A controlling sheikh, a woman determined to be free, and a second-chance romance…
Sheikh Amare has never forgotten the Australian surfer with whom he had a passionate one-night stand two years earlier. He’d immediately known she was the one for him but he’d made a mistake. He’d told her they would marry, and she’d disappeared from his life without trace. But now their paths have crossed once more and he won’t make the same mistake again. This time when he asks her, she’ll say yes. There can be no other outcome.
Dr. Janey Montgomerie wants nothing to do with controlling men. Her self-esteem has suffered at the hands of one—her father—and she is determined never to allow anyone to control her ever again. She has her sights firmly set on succeeding in her career but is devastated to discover that her success is dependent on working with the man she’d run from two years earlier—Amare. The man who makes her heart and body sing, but who scares her like no other.
Janey is determined to let nothing get in her way of finding the elusive Bahr Al Noor diamond. But maybe someone can… a controlling man… a sheikh… an equally determined lover...
Publisher : Bay Books (August 26, 2023)
Language : English
Paperback : 212 pages
Item Weight : 10.4 ounces
Dimensions : 5 x 0.48 x 8 inches
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“Come with me. I want to introduce you to someone.”
Janey followed Leonora up to a group of men. She overheard one of the men talking.
“I can think of a million things in Paris I’d rather be doing,” the man said.
Janey stopped suddenly. There was something in the timbre of his voice which navigated directly through her senses and set her heart racing. She took a deep breath and told herself off sternly.
““Paris is wonderful,” she said, “but it doesn’t have the Bahr Al Noor diamond.”
“And nor does Sifra,” the man said, turning around.
Her gaze was level with the man’s western suit. His hands were on his hips, pushing the suit jacket aside, and revealing a beautifully cut white silk shirt. Her gaze rose to a tie which had been loosened to reveal curling hair on a dark skin. Her gaze lifted again to a chin which was already beginning to show the signs of dark stubble. And again to a mouth—a mouth which made her heart stop. She didn’t need to lift her gaze any further to realize she knew this man. But she looked up anyway. Because she had no choice but to look into those eyes as compelling as they had been two years ago. But far colder. It was him. It was Amare. She felt her mouth slacken and her brain freeze.
“Ms. Montgomerie, how nice to see you again.”
Amare extended his hand to hers but she simply looked at it as if it were an apparition. If she touched him, he’d be real and she didn’t want him to be real. She didn’t want her past to come back to haunt her—for good reason. As she didn’t extend her hand to take his, he reached out anyway and took her hand in his, held it briefly before shaking and releasing it.
“What?” exclaimed Leonora looking from one to the other. “You’ve met before? How come? Amare, you didn’t say anything when I told you about Janey!”
Neither Amare nor Janey looked at Leonora or replied immediately. Janey was in shock at seeing the man she’d had a one-night-stand with two years earlier, half-a-world away on an Australian beach, and couldn’t have spoken even if she could think of how to reply. Slowly he turned to Leonora.
“We met in Australia, at a conference.” Then he looked back at Janey and her heart leapt into a rapid tattoo, as she wondered if he’d tell Leonora exactly what had happened that night that had changed her life. But he stopped there, his lips pressed together as if telling her that he could say more, that he might say more in future but, at this moment, he wasn’t about to make their secrets public knowledge. “Didn’t we, Ms. Montgomerie?”
She gave a quick nod.
“And may I call you Janey?”
“Oh, yes,” said Leonora. “Everyone does, don’t they Janey? No one stands on ceremony with our beach babe!” Leonora gave a laugh which faded too quickly as she looked from one to the other.
“May I?” repeated Amare to Janey, as if he knew that the answer had to come from her.
But Janey had lost any sense of the flow of conversation. She shook her head.
“May you what?”
Was it her imagination or did he seem to shift toward her slightly. He must have done because she was suddenly aware of his scent and she drew in a deep breath, reacting instinctively to her knowledge of it.
“May I call you Janey?” he asked, his voice a shade lower, a shade gruffer.
Janey licked her lips and his lips tweaked into a glimmer of a smile.
“Janey?” said Leonora frowning in confusion.
Janey mentally shook herself free from the spell his proximity was casting on her, and gave a brief nod of agreement, although she’d have preferred to keep things formal, keep him at a distance. She’d have preferred it if he’d been anywhere else but here, with her. Preferably half a world away. But she had to face facts. The man with whom she’d spent a torrid night making love, and who’d then proclaimed they would marry straight away, sending her running for the hills, was here in front of her.
