She's about to have the sheikh's baby!
Tasked with entertaining a mysterious billionaire, Bajul diplomat Kira Darzin never expects her assignment to extend to the bedroom. But one look into Tarek Azzmar's smoldering eyes and she's helpless to resist. Now her unplanned pregnancyand Tarek's secret identitythreaten the royal family she holds dear
The illegitimate son of Bajul's former king, Tarek vows revenge on the father who rejected him. And Kira is a complication he can't affordno matter how the sultry beauty challenges him. But when the truth about his past is revealed, will Tarek lose Kira and his unborn child for good?
About the Author
Since her first venture into novel writing in the mid-nineties, Kristi Gold has greatly enjoyed weaving stories of love and commitment. She's an avid fan of baseball, beaches and bridal reality shows. During her career, Kristi has been a National Readers Choice winner, Romantic Times award winner, and a three-time Romance Writers of America RITA finalist. She resides in Central Texas and can be reached through her website at http://kristigold.com.
Read an Excerpt
As head administrator of the royal palace in the small, autonomous country of Bajul, Kira Darzin had grown accustomed to being summoned on a moment's notice by the king. But as she stood in the study's open doorway, waves of shock washed over her when her gaze came to rest on the undeniably handsome man seated near the desk.
With his neatly trimmed near-black hair, perfectly tailored steel gray suit, and dark Italian loafers, he could have been any successful billionaire. His masculine hands resting casually on the red brocade chair's arms, and the slight lift of his chin, gave him the appearance of an average arrogant autocrat. Yet, when Kira zeroed in on Tarek Azzmar's dark eyes, the power in his intense stare threatened to sweep her away, as it had already done one fateful night not so long ago.
She saw unmistakable confidence. She sensed deep secrets. She felt the pull of provocative danger. A place she had been before both with him, and with another man from her past. A place she vowed to never revisit.
She also noticed that his somewhat regal air made it seem as if he was the one holding court in the private office that belonged to Rafiq Mehdi, the official monarch of Bajul, who was oddly absent. However, Mr. Deeb, the king's personal assistant, stood not far away. When Deeb greeted her, his words sounded tinny to her ears as Tarek rose to his feet, revealing well over six feet of prime male.
With effort, Kira reclaimed enough calm to pretend she had never associated with the Moroccan mogul beyond a few social gatherings. A bald-faced lie. "It's a pleasure to see you again, Mr. Azzmar," she said through a polite and somewhat forced smile.
"Thepleasure is all mine, Ms. Darzin."
His emphasis on the word unearthed several images in Kira's mind. Hot kisses. Naked bodies. One night of unbelievable passion. And six weeks since that experience, not one word from him.
That sour thought thrust her back to the business at hand. "What might I do for you two gentlemen today?"
Tarek presented the sexy half smile that had melted her resistance like warm chocolate from the first moment they'd met. "Perhaps Mr. Deeb should explain."
The balding, middle-aged assistant stepped forward and pushed his wire-rimmed glasses up on the bridge of his nose. "Actually, I am here representing His Excellency. Both he and Mr. Azzmar request your assistance."
She saw planning an elite soiree in her future. Lovely. "I'm sorry, but I was on my way out for an appointment when I received the message to stop by here. I didn't bring the upcoming schedule with me. If you'll give me a date, I'll begin planning the event immediately."
"This does not involve an event," Tarek said. "It would require your attention for ten days, perhaps even two weeks."
She couldn't imagine any project that would last so long if it didn't involve a special occasion or state dinner. "Do you mind giving me specifics?"
"Mr. Azzmar needs a personal assistant," Deeb began, "and King Mehdi has offered your services until a replacement can be located."
Surely they weren't serious. She glanced at Tarek and, from the all-business expression on his striking face, saw he was quite serious. Regardless, she would not bend to his will and instead, mentally ran through a litany of reasons to decline, minus the most important oneshe was too vulnerable when it came to his charisma. "Considering my responsibilities with my position at the palace, I'm afraid that's impossible. Prince Zain, his wife and children will be returning in three days. And next week, Prince Adan's sister-in-law and Sheikh Rayad will be joining them. Someone has to prepare for their arrival."
