In 1977 fifteen-year-old Karen Wexler stood on a dusty landing strip in Morocco as Tamir Rahman walked out of her life for good. It was the last time she’d see his direct, tender brown eyes and the ready smile that warmed her spirit. She was the isolated daughter of a U.S. Ambassador, while he was twelve years her senior, living with her family while under her father’s tutelage. When they first met, Karen despised his arrogance and vied for her father’s attention with him. But once they began to battle wits, they eventually formed an unlikely friendship. The day they parted was one of the hardest moments, but she’d forget the numbing pain in her heart.
Karen had no idea ten years later … they would meet again.
The Sahara, 1987
He was her father’s friend, surely that would give her some leverage? Her hands were tied behind her back, the thick rope cutting into her skin. Weariness hunched her shoulders. Sweat and dirt made her button down safari top and shorts cling to her body like a second skin.
Three hours ago, Karen Wexler and four colleagues from Travel magazine were in a jeep snapping photographs for their anniversary issue near the Libya border. The next thing they knew twenty armed men were ambushing them. They were yanked from the vehicle and ushered into separate tents like livestock. In the melee, she’d heard one of the men say his name: Sheik Tamir Rahman.
Screaming could have been an option, but in this part of the world, keeping your mouth shut was usually the best. Though her legs weren’t tied, the armed guard standing near her was probably well versed in the use of his AK-47.
Karen had no desire to test him.
Would she even be allowed to plead her case? She had no idea what to expect. It had been a bad idea to let her friends talk her into flying over Algeria. With a margarita and a couple of beers, her conscience had proved pretty useless and she agreed to go. Her father had been the U.S. Ambassador to Morocco ten years ago, but that didn’t give her any clout here.
The rustling of fabric behind her signaled someone else had entered the tent. When the man next to her moved, it took every ounce of her resolve not to scream and beg for her life. At four feet away, his gun was far too close for her liking.
He spoke to the other man in Arabic, and she vaguely recognized the word “yes” as she strained pointlessly to hear their rapid exchange.
Karen squeezed her eyes tightly together, vowing if given the opportunity, she would never drink again. The colorful rug beneath her shifted several times to the thump of her heartbeat as someone closed in on her.
Head bowed from fright more than custom, she watched as a pair of shining brown boots appeared in front of her. Licking dry lips, she refused to look up from them.
Her stomach sank, he was not pleased, and she wasn’t sure if he’d made a statement or asked a question. What would the punishment be if her guess was wrong?
“Constantly testing your boundaries.” Each word was clipped as though he was seething with anger.
She couldn’t seem to catch her breath, despite the fact that the tent was surprisingly cool compared to the over one hundred degree temperatures that sweltered the sands outside. She was stifling, her mouth parched. Karen’s breath and thoughts were both erratic, and she was helpless to control either of them.
This was the first time in her adult life that she was completely out of control.
Her camera dropped to the ground, hitting her exposed knee against the bone, making her flinch. The exposed negatives of her film came next, hitting the other knee.
For a moment, she felt her lips tremble as two months of work was destroyed right in front of her. Karen bit down on her tongue, to the point tears threatened to moisten her lashes.
“You are a reporter?”
“Yes,” she answered reluctantly.
“And how has that been working out for you?”
Karen looked up, and her scowl could have deflated the tent. Her eyes made contact with the dark, glittering irises of Sheik Tamir Rahman.
He was her father’s friend.
It became a mantra in her head.
He was her father’s friend, that had to mean something to him. The last time she’d seen him she’d been on a landing strip, a girl of fifteen standing next to her father as a twenty-seven-year-old Tamir had pecked her on her cheek and walked out of her life to get married.
She’d cried for almost a week. He’d been her only friend.
That was ten years ago, and she’d all but forgotten about it until now.
He stood over her, live in the here and now, no longer a memory. Time had barely touched him, though he’d cut the long waist length hair she used to yank on like a rope before charging off into a dead run—he always caught her. It now rested in feathered layers, falling to his shoulders. Instead of a clean face, he carried a neatly trimmed beard that accentuated a sharp jaw line.
“Uh, my God,” she mumbled unintentionally, casting her head back down.
Her thoughts might as well have mimicked his own. Tamir’s breath caught in his throat, and he was almost unable to breath when the deep brown face tilted up at him and her dark brown eyes met his.
Karen Wexler, he recognized her immediately. Her eyes still wide and expressive, thin brows arched above them. The cherub quality of her cheeks and mouth were fading, but still made her appear younger than her years.
By her reaction, she’d recognized him as well. Placing his hands on his hips, he used the seconds to regain his composure.
“You took my camera,” she said quietly. “That was all I had, can I please go?”
“Why?” Karen asked, staring at him with the same intuitive eyes that constantly read him all those years ago. “I don’t have anything else you want.”
She is afraid, the thought made him frown. But their past didn’t matter, the times had changed, she was a foreigner trespassing on his lands, nothing more.
Moving behind her, he felt her start when he cut the ties from her wrist. “I trust you know how pointless it is to run.”
Tamir didn’t look at her while speaking, and she scrambled away from him before massaging her lightly bruised wrists. Holding his head low, he quickly left the tent; only outside could he manage to take in an easy breath.
