9780373133031

Harlequin
January 1, 2015


Sheikh’s Desert Duty (The Chatsfield)

(Book 1 in Chatsfield Part 2)

A Chatsfield Scandal!  

Journalist Sophie Parsons needs a scoop to stop the sale of her friend's hotel chain. And she's found it! But being abducted by a sheikh goes way beyond the call of duty…

Sheikh Zayn Al-Ahmar has a wedding to arrange, a sister to protect and a country to rule. He's not going to let one woman bring it all down with a headline! Kidnapping Sophie seemed like a good idea, but soon her delectable company puts everything he values at risk.

Only one mistress can rule Zayn's heart—will it be Sophie, or his duty?

Welcome to The Chatsfield, New York!

Excerpt

Sheikh Zayn AlAhmar had many regrets in his life. The kind of regrets that reached into the darkness in the middle of the night, and tried to strangle him while he slept. The kind of regrets that followed him all through the day, and informed his every action; constant reminders of why he’d had to leave the old version of himself behind, and become something entirely different.

But however pressing his past regrets might be, right now he could think of only one. Right now, his most sincere regret was that he could not close his fist around James Chatsfield’s throat and end the worthless man’s life here and now, in an alley behind his family hotel.

Instead, he settled for something much less satisfying. He curled his hands around the lapels of James’s jacket and shoved the other man back against the brick wall. It was a violent action but, Zayn found, not quite violent enough for his current mood.

“I’m not quite sure what has your knickers in a twist, Al-Ahmar,” James said. His pretty-boy face, filled with that kind of insouciance he excelled at, only enraged Zayn further. The mocking gleam in his eyes only stoking the fires higher. Because Zayn was so well acquainted with both. Because Zayn might well have been looking into a mirror that showed a reflection of the past.

But most especially because what the man had done was unforgivable.

“I think you very well know, Chatsfield.” Zayn didn’t see the point in playing games. Not here in a darkened alley with no one around to witness his actions.

For sixteen years, his life had been consumed with the protection of his family. With the protection of his reputation, and that of his country. And now, this one man was threatening to undo it all. Right now, this man represented the single greatest threat to Surhaadi, its people and to everything Zayn had built his new life on.

“Please, tell me this isn’t about your sister.”

Violence surged through Zayn’s blood, and he took the opportunity to reacquaint the back of James’s head with the wall. “What else could this be about? You have dishonored her. And in so doing you have dishonored me, the royal family and my people.”

James didn’t even have the decency to look scared. Instead of trembling, he arched a brow, his lips curved into a mocking smile. “That is a very heavy burden to place on one woman’s body. I was not aware that the integrity of the nation rested upon your sister’s maidenhead.”

“You have no place to comment on integrity,” Zayn said, tightening his grasp on James. “You are a man in possession of none.”

“But at least I don’t treat women like they are my property.”

No, James Chatsfield would never treat a woman like she was his property. Because once he had slept with a woman, he had no further association with her. Worse than treating them like he owned them, he treated them as though they were disposable. Paper dolls that he could dress, and undress, at will, before crumpling them up and throwing them away.

And in Zayn’s sister’s case, leaving them forever altered. Leaving her with child. A fact Zayn preferred James Chatsfield never even know. He didn’t have a right to know. Because he had never had a right to touch Leila in the first place. And as far as Zayn was concerned, James would never touch her again.

“Perhaps not, Chatsfield, but the fact remains that you have badly handled what belongs to me. My family, anyone beneath my protection, belongs to me. You are fortunate we arenot in my country, for there, I would not hesitate to remove the member that committed the offense.”

Chatsfield shifted, suddenly breaking Zayn’s hold, his agility and strength surprising. Indeed, contrary to Zayn’s initial appraisal, the man was not the lazy playboy he appeared to be. Oh, the fact remained that he was a playboy, but there was a sharpness to him that Zayn found surprising.

“You’re positively biblical, Al-Ahmar.” Chatsfield straightened his suit jacket, and his tie, brushing off an imagined bit of dust. “Sadly, I haven’t the time to engage in any eye-for-an-eye nonsense.”

Rage poured through Zayn, and he wanted nothing more than to wipe the smirk off Chatsfield’s face. But he would not risk drawing attention. Would not risk giving Chatsfield a reason to wonder if there was more to Zayn’s rage than him simply sleeping with Leila. “You will not speak of your dalliance with my sister to anyone in the press.”

James made a scoffing sound. “Why would I ever speak to the press about such a thing?”

“Because while Leila was simply one in a long line of your exploits, the fact remains she is a princess. The media would love to get their hands on that.”

“You insult me, Al-Ahmar. In this country I am royalty in my own right. I hardly need to trade on your name to create a scandal so I can get featured in the headlines. I have my own.”

“If you breathe a word of this to anyone, I will have your head. And I do not speak metaphorically.”

