Desert WarriorBy: Nalini Singh
AGAINST HER WILL
The fabled desert kingdom of Zulheina was Tariq’s birthright, and he was a man who held tightly what belonged to him. And that meant he had to reclaim a very special woman—the woman who had broken his heart years before in New Zealand. And once he had lured her to this distant land, he meant to keep his new bride here forever…
But Jasmine Coleridge was not as easily tamed as he had imagined. Her beguiling blend of untouched innocence and dazzling sensuality threatened, once again, to bring the haughty sheikh to his knees—and made him wonder who was the true prisoner…
To Mum, Dad and the Amazing FMP, for Everything
"Do not put even one foot on Zulheil soil unless you are ready to stay forever. You will not get past the airport gates before I kidnap you!"
Hands trembling, Jasmine skirted around the small groups of people in the waiting area and headed for the glass doors that would lead her out of the airport, and into Tariq's land.
"Madam." A dark hand fell next to hers on the handle of the luggage trolley.
Startled, she looked up into the smiling face of a man who appeared to be an airport official. "Yes?" Her heart started to pound in a mixture of hope and fear.
"You are going the wrong way. The taxis and hire cars are on the other side." He gestured toward a long corridor leading to another set of glass doors. Desert sands glittered in the distance.
"Oh." She felt foolish. Of course Tariq wouldn't complete his threat so literally. He'd been angry enough to scare her when he'd warned her against coming to his land. Now, Tariq was a cool, controlled man, whom she'd seen a number of times on television, leading peace talks between warring Arab states. Her Tariq was now Tariq al-Huzzein Donovan Zamanat, the Sheik of Zulheil, the leader of his people.
"Thank you," she managed to say. When she began to move again, the pale blue fabric of her ankle-length dress swished around her legs in time with her steps.
"It is my pleasure. I will escort you to the vehicles."
"That's very kind. What about the other travelers?"
The corners of the stranger's eyes crinkled. "But madam, you were the only foreigner on this flight."
Jasmine blinked, thinking back over the trip. All she could remember were lilting vowels and flowing hands, beautiful sloe-eyed women and protective Arabian men.
"I didn't realize," she admitted.
"Zulheil has been closed to visitors."
"But I'm a visitor." She stopped, wondering if it was too much to hope that Tariq would actually kidnap her. No sane woman would want to be captured by a desert sheik who held her in contempt, but she was long past logic and sanity.
Her guide paused, and she could have sworn that he blushed under his golden skin. "It ...Zulheil began letting in people again this last week."
At his graceful wave, she started to push the cart down the marbled floor once more. "Was it closed because of mourning?" Her voice was quiet, respectful.
"Yes. The loss of our sheik and his beloved wife was a tragic blow to our people." His eyes momentarily darkened with pain. "But we have a good sheik in their only son. Sheik Tariq will lead us out of the darkness."
Jasmine's heart skipped a beat at Tariq's name. From somewhere she found the strength to ask, "He's ruling alone, your new sheik?"
If the man told her that Tariq had taken a wife during the period of media blackout since his parents' deaths, she'd get on the next plane out of Zulheil. Even now, her lungs protested every breath she took, and she hung on the edge of control.
The look her guide threw her was assessing. He nodded sharply, but waited until they were outside before speaking. The harsh heat of the desert hit Jasmine like a physical slap, but she stood firm. Wilting was not an option, not when this was her last chance.
There was a black limousine parked at the curb. She'd started to move away from it when her guide halted her.
"That is your taxi."
"That's definitely not a taxi." Hope, she understood, came in many forms. Hers had arrived in the shape of a long, sleek piece of gleaming machinery.
"Zulheil is rich, madam. These are our taxis."
She wondered if he expected her to believe that. Biting her lip to muffle the slightly hysterical urge to giggle, she nodded and let him put her cases into the trunk. She waited, heart pounding and mouth dry with anticipation, until he came around to the back passenger door.
"You asked if our sheik rules alone. The answer is yes. Some say it is because his heart has been broken." His voice was a low whisper.
Jasmine gasped. Before she could continue the conversation, he swung open the limo door. Her mind in a whirl, she stepped inside the luxurious air-conditioned interior.