Taken by the Sheikh
Come away somewhere exotic!
Abducted. Seduced. Purring. Laurel de Courcey is captured by terrorists, chained up in a disgusting bunker, and videoed for a ransom demand which is shown worldwide. Ooops - wrong hostage! Who'd expect a shy Kiwi nanny to be worth anything?
Laurel's soon tied up in Sheikh Rafiq's bed instead, because he rescues her and appoints himself her personal bodyguard. Very personal. But she has good reason to distrust men.
Imprisoned in his old royal hunting lodge deep in the desert 'for her own protection', Laurel rebels. Spectacular fireworks, dangerous escape attempts, and an impossible love affair follow.
Warning: Contains one red-hot Sheikh with a wicked tongue and unlimited stamina.
CJ Douglas says 'This is a terrific read! You are caught up in the action from the first page - real thriller movie action which is authentic and engrossing. Rafiq, the Sheikh, is no caricature Rudolf Valentino. Laurel, the heroine, is an appealing mix of innocence and fiesty spirit. There's a back story of genuine interest, which is woven skilfully into the main narrative.'
62 reviews on Amazon.com with a 4.5 star average.
How the book came about
This romance was inspired by a news item about the kidnapping of a totally inappropriate New Zealander. And I thought 'what if?' and my story started taking shape. 'Taken by the Sheikh' is on the sexy side. Well - Sheikhs are sexy, aren't they! Those brooding good looks, whipcord-strong bodies, and all that money... And this one is covered in scars. How did he get those?
My heroine, Laurel, is a Kiwi nanny, working for an American family in the Middle Eastern kingdom of Al Sounam. She's taken hostage when she's mistaken for the oldest American daughter.
My hero, Rafiq, is a security specialist, working undercover. It's his job to rescue Laurel from a team of vicious terrorists and spirit her away to safety. And then to keep her out of the public eye until the terrorists think she's dead. Of course this leads to extra complications. Laurel doesn't want to be held hostage in an old royal hunting lodge out in the deep desert. She doesn't want to share Rafiq's bed. And she definitely doesn't want to fall in love with a scary foreigner.
This story seems to have touched a lot of people's hearts. I've had such good feedback about this book that I've added 'Desired by the Sheikh', and another is (slowly!) following The complicated plotline is slowing me down more than I'd like. It's really interesting inventing a whole new country, complete with its history and customs, but it doesn't happen overnight.
Here are a couple of contrasting desert landscapes for you. The sort of desert Laurel had to walk across, and the oasis where everything changed.
Chapter One — Hostage Horror
Laurel de Courcey stared at the cliff in dismay. After her exhausting trek through the desert she had to climb that?
The unexpected barrier at the end of the gully rose up steep and crumbling. The tiny stream she’d been following seeped out from under the daunting rock face. What was on the other side? Rafiq hadn’t warned her about this—simply ordered her to walk, and said she’d find ‘a house’.
Well, there was no house in sight. And did she trust him anyway? He might be all taut muscles and flashing eyes, but she had to remember he was only the lesser of two evils. The other men in his group? Her body convulsed in a sudden shudder just thinking about them.
She tried to banish the hideous memory and gulped the last of her water, refilled the bottle from the life-saving trickle, clenched her teeth, and attempted the hazardous scramble up out of her temporary hiding place. How she wished she had his strength and endurance!
Long minutes later she hauled herself over the top and lay panting. Black spots whirled across her vision. She squeezed her eyes closed, and still the spots flickered and jumped. Finally she raised her head.
Indeed there was a house—or some sort of half concealed building anyway. A high plastered wall hid much of it, but an arched gateway, softened by cascades of pink blossom from a gnarled tree, looked inviting.
She rose wearily and staggered onward. Palm fronds and other lush greenery came into focus as she limped nearer, and she feared the unexpected oasis might be a mirage after the endless inhospitable miles of sand and rock.
But no—the gate was real. She stood in the dancing shade of the blossoms and tugged the bell-rope. Within seconds a small wrinkled woman appeared, bustling toward her with colorful long skirts fluttering around her legs.
Laurel pulled Rafiq’s note from her jeans pocket and smoothed it out. Would this be the woman she was supposed to give it to? She held it forward.
The impassive dark face lit up. The gate swung open. The little woman whisked the note from her fingers and became extremely animated, urging her in and rattling away with great enthusiasm.
“Laurel,” Laurel said, tapping her chest with a finger.
“Yasmina,” the woman replied, thumping her own.
“Yasmina,” Laurel tried. This brought nods and smiles.
“Rafiq?” she asked. More nods and smiles, but also an unmistakable gesture of ‘not here now’.
