Secrets of the Sheikhs Book Bundle (ebooks)
Secrets of the Sheikhs Book Bundle (ebooks)
Three desert sheikhs, three half-brothers, three secrets.
Tainted by their father’s legacy of debauchery and intrigue, each man must fight to find love and freedom in his own way. But it’s not an easy road to happiness, especially when you have to find yourself first…
1. The Sheikh's Revenge by Seduction
A sheikh intent on revenge, a Englishwoman caught in a trap, a love that cannot be denied…
Sheikh Rayan ibn Mohammed Aziz is as uncompromising as the desert in which he was raised. So when his half-sister is seduced, dumped, and ruined by a middle-aged English aristocrat, there is only one way in which Rayan intends to exact revenge.
2. The Sheikh's Secret Love Child
A desert warrior, a beautiful surfer, a brief affair which puts them both in danger…
Sheikh Zeeshan ibn Mohammed Aziz, King of Ahmar, believed he’d found the woman he wanted to marry when Samantha Cross came sweeping into his life with her devastating beauty and a character to match. But she’d disappeared without trace with equal speed. When he’s informed she’s pregnant with his baby, he tracks her down and brings her home. He knows what growing up without a father did to his half-siblings, and he won’t allow that to happen to a child of his.
3. The Sheikh's Marriage Trap
A sheikh dedicated to pleasure, a woman intent on revenge, a love that cannot be denied…
Sheikh Adam ibn Mohammed Aziz enjoys a life of wheeling and dealing, seducing and flirting. He’s only doing what came naturally, and loving women happens to come very naturally to him—so long as the women understand that they can never touch his heart. That’s why an arranged marriage will suit him nicely. He only has to make sure of one thing—he’s untainted by scandal. And he’s been too discreet to allow any scandal to attach itself to him. So far, anyway.
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EXCERPT FROM THE SHEIKH'S REVENGE BY SEDUCTION
“Fun in the sun,” Lauren Alexandra le Harivel read in the online gossip blog. The photo accompanying the blog showed her father—tanned and handsome with his thick gray hair and piercing blue eyes—and his latest conquest. This one was blonde, but otherwise in the same mode—tall, skinny, with unrealistically large breasts and lips that pouted without the woman having to bother to move a muscle—if she could. Lauren sometimes wondered if her father would have been able to tell his girlfriends apart in a line-up.
She snapped the laptop closed and tried not to let the familiar feelings of rejection swamp her. He hadn’t been with her on her birthday for years, so why should she think this year would be any different?
She tapped the shiny metal of the laptop with increased agitation. How could he treat her this way? He claimed she meant more to him than anything, and she’d always believed him, despite the lack of his actions backing up his words. But, with every passing year, her trust in his love had been chipped away. At first she’d been distressed, then sad, and now? She glanced out the window, her eyes momentarily blinded by the bright morning sunshine which had risen above the row of lime trees which lined the drive. And now, she felt nothing but anger—anger at always coming at the bottom of her father’s list of priorities.
If he wouldn’t put her first, then she must. Starting today.
She rose from the mahogany desk and looked out the tall window of the second-floor sitting room in which she did most of her work. She preferred the seclusion of the sitting room to her father’s library. It was quieter here, and she could manage the estate more effectively with her laptop than she could in person. Her staff didn’t dwarf her, and her quiet voice could be heard more effectively through written communication.
And she also had the advantage of being able to see anyone entering or leaving the estate, as well as the courtyard and stables. It was her vantage point. But this morning, rather than checking out whether the deliveries had arrived for the estate farm, her gaze was once more directed to the stable yard. She soon saw who she was looking for.
Tall, dark, and powerfully built, the estate’s newest employee was hard at work shaping a horse shoe. Despite the early hour, the sun was high in the sky, promising yet another brilliant summer’s day. Clearly it was already hot in the stable yard as the man had stripped off his shirt, revealing dark skin and muscles the likes of which Lauren had never seen before. None of the other workers were built like him and none, for sure, made her feel so compelled to stand and gaze at him. As he swung the hammer back and forth, the sun caught the gleam of sweat on his pumped-up muscles. The rhythmic ding of the iron shoe as it hit the anvil echoed around the cobbled stable yard. There was a strength in his actions, and a savagery about his movements, which heightened her primitive reaction to the sight of his bare back.
