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Lucy and the Sheikh

By:Diana Fraser

Lucy and the Sheikh

by Diana Fraser


King Razeen ibn Shad looked across the calm waters of the bay, silvered under the light of the bright moon, and watched his old friend climb aboard the yacht. It had been a good night: dinner and conversation with someone who wasn’t his employee or his subject, someone who didn’t want something from him. The shared laughter and memories made the loneliness afterwards even harder to bear. But he had no choice. His country had to come first.

He was about to turn away when a flash of white on the calm waters drew his attention. He narrowed his eyes and saw a swimmer: arms cutting through the sea in a sleek action designed to move fast through water, designed not to disturb the calm surface, designed not to be seen. And it would have worked if he hadn’t been watching so closely.

He moved to the shadow of the palm trees that fringed the beach and watched the faint movement on the water come closer. The beach was off-limits until the scientific survey of the coral reef his friend was undertaking was complete. Until then, no one had permission to be here. Last time they’d had intruders, they’d lost part of the coral forever. He’d make sure it didn’t happen again.

Lucy stepped out of the sea onto the still-warm sand, squeezed the water out of her long hair and walked up the beach. After a day spent preparing food below decks, she’d needed a swim—and what a swim. The water was as warm as the soft air that now caressed her body. She breathed deeply of the fragrant air and looked around.

The beach was a perfect crescent of white sand under the sheltering sweep of the palm trees. On one side of the small bay a rocky promontory jutted into the water, marking the beginning of the coral reef the scientists on the boat were here to study and on the other side she could see the uneven outline of mangrove trees.

She’d traveled all over the world but nowhere came close to the perfection of this unspoiled place. The white sand was almost luminous under the starlight and three-quarters moon. The beach was empty: no lights, no people and no sound but the distant hoot of an owl and the seductive splash and drag of the waves. She was quite alone. The only sign of habitation was a low-lying mansion in a neighboring bay and the yacht, bobbing lazily out near the reef.

Perfect. Or it would have been if she didn’t have to set her plan into action the next day.

She sat down and wriggled her legs against the sand: enjoying the sense of freedom, relishing the sensuous friction of the dry sand against her wet body, willing her mind to forget, for one moment, what her real purpose was in accepting the job that had brought her to Sitra.

Suddenly she stilled and a prickle of alarm ran down her back. She twisted round and scanned the shadows, her ears straining to hear whatever it was that had disturbed her. It took a second scan of the beach before she saw him.

He stepped away from the dark trees, his white shirt and pale trousers glowing palely in the dim light. Icy fear washed through her body as she scrambled to her feet and spun round.

“What are you doing here? This beach is off-limits.” The stranger’s deep and powerful voice filled the silence of the night.

She stepped back toward the sea, her body tense, ready to run. She couldn’t see his face or dark hair that merged with the trees behind him. She couldn’t outrun him; he was closer to her than she was to the sea. She took a deep breath, willing herself to calm, forcing herself to think.

“I know it’s off limits. So what the hell are you doing here?”

“Answer my question.” It was a command from someone used to obedience.

Lucy swallowed the first angry retort that sprang to mind. She was alone with a man much taller and broader than herself. Somehow she didn’t think her self-defense moves would have any effect on him. “I’m with the boat over there. The King has employed us to do some work on the reef. I fancied a swim.”

“I see.” He paused for a moment. “In that case I assume I can trust you not to disturb the coral.” His voice had lost its angry tone, but was no less commanding.

She exhaled a breath she hadn’t known she was holding. “Yes, of course.”

She waited for him to say something further but he didn’t. She took another step backwards, suddenly conscious that she was wearing nothing but a flimsy bikini, had no phone, nothing to protect herself, except herself.

“You may stay if you wish.”

“No, I was just going.” The moon rose a little higher above the palm trees, casting light on the stranger. He was striking, with a body as powerful as his voice.

“You should come during the daylight, you would see the bay better then.”

“I’ll be working.”