The future of Judar rests with Farah Beaumont, a foreigner who wants nothing to do with her heritage.And to secure his country's peace, prince Shehab Aal Masood must make her his bride--by any means necessary.Hiding his identity and sweeping Farah off her feet is a start. But the joyful, seemingly innocent Farah is nothing like he expects. And Shehab's calculated seduction soon becomes an affair too powerful to control...
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July 07, 2008
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Excerpt from The Desert Lord's Bride by Olivia Gates
Hot as hell, cold as the grave.
Shehab's lips thinned as he recalled the catchphrase, his eyes slicing through the sea of costumed people who impinged on his senses and turned the ballroom into a battleground of material excess and self-serving agendas.
Still no sign of the woman who'd warranted this slogan.
He played it again in his mind, unwillingly finding the rhythm to it, humming it along with the exuberant live orchestral performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9.
Hot as hell, cold as the grave.
One man had even added insatiable as death.
Now that was a summation if he'd ever heard one.
The descriptions sounded like titles. Like the ones he'd been saddled with since birth. Sheikh Aal Masood. His Royal Highness. And now His Majestic Eminence the Crown Prince.
But according to common consensus, hers had been earned.
And he was expected to marry the woman.
No. He wasn't expected to. He was going to. He had to.
His every muscle clenched. His teeth grated against each other.
Ya Ullah. He should be resigned by now, numbed. It had been over a month since he'd known the fate he had to succumb to, to safeguard Judar's throne.
At times he could almost hate Carmen.
It was because of Farooq's overriding love for his wife that he'd thrown the burden in Shehab's lap.
Still, Shehab could have endured a fate he'd always proclaimed worse than death, an arranged marriage, if the designated bride had been anyone acceptable.
But Farah Beaumont, the illegitimate daughter of King Atef Aal Shalaan, king of Zohayd, wasn't acceptable.
Not because she'd been born out of wedlock. And not because she'd refused to acknowledge her heritage, or to be the instrument of peace. The first she had no hand in, the second could have been a temporary inability to deal with the revelations about her past, the upheavals it promised in her future.
But neither was why Farah Beaumont--whom her mother had so sneakily given an Arabic name popular in the West-- spurned her father and could afford to turn down the prospect of becoming a princess. The real reason was what made her so repulsive.
She'd been born into privilege, having been adopted by the French multimillionaire her mother had married. Then, ever since his fortune had been lost after his death, Farah had been clawing her way back to the top. She'd reached it when she'd become the right hand and mistress of world-shaper Bill Hanson, a married man almost old enough to be her grandfather.
By evidence of her actions and by everyone's testimony, Farah Beaumont was a cold, promiscuous, seriously twisted woman.
She was also crucial to a whole region's peace. But she'd refused to do her duty. Point-blank.
Now he had his duty. To pulverize her refusal.
He forced his teeth apart, answered the infringing stare of a couple in Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI costumes.
Instead of deflecting attention by making an appearance as a Kel Tagelmust, a man of the veil, a Tuareg Sahara warrior, Shehab was attracting nothing but. At least he remained anonymous. He couldn't risk recognition. Hence the masked ball, where he could take the masked part literally.
He exhaled, venting some tension, his breath scorching as it spread behind the indigo cotton veil/turban covering his head and face from mid-nose downward. He pivoted before the couple considered eye-contact permission to approach, only to bump into a leggy Irma La Douce who promptly fluttered her lashes in a way he was only too used to. Before flirtation spilled from her eyes to her lips, he murmured a few gentle words to make it clear he'd appreciate being left alone.
As the prostitute with the heart of gold moseyed on, tossing disappointed looks back at him, he sighed. He hoped to avoid all attention from now on. Although he'd sponsored this affair, he hadn't invited any of the acquaintances he liked and respected. Instead he had filled the room with people he either barely knew or didn't care much for, to create an anonymous, easily ignored crowd. He was here to focus on and garner the attention of only one person. Farah Beaumont.
Now if only the damned woman would make an appearance.
Suddenly, something sizzled at the back of his neck.
Tensing, he homed in on the source of the disturbance. It was emanating from the giant ballroom doors ten feet away. He turned, imbuing his movement with unconcern.
In the next second, everything lost momentum. His body. His heart. The world itself decelerated before it vanished. Nothing remained but the creature framed in the intricately gilded doorway, swathed in an ethereal gown made of every shade of green right out of his kingdom's fairy tales. The subject of a fantasy painting come to life.
He blinked, as if coming out of hypnosis.
What was he thinking? Of course it was her. He'd had enough close-ups of her pinned on his wall as he'd prepared for this campaign.