Desired by the Sheikh
The second in the Sheikhs of Al Sounam series
Kiwi cook Stacy is hell-bent on gaining advanced medical treatment for her beloved half-brother David or he may never walk again. An unexpected letter has revealed his father is a Middle Eastern king – with money to burn, and surely an interest in keeping David’s existence a secret? Stacy heads to Al Sounam intent on blackmail.
Crown Prince Akil bin Khalid knows his fate. As the king’s oldest son he must marry for political reasons. No suitable woman has yet intrigued him, but surely he can indulge in a final fling?
The handsome sheikh is intensely attracted to this enchanting and unsuitable foreign girl, but by inviting her back to the palace is he endangering his family, his country, his inheritance, and his heart?
Warning: Secrets and lies, rubies and spies, and a sheikh with a huge four-poster bed.
Kris Pearson is one of my favorite romance authors. I loved her first Sheikh, 'Taken by the Sheikh', and I couldn't wait to read this one. I must say I wasn't disappointed. Once I started, I couldn't put it down and now I need to know when the next one will be published!
How the book came about
This one started with a photo. I found a girl smiling at me from all the zillions of photos for sale on the dreamstimes site, hugging her bronzy boyfriend, and inviting me to tell her story. She was going to be Lucy – and within minutes of me deciding that, I had an email from my friend and fellow author Diana Fraser saying she’d started writing a new novel about a girl called Lucy. Humph! That’s how my girl became Stacy. I used the bikini photo for the initial cover but now we're onto this much more sophisticated look.
‘Desired by the Sheikh’ follows on from ‘Taken by the Sheikh’ – but only in the sense that the setting is the same, and Sheikh Akil is the cousin of Sheikh Rafiq from the first one. As Rafiq had been working undercover and keeping out of the public eye, Akil doesn’t appear in the first book except in a tiny mention, and it’s the same for Rafiq in the second. I have a complicated plot going on which I hope will be unravelled in the third one – Qadir’s story.
However, the boys’ little sister, Halima, makes more of an appearance than I planned in ‘Desired by the Sheikh’ and she’s beating at the inside of my brain wanting her own story told. We’ll see what happens!
‘Desired’ was real fun to write. I don’t know how Akil got so flirty – he just IS. Maybe Stacy brings out the flirt in him? Mind you, her blue bikini has a lot to answer for…
The political situation in the Middle East plays a crucial part in this book, even though the story is a total romance. But how can the royal family ignore what’s happening in their neighbouring countries – and maybe even in their own kingdom of Al Sounam?
So yes – we have a love story between two unsuitable people, political unrest, and hints of more books to follow. I hope you enjoy it.
Royal family, Al Sounam. Stacy Cassano keyed it into the search box, pushed her unruly bundle of hair back over her shoulder, and jiggled one foot impatiently.
She needed the King. King Muhammad al-Husayn bin Khalid. And there he was. Black beard. Fierce eyebrows. Surrounded by other men with black beards. Possibly with less fierce eyebrows. A sea of white robes. It wasn’t going to be easy to pinpoint him in a crowd like that.
She scrolled down. Could she find him through the Queen? Queen Raniket. In a spectacular purple gown with lots of beading. And there again in Sounamese clothing, dark eyes made up to kill.
There were sons—one looking very like his father in traditional garb, one wearing sunglasses and a sharp suit, with the Eiffel Tower in the background. A daughter, obviously younger—although Stacy knew you could never guarantee how old the photos were. Lots more of the King. Lots more of sons. In white robes. In military uniforms. At the races. At the White House! Looking so different every time there could be a dozen of them.
She sighed, and printed the best one she’d found of the King. It would have to do for her undercover mission.
CHAPTER 1—BEACH VOLLEYBALL
Akil Da’ud al-Husayn bin Khalid planted his royal elbow on the cashmere blanket and supported his determined chin on his fist as his gaze returned yet again to the beach-volleyball players. Foreigners. Playing in hundred degree-plus heat. One dark brow quirked in amusement.
Although the resort of Kalal caught the best of the available breeze off the ocean, it was still scorching out there on the sand. Better to be back where he was—listening to his music in the shade of the palms, with a mesh sided shelter for privacy, and luxurious blankets to cushion his hard used body.
His black eyes focused intently on the brunette in the blue bikini. A tall, tanned girl with a torrent of dark wavy hair. He’d watched as she bundled it up out of her way before she joined one of the teams. Watched as she snapped the sides of her skimpy panties in and out against her curvy butt, releasing a small shower of sand after a frantic dive to reach the ball. Watched as her luscious breasts bounced gently against the two inadequate triangles of her bikini top.
