Rescued by the Sheikh(3)

By: Jennifer Lewis

“Of course.” She saw the glimmer of white teeth. “Continuing the family line is of paramount importance.”

“What about companionship?” she protested.

“Essential.” He held her gaze just long enough for her to become self-conscious about her breathing. This man made her very uncomfortable. A kinder person would try to put two stranded strangers at their ease, not stare at them until their pulse rate doubled while lecturing them about choosing their mate.

She wondered if he knew Allan was her boyfriend. Fiancé really, but she didn’t wear a ring because they were both concerned about avoiding blood diamonds and hadn’t decided what to get. In fact, Allan had never actually proposed to her, but they’d discussed marriage and decided to go for it, so since then she’d considered them officially engaged.

A glance at the speedometer alarmed her. The car was doing nearly seventy on this desert lane in pitch darkness. Osman Al Kilanjar must know the road well, as little of it was visible even with the high beams on. The desert stretched out all around them, dark and empty. She knew the ever-present mountains were out there, too, shrouded in blackness. “How far away do you live?”

“Far enough.”

“How long will it take to get there?”

“Not long.”

The shine of his teeth irritated her. She wondered what kind of house Osman Al Kilanjar lived in. Simple two-room houses of mud brick where the usual type of local dwelling, but some more nomadic types still lived in large and elaborate tents that housed an entire extended family on the move. He seemed like the tent type, but if he was the future king....

His hand gripped the wheel as he swerved at high speed. She gasped and clutched the dashboard.

“Hey!” called Allan. “What are you doing?”

“My apologies. I just avoided a collision with a gazelle.” His stern profile betrayed no sign of amusement, to her relief. She watched his hand slide slowly back into position. Broad across the knuckles, with long, strong fingers, they were powerful, intimidating, even. Mr. Al Kilanjar exuded masculinity from every pore and she could smell it, even over the strong scent of the leather upholstery.

Or maybe it was sweat. Possibly her own. It had been more than twenty-four hours since they left New York.

“Allan, did you bring the phone chargers?”

“Oh, shit.” She heard the sound of him slapping his forehead. “I left them in the car. I wanted to charge the phones while we were driving.”

“It’s my fault.” She could feel her phone in her pocket. Barely charged and useless as a lump of desert rock until they could find some coverage. “I meant to put them back in my bag.”

“I did lock the car, so hopefully no one will steal them.”

She glanced at their captor. Wait, he was their rescuer, so why did that word spring to mind? He didn’t seem at all interested in their conversation. Likely he couldn’t care less if their whole car got stolen.

“Almost there.” He took a sharp turn to the left, into further impenetrable darkness, and drove along at frightening speed toward distant points of light that pierced the blackness.

“Is that a town?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“You talk very formally.” She said it as lightly as possible.

“The result of my very formal education.”

“Cambridge?” she guessed. She hadn’t researched the royal family since they weren’t directly relevant to her project.

“You’re not entirely wrong. I attended Oxford as an undergraduate, but my business degree is from Harvard, which of course is in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”

She saw a smile tug at his mouth.

“Cute.” She smiled back. Oxford and Harvard were reassuring. He certainly wasn’t dumb or crazy if he’d gained entry to both of those. “I’m a hippie from UC Berkeley, I’m afraid.”

He chuckled. The sound was surprisingly pleasant.

“Allan’s a film geek from NYU.” She didn’t want Allan to think she’d forgotten all about him. “And we both live in New York.”

The flickering lights in the distance grew brighter until she could see they were flaming torches mounted on a high stone wall with an arched opening. They drove through the arch into a well-lit oasis where palm trees lined the road.

“Welcome to my home.”

Wow. The stone ramparts seemed even taller from the inside, illuminated by more blazing torches. To complete the medieval setting, long-robed men darted out of the shadows and opened his door, then their doors as well. Mosaics of colored marble decorated the walls, and brass incense burners added luxurious fragrance to the air. Their host spoke rapidly, and his men’s impassive expressions gave no hint of what they thought about having visitors.

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