Sara, desperately trying to inject a note of normality into the girl’s uncharacteristically gushing description. Because at that stage she was still trying to fool herself into thinking that it wasn’t happening. That it might all be some terrible mistake. A simple mix-up. Anything, but the one thing she most feared. ‘Tell him—’

‘Why don’t you tell me yourself, Sara?’

A cold, accented voice cut through her words and Sara whirled round to see a man standing in the doorway of the office. Shock, pain and desire washed over her in rapid succession. She hadn’t seen him for five long years and for a moment she almost didn’t recognise him. He had always been dark and utterly gorgeous, gifted with a face and a mind which had captured her heart so completely. But now...

Now...

Her heart pounded.

Something about him had changed.

His dark head was bare and he wore a custom-made suit instead of his usual robes. The charcoal jacket defined his honed torso just as well as any folds of flowing silk and the immaculately cut trousers emphasised the endless length of his powerful thighs. He had always carried the cachet which came from being the Sultan of Qurhah’s closest advisor, but now his natural air of authority seemed to be underpinned with a steely layer Sara had never seen before. And suddenly she recognised it for what it was.

Power.

It seemed to crackle from every pore of his body. To pervade the serene office environment like high-voltage electricity. It made her wary—warier than she felt already, with her heart beating so fast it felt as if it might burst right out of her chest.

‘Suleiman,’ she said, her voice unsteady and a little unsure. ‘What are you doing here?’

He smiled, but it was the coldest smile she had ever seen. Even colder than the one which he had iced into her the last time they’d been together. When he had torn himself away from her passionate embrace and looked down at her as if she was the lowest of the low.

‘I think you can probably work that one out for yourself, can’t you, Sara?’

He stepped into the office, his clever black eyes narrowing.

‘You are an intelligent woman, if a somewhat misguided one,’ he continued. ‘You have been ignoring repeated requests from the Sultan to return to Qurhah to become his wife. Haven’t you?’

‘And if I have?’

He looked at her, but there was nothing but indifference in his eyes and, stupidly, that hurt.

‘If you have, then you have been behaving like a fool.’

His phrase was coated with an implicit threat which made her skin turn to ice and Sara heard Alice gasp. She turned her head slightly, expecting to see horror on the face of the trendy office runner, with her pink-streaked hair and bottom-hugging skirt. Because it wasn’t cool for men to talk that way, was it? But she saw nothing like horror there. Instead, the bohemian youngster was staring at Suleiman with a look of rapt adoration.

Sara swallowed. Cool obviously flew straight out of the window when you had a towering black-haired male standing in your office just oozing testosterone. Why wouldn’t Alice acknowledge the presence of a man unlike any other she had probably met? Despite all the attractive hunks who worked in Gabe Steel’s advertising empire—didn’t Suleiman Abd al-Aziz stand out like a spot of black oil on a white linen dress? Didn’t he redefine the very concept of masculinity and make it a hundred times more meaningful?

For her, he had always had the ability to make every other man fade into insignificance—even royal princes and sultans—but now something about him had changed. There was an indefinable quality about him. Something
dangerous
.

Gone was the affection with which he always used to regard her. The man who had drifted in and out of her childhood and taught her to ride seemed to have been replaced by someone else. The black eyes were flat and cold; his lips unsmiling. It wasn’t exactly
hatred
she could see on his face—for his expression implied that she wasn’t worthy of an emotion as strong as hate. It was more as if she was a
hindrance.
As if he was here under sufferance, in the very last place he wanted to be.

And she had only herself to blame. She knew that. If she hadn’t flung herself at him. If she hadn’t allowed him to kiss her and then silently invited him to do so much more than that. To...

She tried a smile, though she wasn’t sure how convincing a smile it was. She had done everything in her power to forget about Suleiman and the way he’d made her feel, but wasn’t it funny how just one glimpse of him could stir up all those familiar emotions? Suddenly her heart was turning over with that painful clench of feeling she’d once thought was love. She could feel the sink of her stomach as she was reminded that he could never be hers.

Well, he would never know that. He wouldn’t ever guess that he could still make her feel this way. She wasn’t going to give him the chance to humiliate her and reject her. Not again.

‘Nice of you to drop in so unexpectedly, Suleiman,’ she said, her voice as airy as she could manage. ‘But I’m afraid I’m pretty busy at the moment. It
is
Christmas Eve, you know.’

‘But you don’t celebrate Christmas, Sara. Or at least, I wasn’t aware that you did. Have you really changed so much that you have adopted, wholesale, the values of the West?’

He was looking around the large, open-plan office with an expression of distaste curving his carved lips which he didn’t bother to hide. His flat black eyes were registering the garish tinsel which was looped over posters depicting some of the company’s many successful advertising campaigns. His gaze rested briefly on the old-fashioned fir tree, complete with flashing lights and a glittering star at the top, which had been erected as a kind of passé tribute to Christmases past. His expression darkened.