And, if that weren’t enough, when he came close to the horse he changed. From aggressive and strong, his touch gentled while still being firm. Lauren’s skin prickled as she watched his hand sweep down the horse’s leg with a reassurance which meant the flighty Arab was instantly calmed. For some reason it made the breath in Lauren’s throat catch and hold until he’d finished fixing the racehorse’s shoe to her hoof.
When he released the horse’s hoof back onto the cobbled ground, he swept his hand over the horse’s hindquarters and Lauren felt a corresponding shimmer of arousal at the sight. She swallowed, clutched at the heavy velvet curtains and kneeled weakly on the chintz-covered window seat, her eyes still fixed on the man. Then the man inclined his head to the horse as if he were talking to her, gave her another a gentle pat and led the horse away, disappearing from view behind the corner of the stables.
Lauren was suddenly aware of how long she’d been standing staring at the man and guiltily looked around, reassured that she hadn’t been observed. Not that anyone paid her much attention, anyway. She stepped away from the window, took a deep breath, and sat back at her desk. But the laptop’s screensaver continued to swirl over her screen. The papers in her in-tray remained undisturbed and the ding of her phone went unanswered. Her thoughts lingered on the man.
He’d arrived only a week ago. She hadn’t hired him. She left that sort of thing to her estate manager, but she’d seen his ability with horses, and she’d noticed him from the very first moment he’d arrived. He would have been hard to miss. Tall, broad, muscled and dark, his air was commanding in a way which had made her question the estate manager. He didn’t look like the average stable-hand, didn’t hold himself with the usual sullen, obsequious manner of one of the estate hands. But the manager had assured her he was nobody of significance—just a traveler who had amazing instincts with horses. After seeing how he’d handled the crazy Arab stallion they’d bought at enormous expense, the manager had hired him on the spot.
And Lauren’s gaze had been hooked and captivated by the stranger every day since his arrival. Despite her discreet checks, all that was known of him was his name and his ability with horses.
“Rayan,” she whispered to herself. It was a name as mysterious as the man himself.
She should stay and work, but after reluctantly acknowledging to herself how unlikely that it was that her father would turn up for her birthday next week, she didn’t feel like working. What she felt like was being reckless, striking out—doing something for herself, only for herself. What she felt like was indulging her curiosity about the mysterious stranger with the exotic name, a gentle touch and a barely concealed primitive strength. There was something intoxicating about him, something she did not know how to describe, or how to rationalize. She only knew she wanted to get closer to him.
She snapped shut the laptop. She was no use here. No, she’d find out a little more about this Rayan, and then she’d return to work. After all, it was essential for every employer to know about her employees, wasn’t it?
She rose from the desk, picked up her sensible cardigan to hide the camisole she considered to be too revealing to wear outside the house, and walked to the door. She paused, glanced at the window, and tossed the cardigan onto a sofa. She preferred to wear discreet clothes, clothes which covered her bare skin. After all, it wouldn’t be seemly for the lady of the manor to walk around in the kind of clothes her father preferred his girlfriends to wear. But today, the sky was a brilliant blue and the sun’s rays which shone across the heirloom rug were bright. It was going to be a hot day. And, after such a long, cool winter and spring, Lauren was drawn to heat like a moth to a flame. She just hoped she wouldn’t burn.
Rayan’s neck prickled, and he glanced up at the ivy-clad manor house. He thought he saw a movement at one of the second-floor windows, but it was gone before he could double-check. Maybe he’d imagined it. Maybe it was simply the warmth of the summer sunshine on his back. He’d forgotten how warm English summers could be. The temperatures were nowhere close to the unrelenting heat of the Ahmar desert, but warm enough to build up a sweat. Especially when shoeing a fine Arab mare, such as this one.