Someone like Miss Bikini set his blood sparking far more than any of the well-bred ‘suitable’ girls who were constantly paraded in front of him.
With hopeful eyes.
By fathers with hopeful eyes.
Every scrap of news about him in the press and on TV carried the same speculation; that the woman currently by his side might soon be Al Sounam’s new princess—mother of an heir who’d cement an alliance with the neighbouring countries.
The pressure was unrelenting, although it was beyond Akil’s understanding how they expected this to tip the scales when the threats from thousands of fanatical insurgents grew in fury every day.
He continued to watch as the girl leaped and dodged and laughed—a welcome diversion from his sombre thoughts. Yes, she ticked all his boxes, but fat chance he could contemplate a future with someone like her. Obviously foreign. Almost naked. Seen cavorting in public with multiple men.
He sighed and rolled onto his belly, stretching the muscles in his long legs and flexing his shoulders as he considered the week ahead. He’d played squash earlier in one of the palace courts. Played hard, because his opponent was Qadir. When you were the oldest son and Crown Prince, you did all you could to stop your baby brother getting the upper hand, even if the role life had handed you severely curtailed certain freedoms.
He’d been scheduled for more frequent regal duties than usual because his parents were taking a break at the old hunting lodge in the desert. He was expected to attend tomorrow night’s big diplomatic reception, to host a lunch for the visiting engineers, to accompany a party of British professors as they toured the university… the usual grind. All important public relations stuff, no doubt, but he hated being used as a figurehead; hated being put on display because his royal status added extra gloss to an occasion; hated it almost as much as the constant opportunities people found to parade nubile young women in front of him.
He hadn’t studied long and hard just to be trotted out like a damned celebrity when it suited his father, but every project he instigated seemed destined to be taken over by someone else once he’d got it moving, and every woman he found the least bit attractive was dismissed by the palace advisors as unsuitable for strategic reasons. The familiar sourness of frustrated ambition sat heavily in his stomach. For all his wealth he was far from free. Nowhere near as free as the girl in the blue bikini.
He pulled out his ear-buds as she soared up from the sand and slammed her arms against the ball, punting it back over the net without mercy.
“Go Stacy!” one of the onlookers yelled.
She turned to acknowledge the cheer, raised a hand to her flushed face, and staggered sideways.
Akil sprang to his feet, grabbed a bottle of chilled water, and covered the distance between them in a dozen swift paces. He grasped her arm and steadied her.
“What the—?” she demanded, trying to shake him off.
“Come and sit in the shade,” he insisted. “And drink.” He thrust the water toward her. “You’re half dehydrated already, and if you keep this up you’ll keel over.”
“Hey, leave her alone,” the vocal onlooker protested.
Akil saw Faruk, his bodyguard, rise from the beach chair under the palms. He chopped a hand through the air to indicate he was in no danger. Faruk sank down again, eyes sharp under beetling black brows.
“You too,” he added to the would-be protector. The hatless boy’s face ran with perspiration. “There’s plenty of water.”
He walked the girl into the shade, enjoying his closer view of her and the feel of her soft skin under his fingers. Now he saw bright blue eyes, a few freckles across her nose, and her golden breasts rising and falling against the far from decent bikini top as she tried to regain her breath. Strands of silky hair trailed toward him like smoke in the hot breeze.
Akil’s shelter was suddenly Refreshment Central for half a dozen noisy young men who sprawled on the blankets, glugged down his chilled water supply, and fell ravenously on the tray of mezze the palace kitchens had provided.
In minutes, the olives had gone, the stuffed grape leaves and roasted watermelon seeds had been hoovered up, and the pita chips had descended into the spicy Mahamarra dip again and again until the bowl was empty.
“Man, that’s good,” Sweaty-face exclaimed, his eyes fixed on the empty bowl, now cradled between the girl’s breasts just below a deep green jade pendant. Akil watched as she wiped her forefinger repeatedly around the sides of the bowl to gather up the last smears of dip, then licked, closing her eyes to appreciate the flavours.
His groin thudded every time her lips parted and she sucked her finger.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Imagine Stacy, Akil, and the two guards driving in darkness over land like this to the hunting lodge in the desert.
The Grand Avenue of the Palms at sunset.
I always make a collage when I start writing a book. Here's the one I made for Stacy and Akil to remind me of the atmosphere I needed to create. There are pieces from various countries here (and a film!) but they all combine to make my country of Al Sounam come alive to me.