Sara put her fingers in her lap, horribly aware that they were trembling, and it suddenly became terribly important that he shouldn’t see that, either. She didn’t want him to think she was scared, even if that moment she was feeling something very close to scared. And she couldn’t quite work out what she was afraid of—her, or him.

‘Look, I really am
very
busy,’ she said. ‘And Alice doesn’t want to hear—’

‘Alice doesn’t have to hear anything because she is about to leave us alone to continue this conversation in private,’ he said instantly. Turning towards the office junior, he produced a slow smile, like a magician producing a rabbit from a hat. ‘Aren’t you, Alice?’

Sara watched, unwillingly fascinated as Alice almost melted under the impact of his smile. She even—and Sara had never witnessed this happen before—she even
blushed.
In a single moment, the streetwise girl from London had been transformed into a gushing stereotype from another age. Any minute now and she might actually
swoon.

‘Of course.’ Alice fluttered her eyelashes in a way which was also new. ‘Though I could get you a cup of coffee first if you like?’

‘I am not in the mood for coffee,’ said Suleiman and Sara wondered how he managed to make his refusal sound like he was talking about sex. Or was that just her projecting yet more stupid fantasies about him?

He was smiling at the runner and she was smiling right back. ‘Even though I imagine that yours would be excellent coffee,’ he purred.

‘Oh, for heaven’s sake! Alice buys coffee from the deli next door,’ snapped Sara. ‘She wasn’t planning on travelling to Brazil and bringing back the beans herself!’

‘Then that is Brazil’s loss,’ murmured Suleiman.

Sara could have screamed at the cheesy line which had the office runner beaming from ear to ear. ‘That will be all, thanks, Alice,’ she said sharply. ‘You can go home now. And have...have a happy Christmas.’

‘Thanks,’ said Alice, clearly reluctant to leave. ‘I’ll see you in the new year. Happy Christmas!’

There was complete silence for a moment while they watched the girl gather up her oversized bag, which was crammed with one of the large and expensive presents which had been handed out earlier by Gabe Steel, their boss. Or rather, by his office manager. But it was only after her footsteps had echoed down the corridor towards the lift that Suleiman turned to Sara, his black eyes hard and mocking.

‘Quite the little executive these days, aren’t you, Sara?’

Sara swallowed. She hated the way he said her name. Or rather, she hated the effect it had on her. The way it made her want to expel a long and shuddering breath and to snake her tongue over lips which had suddenly grown dry. It reminded her too much of the time he had kissed her. When he had overstepped the mark and done the one thing which had been forbidden to him. And to her.

The memory came back as vivid and as real as if it had happened only yesterday. It had been on the night of her brother’s coronation—when Haroun had been crowned King of Dhi’ban, a day which many had thought would never come because of the volatile relations between the desert states. All the dignitaries from the neighbouring countries had attended the ceremony—including the infamous Sultan of nearby Qurhah, along with his chief emissary, Suleiman.

Sara remembered being cool and almost non-committal towards the Sultan, to whom she was betrothed. But who could blame her? Her hand in marriage had been the price paid for a financial bail-out for her country. In essence, she had been sold by her father like a piece of human merchandise!

That night she had barely made eye contact with the powerful Sultan who had seemed so forbidding, but her careless attitude seemed to amuse rather than to irritate the potentate. And anyway, he had spent most of the time locked away in meetings with all the other sultans and sheikhs.

But Sara had been eager to be reunited with the Sultan’s emissary. She had been filled with pleasure at the thought of seeing Suleiman again, after six long years away at an English boarding school. Suleiman, who had taught her to ride and made her laugh during those two long summers when the Sultan had been negotiating with her father about a financial bail-out. Two summers which had occupied a special place in her heart ever since, even though on that final summer—her marital fate had been sealed.

During the coronation fireworks, she had somehow managed to manoeuvre herself into a position to watch them with Suleiman by her side. The crowds had been so huge that nobody had noticed them standing together and Sara was thrilled just to be in his company again.

The night was soft and warm, but in between the explosions and the roar of the onlookers the conversation between them was as easy as it had always been, even if initially Suleiman had seemed startled by the dramatic change that six years had wrought on her appearance.

‘How old are you now?’ he’d questioned, after he’d looked her up and down for a distractingly long moment.

‘I’m eighteen.’ She had smiled straight into his eyes, successfully hiding the hurt that he hadn’t even remembered her age. ‘And all grown up.’

‘All grown up,’ he had repeated slowly, as if she’d just said something which had never occurred to him before.

BOOK: Defiant in the Desert
7.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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