He rubbed the horse’s flank, settling it as it nickered, as if sensing someone from her own part of the world. He took hold of the reins and walked the horse back to the stable. Only when she was comfortable did he leave the stable, sliding the bolt behind him. Through the top of the stable door, the mare poked out her head as if reluctant to break the connection. Rayan smiled and rubbed the horse’s nose, muttering to her in Arabic—words of endearment, words of love, which he only ever uttered to animals. Animals never betrayed him. Providing you treated them right, you could rely on the love of an animal.
Suddenly the horse’s ears twitched and her eyes shot to one side. Rayan didn’t turn immediately, although he, like the horse, could sense they were being watched. Instead, he took a few moments to calm the mare before turning slowly to find a girl, the sun behind her obscuring her features, standing at the entrance to the stable yard, looking at him. Disappointment filled him. He’d been hoping to see the lady of the manor, the high and mighty Lauren le Harivel. But he’d been here a week and hadn’t yet caught sight of her.
He was about to return to his duties when the girl walked over to him. She was short, slender and wore jeans and a camisole top which revealed pale shoulders and a distinct lack of bust. His gaze rested for a few moments on the coral necklace she wore. It stirred memories of a different coral necklace, a different country, and the love of someone who he hadn’t appreciated at the time.
Lazily, he allowed his gaze to move over her hair—which was blonde but scraped back into a severe and very long ponytail—before he met her gaze. Her eyes were very blue, very knowing. They were eyes that definitely belonged to an adult woman, not a girl. He stood stock still. It was her. And yet she looked different to her photos.
As she approached, he saw she wore no make-up on her pale face. But what was striking was her manner and air of authority, which was reflected only in her eyes. She extended her hand to him and introduced herself with a voice which was low and husky, and totally at odds with her mousy appearance.
“Hello, I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Lauren le Harivel.”
He was suddenly conscious that he was only wearing a pair of old jeans, and his hands were dirty with horse grease and grime. He gritted his teeth. If she wanted to shake hands with her staff, then so be it. Without wiping his hand on his jeans, he took hold of her hand in a firm grip. She looked surprised as his hand engulfed hers in a manner that held no subservience in it.
“Rayan,” he said.
“Yes.” She smiled, and her face immediately became anything but ordinary. It lit up, revealing perfect white teeth and a smile that brightened and settled in her eyes. “I know. I’ve heard about your skills with our horses.” She appeared to be staring fixedly into his eyes, as if she was scared to look anywhere else.
“I was raised with horses.”
“Really?” she said, in that clipped English way which he hadn’t heard for so long.
“Yes.” He didn’t elaborate. He wasn’t here to tell this woman his life story. Not unless he had to, that was. And, by the way her pale cheeks had flushed with pink as her eyes had strayed to his bare chest, he suspected he wouldn’t have to supply too many details about his own life. He took a measured step closer, and her blue eyes darkened.
She tried to withdraw her hand, but he held it firmer for one long second before allowing her to release it, a hint to her that, no matter her pedigree or wealth, it was he who would hold the power between them. She placed her palm against her jeans, as if trying to control it. For the first time since he’d decided on his fate, he thought this might just turn out to be fun.
“Well, that’s good then. We certainly could do with your, er, skills around here.”
He didn’t reply.
“So, er, are you settling in all right?”
He folded his arms. “Yes.”
“Right.” She nodded over-enthusiastically, as if making up for his lack of response. “So, there’s nothing you need?”
She smiled, but the smile faded and she looked around as if unsure. For a woman who ran the entire le Harivel estate, and who was, apparently, the most adored daughter of her father, she didn’t appear very sure of herself with the opposite sex. He cleared his throat. It looked like he’d have to talk to the woman—something he wasn’t known for—otherwise she’d leave, and he might not have another opportunity like this. After all, he’d been here a week already and had only caught glimpses of her.
“There is something,” he said.