“Sure.” She cleared her throat. “Please do. Call me Janey, I mean.” She gave a slight grimace. She was sounding unsure of herself, timid, nervous. She was never any of these things. Not now anyway. For some reason being with this man brought all the bad memories flooding back. She cast a quick look around, instinctively looking for a means to escape.
“Good,” said Amare, with a finality which made her wonder if she’d agreed to something else. She was barely aware of what she was agreeing to. All she could think of was that the impossible had happened. The man who’d made such a profound impact on her life two years ago, was standing there, right before her, talking to Leonora as if they were best friends. She’d known he was from the Middle East somewhere but they hadn’t talked much during their brief time together. They’d been too busy… She closed her eyes as a rush of heat swept through her body as she remembered what they’d been too busy doing.
“Janey?” said Leonora with a question in her tone. “Are you okay?”
Janey opened her eyes quickly and nodded reassuringly. “Of course,” she said in a husky voice. She cleared her throat. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Why indeed?” said Amare.
“What conference did you meet at, Janey?” asked Leonora.
Janey licked her lips, willing her tongue to work. “One in Queensland. Before I started at Oxford.”
“How come you didn’t mention you knew Janey, Amare?” said Leonora.
Amare kept his gaze locked on Janey. “Didn’t I? I must have overlooked it.” His gaze was intense. She felt it from the tips of her toes to the prickling in her scalp.
Suddenly his name was called and he excused himself and Janey watched him walk over to Darrius and another man. Janey exhaled a deep breath and looked at Leonora.
“What the hell was all that about?” asked Leonora, her eyes wide.
Janey pushed away her hair and glanced at Amare. “Don’t ask.”
“I just have and I’ll ask again. What went on between the two of you? Because, judging from your reaction, something definitely did.”
“As he said, we met at a conference.”
“There’s ‘met’ at a conference and then there’s ‘met’ at a conference. And I don’t think you just exchanged business cards by the looks on both your faces.”
Janey shrugged. She really didn’t want to go into the sordid details at Leonora’s wedding reception. “It was a long time ago. Water under the bridge and all that.”
“You are a dark horse.”
“We all have our secrets. And I think you’ve been keeping one or ten from me.” She was determined to deflect the attention back to Leonora. “You came here looking for a diamond and a few weeks later you’re married. How exactly does that work without a secret past?”
Leonora shrugged and turned her loving gaze to her husband who was talking to Amare. “I’ll tell you all about it one day.”
Janey frowned. Now she was recovering from the shock of seeing Amare she wondered exactly how he fitted into things. Presumably he was a friend of Darrius’s who’d turned up for the wedding. And was likely to disappear immediately afterwards. God, she hoped so.
She turned away from Leonora, her eyes seeking him out as if she didn’t have any other option. He didn’t fit in like the others. His appearance was more western for one thing, not dressed in traditional robes like most of the others. And, for another, he had an air of sophistication about him, of worldliness she remember from before. Simply put, he was drop-dead gorgeous.
Her frown deepened at the thought of him leaving. They’d spent the most incredible night together during which she had really and truly believed that it would be more than a one-night stand. They’d connected at such a depth that she thought she’d met someone who’d be important in her life. And then he’d done something which had swept away all her feelings in one huge tsunami surge, devastating everything in its path. He’d told her that they would marry. He hadn’t asked her and he hadn’t discussed it with her, simply told her that this would happen. It had been enough for her to walk out the door and keep on walking. No one would ever control her life. She knew what that meant more than most. And this time it would be him who left. She had work to do.
She turned back to Leonora to discover she was with her new husband and, from the way they were looking at one another, she didn’t think they’d appreciate talking about work. She sighed and turned back to look for Amare once more, and jumped, startled to find him standing directly in front of her, looking at her as if he would devour her.
“Sorry to surprise you,” he said smoothly. “May I?” He indicated a seat.
He didn’t wait for her to answer and sat down, presumably understanding that the likelihood of her wanting him near her was approximately zero.
“You don’t exactly look happy to see me again,” he commented in a deceptively nonchalant tone. He took a sip of his drink and set it with deliberate care on to the starched tablecloth, before lacing his fingers before him. She remembered the precise movement, as if everything he did were considered, under control. A shiver ran down her spine.
She took a breath. She could do this. This might be the same man, but the situation was entirely different. He was simply a guest at a wedding. He’d disappear and then she could get on with her work. She fixed a polite, neutral smile on her face.
“It’s a happy occasion. Why wouldn’t I be happy?” she said evasively, only able to look him in the eye directly after she’d finished speaking. She didn’t like what she saw there. Amusement, appreciation, and heat. She looked away.