He stayed away for a while in a separate tent after he had his men bring her things to him. He now had her entire life splayed out in front of him. Aside from the broken camera and useless film he’d left with her, all she had was an empty canteen, her passport, and several magazines in her bag.
When she barely passed his waist she had insisted on being called Kari, and she’d always been more boy than girl, never content unless she was dirty and fighting with all the males. It had been acceptable then to him because she was just a kid, but now … He sighed as he stared at her passport picture.
She was going to have to be made to understand that she couldn’t do everything she wanted. A lesson her father should have taught her a long time ago. It would have been easy for Tamir to have one of his men contact Bruce Wexler, now retired and living in Los Angeles. But Tamir didn’t. Instead, he had Nidal make a bath, and then he had Karen fetched and brought to him.
Nidal had no love for Americans and his regard for women was questionable. One look from Tamir as he brought Karen into the tent made him promptly take the woman off his shoulder and place her in the center of the room. She stumbled slightly, her short curly hair looked tousled, and she appeared to be repressing what he guessed was a barrage of curses.
It was then that Tamir came to realize the true change in her. Gone were the short stubbly legs and arms that were constantly grabbing what they wanted, in their place were long well-toned athletic limbs, but she obviously still had plenty of spirit about her.
“Leave us, Nidal.” The younger man nodded, briefly glancing at Karen, and Tamir almost rolled his eyes at the gossip that was surely spreading through the camp. It didn’t matter, his authority would never be questioned.
“Is it all right for me to speak?” Her voice was low, barely constrained sarcasm and anger spiced her words.
Shrugging he answered. “I suppose.”
Her words rushed out. “Can I see my friends? I just want to know—”
“No harm has come to them.” He calmly spoke over her, cutting her off.
“Am I supposed to take your word for that?”
“What else are you going to take?” he challenged.
Karen wished the earth would swallow her up. Of all the places she could be. Had he even recognized her? She doubted he cared either way.
God, why hadn’t he aged badly?
Why hadn’t he gotten fat and lost most of his hair?
A wheeze when he talked wouldn’t have hurt either. Instead, he had to be even more devastatingly gorgeous than the man she remembered. Despite the situation and her uncertainty of the outcome, standing there under his gaze reminded her of the carefree girl she was, and the playful wonderful man he used to be.
He’d been sweet enough to blush when she dared kiss him on the cheek. To think of it now made her want to bury her head in the sand. Lord knew there was plenty of it around. She’d sneaked into her father’s study and drank two glasses of sherry the night before he was set to leave.
How he could have put up with that, she didn’t know. What a silly little girl she’d been.
“Why would you stare at me so long?” he asked quietly.
It irritated her not knowing if he remembered her, but if she cut the bull and just asked him, how would she put it? Oh, Sheik Rahman, you must remember me, the girl you almost convinced to put a frog in her mouth—
“Are you annoyed by me?” he asked, leaning forward, lacing long bronzed fingers together. “You rolled your eyes just now.”
“Good,” he said, standing. “That benefits you, since I am to be your only company tonight.”
The white pants he wore snuggled up against his thighs, and Karen could have been a nun and still noticed and reacted to the bulge that rested between them. The sleeves on his soft olive shirt revealed well-muscled forearms that carried fine, soft dark hair. Ordering herself to stop staring was pointless; she’d always been aware of Tamir’s beauty, but this was the first time she desired it with a woman’s eyes.
God, girl, what are you doing? You’re lucky if you get out of here with your hands, hell your life! Stop ogling him, he’s married.
And then her stomach clenched hard.
Damn, that’s right. Maybe his wife was even at the camp.
“You can bathe and change your clothes. I will be back later and we will dine together.”
“Dine?” she asked dumbly, not paying attention to the tub he revealed behind a screen as she stared him down more openly. His hair reminded her of a raven, the way it whisked out from the nape of his neck.
Muscles were pronounced even through the loose linen shirt he wore, daylight outlining the v-shaped torso beneath.
He squinted briefly before repeating himself. “Yes, dine. Or what is it you Americans say? Eat? Very well then, I will eat with you.”
He left her to her vices. But Karen could have sworn before he turned from her, a shadow of a grin passed his lips.
Rachel Cade is a romance author from Massachusetts. Sheik’s Bed is her first release in a series of short stories. She enjoys spinning erotic tales featuring mysterious heroes and impulsive heroines.
“I think I’m motivated to write for the same reason I became enthralled by the romance genre as a teen, the sense of escape and adventure. I find myself writing about mysterious foreign men, exotic locales and risk taking heroines. Often my stories focus on the jet-set, but I always try to keep my characters emotionally grounded and relatable. My stories focus on interracial romance because it’s something that resonates for me in my actual life. Most of my relationships have been with men of different backgrounds and cultures. So it’s really second nature for me to write about it. My ultimate goal is to entertain my readers, and bring them to places they didn’t believe they’d go.”
Find her at rachelcadeauthor.com
Title: Sheik’s Bed: A Sahara Night
Genre: Romance, Erotica
Book Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NP73XTU