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Strangers in the Desert
The Al Dhakir Brothers, Book 1
Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award Nominee 2012
The Desert King’s Lost Wife…
Isabella, the wife Sheikh Adan thought was dead, has just walked back into his life — on the eve of his wedding to another woman…
Now Adan is to be crowned King, Isabella must be his Queen — sharing his desert throne and the royal bed… But gone is the dutiful, pure girl he once knew — in her place is a defiant, sultry woman who makes Adan’s blood run hot… A woman who has no memory of being his wife…
Read an Excerpt
Isabella’s eyes snapped open. A man stood in the entry, his presence dark and overwhelming. Raw panic seized her throat tight so that she couldn’t speak or cry out. At first, all she saw was his size—he was tall and broad and filled the door—but then she began to pick out individual features.
A shiver slid down her backbone as she realized with a jolt that he was Jahfaran. Dark hair, piercing dark eyes, and skin that had been burnished by the powerful desert sun. Though he was dressed in a navy blue shirt and khaki pants instead of a dishdasha, he had the look of the desert, that hawk-like intensity of a man who lived life on the edge of civilization. She didn’t know why, but fear flooded her in waves, liquefying her bones until she couldn’t move.
“You will tell me,” he said tightly, “why.”
Isabella blinked. “Why?” she repeated. Somehow, she managed to scramble onto her feet. He was so tall that she still had to tilt her head back to look up at him. Her heart thundered in her breast as she realized he was terribly, frighteningly angry.
His gaze skimmed down her body. When his eyes met hers again, they burned with disgust. “Look at you,” he said. “You look like a prostitute.”
The cold fear that had pooled in her stomach began to boil as anger stirred within. How typical of a Jahfaran male. How absolutely typical to think he had a right to criticize her simply because she was female, and because he did not understand her choices.
Isabella drew herself up. She thrust her chin out, propped her hands on her hips, and gave him the same thorough once over he’d given her. It was bold, but she didn’t care. She owed this man nothing.
“I don’t know who you think you are, but you’re welcome to get the hell out of my dressing room and keep your opinions to yourself.”
His expression grew lethally cold. “Don’t play games with me, Isabella.”
She took a step back, her pulse thrumming in her throat at breakneck speed. He’d used her name—her given name—and it stunned her, though perhaps it should not have. Clearly, he knew her father, and he’d recognized her somehow. Perhaps they’d met in the course of her father’s business dealings. A party, a dinner…
But no. She didn’t recognize him. And she was sure that she’d have never forgotten a man like this if she’d ever met him. He was too big, too magnificent—and much too full of himself. He would have been impossible to ignore.
“Why would I play games with you? I don’t even know you!”
His eyes narrowed. “I will know how you came to be here, and I will know it now.”
Isabella drew herself up. How dare he question her as if he had a right? “You’re bright. Figure it out.”
He took a step into the room, and the room shrank. He overwhelmed the space. He overwhelmed her.
Isabella wanted to back away from him, but there was nowhere to go. And she would not cower from this man. It seemed vitally important somehow that she did not.
“You did not do this alone,” he said. “Who helped you?”
Isabella swallowed. “I—”
“Is everything okay here, Bella?”
Her eyes darted past the stranger to Grant, who stood in the door, his fists clenched at his side. The stranger had turned at his entrance. Grant’s expression was grave, his blue eyes deadly serious as he tried to stare the man down.
She could have told him it wouldn’t work. The man stared back at Grant, his expression not softening in the least. The last thing she wanted was a fight, because she did not doubt that Grant would try to defend her. She also didn’t doubt that he would lose. There was something hard and cold about this man. Something fierce and untamed.
“I’m fine, Grant,” she said. “Mr, um, the gentleman was just leaving.”
“I was not, in fact,” he said, his English oh-so-perfect. The cultured tone of his voice proclaimed him to be from an elite family, as they were the ones who usually sent their sons to be schooled in the UK.
“I think you should go,” Grant said. “Bella needs to rest before she goes back on.”
“Indeed.” The stranger turned back to her then, and she felt the full force of his laser-like attention. “Sadly, she will not be retuning to the stage. Isabella is coming with me.”
Fury pounded through her. “I am not—”
He reached out and grasped her arm with an iron fist. His fingers didn’t bite into her, but they were firm and in control. Commanding.
Shock forced Isabella to go completely still as her body reacted with a shudder at the touch of his skin on hers.
But it wasn’t revulsion she felt. Wasn’t terror.
It was familiarity. It was heat and want and, underlying that, a current of sadness so deep and strong she wanted to sob.
It stunned her into immobility as she tried to process it.
“Hey,” Grant protested. “Let her go!”
At the same time, Isabella looked up in confusion. “Who are you?”
A shadow passed over his face before it hardened again. “Do you really expect me to believe you do not know?”
Anger and despair slashed through her in waves. It made no sense. And yet he hated her. This man hated her, and she had no idea why. Somehow, she found the strength to act, wrenching herself free from his grip.
Isabella hugged her arms around her torso as if to shield herself. She couldn’t bear to feel the anger and sadness ripping through her a moment longer. Couldn’t bear the currents of heat arcing across her nerve endings. The swirling confusion. The crushing desperation.
Grant had disappeared, but she knew it was so he could fetch one of the bouncers. He’d be back at any moment, and this man would be thrown out on his arrogant behind. She was going to enjoy that.
“Of course I don’t know you,” she snapped.
“On the contrary,” he growled, his dark eyes flashing hot, “you know me very well.”
Her heart pounded at the certainty in his voice. He was insane. Gorgeous, but insane. “I can’t imagine why you would think so.”
“Because,” he replied, his voice laced with barely contained rage, “you are my wife.”
March 1, 2012