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The Sheik Who Loved Me
By Loreth White
SilhouetteCopyright © 2005 Loreth White
All right reserved.
Where was she? Her eyes flared open. Dim light sliced through to the back of her brain where it exploded in a burst of sharp pain. She scrunched her eyes shut tight again.
She could hear an unearthly sound, like wounded banshees or a screaming wind. She couldn't make sense of it. She thought she could hear surf crashing far away. Like the drums of gods or rolling thunder. Or maybe it was just the dull thudding of her heart, the sound too loud inside her skull.
She tried to move her head, but it hurt. Everything hurt. Her whole body pounded with rhythmic pain as if her veins and vessels were too small and too fragile for the angry blood that was being thrust through them.
She tentatively tried to open her eyes again. Through her lashes she could make out shapes, shadows. Quivering. Firelight? Candles? An exotic scent stirred in warm currents of air. She couldn't seem to find focus. It was all a blur, so very foreign.
A wedge of panic rammed into her heart.
Then she sensed a presence. Someone standing over her. Her heart stalled. With a bite of fresh urgency, she forced her eyes open wider, trying to pull the dark shadow that loomed over her into some kind of recognizable form.
It was a man, staring down at her. A severely beautiful man with dark skin, sharp, angled features, raven-black hair and piercing blue eyes. Eyes that bored right into her soul.
Her chest constricted. Her heart hammered up into her throat. She knew that face from somewhere. It set every alarm bell clanging. She tried to swallow, to calm herself, to breathe. She concentrated on the man's face, mentally cataloguing his features, desperately trying to find a match in her brain, to understand why he was supposed to represent a threat.
He was big, tall, with a wide chest and powerful forearms covered with dark hair. His wrists were broad, and his fingers, she noted in a distant part of her brain, were long and exquisitely shaped. His skin was an exotic mocha brown, a sharp contrast to the startling indigo of the eyes that bored into her, through her.
His brow was prominent over his eyes giving him a predatory look. In fact, everything about him was predacious, save for his mouth. His lips were full and elegantly sculpted, rescuing his features from the severity of harsh angles and planes, giving him a smouldering male sensuality, an air of refined yet dangerous aristocracy.
Her eyes moved slowly down the length of his body. He wore a loose-fitting and very white galabiya that offset the dusky tone of his skin. It was cinched at the waist by a brocade belt and into that belt was thrust an ornate jambiya. Her brain cramped. The world spun around her. A galabiya? It was the robe worn by most Saharan desert tribes. And the jambiya? Only Arabs carried the traditional curved dagger like that. But those intense blue eyes were not those of an Arab. Who was he? Where on earth was she? Confusion and fear tightened twin fists around her heart.
He was profoundly attractive, powerful, but he was also an enemy. Not on her team. She had to be careful, guarded. Her life depended on it. She knew this somehow. But how did she know all this? Why? A wild terror scrambled through her brain. What did she know?
Her eyes flicked nervously around the room. It was lit by lamplight, a kerosene lamp. That's what the smell was. That's what made shadows flicker on the whitewashed walls. A wooden fan turned slowly up on an exceptionally high ceiling. The room was furnished with artistic, antique-looking pieces of dark burnished wood. She noted the ornate arch over the heavy wooden door at the end of the room. The whole effect was high-end North African...or perhaps Moorish. Her heart stuttered into a crazy panicked beat. She didn't recognize a thing. She had absolutely no idea where she was. She tried to sit up.
He restrained her instantly, placing a hand firmly against her shoulder. "It's okay, relax, take it one step at a time," he said.
She stilled at the deep gravel tone of his voice. He had a British accent, yet it was underlaid with the low and sensual gutturalness of Arabic. His hand was warm on the bare skin of her shoulder, and his palm rough. She realized then that she was covered by only a white cotton sheet. Under it she was utterly naked. Alarm mounted, swamping any attempt at rational thought.
"Don't touch me." She warned, her voice coming out in a raw croak.
He withdrew his hand instantly. "As you wish. But take it easy. You've been unconscious."
"Where...where am I?"
"You're in my home on Shendi Island."
"The Red Sea, off the coast of Sudan. Shendi is a private island. I own it. My name is David Rashid."
"The Red Sea?" Her words came out in a panicked and painful rasp. Why was she anywhere near the Red Sea? The wind was making a terrible howling sound outside. She could hear it banging, tearing against shutters. It muddled her mind. She couldn't think.
Concern shifted into his eyes as he stared down at her. And that distressed her. If he was worried, she too had reason to be.
She held his gaze, fighting her fear, determined to show some strength. "Why am I here?" she demanded.
"You took a bad knock on the head. We found you unconscious on the beach. You're very lucky you didn't drown."
Drown? Knock on the head? She reached up, tentatively felt her brow where it throbbed dully. Her fingers detected a neat line of stitches along her temple just below her hairline. Alarmed, she fingered the length of what must have been a nasty gash.
"You have more cuts," he offered. "Down your left side, and along your arm."
Her eyes shot down to her forearm. More rows of tiny black stitches. Swelling. Blue-black bruising beginning to show. "What happened to me?"
"You washed up on the beach in the storm. We need to know if you were on a boat, if there were others with you. We have a search party out but have found nothing so far."
Confusion shrouded her brain. She tried to marshal her thoughts but couldn't. Her head hurt terribly. "I...I don't know..."
"That's okay." He lifted his hand to touch her shoulder again, thought better of it. "Give it time. It's probably the concussion. Let's start with your name."
She opened her mouth to say it, but she couldn't. It wouldn't come. Terror ran hot through her veins. Frantically she searched her brain, but she couldn't locate it. She couldn't remember her own name. She couldn't seem to recall anything. How she got onto the island. Where she'd been. Or why. The storm. Others on a boat.
His eyes sharpened again, cutting into her with laser intent as he waited for her to speak. Her mouth went dry. She clutched the sheet tight around her chest as if it would somehow shield her from the sheer horror at her predicament. The wind rose to an awful howl. Shutters crashed somewhere.
He was still watching, still waiting. But something else was shifting into his features. Pity. He felt sorry for her. And that made her feel infinitely worse. It also made her angry. She hated pity.
Excerpted from The Sheik Who Loved Me by Loreth White Copyright © 2005 by Loreth White. Excerpted by permission.
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