Proud, imperious and leery of pretenders to the throne, Sheik Karim Abdullah saw Julia Gardner as just another gold digger. The American claimed to be carrying his dead twin's child, so the Dark Sheik decreed she remain his palace "guest" until paternity was established. But the rebellious Julia proved as dangerous to Karim as the assassins stalking him. Her fi erce need to safeguard her baby turned the sheik into a protective lover. And the wounded warrior vowed to savor the moment...then walk away before he jeopardized her safety....
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September 08, 2008
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Excerpt from Sheik Protector by Dana Marton
"Car's rigged," Karim said to the empty passenger seat next to him. His gaze darted around as he considered his options for escape, trying to determine the location of the bomb.
He wished he could see under his seat. He wished he hadn't just tossed his briefcase, which held his cell phone, to the back, now out of reach. But most of all, he wished he hadn't gotten into the damned car.
Unfortunately, he had no magic lamp and no genie to grant his three wishes.
He sat completely still, sweat beading on his forehead. The first step was to figure out the trigger. Would the charge blow if he turned the key in the ignition, or if he got out and lifted his weight off the driver's seat? Maybe the trigger was in the door. He hadn't closed it behind him yet. Or could be he had no control at all. Maybe whoever wanted him dead was watching from one of the hundred windows that overlooked the executive parking lot. Watching with the remote in hand.
"I was getting too close to the truth." He glanced up at those windows, but couldn't see much from his position and he didn't dare shift his weight.
Anger flared. If he had to die, so be it--Insha'Allah. But by all that was holy, he wanted to bring his twin brother's murderer to justice first.
"I'm sorry, Aziz."
If he couldn't find the killer, nobody would. His other brother, Tariq, thought that Aziz's presence at the well at the time of the explosion had been a coincidence. Tariq was predisposed to see the world as a better place than it really was--he hadn't seen as much of the dark side as Karim--and was currently too busy being crazy in love with his new wife.
Which one of them was crazier remained to be seen. Karim's thoughts turned grim. He wasn't exactly a pillar of sanity, either. He regularly talked to his dead twin brother. For the last month, from time to time, he felt Aziz's presence so strongly, he not only talked to him, but also half expected an answer.
Aziz was gone. Killed. In some regard, losing his twin was like losing half his sight two decades ago, but much, much worse. With Aziz, he had lost half of his soul. And he knew he wasn't going to find that, even if he found the killer or killers--he wasn't going to bring Aziz back. Still, he could not let the bastards go free, not even if tracking them down cost him his own life.
"Should have seen it coming." Except that his mind had been on the restitutions he was making to the families of the men who'd died at the well along with his brother.
If he hadn't been so preoccupied when he'd walked out of MMPOIL's headquarters in Tihrin--Beharrain's quickly growing capital--he would have noted that the security guard wasn't at his post. He hadn't been aware of danger until he'd gotten into the car and spotted the millimeter-size chunk of blue plastic wire coating on the mat.
Another person might not have realized the significance. But people had been trying to kill him from the moment he'd been born, nearly succeeding on a number of occasions. He'd developed a keen sense for detecting death's approaching footsteps.
He glanced out at the street, at the cars passing no more than a hundred feet from him. Nobody was turning to enter the company gate where the other security guard sat in his booth, his back to Karim.
He had to do something now, while he was alone in the parking lot. He didn't want to take anyone out with him.
"Here we go." His mind sharply focused, he reached down to feel around the seat, aware that he could accidentally move a wire and set off the charge if it was there.
He felt nothing out of place as far as he could reach, but he couldn't stretch all the way. Next item. He leaned forward carefully, and spent precious seconds inspecting the bottom of the dashboard.
"Mr. Abdullah?" The voice was richly melodic and completely feminine, utterly out of place in the charged tension of the moment. "Excuse me, Mr. Abdullah--"
He drew his attention from what he was doing to watch, with dismay, the foreign beauty who strode toward him, full of purpose.
Since she'd spoken English, he responded in the same language. "Go back inside."
"They told me I could find you here." She flashed a nervous smile and proceeded without pause, although the blood did drain from her face as she came closer and got a better look at him. "Look, I've come a long way. You wouldn't believe the plane ride. Forget the plane. You wouldn't believe the food," she babbled on. "I know you must be busy, but--"
"Get out of here." He didn't bother with the half turn to hide his scar, but looked her full in the face. That ought to scare her off.
"Listen, I--" Her voice wavered.
"You listen." He wiped the sweat from his forehead. The air was well over a hundred degrees outside, and even warmer in the car. He had run up to his office for only a few minutes to grab some papers before he headed off to the camel races, so he hadn't bothered to pull in to the climate-controlled underground parking garage.