She stopped mid-turn and looked up at him with a surprised expression. “And what’s that?”
“The accommodation,” he said. It was all he could think of to keep her with him, alone, where he could begin the charm offensive his brothers had teased him about. He wasn’t known for his charm.
“You’ve been given the rooms above the stables, haven’t you?”
“What’s the matter with them?”
“Come with me, and I’ll show you.” She looked hesitant. “It’s best seen.”
“Oh.” She shrugged and glanced at her watch. “Okay. I have some time until my next appointment.”
Good, he thought. He just hoped he’d be able to invent some reason to take her to his rooms before they got there. He stepped aside and indicated she should precede him. She climbed the wooden stairs which ran up the side of the stables, and he followed. Her behind might be small, but it was shapely, he’d give her that. Her appearance was deceptive. Her features and figure were neat, nothing out of the ordinary, and she made no attempt to draw attention to either. But there was a light behind her eyes, and an energy in her movements which suggested there was more to her than met the eye. He was intrigued.
She stood on the small deck outside the door, waiting for him to enter. He opened the door and stood aside.
He followed her inside and cast a quick glance around, searching for an excuse to detain her. His eyes alighted on radiators. He pointed to them. “The heaters are controlled centrally. It’s too hot up here.” It was, but it didn’t bother him.
“Oh!” She frowned and looked from the radiator back at him. She bent down and checked the valve on the radiator. He was rewarded with a view of her pert rear. He had a sudden and vivid vision of how it would feel if he were pressed up against her. She gave a small grunt as she tried to shift the valve, but it was stuck hard. And so was he. He picked up his shirt from the back of the couch to hide the evidence.
She stood up and grimaced. “Looks like you’re right. I’ll have our electrician look into it. I’m sure he should be able to put it onto another circuit, or something. But…”
He cocked his head to one side. She blushed prettily. “But what?” he prompted.
She shrugged and smiled, endearingly unsure. “I’d have thought you’d be used to the heat coming from… where was it?”
She was fishing for information. He’d given the bare minimum to the manager who’d employed him. But he wanted to get her onside, he wanted this relationship to become a lot more than employee–employer. “I’ve been traveling all around. Mainly the Persian Gulf area.”
It was too soon. He needed to forge a connection with her before he told her anything more about himself.
He allowed a slow smile to slide across his face. “A small town in a small country. You wouldn’t know it.” He reached out and touched her arm. Her frown disappeared. She lifted her face to his, her lips apart, and her eyes wide and trusting. Another soft blush bloomed on her cheeks. “Would you like a drink?” he asked. “A coffee perhaps?” He nodded to the dallah. “I could make you some genuine Arab coffee.”
She grimaced, biting her lip as if torn. He needed her to stay.
“It’s an excuse,” he added, deciding that, out of all his options, honesty would be the most persuasive with this woman. He liked the way her blush deepened.
“I’d like to talk a little about your stable of Arabs,” he added. He would only take honesty so far. “I think there are improvements that could be made to their stabling, and their feed.”
Her relief was palpable and endearing. He had to swallow a smile.
“Of course,” she said, in that seductive voice of hers. “Yes, please, a coffee would be lovely.”
He smiled to himself as he left her to take a seat while he went to the kitchenette and prepared the coffee. This woman needed to be lulled into a false sense of security in order to spend time with him. She was attracted to him, that much was clear. But it seemed she wasn’t accustomed to surrendering to her sexual urges. Looked like she’d need a little help, help he was willing to give.
She looked up as he brought the dallah and cups over and placed them on the small, three-legged coffee table.
“It’s like Turkish coffee, which you may have tasted.”
She shook her head, and her ponytail swung, reinforcing the girlish look. She’d taken a seat in one of the two easy chairs, separated by the table. He sat opposite her and poured two coffees. She looked at him with an embarrassed frown and then turned away once more, as if scared to meet his gaze.
“No, I haven’t tasted Turkish coffee before. Or,” she said, swilling the thick, dark liquid in the small cup, “anything like this. I haven’t traveled far.”