Something in Chatsfield’s expression hardened. “Oh, I have no doubt.” He straightened his jacket yet again and turned, walking back inside the hotel, leaving Zayn alone in the alleyway to curse into the emptiness around him.

The feeling of helplessness that was pouring through him was unwelcome, and all too familiar. It echoed a time he’d failed another sister. Another time the problems had been too big to fix. Regret piling on top of regret.

Rain was starting to fall, the only light coming from a lone streetlamp, casting everything in a yellow glow. Zayn’s mind was racing, his pulse in overdrive. If any of this got out, the press would have a field day. He had no idea what Leila intended to do about her pregnancy, and with the heightened interest surrounding the royal family, due to Zayn’s own upcoming marriage, she was in a much more precarious position than she might have been.

She was vulnerable enough without introducing the variable of public opinion and scrutiny. That would add pressure she didn’t need, judgment she didn’t deserve. No, he would not have that. He would not expose his family to such criticism and judgment. Not again. Not while he drew breath.

He heard a clattering sound in the corner of the alley, a trash can turning over on its side, a blur of motion catching his eye.

He was not alone. And he and Chatsfield had not been the only two involved in the conversation that had taken place only minutes before. They had a witness.

And that was unacceptable.

The feeling of helplessness drained, a shot of adrenaline moving through his veins. Action. He craved action. He craved a plan.

Zayn stalked toward the movement, his body on high alert, muscles tensing, ready to strike. When a man lived as he did, he had ample time to train his body. And Zayn had done just that. Had taken every opportunity to spend hours channeling physical frustration into strength training.

He didn’t fear whatever would be waiting for him in the shadow. He had no reason to. Because he had no doubt whatsoever that he was the most dangerous thing in this alley.

There was more clattering, followed by a squeak, and he acted, reaching into the darkness and coming up with a fistful of hair, resistance and a sharp squeal.

Not the sound of a hardened criminal.

He released his hold on the person he had seized, and straightened.

“Who are you?” he asked. “What do you want?”

“Ow,” his quarry made a plaintive noise.

“I doubt very much that you’re injured,” he said. “Come into the light.”

The intruder obliged, moving from the shadow and into the golden haze cast by the streetlight. He wasn’t entirely certain what he’d expected, but the slim blonde with long honey-colored hair, disheveled—likely from when he had grabbed it—wearing a sequined dress with a hemline that fell well above her knee, and mutinous expression on her face, was not at all what he’d imagined he might find.

“I am very much injured.” She sniffed.

He crossed his arms over his chest. “If you are so easily damaged, it is advisable that perhaps you shouldn’t spend time hiding in dark alleys. They are dangerous.”

“It would seem so.” She was frantically straightening her dress now, moving her hands over her slight curves, smoothing the wrinkles in the fabric.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, suspicion pressing down on him.

“I followed Chatsfield out into the alley.” She straightened, flipping long hair back over her shoulder, a pale, glimmering wave in the streetlight.

That made sense. She was very likely one of Chatsfield’s hopefuls, or one of his previous acquisitions. Probably trying to find out if she could finagle another night in his bed. Or perhaps just hoping she could trade on her connection with him for money or status.

Either way, she was dangerous. Either way, she would have motive to take her story to the press. The opportunity for revenge in the hands of a woman scorned by a playboy could prove dangerous for his sister.

“I see. And how much did you hear?”

Her eyes, which were already quite wide, widened further. “Nothing of interest. I was actually quite bored. I was actually taking a nap.”

“Try again.” He found he had little patience to continue standing out here as rain began to pour down on them. He found he had little patience for any of this. To face another failure where his family was concerned. To face another threat to them, after all they had been through.

It was in his power to spare them more pain, and he would do so. And he would not let one large-eyed blonde get in his way.

“I’m really into the free-food movement. And I like to make sure that there are no salvageable edibles in various trash cans surrounding posh hotels.” She started to move away from him. “You would be surprised how much gourmet food is simply tossed. I have found foie gras that was still quite fresh just cast out into the gutter. It’s egregious.”

“You said you followed Chatsfield out into the alley.”

She squinted. “I thought he might be looking for the foie gras.”

“It is getting quite cold out.” He reached out and grabbed hold of her arm, and she tugged back. But he held fast. “Why don’t we finish this conversation in my car?”

“Oh, you know—” she waved a hand “—I would, but I have a thing.”

“What thing?” he asked.

“A thing that is not getting into a car with a stranger.”

“I feel that after all you must have surely heard from your vantage point, we can hardly be considered strangers.”

He tugged her along through the alley with him, heading to where his limousine was idling. She walked along with him, but her hesitance was clear. For a moment he questioned himself. Asked himself what the hell he was doing.

But then he imagined Leila, in her distress, confessing her indiscretion, and worrying about the consequences. No, he would do whatever he had to do. No matter what that was.