“You should be a politician, not an academic. Avoiding a simple answer and answering with a question. But then I hadn’t known you were an academic when we met before.”
“If you’d actually attended the conference you would have,” she answered sharply, determined to keep up her guard.
“I didn’t connect the conference with you. You hardly looked the part. Emerging from the sea in that brief bikini, your long hair plastered over your… body.” His eyes darkened with desire and he shook his head as if to force himself back into the present, away from the allure of the memory.
Anger sparked inside her. It had always been the same. How she looked made people believe she didn’t have a brain.
“You appear to be under the misapprehension that long hair indicates a small brain. Maybe it’s the opposite.” She glanced at his cropped hair. “Your hair is very short…” She folded her arms as she waited for him to understand the insult.
He smiled coldly, but instead of answering immediately, he leaned forward and rested his arms on his legs, tilting his head so she was forced to look into his eyes. Once their gaze was locked she couldn’t have looked away if she’d wanted to. And she did. Desperately. “You can say what you like, habibti, because nothing you can say will make me believe you didn’t want me as much as I wanted you.” He licked his lips. “Nothing. Because I remember every moment, every detail of our time together. And you want me now.”
She tried to speak, but her mouth was dry. Her pulse throbbed in her head and deep inside other parts of her which had melted the moment he’d turned that scorching gaze onto her. She swallowed and his gaze lowered to her throat before flicking up once more, catching his gaze. She shook her head in a weak attempt to deny what every part of her body wanted to admit.
Then he did something which she really didn’t want him to do. He reached out and ran his index finger along hers. Sensation skittered through her body. “I don’t believe you,” he said. His gaze roved her face. “Your cheeks are suddenly flushed.”
“It’s hot in here,” she whispered, her tone suddenly husky.
“And your eyes have darkened.” His own eyes narrowed as he looked at her assessingly. She gasped and closed her eyes as her only defense against him. She shunted her chair away from him and jumped to her feet. She had to get out of there. She had to put distance between them. It was her only hope. She felt as if he were claiming her inch by inch. And if he did? Where would she be? Lost. Once more. Like she’d been when she was a child.
“I… I have to go.” She looked around, desperate to find the only person in the room she knew—Leonora. But she was at the far side, obviously about to depart. But Janey had to see her before she disappeared on her honeymoon, she needed to know as much as possible about the work she was to begin the next day. She was annoyed all over again that her flight was so late, reducing the time they had together.
Janey pushed her way through the crowd and tapped Leonora on the shoulder. Leonora turned with a big smile, glowing with happiness.
“Janey! I’m so sorry that we haven’t had any time together. But you’ll be here when I get back.”
Janey frowned. “That’s a month away. I’ll be long gone by then. It won’t take me a month to complete my research.”
Leonora gave a wry chuckle and leaned in to Janey. “Don’t bet on it. Sifra and its men have a way of getting their claws into you.”
Janey bridled. “I don’t want anything or anyone to get their claws into me!”
Leonora shrugged. “Maybe not. But it happens all the same.”
“Leonora,” said Janey, wanting to change the subject and focus on work. “You mentioned earlier that there was someone who could help me gain access to the harem quarters. You were going to introduce me to them.”
Leonora laughed. “I guess I didn’t. Your reactions sidetracked me.”
Janey frowned in confusion.
“It’s Amare,” said Leonora. “I’ve asked him to help you with your research.”
She felt as if she’d been slapped. Her head was ringing. Perhaps she’d misheard. She certainly hoped she’d misheard. “You’ve done what?”
“Asked Amare to work with you.”
“Why would you do that?” Her voice had dwindled to a croak.
“Because without him, you won’t be able to access the harem,” said Leonora visibly perplexed. “And without him your chances of finding the diamond are greatly reduced. He is the key to your research.”
“He is? Why? Who is he?”
“I thought you knew him from years ago, otherwise I’d have introduced you properly.”
Janey shook her head. “All I knew was his name, Amare. Nothing else.”
Leonora grinned. “Must have been quite some night.”
“It was,” said Janey, but she didn’t smile, she didn’t laugh. The memory was too bitter-sweet, too painful.
“Janey, Amare is Darrius’s youngest brother.”
Janey’s mouth dried as a sense of dread filled her.
“But… Amare isn’t the name of either of his brothers. It’s not. I checked. I…”
“It’s his middle name.” Leonora shrugged. “I guess he prefers it. Anyway, he’s the contact I told you about. The person with information on the diamond which has been passed down orally, which isn’t written down anywhere else.”
“Impossible! I can’t work with him.”
“If you want the diamond. You’re going to have to work with him. There’s no other way you can do it.”