Prince Zachim Darkhan of Bakaan never expected to find himself bound and at the mercy of his nemesis. But with a skillful ease borne of years as a warrior he escapes his bonds then takes the man's daughter as his captive and hides her away in his harem!
But Farah Hajjar is no man's prisoner, and as the power play between them escalates so, too, does Zachim's desire to taste the forbidden, sensual delights their chemistry promises. As the line between hatred and desire blurs he's led past the point of no return.
Now they'll find themselves captured in marriage!
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About the Author
From as far back as she can remember Michelle Conder dreamed of being a writer. She penned the first chapter of a romance novel just out of high school, but it took much study, many (varied) jobs, one ultra-understanding husband and three gorgeous children before she finally sat down to turn that dream into a reality. Michelle lives in Australia, and when she isn’t busy plotting she loves to read, ride horses, travel and practise yoga. Visit Michelle: www.michelleconder.com
Amanda was born and raised in an Irish- Italian family in the suburbs of County Dublin, Ireland. Her passion for writing developed at a young age as a necessary outlet for an overactive imagination. She now splits her time between being a stay at home mom, studying psychology at university and writing love stories.
Read an Excerpt
Prince Zachim Bakr Al-Darkhan tried not to slam the door as he left the palace apartment his half-brother was using for his brief visit but it wasn't easy. Nadir was being a cranky, stubborn hard-ass, refusing to take his rightful place as the next King of Bakaan, which left Zach in line for the job.
'Everything, all right, Highness?'
Damn; he was so preoccupied with what had just gone down he hadn't even sensed the elderly servant he'd known all his life waiting in the shadowed recess of the arched windows.
But, no, everything was not all right. Every day that passed without a leader made their people more and more uneasy. His father had only been dead for two weeks but already there were whispers of some of the more insurgent tribes gathering for 'talks'.
Yeah, like the Al-Hajjar tribe. Once their families had been rival dynasties, but two centuries ago the Darkhans had defeated the Hajjars in a brutal war, creating resentments that still remained. But Zach knew that the current leader of the tribeMohamed Hajjarhated his father, not only because of their history, but because he held his father responsible for the death of his pregnant wife ten years ago. And probably his father had been partly responsible because, Allah knew, he had been responsible for the death of Nadir's mother for entirely different reasons.
The fact was their father had been a miserly tyrant who'd ruled through fear and had been ruthless when he didn't get his own way. As a result Bakaan was stuck in the dark ages, both in its laws and infrastructure, and it was going to be an enormous challenge to pull it into the twenty-first century.
A challenge that his brother was better suited to take on than Zach. And not just because Nadir was politically savvy with finely honed boardroom instincts, but also because it was his rightful place as the eldest son. With Nadir taking charge it would also free Zach up to do what he did bestcreating and managing change at street level where he could do the most good.
Something he'd already started doing after his delicate mother had begged him to come home five years ago when Bakaan had been on the brink of civil war. The cause of the unrest had stemmed from a rogue publication started by someone in one of the mountain tribes detailing his father's failings and calling for change. There wasn't much in the publication Zach could argue with, but he'd done his duty and settled the unrest in his father's favour. Then, appalled at the state his country was in, he'd set aside his Western lifestyle and stayed, working behind the scenes to do what he could until his increasingly narcissistic and paranoid father had either seen sense or died. Death had come first and the only thing Zach felt was hollow inside. Hollow for the man who had only ever seen him as the spare to the throne, and not a very worthy one at that.
'Sorry, Staph.' Zach shook off the memories he didn't want to delve into and started striding towards his own private wing of the palace, Staph quickstepping to keep pace with him. 'But, no, everything is not all right. My brother is proving to be stubborn.'
'Ah, he does not wish to return to Bakaan?'
No, he did not. Zach knew Nadir had good reason for not wanting to, but he also knew that his brother was born to be king, and that if Nadir could get past the bitterness he felt for their father, he would want to rule their small kingdom. Realising that Staph was having trouble keeping pace with him, Zach slowed. 'He has some other considerations to think of right now,' he hedged.
