March 19, 2013
ISBN 9780373131396

Heir to a Desert Legacy

(Part of Secret Heirs of Powerful Men)

Sayid al Kadar was trained from childhood to be a warrior. He's fought, he's conquered—but was never meant to rule…

Thrust reluctantly to the throne, Sheikh Sayid is shocked to discover a child who is his country's true heir, and he'll do anything to protect him, even if it means taking on the child's aunt!

Chloe James might behave like a tigress protecting her cub, but this trained soldier can see her weak spot. Taking Chloe as his bride would appease the people of his kingdom, and provide the perfect outlet for the blistering chemistry between them….


“Chloe James?” he asked.


“What?” Her response was muffled by the heavy door between them.


“I am Sheikh Sayid al Kadar, Regent of Attar.”


“Regent, you say? Interesting. Attar. Nice country I hear. In Northern Africa right near…”


“I am aware of the geography of my country, as are you, in ways that go beyond textbook knowledge. You and I both know this.”

“Do we?”


There was a sharp spike in the crying, the volume rising, the tone growing more shrill. Loud in the contained environment. Louder behind the apartment door, he imagined.


“Um, I’m busy,” Chloe said. “You’ve woken up the baby now and I have to get him back to sleep so…”


“That is what I’m here about, Chloe. The baby.”


“He’s cranky right now. But I’ll see if I can fit you into his diary.”


“Ms. James,” he said, aiming for civility. He could push the door in with relative ease, but he doubted that was the right way to go for this. He didn’t usually care. But not causing an international incident was a high priority to him at the moment, and he imagined breaking in and simply taking the child might create one.  “If you will let me in we can discuss the circumstances of the situation we find ourselves in.”


“What situation?”


“The baby.”


“What do you want with him?”


“Exactly what my brother wanted with him. A legal agreement has been signed, and you should know exactly what it says, as yours was one of the signatures. I have it in my possession. Either I go through the court system, or we discuss it now.”


He didn’t want to involve the courts of either the United States or Attar. He wanted this to go smoothly, silently, to not make a ripple until he and his advisers were able to devise a story about how the child had survived, and why the child had been kept from the public in the weeks since the sheikh had died.


Before he did any of that, he had to find out just what the situation was. If the papers had that had been drawn up were reflective of the truth, or if there had been more to his brother’s relationship with Chloe James than was documented anywhere.


That could complicate things. Could prevent him from taking the child with him. And that was not acceptable.


The door opened a crack, a chain keeping it from swinging open all the way, and one wide blue eye, fringed with long dark lashes, peered at him through the opening. “ID?”


He released a frustrated sigh and reached into the inside of his coat, pulling out his wallet and producing his passport, showing it to the eye that was staring at him with distrust. “Satisfied?”


“Not in the least.” The door shut and he heard the jingle of the chain, then it opened. “Come in.”


He stepped into the room, the cramped feeling of it squeezing down on him. Bookshelves lined the walls, pushing them in, heightening the feeling of tightness. There was a laptop on the coffee table, more books in a stack to the right of it and a whiteboard on a stand in the corner with another stack of books placed next to it. There was a logic to the placement of everything, and yet the lack of space gave it all a feeling of barely organized chaos. Nothing like the military precision with which he ordered his life.


He let his eyes fall to Chloe next. She was small, her hair a deep, unusual shade of red, her skin pale and freckled. Her breasts were generous, her waist a bit thick. She looked very much like a woman who had just given birth, and who had spent the weeks since in a state of sleep deprivation.


She shifted and her hair caught the light, a shock of red-gold burning bright beneath the lamp. If the child was hers genetically, there would be some sign, of that he was certain. She was very unlike his olive skinned brother and his beautiful, dark-haired bride.


“You realize that you have no security to speak of here,” he said. The crying had ceased, everything in the tiny apartment calm now. “If I had wanted to force my way in, I could have done so. And anyone seeking to harm the child could have done so, as well. You do him no favors by keeping him here.”


“I didn’t have anywhere else to take him,” she said.


“And where is the child now?”


“Aden?” she responded, a chill in her tone. “You don’t need to see him now, do you?”


“I would like to,” he said.


“Why?” She edged around the front of the sofa, as if she meant to block his way. Laughable. She was so petite, and he was a highly trained soldier who could remove a man twice his size without feeling any sort of exertion. He could break her easily if he had a mind to, and she just stood there, a small, flame-haired tigress.


“He is my nephew. My blood,” he said.


“I…I didn’t think you would feel any connection to him.”


“Why not?” It was true that his was not a heart connection, not the sort of family connection she might mean. His was a blood bond, a sworn oath to protect the ruler of his country with his very life if it came to it. It was a connection that he felt in his veins, one he couldn’t change or deny. Only death could break it. And in that scenario, the death had better be his own.


She blinked rapidly. “You’ve never been…close to the family. I mean, Rashid said…”


“Ah. Rashid.” Her use of his brother’s first name was telling. And not in a good way. In a way that might complicate things. If she was the mother of the child, the biological mother, it would be much more difficult to use the legal documents against her. Difficult, though, no impossible.

And failing that, he would simply create an international incident and bring the child back with him. By force if necessary.


“Yes, Rashid. Why did you say it like that?”


“I’m trying to ascertain the nature of your relationship with my brother.”


She crossed her arms beneath her breasts. “Well, I gave birth to his child.”


A cold, calm sort of fury washed through him, the ice in his veins chilling the rage as it ran through him. If his brother had done anything to compromise the future of the country…


But his brother was dead. There would no consequence for Rashid, no matter the circumstances. He was finished now, with this life. And Sayid was left to ensure than Attar did not crumble. That life went on, as smoothly as possible, for the millions of people who called the desert nation home.


“And you drew up this agreement,” he produced a folded stack of papers from the inside of his coat, “so that if anyone caught onto the fact that it wasn’t Tamara who gave birth to Aden, they would believe it had been a part of the plan from the beginning?”

“Wait…what?” She curled her lip, one rounded hip cocked to the side.


“You conspired to invent the story about the surrogacy to cover up the relationship that you had with…”

She held both hands up, palms out. “Hey! No. Oh…no. I gave birth to his child, as a surrogate.”


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