His Defiant Desert Queen

By: Jane Porter


SEETHING, SHEIKH MIKAEL KARIM, King of Saidia, watched the high fashion photo shoot taking place in the desert—his desert—wondering how anyone could think it was okay to enter a foreign country under a false identity and think he, or she, as it happened to be in this case, could get away with it.

Apparently the world was filled with fools.

Fools by the name of Copeland.

Jaw tight, temper barely leashed, Mikael waited for the right moment to intervene.

He’d been pushed too far, challenged directly, and he’d meet that challenge with swift retribution.

A king didn’t negotiate. A king never begged, and a king refused to curry favor.

Saidia might be a small kingdom, but it was powerful. And the government of Saidia might tolerate the West, but Westerners couldn’t enter Saidia, flaunt Saidia law, and think there would be no repercussions.

Jemma Copeland was a foolish woman. So like her father, thumbing her nose at the law, believing she was above it.

Perhaps Daniel Copeland had got away with his crimes. But his daughter would not be so lucky. Miss Jemma Copeland was going to pay.


NECESSITY HAD TAUGHT Jemma Copeland to shut out distractions.

She’d learned to ignore the things she didn’t want to think about, to enable her to do what needed to be done.

So for the past two hours she’d ignored the scorching heat of the Sahara. The insistent, hollow ache in her stomach. The stigma of being a Copeland, and what it meant back home in the United States.

She’d blocked out heat, hunger, and shame, but she couldn’t block out the tall, white-robed man standing just a foot behind the photographer, watching her through dark, unsmiling eyes while a half dozen robed men stood behind him.

She knew who the man was. How could she not? He’d attended her sister’s wedding five years ago in Greenwich and every woman with a pulse had noticed Sheikh Mikael Karim. He was tall, he was impossibly, darkly handsome, and he was a billionaire as well as the new king of Saidia.

But Mikael Karim wasn’t supposed to be on set today. He was supposed to be in Buenos Aires this week and his sudden appearance, arriving in a parade of glossy black luxury SUVs with tinted windows, had sent ripples of unease throughout the entire crew.

It was obvious he wasn’t happy.

Jemma’s gut told her something ugly could happen soon. She prayed she was wrong. She just wanted to get through the rest of the shoot and fly out tomorrow morning as planned.

At least he hadn’t shown up yesterday. Yesterday had been grueling, a very long day, with multiple shots in multiple locations, and the heat had been intense. But she hadn’t complained. She wouldn’t. She needed the job too much to be anything but grateful for the chance to still work.

It still boggled her mind how much things had changed. Just a year ago she had been one of America’s golden girls, envied for her beauty, her wealth, her status as an It Girl. Her family was powerful, affluent. The Copelands had homes scattered across the world, and she and her gorgeous, privileged sisters were constantly photographed and discussed. But even the powerful can fall, and the Copeland family tumbled off their pedestal with the revelation that Daniel, her father, was the number two man in the biggest Ponzi scheme in America in the past century.

Overnight the Copelands became the most hated family in America.

Now Jemma could barely make ends meet. The fallout from her father’s arrest, and the blitz of media interest surrounding the case, had destroyed her career. The fact that she worked, and had supported herself since she was eighteen, meant nothing to the public. She was still Daniel Copeland’s daughter. Hated. Loathed. Resented.


Today, she was lucky to get work, and her once brilliant career now barely paid the bills. When her agency came to her with this assignment, a three day shoot with two travel days, meaning she’d be paid for five work days, she’d jumped at the opportunity to come to Saidia, the independent desert kingdom tucked underneath Southern Morocco, and nestled between the Western Sahara and the Atlantic Ocean. She’d continued to fight for the opportunity even when the Saidia consulate denied her visa request.

It wasn’t legal, but desperate times called for desperate measures so she’d reapplied for a new visa as her sister, using Morgan’s passport bearing Morgan’s married name, Xanthos. This time she’d received the needed travel visa.

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