Like an infant daughter he hadn't known about and the mother he was set on marrying. Now, there had been a revelation to shock the hell out of Zach. Out of the two of them it was he who believed in love and marriage, while Nadir thought the concept had been created by the masses to counter boredom and a lack of productivity. Zach didn't believe that. He knew that one day he'd have a family who he'd treat a lot better than their old man had treated his.
In fact, he'd nearly proposed to a woman once; right before he'd been called home. Amy Anderson had ticked all his boxessophisticated, polished and blonde. Their courtship had gone smoothly and he still didn't know what had made him pull back. Nadir had been no help at the time, claiming that Zach had a tendency to choose women who were all wrong for him so that he didn't have to make a commitment at all.
Zach bid Staph goodnight and strode into his apartment. As if he'd ever take relationship advice from a confirmed bachelor. Or confirmed ex-bachelor, so it seemed.
Shedding his clothes on the way to the shower, he doused himself in steaming hot water before lying on his bed and willing himself to sleep. He'd agreed to meet his brother the following lunchtime so that Nadir could abdicate in front of the council but Zach was hoping he would see sense way before then.
When a message pinged into his phone, he immediately reached for the distraction and saw it was from a good friend he used to race superboats with, Damian Masters:
Check email for party invite. Ibiza. Also, just relented and gave Princess Barbie your private email address. Hope that's okay. D
Well, well, well. Zach wasn't one for all that 'signs and destiny' rubbish but he'd just been thinking about Amyor 'Princess Barbie' as his friends had unhelpfully nicknamed herand now here she was.
Clicking onto his email list, he found hers and opened it.
Hi Zach, Amy here.
Long time, no chat. I hear you're going to Damian's party in Ibiza. I really hope to see you there. Catch up on old times perhaps?? Love Amy xxx A wry smile crossed his face. If those question marks and kisses were any indication she wanted to do more than "catch up" on old times. But did he?
He laced his hands behind his head. He might not have thought of her much over the last five years, but what did that matter? It would be interesting to see her again and see how he felt. See if he still thought she should be the mother of his future children.
Almost distractedly he sent a short reply indicating that if he went to the party they would talk, but instead of feeling better he felt worse.
Sick of the thoughts batting back and forth inside his head and the restlessness that had invaded his usually upbeat attitude, he gave up on sleep, flung on jeans and a shirt, and headed out to the palace garage. Once there he jumped into an SUV and waved his security detail off as he turned the car towards the vast, silent desert beyond the city. Before he even knew he was thinking about it, he turned the car off-road and sped down one enormous sand dune after another, lit up in peaks and shadows by the light of the full moon.
Feeling his agitated mood ebb away, he let out a primal roar and pressed the accelerator flat to the floor.
Two hours later he disgustedly tossed the empty jerry can into the back of the car and swore profoundly. He hadn't realised how long he'd been out or how far he'd come and now he was stranded in the desert without any juice and no mobile phone reception.
No doubt his father would have put his impulsivity down to arrogance and his cavalier attitude to life. Zach just put it down to stupidity. He knew better than to head into the desert without a backup plan.
Just then the soft whisper of movement had him turning as a dozen or so horsemen appeared on the horizon. Dressed all in black, with their faces covered by traditional keffiyehs to keep the sand out of their mouths and noses, he couldn't tell if they were friend or foe.
When all twenty of them lined up in front of him and sat motionless without saying a word, he thought probably foe.
Slowly, he walked his gaze over the line up. Probably he could take ten of them, given that he had a sword and a pistol with him. Probably he should try diplomacy first.
'I don't suppose one of you gentlemen has a jerry can full of petrol strapped to one of those fine beasts, do you?'
The creak of a leather saddle brought his attention back to the thickset stranger positioned at the centre of the group and who he had already picked as the leader. 'You are Prince Zachim Al Darkhan, pride of the desert and heir to the throne, are you not?'
Well, his father would probably argue with the antiquated 'pride of the desert' title, and he wasn't the direct heir, but he didn't think now was the time to quibble over semantics. And he already knew from his tone that the stranger with eyes of black onyx had figured out who he was. 'I am.'