Yasmina re-read the note with close attention, all the while chattering in her own language, and drew Laurel along the path and in through the doorway of a turreted old house with thick stone walls. The blinding light outside made the interior seem dim and restful, and the relative coolness washed over her skin like a blessing.
After progressing through a long hallway, they arrived in a high-ceilinged bedroom. Yasmina threw open a further door, and Laurel stood amazed as the servant started water gushing into a marble bath from an ornate gold spout. She must look desperately hot and dirty if this was how she was welcomed!
The little woman emerged—smiling and gesturing that Laurel was to treat the room as her own. She trotted off, and Laurel sank down on the bed before her legs gave way under her. What on earth would happen next?
The bath looked blissful once she managed to rise to her weary feet again. Yasmina had thrown a handful of fresh rose petals into it. Laurel assumed she’d been tidying up full blown blooms as they proceeded up the path together, but plainly the flowers had been intended for this. Fragrant foam grew ever deeper in the water as the bath filled. A selection of French soaps spilled from a basket at one end of the huge tub. It all seemed way over the top for a semi-deserted relic so far from civilization.
She stripped and bathed, shampooing the gritty sand from her long fair hair and letting the delicious warm scented water soothe away her aches. When she returned to the bedroom she found all her clothes had disappeared and a gauzy mauve robe had been laid on the bed. She slipped it on, admired its bands of amazing gold embroidery, stretched out on the bed to consider the strange turn her life had taken, and plummeted into an exhausted asleep.
At once the nightmare hit again. The wind from the desert moaned eerily. Palm fronds clattered, but otherwise very little moved as the small seaside resort of Kalal drowsed in the afternoon heat.
A solitary vehicle coasted to a halt just behind her.
Laurel turned when she heard the door creak open, but she had only a split second to register the fast-moving dark shape of a man before brutal hands dragged a bag down over her face. As quickly as that, she’d been trapped.
A scalding cascade of horrendous possibilities flooded her brain. Terrified, she screamed at top volume, dropped her sketching pad, and kicked backward with every ounce of her considerable determination. The heel of her shoe connected with what she hoped was her captor’s shin.
It caused a guttural male voice to let loose a vicious curse in the local language, and she enjoyed a fleeting flash of triumph. But then an iron-hard hand closed over her face, pressing her lips painfully back against her teeth. And a steely arm wrapped around her waist and heaved her forward and face down.
Her scrabbling fingers told her she’d landed on a slab of foam rubber on a hard floor.
Doors banged, a motor revved, and she jerked backward as the vehicle took off at high speed.
Shudders of panic took over then. Huge fluttery tremors ran up and down her spine.
She was blind. Cruel hands had yanked a drawstring tightly around her neck so the bag was closed, and cut off any vestige of light... any hope of seeing where she was being taken.
She struggled and kicked in the swaying vehicle, and suffered the further insult of a warm weight moving to pin her down to the no doubt filthy mattress.
“Be still!” a man’s deep voice growled close against her ear.
She was so astounded to hear accented but obvious English she momentarily froze before resuming her frenzied bucking and struggling. But she had no hope of escaping from under his strong body.
Hard hands grabbed her wrists, and she heard the snick of handcuffs and felt the smooth hard metal against her skin. Her whirling brain registered she was now one step more helpless.
Fingers trailed from her wrists to her elbows and back to her useless hands. It was almost a caress. Her heart thudded even more rapidly as the implication sank in.
“Be still,” he muttered again. “We do not mean to hurt you as long as you cooperate.”
With her shoulders flattened down under his chest, Laurel’s breasts were squashed against the floor. The man’s hips were exactly above hers. His bony pelvis ground against her bottom as the vehicle swayed and braked. A long hard thigh clamped either side of her own, pinning her down, holding her captive.
And between those impressive thighs the firm masculine bulge felt all too obvious. Desolation engulfed her then.
“Lie still and it will go easier for you,” he growled, lifting his upper torso off her which at least gave her poor breasts some relief.
But the shift in weight drove his hips even more firmly into hers, and there was no escaping the intimate press of his body. She willed her legs to weld together as shattering images exploded across her brain.
What did they want from her? One minute she’d been wandering happily in the sun, thinking of the children she was caring for, and inventing a family of her own. In an instant, future imaginings had been ripped away and replaced with the desperate danger of the present moment, and this cruel man, and not nearly enough air.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This was the first collage I made before writing a book, and I pinned it up on the curtain beside my computer as I wrote. It's a little sunscorched now (appropriate for a desert story) but I hope you can see the general feel I was working toward. The emerald box started out as a pretty prop and then took on a life of its own, becoming absolutely intrinsic to the story.