A sheikh's seduction turns innocence to passion—and temptation into a second chance at love
Sheikh Rayad Rostam has devoted his life to protecting his country...and avenging his wife's untimely death. So his sudden attraction to adventurous foreign correspondent Sunny McAdams proves unexpected, unwelcome—and undeniable. Still, when a violent storm threatens, Rayad refuses to let her go. They take passionate refuge in each other's arms.
Sunny fears a future with a man hell-bent on revenge. She's had too much darkness in her life. But she's falling hard for the sexy alpha soldier, and he may be too much temptation to resist...
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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.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Sheikh Rayad Rostam had blood on his hands, a bounty on his head and a burden he had carried for years.
Though at times he longed for peace, he had lived on the edge for so long, he knew no other way. And today, as he stared out the palace window to the mountains towering over Bajul, the pain in his side reminding him of his recent face-off with possible death, his neverending mission still urged him to continue.
"You cannot return to your duties until you are medically cleared, Rayad."
An order issued by the king, who happened to be his cousin. He despised any attempts to dictate his choices and a life where family loyalty and royal decrees prevailed. Battling anger, he chose to keep his attention focused on the familiar landscape to avoid Rafiq's scrutiny. "I do not see why I cannot return immediately. I have suffered much worse than broken ribs and will probably do so again."
"And the next time you could very well sustain wounds that will not heal, particularly if your cover was breached."
That sent him around to face Rafiq as he struggled to suppress his fury over the reminders of his downfall. A tragic event that had set his life-long course. "I learned from my mistake many years ago, and since that time no one has learned my identity. As far as my safety is concerned, that is a risk I take to fulfill my duty to this country."
Rafiq leaned back in the chair situated behind the massive desk and streaked a palm over his goatee, seemingly unaffected by the ire in Rayad's tone. "You go beyond the limits of risk-taking, cousin, as you continue your futile quest for elusive killers that you will most likely never find."
Bordered on losing control, he braced his palms on the edge of the desk and leaned forward. "I will never stop searching until I locate and punish those responsible."
Rafiq raised a brow. "And if you do not find them?" He straightened, hands fisted at his sides. "I will die trying."
"And that, Rayad, is exactly what I fear will happen if you do not reassess your goals. I have accepted that I will never know the true circumstance behind my mother's death. I have also accepted Rima's death was no fault of my own."
"My situation is very different, Rafiq. You speak of a possible accident or suicide. I speak of murder."
"Some answers are not meant to be known, but life is meant to be lived. You should rebuild yours as I have. You should honor your royal heritage by continuing the legacy with an heir."
A concept that was not feasible in light of the tragedy that remained foremost on his mind. "Unlike you and your brothers, Rafiq, my duties prevent me from considering taking a wife and bearing children."
"I am ruler of our country," Rafiq said. "Zain has established a water-conservation system that will secure Bajul's future. Adan is the commander of our armed forces. We have all been successful in our endeavors to bear children and keep our wives satisfied."
Since Rayad's recent arrival at the royal palace, all signs pointed to that success every night during the evening meal when he had been subjected to several miniature Mehdis, and Maysa, the king's very pregnant wife. "I commend you on that achievement, Rafiq. However, I am personally not interested in attaining domestic tranquility."
Rafiq narrowed his eyes and studied him a lengthy moment. "Are you so lost in your thirst for revenge that you no longer crave the company of a woman?"
"I am not celibate, yet there are very few women I trust enough to bed."
"How long has it been since you have been with a woman, Rayad?"
Too long to admit to any other man. "I have been infiltrating several insurgent encampments for the past eight months, or do you not recall giving that directive?"
Rafiq released a rough sigh. "Perhaps you should take this opportunity and use it to locate a suitable mate."
He had heard the same suggestions from his parents, as if they expected him to discard the pain and remorse. Clearly, no one understood that he only wanted to sate his natural desire, not settle into an ordinary life. "Even if I consented to wed as you and my father suggest, suitable brides in Bajul are rare, Rafiq. Most are married or too young."
Rafiq scowled. "Must you make this so difficult? You are free to travel to another region if necessary. I am certain your father can locate prospects in Dubai."