'Well, this is fortuitous,' the old man declared and Zach could hear the smile in his voice even if he couldn't see it behind the dark cloth.
The wind picked up slightly but the night remained beautifully clear, full of stars and that big old moon that had beckoned him to leave the palace and burn up some of his frustrated energy on one of his favourite pastimes.
The old stranger leaned towards one of the other men, who then dismounted slowly from his horse. Of medium height and build, the younger man squared off in front of Zach, his legs braced wide. Zach kept his expression as impassive as he'd held it the whole time. If they were going to try and take him one at a time, this was going to be a cakewalk.
Then the other eighteen dismounted.
Okay, now that was more like it. Pity his weapons were in the car.
Farah Hajjar woke with a start and then remembered it was a full moon. She never slept well on a full moon. It was like an omen and for as long as she could remember she was always waiting for something bad to happen. And it had once. Her mother had died on the night of a full moon. Or, the afternoon of one, but Farah had been unable to sleep that night and she'd railed and cried at the moon until she'd been exhausted. Now it just represented sadnesssadness and pain. Though she wasn't twelve any more, so perhaps she should be over that. Like she should be over her fear of scorpionsnot the easiest of fears to overcome when you lived in the desert where they bred like mice.
Rolling onto her side to get more comfortable, she heard the soft whinny of a horse somewhere nearby.
She wondered if it was her father returning from a weeklong meeting about the future of the country. Now that the horrible King Hassan was dead it was all he could talk about. That and how the dead king's son, the autocratic Prince Zachim, would probably rule the country in exactly the same way as the father had. The prince had led a fairy-tale existence, if the magazines Farah had read were true, before moving back to Bakaan full-time five years ago. As nothing had really changed in that time, she suspected her father was right about the princewhich was incredibly demoralising for the country.
Yawning, she heard the horses gallop off and wondered what was going on. Not that she would complain if her father would be gone for another day or two. Try as she might, she could never seem to get anything right with him, and Allah knew how hard she had tried. Tried and failed, because her father saw women as being put on the earth to create baskets and babies and not much else. In fact, he had remarried twice to try to sire a son and discarded both women when they had proved to be barren.
He couldn't understand Farah's need for independence and she couldn't understand why he couldn't understand it, why he couldn't accept that she had a brain and actually enjoyed using it. On top of that he now wanted her to get married, something Farah vehemently did not want to do. As far as she could tell there were two types of men in the world: those who treated their wives well and those who didn't. But neither was conducive to a woman's overall independence and happiness.
Her father, she knew, was acting from the misguided belief that all women needed a man's protection and guidance and she was fast running out of ways to prove otherwise.
She sighed and rolled onto her other side. It didn't help that her once childhood friend had asked if he could court her. Amir was her father's right-hand man and he believed that a marriage between them was a perfect solution all round. Unfortunately, Amir was cut from the same cloth as her father, so Farah did not.
To add insult to injury, her father had just banned her from obtaining any more of her treasured Western magazines, blaming them for her 'modern' ideas. The truth was that Farah just wanted to make a difference. She wanted to do more than help supply the village with contraband educational material and stocks of medical supplies. She wanted to change the plight of women in Bakaan and open up a world for them that, yes, she had read aboutbut she knew she had zero chance of doing that if she were married.
Probably she had zero chance anyway but that didn't stop her from trying and occasionally pushing her father's boundaries.
Feeling frustrated and edgy, as if something terrible was about to happen, she readjusted her pillow and fell into an uneasy sleep.
The sense of disquiet stayed with her over the next few days, right up until her friend came racing up to where she was mucking out the camel enclosure and made it ten times worse. 'Farah! Farah!'
'Steady, Lila.' Farah set aside her shovel while her friend caught her breath. 'What's wrong?'
Lila gulped in air. 'You're not going to believe this but Jarad just returned from your father's secret camp and' She winced as she took in another big breath of air, lowering her voice even though there was no one around to hear her but the camels. 'He said your father has kidnapped the Prince of Bakaan.'