Rescued by the Sheikh(8)

By: Jennifer Lewis


“Let’s go, sweetie.”

“I can’t believe you’re willing to go down there dressed like that.” Allan surveyed her from head-to-toe. He was polite enough not to look at her in a way that made her skin sizzle under her clothes.

“It’s fun. Almost like a costume party.” She shrugged. She didn’t tell him she felt elegant and exotic in her silk ensemble. She’d have fun telling her friends about this and about the green-eyed sheikh with his grand palace. In a week or two, this would all feel like a dream.

Or a nightmare. She hoped she wouldn’t have to explain to the Kaplan Fund people that she’d spent all the money they gave her for the project but didn’t have any footage to show for it.

“What if they serve us locusts baked in honey?” Allan raised a brow.

“Eat them with a smile.” He almost seemed like his old self now.

“Filleted snake?”

“I might need hot sauce for that.” She shoved him with her elbow as they headed for the door. “What about fricassee of scorpion?”

“Sounds crunchy.” Allan winked.

She walked out the door with a smile on her face. They would get through this together. Tonight’s unexpected detour was a bump in the road of life. Just one of many that they’d face and conquer together.

Sam closed the bedroom door behind them, making a mental effort to remember where it was. Third door along from the big arch with the blue inlays.

She was about to wind her arm through Allan’s, to show him how warmly she felt toward him, when a loud crash boomed through the palace and made them both jump.





3





“His Majesty Sheikh Osman Bin Nizwan Al Kilanjar.” Sam understood enough to make out that much. The loud clash they heard must have been the clanging of twelve swords, as two rows of six armed guards created a tunnel of blades for his majesty to walk through.

Talk about pretentious!

Sheikh Osman held his chin high as he swept under their raised weapons and through a pointed archway. Two stern young men motioned for them to follow. Her blood pressure hadn’t yet come down from the crash, and she’d have grabbed Allan’s hand for support except that he’d shoved them both down hard into the pockets of his rumpled khakis.

She walked gingerly across the polished marble floor, wishing with all her might that she hadn’t dressed up in this ridiculous costume. Osman had probably just suggested it to make fun of her. The archway led into a banqueting hall with a long table lined with heavy carved chairs. Silver plate and ornate silver goblets were laid for about twenty people, and Sam’s eyes widened as she saw the plates piled high with fragrant food.

Rice pilaf, spiced chicken, skewers laden with barbequed shrimp, piles of glistening orange segments, slippery mango and papaya slices and shiny dates. There were also piles of steaming flatbreads and jugs of mysterious liquids.

Not a toasted tarantula in sight. Her stomach grumbled, and she glanced around hoping no one had heard it.

“Samantha, I’m delighted to welcome you to my table.” Sheikh Osman swept toward her. He’d changed into a new robe with subtle silver embroidery around the collar, which made him look impressively regal. The intensity of his gaze was quite unsettling. She struggled to stay focused as it heated her skin.

“It is very kind of you to feed us, after all the trouble you’ve been to already.”

“There’s nothing I enjoy more than sharing the prosperity I’ve been blessed with. Come sit with me.” He gestured to the head of the table. She glanced at Allan, who looked rather stunned. When she looked back at Sheikh Osman she saw a trace of a frown in his brow. “Your friend shall join my brothers at the other end of the table. Amahd and Zadir, please make our new friend…Allan”—he looked a little amused as he said it—“feel quite at home here in Ubar.”

His brothers were almost as tall as Osman. Zadir had the wolfish good looks of a typical playboy. Amahd was also disturbingly gorgeous, with a more serious expression.

Poor Allan looked awfully small and disheveled in their midst. She wished she could go sit next to him to help him through the conversation. She couldn’t imagine that Zadir and Amahd knew all that much about the esoteric world of documentary production.

But Osman cupped her elbow with one of his big hands. His fingers sent a ripple of sensation through her silky finery and almost made her gasp. And why not? It was odd for a strange man to touch her. She was glad the dress she wore was just loose enough to hide the embarrassing way her nipples tightened in response to him simply touching her arm.

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