including “Kept for the Sheikh’s Pleasure” by Lynn Raye Harris

King Zafir bin Rashid al-Khalifa does not care for surprises. Especially ones that involve the reappearance of his ex, Dr. Genie Gray! Now Zafir has the power to make all the rules—and what he wants is a willing Genie in his bed….

Read an Excerpt

King Zafir bin Rashid al-Khalifa did not care for surprises. He especially didn’t care for surprises like this. Many of the desert chieftains still clung to the old ways—he expected that, and he expected to be given gifts they deemed worthy of his station as their king. He’d even expected to be given women, though he did not desire to start a harem. And he’d always known how he would deal with it since to refuse would cause insult.

Later, he might not care whether he caused insult or not. But right now, with his reign so new, he needed these sheikhs to stop feuding and unite behind him. The future of Bah’shar depended upon it.

Yes, he’d expected women. And he’d expected he would take them back to the royal palace and give them jobs in his household. What he had not expected was a woman who clearly did not belong here. A woman who made the past crash down on him like an imploding building.

He blinked, but she did not fade away. She stood with her chin thrust up defiantly, her veil clutched in one hand while the other women melted away.

Genie Gray—here in the flesh. The one woman he’d thought understood him.

She hadn’t, of course. He’d been taken by her beauty and intelligence, and by the life he’d led for a brief time in an American university. He’d let himself forget that he was a prince of the desert. She had never forgotten.

His gaze slid over her. Her hair, which had always been the color of new copper, was now cropped shockingly short. A memory of him winding it around his fist while he made love to her in his apartment came to him. He shoved it away.

Surprisingly, the short hair suited her—made her seem more feminine rather than less. Heat uncoiled inside him, but he ruthlessly stamped it down. They’d said all they’d needed to say ten years ago.

Sheikh Daud Abu Bakr didn’t seem to realize at first that his prize had removed her veil. When he did, however, he began to lumber to his feet.

Zafir stopped him with a word. He wanted them all gone before he confronted this particular djinn. “I accept your gift, Sheikh Abu Bakr.”

The old man sat back down with a huff. No one said anything else. There was nothing more to say. Zafir waved them all away. They rose and made their bows before filing from the tent.

Genie stood in the same spot she’d occupied since she removed her veil, her grey eyes huge as she watched him.

Zafir leaned back against the cushion. “Well, Genie, what brings you to Bah’shar? I seem to remember you refused my invitation once.”

“We were on a dig,” she said, ignoring the jibe. “Across the border. Our camp was overrun and I was taken hostage. I have no idea what happened to the others.”

“Ah, so it was work. Of course. I should have known.”

Work. With her it was always her work. He’d offered her so much more—a life with him as a cherished companion—but she’d refused. He should have known she would do so. He could still remember the look in her eyes when he’d explained why he couldn’t ever marry her. He’d lived in America long enough to know better, but he’d been convinced she loved him. Convinced that she understood—that she would give up everything and come with him.

Her expression hardened. “Yes. Important work. I—”

“But do not worry,” Zafir said, cutting her off. “I will find out what happened to your people and make sure everyone is well.”

A breath huffed out of her. “Thank you.” She twisted the fabric of the veil between her fingers, her eyes dropping away from his for a moment. “And how is your wife?”

“I’m sure you mean wives,” he said coolly. Yes, he’d had to tell her that his father had arranged a marriage when he was a child and that he was expected to honor the agreement. It had nothing to do with love, and everything to do with duty. She hadn’t understood.

Duty. It was a word he sometimes wished he’d never heard.

Her head snapped up. “Of course,” she said, the tremble of her lips gone in an instant.

He’d wanted to hurt her and he’d succeeded. But now he felt guilty, as if he’d kicked a puppy. “My first wife died,” he said evenly. “I am divorced from the second.”

Genie blinked. “Oh. I’m sorry,” she added.

Zafir shrugged. It was what people always said, and yet he could not accept it without feeling the usual well of loneliness—and guilt—within. He’d been alone most of his life; being married had not changed that. In some ways it had actually made it worse.

Jasmin had died because of him. And Layla? Layla had surely done what she had because of him as well.

Death, it seemed, followed him.

“These things happen,” he said, because he had to say something. “And my second wife would have made a terrible queen, so divorce was not such a bad choice in that case.”

Though he certainly hadn’t divorced Layla for her inability to be a queen.

Genie’s eyes widened. “Q-queen? But you weren’t…”

“The Crown Prince?” he finished. “No, I was not.”

Once again death had played its part in forcing his life along paths he would not have chosen.

“My brother has been gone for a year now. My father died a month ago. I am now King of Bah’shar.”

She looked stunned. Yes, he could well imagine. It was not what he’d ever expected to do. Not what he’d wanted or studied so hard for. He’d gone for an engineering and architecture degree so he could build things while his older brother prepared to be king. Together they would take Bah’shar into the future, make her bigger, better, and more capable than she had been under the rule of their father.

Now he had to do it alone. Always, always alone.

Genie dipped her chin to her chest and swallowed. When she looked up again, her eyes were clear. “I’m sorry for your loss, Zafir. For both your father and brother.”

“Thank you.”

“I’ve taken enough of your time,” she continued. “If you could return me to my camp now, I’d be grateful.”

Resentment flared to life inside him. She’d been the only woman—the only person, really—that he’d ever felt close to. The only one who’d ever seemed to stem the tide of loneliness within him. But to her it had meant nothing. Like every other woman he’d ever known, she’d been with him because of what he was, not who he was inside.

She’d seemed different from the others, but the reality was that he’d been too taken with her to see the truth. She was no different than Jasmin or Layla or any of the women he’d ever dated.

He stewed with hate, regret, and yes, even desire—and she stood there completely unaffected. He had a sudden urge to punish her, to show her what she’d given up and could never have again. “How grateful?”

She blinked. “I’m sorry?”

He climbed to his feet. She took a step back as he moved toward her. He refused to let it bother him. Once she would have rushed into his arms. Once she would have melted beneath him.

He stopped in front of her. Her head tilted back, her grey eyes searching his. For a moment, he could almost think he was somewhere else. Another time, another place.

Zafir couldn’t stop himself from touching her hair. The contact was brief, but her mouth opened, her tongue darting out to moisten her lips. Need rocketed through him. Need he forced away.

“And how well do your pickaxes and pottery shards keep you warm at night, habiba? Is it all you thought it would be?”

She glared at him. “You know that’s not the only reason why it didn’t work out between us. You lied to me, Zafir.”

He almost laughed. No one dared to talk to him the way she did—certainly not now that he was king. “I told you the truth, habiba.”

“You should have told me from the beginning.”

“We did not know each other well enough.”

She looked outraged. “You were engaged, Zafir, and you slept with me for six months without ever letting me know this fact. I don’t think knowing each other had anything to do with it! You didn’t want anything to interfere with your ability to get me into bed.”

He couldn’t stop the smirk that crossed his face. “As if that was so difficult, Genie.”

She blushed, and he knew she was remembering their first night together. Their first date. She hadn’t been a virgin, but she hadn’t been experienced either.

“I’d like to go back to my camp now,” she said primly.

“Of course you would,” he said, coming to a decision. “And yet I am afraid this is not possible.”

Her head snapped up, her eyes blazing suddenly. “What do you mean, not possible?”

He almost had fun saying the next part. Almost, but not quite.

“Because I have need of you here.”