At the Sheikh's Command [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Kate Walker
eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: Abbie Cavanaugh's brother is in jail. Abbie can obtain his freedom--but only if she marries the Sheikh of Barakhara. The explosive passion between Prince Malik and Abbie could turn a marriage of convenience into one of Eastern promise. But neither Abbie nor Malik knows the other's real identity. Can their marriage survive once the truth is revealed?
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Presents
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2006
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IT WAS the outriders that Abbie saw first. Big powerful men on big powerful motorbikes, engines purring, chrome and black gleaming in the sunlight. In spite of the heat, their muscled bodies were encased snugly in supple black leather, their heads concealed in helmets. But then of course these men were the bodyguards of a man who ruled a country far away. A desert country where the sun beat down day after day, building to temperatures far higher than the moderate heat of an English summer's afternoon.
The man who was in the car behind them.
The convoy swept down the drive in a roar of engines, swirling to a halt outside the main door and waiting, bodyguards sitting taut and tense on their machines, unseen eyes clearly darting everywhere, watching, observing. Their job was to protect the occupant of the vehicle that followed them. That big, sleek car with smoked glass windows behind which she could just detect the form of Sheikh Malik bin Rashid Al'Qaim. The car also had a small flag on the bonnet.
The flag of Barakhara.
Abbie drew in a deep breath and felt it tremble all the way into her lungs.
So he was here. It was really happening. This was not a dream. It was absolutely, totally real. And that reality turned it into the biggest nightmare she had ever known. Her grey eyes blurred briefly with tears and she blinked them away hurriedly, pushing trembling hands over the blonde smoothness of her hair as she fought for control.
He was early. They hadn't been expecting him for another half an hour or so. That was why she was still tidying the room, her white blouse and neat skirt covered by the ridiculous cotton apron, splashed all over with big colourful flowers, borrowed from the housekeeper to keep herself clean.
'Dad!' she called, her voice as shaken as her breathing. 'They're here.'
But her father was already aware, already heading out of the room, hurrying into the hall, pulling open the big front door. Abbie saw him pause to draw breath for a moment, brush his hands down his sides to ease their dampness and her heart constricted in fear.
If her father, a man who had always seemed able to handle anything, felt nervous then the worries that had kept her awake at night ever since the news had broken were even more justified than she had feared.
'Good luck!' she called, knowing he would need more than luck.
The whole family would do everything—anything they could—to help Andy. But when her younger brother's fate was in the hands of an absolute ruler of a foreign land, the sheikh of an Arabian country…She had no idea at all what he might demand of them.
He might listen to pleas for leniency, they had been told. Then again, he might refuse to do any such thing. No one, it seemed, could predict the way he might jump. But today, after three weeks of careful negotiation and diplomacy, somehow they had prevailed on this man, this sheikh, at least to discuss the matter with them.
And he was the man inside the car.
The man who…
Abbie's thoughts stopped dead as the uniformed chauffeur now came to the rear car door, opening it smoothly and stepping back, head up, spine stiffened as if at attention. He didn't actually salute, but his whole stance was one of respect and formality as he held the door so that the occupant of the limousine could emerge.
It was all she could manage. The single syllable escaped from her on a long breathy sigh, pushed out on a wave of shock and pure disbelief. If a sleek black panther had uncoiled itself from a sitting position and prowled out of the car and on to the gravel driveway leading to the house, she couldn't have been more stunned.
Or more afraid.
This man was every bit as big and dark and sleek and powerful as a hunting cat. His long body held a controlled strength that was belied by his easy stride, every lithe movement smooth and relaxed.
But his face was anything but relaxed.
Just looking at his expression sent a cold shiver of dread slipping down Abbie's spine. It was not a pretty face, nor even one that she could describe as handsome. It was too strongly carved for that, all angles and hollows. High, slanting cheekbones defined the forceful lines of his features, emphasising the lean planes of his cheeks, the power of his jaw. There was an aquiline slash of a nose and under straight black brows were the deepest, darkest eyes that Abbie had ever seen.
It was a strong face—a harsh and imposing face. And it was very definitely an unyielding sort of face. Which wasn't something that held out any chance of hope for the help that they needed right now. He was younger than she had anticipated too—closer to thirty than the fifty she had somehow expected. Though whether that was good or bad—a point in their favour or against it—she had no way of guessing.
'I thought he was a sheikh!' a young voice said from close at hand and looking down, she saw that her youngest brother, George, had come to stand beside her, staring out of the window at the important arrival.
'He is, love. The Sheikh of Barakhara.'
'But he's not wearing the right sort of clothes!'
A faint smile touched Abbie's mouth, warming and easing a little of the anxiety from her grey eyes. At just twelve, George was still young enough to think in the simplest terms. Their imposing visitor was a sheikh and, as such, he should be wearing the flowing robes that were the traditional dress of men from his country. Instead, this sheikh was dressed in an immaculate steel-grey silk suit, superbly tailored, hugging the width of straight shoulders that had no need of extra padding to make them, or the chest beneath them, look broad and strong. The fine material slid over the powerful muscles of long, long legs, clung to the lean line of his hips, as he moved forward to where her father now stood on the doorstep, waiting to greet him. Under the afternoon sun, hair black as a raven's wing gleamed glossily sleek and the hand that he lifted to brush it back from his wide forehead had the same smoothly golden bronzed tone as the skin on that devastating face.
Copyright © 2006 by Kate Walker.