Rescued by the Sheikh

By: Jennifer Lewis


“We’re going to die out here.” Allan punched more numbers into his dying phone, his sandy hair blowing in the desert wind.

Samantha took one more peek under the propped hood at the nonfunctioning engine of their Land Rover. “We’ll be fine. We’ll just hunker down until morning. Then someone will come along the road and we’ll get help.” She shivered. A menacing chill had descended over the desert as the sun sank below the distant horizon. “We should build a fire to keep warm.”

“And to keep animals away. There are probably jackals and hyena out here.” Allan glanced nervously around. “But there’s no wood.”

Scraggly trees poked here and there out of the arid scrub, she saw no loose branches. Probably the local villagers gathered them as soon as they fell. “We could run the engine for the same effect. But it won’t be long before we run out of gas. This thing’s a guzzler.” Sam tapped the Land Rover’s dusty white exterior. Something in the distance caught her attention. Specks of light, moving toward them.

“There’s a car coming.”

“What?” Allan jumped. She could barely see him in the thick dusk. Sam became increasingly aware of the natural smells around them and the tiny movements of invisible creatures.

“I’ll turn the lights on so they can see us.”

“No! Don’t.” Allan hurried toward her. “What if they’re bandits? These empty stretches of desert are full of outlaws.”

His chicken heartedness annoyed her. “Maybe they’ll give us a ride back to civilization.”

“Or take us prisoner and send ransom demands to our families. I knew we should never have taken on this project. Who cares about a wedding festival in the middle of nowhere, for crying out loud?”

“It’s never been filmed.” She shivered again. “We’re capturing a moment in history.” The lights grew steadily closer, possibly illuminating the way for nomadic warlords armed with semiautomatic weapons. Goosebumps pricked her arms.

“There may be a good reason film crews never come here.” Allan’s teeth chattered.

She stroked his back. “Just relax. Let me do the talking.” She’d had romantic visions of them joining in the celebrations at Nabattur, celebrating their love under the stars. Instead, their love was being tested by setbacks that threatened to derail the whole project. Their flight to the airport in Medina had been delayed, so they’d missed their connecting flight and had to take a tiny puddle jumper on a journey almost longer than its gas tank could handle. They’d now driven for six hours, and dreams of hot showers and cool hotel sheets were evaporating in the dry desert air.

The quiet purr of the approaching engine suggested a large sedan rather than a paramilitary vehicle, but all she could see was the blaze of white headlights. Heart pounding, she turned on their hazard lights and started to wave her arms. All they needed was a ride into Nabattur. Or maybe just someone with a flashlight and a little mechanical expertise. Despite a flicker of apprehension, she gritted her teeth and crossed her fingers as the approaching car slowed to a stop on the loose surface of the dirt road.

The blinding headlights hid their potential savior—or kidnapper—from view as the car door opened. She squinted as a large, unmistakably male silhouette materialized dressed in the long robe favored by the locals. A gruff voice addressed them in Arabic, with an expression she didn’t recognize.

She attempted, in halting Arabic, to explain that they’d broken down. She could hear Allan’s labored breathing behind her. The man swept around their Land Rover and looked—in the dark—at the silent engine.

“You’d better come with me.”

It took her a moment to register that he’d spoken in English. His low voice sounded kinder in the less guttural tongue. She wished she could see his face.

“Could you take us to Nabattur?” She cursed her voice for shaking.

“You can stay overnight in my home. It’s just a few miles up the road. In the morning, we’ll find a mechanic to retrieve your vehicle.”

“Oh.” She turned to Allan. This was the kind of warm desert hospitality she’d been told to expect. Was it too good to be true? “What do you think, sweetie?”

She heard him swallow. “I think we should stay with the car.”

Frustration filled Sam’s chest. This man was trying to help them and now Allan wanted to insult him by refusing his offer of hospitality. She turned to the stranger. “I don’t want to be a bother, but are you able to call a tow service for us? We can’t seem to get any cell service here.”

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