In an effort to quell the subject, Rayad returned to the window where he glimpsed the official armored limousine arriving at the entrance. When the driver rounded the car and opened the door, a lithe woman exited the vehicle, the afternoon sun glinting off her long blond hair. Her clothing was somewhat conservative and nondescript, yet she moved with the grace of a gazelle. As she removed the sunshades covering her eyes and glanced up at the window where he now stood, Rayad was struck by her beauty, and immediately reminded of his unwelcome abstinence.
Forcing his gaze away, he regarded Rafiq over one shoulder. "Are you expecting a guest? Specifically a female guest?"
"That is accurate," Rafiq said. "She will be staying here for an indeterminate amount of time."
He thrust his hands in his pockets and slowly began to pace the area. "Is she wed?"
The king presented his best scowl. "No, she is not, but I caution you to stay away from her, Rayad."
He paused midstride and turned toward his suddenly irritable cousin. "Why? Are you interested in bedding her?"
"Of course not," Rafiq said. "If you recall, I have a bride."
He could not resist the urge to bait the king. "This is true, but perhaps you have decided to reinstate ancient customs and populate a harem."
Rafiq's venomous look revealed he did not appreciate the conjecture. "The woman is Adan's sister-in-law. Should you trifle with her, you will have to answer to him, your commander in chief, as well as Piper, his wife."
That did not deter Rayad from exploring all possibilities. "Does this woman have a name?"
"Sunny McAdams. She is an international correspondent, and I highly doubt she would be interested in engaging in a temporary affair with you, if that is what you are considering. It is my understanding she has recently dissolved a relationship with a colleague."
What better way to temporarily move past loss than with mutual passion? Of course, she would have to be willing. He had never taken from a woman what she refused to give. He never would. "I appreciate your counsel, cousin," he said as he backed toward the door.
"I assure you I will take your concerns into consideration." And promptly ignore them.
"That would be wise, Rayad, and I suggest..."
Rayad closed the door on the king before he had a chance to finish his lecture. At the moment, he intended to give the palace guest an appropriate greeting.
He thrived on the chase, lived for the challenge in all aspects of his life and at times yearned for a respite from his mission of revenge. Erotic fantasy was his specialty, sex his second calling. When he set his sights on a conquest, he ignored all obstacles that stood in the way of achieving his goal. Yet one goal he had never achieved.
Refusing to relive the regrets, Rayad decided the woman with the golden hair would be worth his best efforts to know her, if only for a brief time. If they decided they did not suit each other, so be it. Yet if they did, then the world was rife with possibilities, including a journey into pure pleasure...and a brief escape from the sins of his past.
Although the mountainous terrain qualified as breathtaking, and the majestic palace looming before her storybook-worthy, Sunny McAdams didn't have the presence of mind to appreciate the enchanting scenery. She sought only solace, a refuge in which to reclaim her courage and return to the woman she once had been.
A few months ago, she'd come to this obscure Middle Eastern country called Bajul to visit her beloved fraternal twin sister, Piper, who'd married a bona-fide Arabian prince. That day, she had been happy with life, secure in her job as a journalist and comfortably settled into a casual relationship with a really good guy. Two weeks later, everything had fallen apart. Now she felt terribly sad and a whole lot alone. Beaten down, but not broken. No one could ever break her, even those who had tried.
Yet for some reason, she felt as if someone might be watching her. Then again, her paranoia had grown by leaps and bounds since the kidnapping. Lately everyone appeared to be the enemy, from cab drivers to convenience-store workers.
As much as she hated to admit it, she needed family now, Piper in particular. Their personality differences had never interfered when it came to sensing each other's emotional needs. And that connection had led to her sister's invitation to visit for however long it took for Sunny to regroup.
As she stood by the car and waited for further instruction, she didn't possess enough energy to insist that she was quite capable of opening her own door and carrying her own luggage. Luggage was definitely an overstatement when describing the lone duffel bag and small carry-on case now in the hands of an attendant all decked out in white muslin. She'd learned to travel light and pack very little in the course of her work. Covering breaking news in some of the most obscure places on earth required only minimal supplies. At least today she'd exchanged the khakis and T-shirts for black slacks and a white, tailored, buttoned-up blouse, as dressed up as she'd been in quite a while.