"We have resolved that issue," Deeb added. "Elena has agreed to assume your responsibilities until you fulfill your duty to Mr. Azzmar."
She had a difficult time believing Elena, former governess and biological mother of the youngest Mehdi prince, Adan, would agree to such a thing. "She hired me as the director of the household so she could retire. It doesn't seem fair to ask this of her."
Deeb scowled. "Our king gave the order and Elena still adheres to his directives."
Kira stifled a retort involving what the king could do with this directive. "And I have no say in this matter?"
Before Deeb could respond, Tarek took a step forward to address the royal attaché. "Might I have a word alone with Ms. Darzin?"
Deeb nodded. "Of course. I will return to my office should you require further assistance."
As soon as Deeb left out the door, closing it behind him, Kira turned to Tarek and frowned. "Would you please explain why you didn't reject Rafiq's request in light of what happened between us?"
He leaned back against the desk and folded his arms across his chest. "I made the request, not the king."
Unbelievable. "Why would you want me as your glorified secretary with all the other candidates available among the palace staff?"
"No secretarial work will be involved, and no other candidates intrigue me as you do."
Kira crossed the room to the window, putting much-needed space between them and stared a few seconds at the mountainous terrain before facing him again. "You mean no other candidates have slept with you, correct?"
"I do not recall any measurable sleeping that night."
Neither did Kira, but she did remember one important fact. "True, and then you suddenly disappeared. I assumed you had moved back to Morocco."
"What would the logic be in that since I have recently completed my estate here in Bajul?"
She supposed her hypothesis hadn't made much sense. Then again, neither had letting their relationship go so far during the time when the royal family had been in the States for their cousin Rayad's wedding to Piper Mehdi's sister, Sunny. If she'd only been focused on her job, they wouldn't be having this conversation.
"I just found it odd you haven't been around the past six weeks." And somewhat hurtful, not that she dared admit that to him.
"Actually, I have been traveling abroad."
She almost asked if the broad had a name but recognized that word probably wouldn't be a part of his vernacular. "Backpacking in Europe?"
That earned her a confused look. "Completing a multimillion-dollar business venture."
Just what he neededmore money. Kira bit back the snide comment for the time being. "Regardless, I still feel it's wise that we not spend any more time together than necessary, particularly for two weeks. If you need my help finding someone who can assist you, I'm willing to begin looking tomorrow."
He pushed off the desk and approached her slowly, his intense eyes trained on hers. "You would defy your king's order?"
If Tarek came any closer, she might agree to anything. "I'm sure he would understand if I explained why I can't accommodate you."
His smile was somewhat devious and patently sensual. "You would tell him that we made love on the marble floor in my ballroom?"
That prompted several more images that Kira forced away. "Of course not. First of all, we had sex with no love involved. Secondly, no one needs to know that I had an interlude with a palace guest unless I want to lose my job, which I don't. I'll simply tell the king my schedule is too full."
He stood in front of her then, a scant few inches between them. "Surely you do not believe Rafiq Mehdi will accept that explanation."
Not exactly. "All I can do is try. If he rejects my excuse, then I'll think of something else." A spontaneous trip to Canada to visit her parents seemed like a viable explanation.
Tarek moved closer, reached out and tucked one side of her chin-length hair behind her ear. "Your eyes fascinate me. The dark blue color is extraordinary, yet it suits your overall beauty."
Here we go again. His charming tactics had sent her straight into trouble the last time, but she couldn't force herself to move away from him. "You can stop the compliments now. You've already had your way with me."
"I wish to have my way with you again."
His motivation had become all too clear. "Is that what this is all about?"
Fortunately, he dropped his hand, causing her to release the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. "No. I sincerely do need an assistant I can trust. You are intelligent and personable and highly regarded by the Mehdis. However, I see no reason not to enjoy each other's company when you come with me to my private seaside escape."
That almost rendered her speechless. Bajul was located in the mountains, not a sea in sight. "You plan to take me out of the country?"
"Yes. Cyprus, where I am preparing to launch my latest venture, an exclusive resort. That is why I require your assistance."
