When Sheikh Khalid Fehr rescues innocent Olivia Morse from the hands of his country's enemies, he guarantees her freedom by announcing she is his betrothed.... Khalid has vouched for Liv with his honor... and this desert king is determined that his new wife will fulfill her marital duties, by his side as his regal queen...and as his captive virgin bride!
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April 30, 2008
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Excerpt from King of the Desert, Captive Bride by Jane Porter
He'd found her.
It'd taken three weeks, a small fortune, two private investigators, the help of Sarq's secretary of state, a lot of secret handshakes, deals and promises--as well as some threats--but at last he was going to see her.
Sheikh Khalid Fehr ducked to enter through Ozr Prison's low threshold. He was escorted past the men's wing to the women's side of the prison, the foul smell of overflowing toilets and unwashed bodies so overpowering his stomach rose in protest.
At the entrance to the women's prison wing his male guard handed him over to a female guard who examined Khalid's paperwork.
The female guard, covered head to foot by her black robe, took her time reading through his paperwork, and Khalid stifled his impatience. Ozr had the reputation for being one of the worst prisons in the world--it was a place notorious for the lack of human rights--but finally the female guard looked up, nodded curtly. "Follow me," she said.
He followed her through one low arched corridor after another, deeper beneath the old fortress which had been turned into Ozr Prison a half century ago.
As they walked through the corridors, hands reached out, and voices in Arabic, Egyptian, Farsi and even English begged for help, for mercy, for a doctor, a lawyer, anyone, anything. Ozr was the last place on earth any man would want to be. God only knew how it was for a woman, as once you entered through the prison's gates, you discovered you'd earned a one-way ticket. Once you were in, you never came out again.
One of Khalid's friends from high school had gotten into trouble in Jabal and after being arrested was tossed into Ozr was never heard from again. Khalid's father, the King of Sarq, had made enquiries and then entreaties on his son's friend's behalf all to no avail.
Jabal, bordered by four countries including Egypt and Sarq, remained a dangerous dictator state, with international travel warnings in place, warnings that Olivia Morse had obviously ignored.
The guard stopped before a cell that was empty except for a woman sitting on a narrow cot, her knees drawn to her chest, wisps of blond hair escaping from her black veil.
Khalid's chest tightened, a visceral reaction to seeing her for the first time.
In her passport photo she'd been pretty, fresh-faced, a hopeful light in her blue eyes. But the young woman sitting inside the cell didn't look like the photo anymore. The woman inside the cell appeared vacant, even half-dead.
"Olivia Morse," he asked, stepping toward the bars.
Her head briefly lifted but she didn't look at him.
"You are Miss Olivia Morse, aren't you?" he persisted, his voice pitched low.
Liv sat on the cot, legs pulled up against her, her arms wrapped tightly around her knees, trying to make herself smaller.
Maybe she wasn't really here, and maybe there wasn't another bad man standing outside her cell demanding information, threatening another interrogation, interrogations that always ended with a beating.
Didn't they understand yet that she had no answers? Didn't they understand she was as confused as they were? She'd been had. Duped. Destroyed.
Liv closed her eyes, bent her head and pressed her forehead against the bony curve of her knees. Maybe if she just kept her eyes closed she'd disappear. Dissolve. Wake up in Alabama again.
God, she missed home. God, she missed Jake and Mom and everyone.
She should have never dreamed of pyramids and beautiful waves of sand, shouldn't have wanted to ride a camel or explore the ancient tombs.
She should have been happy staying home. She should have been happy just being a travel agent, booking other people's exotic vacations.
The man spoke her name quietly, urgently, and fear rose up in her, fear that something bad was going to happen again.
Turning her head away, she choked in broken Arabic, Arabic she'd learned to protect herself from another blow during the endless interrogations, "I don't know. I don't know who she was--"
"We'll discuss the charges later," he interrupted, speaking flawless English, English without a hint of an accent. "There are a few things we need to settle first."
Liv shivered. The fact that he spoke English only made her more afraid, and fear and fatigue were the only things she understood anymore.
"If I knew who she was, I'd tell you, I would. Because I want to go home--" She broke off, took a quick, unsteady breath, exhausted from the interrogations. The guards came for her at all hours of the night and then they'd skip her meals, trying to break her, trying to get the information they wanted. "I want to help you. I'm trying to help you. Believe me."
"I do," he said almost gently, and his tone, so different from the others, was her undoing.
Scalding tears filled her eyes, tears so hot they stung and burned as if filled with salt and sand.