The Sheikh's Impetuous Love-Slave(2)

By: Marguerite Kaye



The tribesman looked momentarily baffled before breaking into a broad grin, revealing a set of yellow, mismatched teeth which a camel would be proud to own. ‘The carpet? No, Highness, that is but the wrapping. The real treasure lies within.’ He clapped his hands loudly and the other tribesmen unrolled the carpet onto the floor with a flourish.

‘Oof!’

The voice was indignant, foreign and most definitely female. The owner, her dirty, tattered clothes revealing a surprisingly shapely form, with long hair black as night and eyes as stormy as a winter sea, struggled with her bonds and raised herself to her knees to glare at him insolently.



Juliette de Montignac’s eyes stung as they adjusted to the blaze of reflected sunlight after the oppressive darkness of the carpet in which she had been confined. She was in some sort of enormous, formal room. Her eyes focused on the man standing before her. A tall man. His feet were clad in jewelled slippers. A very rich man, judging by the fine clothes he wore, and a very well-formed one, too. Beneath the thin silk of his tunic, she could see that his body was toned. Muscled, even. The ornate belt with its vicious-looking scimitar was fastened to a slim waist, unusual in a land where girth was perceived to be evidence of wealth. She raised her eyes farther, past the solid wall of his chest, his broad shoulders, to meet his eyes. Startlingly blue eyes, deep set, with fine lines fanning out at the corners. A face more striking than classically handsome, with sharply defined cheekbones. A tiny cleft in his chin. A thin scar slicing through one eyebrow. A memorable face.

Formidable was the word which leaped into her mind. A shiver of something akin to fear shook Juliette, taking her by surprise. A lifetime spent with her father on archaeological digs, living rough in tents and mixing with every sort of scoundrel had, she thought, inured her to such girlish emotions, but this man was somehow different. Not a man to make an enemy of.

Looking covertly around at her ornate surroundings, the gold throne upon the dais, and back to the autocratic man before her, Juliette realized she was being offered by her captors as some sort of gift. Garnering all her courage, determined that he should not see even a glimmer of her trepidation, she met, full-on, the gaze of the man scrutinizing her. ‘Je m’appelle Juliette de Montignac,’ she said, her voice emerging with reassuring authority from her parched throat.

French! Watching the head tribesman rubbing his hands together, Khalid wondered if the fool had any idea of the predicament this unwanted gift of theirs had placed him in. He bowed. ‘Prince Khalid al-Raqam of Lash’aal.’

A prince! She should have guessed from that haughty stance. Well, prince or no, he had not the right to hold her against her will. Juliette tilted her chin. ‘These men have kidnapped me. I demand that you set me free.’

Definitely French, and judging by the sound of her voice, and that superior air of hers, a well-born mademoiselle to boot. The diplomatic implications could be severe. ‘Where did you find her? How long ago?’ Khalid demanded curtly.

‘By the sea, Highness,’ the head tribesman replied, keeping his eyes cast firmly at his prince’s feet. ‘A month ago, thrown ashore by a storm.’

A whole month! Could it get any worse? Khalid swore silently. ‘What happened to the others?’ he asked, addressing Juliette in her own language.

His French was flawless, softly accented. The question brought a brief, horrible memory of the storm, the screeching of the wind as it ripped through the sail of the dhow, the screams of the crew, her own urgent entreaties to Papa to leave his precious artefacts, to save himself. He hadn’t of course. The rogue wave which had tossed her to shore had also sent Papa and the trunk full of carefully garnered relics to the bottom of the Red Sea. In death, as in life, Papa had put his lost civilizations first. ‘Lost, all of them, including my father,’ Juliette said, biting her cheek.

‘I am sorry,’ Khalid said, touched by the effort she was making not to cry. ‘What of the rest of your family, where are they?’

‘Family?’ Juliette shook her head, swallowing the lump in her throat caused by his too-obvious sympathy. Though Papa had been well-born, when he made archaeology his career rather than a mere gentlemanly interest, his family had disowned him. Juliette had never met any of her relatives, nor had Papa encouraged her to show any interest in them. So used was she to considering herself alone in the world—for Papa, by his own admission, was more her mentor than her parent—that she had come to think it quite normal, unless it was brought to her attention. She did not like to have it brought to her attention, and so she shrugged. ‘I have no other family. My mother died when I was a baby. It has always been just Papa and me.’

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