Kira couldn't ignore visions of beautiful beaches, romantic sunsets and midnight swims. She also couldn't quell her suspicions. "What exactly would my role be?"
"I would like you to approve the final decisions on the resort's kitchen layout, as well as the interior design. You could also advise the hotel manager on hiring staff."
"My forte isn't interior design." Even if it was somewhat of a passion.
"Are you not overseeing the palace restoration that will begin in a few months? And do you not plan every palace event, including the food and décor?"
Clearly he knew all about her upcoming assignments. Too bad she couldn't say the same about his motives. "Yes, but"
He pressed a fingertip against her lips. "Please know I will not force you to come with me. If you decide you cannot tolerate my presence for a mere two weeks, then I will seek other avenues. I do request you give my offer some thought."
She'd do nothing but think about it from this point forward. And then she would tell him no. "When do you need my answer?"
"By tomorrow morning. My plane will be ready to depart in the afternoon."
With her thoughts spinning round like a carousel, Kira checked her watch. "Fine. I'll let you know as soon as possible. Right now I have somewhere I need to be."
His features turned stern. "Do you have a new paramour?"
"Doctor's appointment." As if that was any of his business.
Now he appeared concerned. "Are you not feeling well?"
Fatigued and edgy, but well enough to function. "Just a follow-up visit for a slight case of the flu I had a week ago," she said as she brushed past him and headed to the door. But before she could leave, Tarek called her name in a deep, chill-inducing voice.
She sighed and turned toward him again. "What?"
"Perhaps you need relaxation to recover from this flu. Cyprus is the premier place to do that very thing."
"You wouldn't worry I might expose you?"
He hinted at a smile. "You have already exposed me and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience."
That deserved an eye roll, which she gave him. "You're not helping your cause, Tarek. I won't agree even to consider accompanying you unless you promise to halt the innuendo and the thinly veiled seduction."
He tried on an innocent look, but it failed to impress her. "I can only promise that I will try. I do promise to make the journey worth your while."
His methods of making that happen concerned her most of all. "I'll keep that in mind. At the moment, I have to go."
He ate up the space between them in a matter of seconds, took her hand and kissed it. "Until we meet again."
Don't hold your breath, she thought as she hurried into the hallway. Wisdom dictated she refuse to go with him anywhere, especially to an exotic locale where she could forget her worries, and most likely would forget herself.
She needed to remember he was exactly the kind of man she'd strived to shun. And after tomorrow morning, when she'd tell him he could find someone else to do his bidding, she would have absolutely no reason to speak to him again.
Balanced on the edge of the uncomfortable exam table, Kira tugged on her skirt hem and stared blankly at Dr. Maysa Mehdi, presiding queen of Bajul and resident village physician. "Excuse me?" she asked, her voice barely a croak.
Maysa scooted the rolling stool closer and flipped her lengthy dark braid back over one shoulder. "When I ordered your lab work last week, I had them add a pregnancy test, in light of your symptoms. That test was positive and all the rest were normal."
Kira pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes against the sudden headache. "This can't be happening."
"I'm afraid it is, and it appears you are not pleased with the news."
Kira opened her eyes and exhaled slowly. "I'm shocked. First of all, I've been on the pill for years. Secondly, I've been exposed only one time in several years." And some exposure it had been.
Maysa opened the chart resting in her lap and scanned the text. "I notice here you have not requested a refill on your birth control in two months."
Guilty. "I suppose I've been so busy I basically forgot. And I had no real need for them." Until Tarek Azzmar slipped into her life like a thief of hearts and destroyed her self-imposed celibacy.
"Perhaps you were so busy that you forgot to take your pills prior to the time of your lovemaking?" Maysa asked.
Guilty again. "Yes, but only for two, maybe three days tops."
"That is all it takes, Kira."
She suddenly felt like an absolute fool. An unequivocal idiot. "Believe me, I never planned to be with this man."
Maysa smiled. "At times, plans go awry and mistakes are made. How will this man feel about the pregnancy?"
She had no clue how Tarek would react, or if she would even tell him. "I truly don't know. In reality, I barely know him beyond a few social functions. It was something neither of us expected to happen."
"If he is a man of honor," Maysa began, "he will accept the responsibility of raising a child."
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