When the driver gestured toward the entry, two beefy guards opened the heavy, wooden double doors, allowing her access to the ornate Mehdi palace. And after she stepped inside, her footsteps echoed in the three-story foyer as she followed the man with her bag, passing several golden statuettes and exquisite artwork.
The attendant paused before the towering staircase, turned and set the duffel onto the polished stone floor near Sunny's feet. "If you will kindly wait here, I will summon your sister," he said, his tone thick with a Middle Eastern accent.
"Of course," she replied politely, although she wasn't sure why she had to wait. She couldn't imagine Piper had forgotten she was due to arrive at this hour. Then again, considering her sibling had stepped into the role of mother to the sheikh's infant son, she could have been detained by a wet diaper.
As the minutes ticked off, Sunny passed the time studying several portraits of regal-looking royals lining the stone walls, including the current king, the stoic and darkly handsome Rafiq Mehdi and his debonair brother, Zain. She then paused at the painting depicting the lighter-haired Adan, the youngest Mehdi son, and her new brother-in-law. She had to admit Piper had landed herself one good-looking pilot-prince, and the person who'd painted this picture had nailed every detail, right down to the guy's dimples.
After Sunny leaned over to better see the artist's signature, she immediately straightened from shock when she noted her twin's familiar handwriting. She then backtracked and checked every painting to find that Piper had created each and every one, and she'd done a darn good job. Finally, her sister had realized her overdue dream of becoming an artist. And she'd become a princess in the process. Amazing.
"Not too shabby at all," she muttered aloud. "It's about time you were wrested from our grandfather's clutches."
"Parental influences can be a challenge."
Sunny's hand automatically went to her throat as she spun around in search of the owner of the darkly masculine voice...and contacted the most intense near-black eyes she'd ever seen. He shouted military man from the top of his close-cropped black hair, to the bottom of his brown combat boots, yet his jaw was spattered with whiskers, as if he hadn't shaved in a while. The tan fatigues and black T-shirt pulled tight over his extremely toned chest, the short sleeves revealing standard-issue muscles that said he meant business, proved to be quite the distraction. So did his self-assured stance and the somewhat arrogant lift of his chin.
As he boldly assessed her from forehead to feet, Sunny's journalist's instinct kicked into overdrive, bringing with it a series of descriptors. Stealth. Mysterious. Sexy as hell.
The impact of the last thought caused heat to fan over her face and snake down her throat as the overwhelming need to escape took hold. She refused to give in to that urge.
When he didn't speak she offered her hand for a shake. "I'm Sunny McAdams. And you are?"
He stepped forward and enveloped her extended hand in one very large palm. "Greatly pleased to meet you."
Two more words came to mind—practiced player. After he released his grasp, Sunny hugged her arms to her middle as if that somehow guarded her from the impact of his inescapable aura of power. "Do you have a name or should I try to guess?"
"Rayad," he replied without even hinting at a smile, but his gaze never faltered. Oh, no. He just kept staring at her as if trying to read her mind. Hopefully he couldn't, because she harbored too many secrets she would never reveal to a stranger.
Sunny inclined her head and studied him straight on, showing him she wasn't about to cower under his assessment. "Ah, a man of few words who apparently doesn't have a last name."
"You made it!"
She tore her attention from the stranger and brought it to her dark-haired, blue-eyed bubbly sister practically bounding down the stairs to the right. Before Piper reached the bottom landing, Sunny risked a glance to find that the mystifying Rayad was nowhere to be found.
As soon as Piper's feet hit the floor below the final step, she drew Sunny into a voracious hug. "I'm so glad you're here."
"So am I," she said after they ended the embrace. "And I can't tell you how much I appreciate you letting me hang out here for a while."
"You're welcome to stay as long as you like," Piper said as she surveyed Sunny's face. "You look terrible."
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Descrizione libro Harlequin. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Condizione libro: New. 0373733631. Codice libro della libreria SKU301268
Descrizione libro Harlequin, 2015. Mass Market Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria P110373733631