There was no room, no time, for guilt.

“I really need to go,” she said. “My bicycle is double-parked. I think there’s a timer on the rack. I bet they’re going to cut my chain.”

“I will buy you a new bicycle.”

“That one has sentimental value.”

He paused, and looked down at her. “Why did you ride a bicycle in this weather? In that dress.”

“We don’t all hemorrhage gold.”

“No, indeed we do not. I imagine you have realized that James Chatsfield does.”

“What exactly are you implying?”

He propelled her forward to the passenger door of the limousine, and jerked it open. “I’m implying that you need to get into my car now.”

“I don’t think I will.”

“I’m sorry, I see you’ve confused my command with a request.” Not breaking his hold on her, he moved down into the limo, bringing her with him, her soft body flush against his.

And because it had been so very long since he had touched a woman, even given the circumstances, he could not help but take a moment to pause and enjoy the feel of her against him.

She wiggled, her bottom coming into contact with things he would rather not have her in contact with. “What are you doing?” she shrieked.

He did not answer. He only held fast to her, trying to figure out exactly where to take it from here.

Though he was immediately drawn back to the moment by the feel of her body against his.

It was in moments like this, moments when heat and curves overtook the gravity of the situation, that he wondered whether or not he’d truly managed to change. Or if he had simply spent years burying his weakness beneath the rock of good intention. Though, as he had so rarely found himself in this position since he had changed the focus of his life, he supposed it was neither here nor there. It did not matter how soft this woman was. It did not matter how good it felt to have her in his arms.

All that mattered was Leila. Her honor. Her safety, both physical and emotional.

No one could be allowed to compromise that.

He closed the limo door, and kept his hold on the woman, who seemed to have gone limp in his grasp. For one moment he wondered if she had fainted. And then she started talking again.

“Somehow I don’t think you’ve brought me in here because you’re concerned about me getting wet.” She turned to face him, concern lighting her eyes.

“It’s quite possible you’re correct.”

“Are you kidnapping me?”

“I feel that term implies both premeditation and a desire for ransom money. And as we’ve established that I hemorrhage gold, and you do not, I have no need of ransom money. Also, there was no premeditation involved, how could there have been? I had no idea you would be in the alleyway.”

“I don’t feel that either of those things is a necessary requirement to call something kidnapping.” She cocked her head to the side. “Are you detaining me against my will?”

“That all depends.” He shifted as the car started to move, releasing his hold on her. “Do you want to stay in the limo?”

“No.”

“Then yes, I am detaining you against your will.”

“Well, I think we’re going to have a problem.” She lifted her chin, her expression defiant, eyes glittering.

He looked around the darkened car, at the streetlights moving quickly by, bathing her face in quick flashes of light. “Excuse me, little sheikha, but I fail to see what problem you could possibly pose to me in this position.”

She drew back slightly. “I scream very loudly.”

“I am certain you do.” He reached up and thumped his knuckles on the back of the black partition between the back and front seats. “But everything in here is soundproof. And bulletproof.”

“What does it being bulletproof have to do with anything?”

“Just in case you were going to get some ideas about breaking a window. If a sniper’s bullet couldn’t manage it, you certainly can’t.” He leaned back in his seat. “I don’t want you breaking an elbow trying to force your way out.”

She sniffed loudly. “I don’t know why you would worry about my elbow. Not when you have seized my person.”

“I have not broken your person, have I?” She only glared at him, her expression mutinous. “No, I have not,” he said, answering his own question. “And I would prefer to keep it that way.”

“I assume this is supposed to make me feel calmer about the fact that you forced me into your car and are now taking me who knows where.”

“I know where.” A bit of an overstatement. He wasn’t entirely certain where he was going to take her, or what he was going to do with her. He didn’t know if she knew who he was, or what she had overheard. And he needed to find a way to ascertain that without giving away any more than he needed to.

He only knew he had to keep her. That this was his chance to seize control of this situation. To fix it.

“Oh, how interesting,” she said. “I might appreciate being let in on that information.”

“Sorry, that sort of information is a privilege.”

“What are you doing? Why are you bothering with me? I’m not anyone. No, scratch that, I am someone. I work for a very prestigious newspaper and if you don’t let me go…”

“You’re a reporter?”

“Yes,” she said, seeming to change tactic abruptly. “I am. An intrepid one. A real one. Kind of a big deal.”

“What were you doing in that alley?” He had to know now, because if she was telling the truth, that meant that she was far more dangerous to him than an ex-lover of Chatsfield’s would be. She was the very thing he feared most. The very thing that could do the most damage to his family.

To Leila.

Buy Now

Print:

Amazon Barnes and Noble Harlequin

eBook:

Amazon Kindle Barnes and Noble Nook eHarlequin iBookstore


Browse


Series


Type