He frowned and focused on his coffee. How could a young woman, so wealthy, with so many advantages, not have traveled?
“I’ve been busy here, on the estate,” she said by way of explanation.
“Of course.” He watched her take a sip and was irrationally pleased to see the ripple of emotions flow over her face. First there was pleasure at the consistency on her tongue. This was followed by shock at the intense taste, then surprise as her taste buds and senses were stimulated like no amount of instant coffee—which appeared to be the drink of choice for the staff on the estate—could do.
“It’s good,” she said with a smile. “Very different to the instant coffee I drink, but very good.”
“The instant coffee you drink isn’t coffee. This”—he indicated the small cup before him—“is real coffee. In fact the word ‘coffee’ comes from the Arabic qahwa.”
“Qahwa”, she repeated. The word sounded awkward on her tongue. “How do you spell it?”
He shook his head. “It’s best to listen to the word rather than think about how it is spelled. Qahwa,” he said, correcting her pronunciation.
“Qahwa,” she repeated with more confidence this time.
“We usually prepare it with cardamom, but sugar can also be added.”
“But this time you’ve shown me it unadulterated by any other taste.”
He nodded. He’d done it on purpose.
“I like it.” She smiled and then the smile became more uncertain, as if she wasn’t sure she should continue. But she did. “I’d like to try it with cardamom some time, too.”
He smiled and nodded. He’d got her. All he had to do now was reel her in. “It would be my pleasure.” And he was beginning to think it would be.
Their gazes met and tangled for a delicious moment before she looked away with an air of surprise.
“Is there something the matter?” he asked.
She looked back at him, her face flickering with confusion.
“No. I’m just finding it strange, talking to someone like you.”
“How do you mean?”
“I mean someone who isn’t English. You seem so ‘other’, for want of a better word. And yet you speak flawless English. It’s a strange combination.”
He took a sip of his coffee, set it down on the table, buying time to decide how much to tell her. He looked up into her innocent, trusting eyes and realized he’d have to tell her more than he’d expected if he wanted to lower her guard.
“Although I spent my early years in the Middle East, I lived for many years in England with my mother. After her death I returned to my father’s country.” He waited to see if she’d ask him to name the country. He still hadn’t decided if he’d tell her or not. Would she ask?
She held his gaze steadily. “And where is this country?”
“Ahmar.” He watched her carefully but, apart from a small frown, she didn’t appear to register any recognition. Maybe her father hadn’t shared with her the nationality of his ex-lover.
“And did you feel ‘other’ there, too?”
“For a time, I did.” He was surprised at her ability to put herself in his shoes. What could this woman know about feeling a stranger amongst his own people? He remembered the pain of trying to shed his Englishness, of trying to fit in. “But not now. However, in England I was, am, and always will be, a foreigner.”
She sat back and rested against the back of her chair, as if she’d received an explanation which satisfied her. “It must be strange for you, being caught between two worlds.”
He shrugged. “No. It’s simply how others see me.” He leaned forward, resting his arms on his thighs, spearing her gaze with his own. She stilled. “I know who I am. I am an Ahmari, through and through. I think like one, I act like one, I am one. No amount of perfect English will change that. But, I’m curious. Why is it you understand this sense of ‘otherness’ of which you speak, Miss le Harivel?”
“Please, call me Lauren.”
His eyebrow shot up in surprise. For someone so wealthy and so powerful, she was surprisingly informal. It wouldn’t happen in his country. He wondered how informal she could be. He leaned forward further, bringing his head closer to hers. Her eyes flared with awareness and then tightened under a small smile. The smile held.
“Lauren.” He tested the word on his tongue and found he liked it. He also liked her response.
He was so close now that he could see the quickening pulse in the fine skin of her neck above her coral necklace, and her rising chest beneath the fine cotton of her camisole. She swallowed, and he allowed his gaze to linger on the movement in her throat. Such an elegant neck, which was too delicate to hide both her arousal and her fears. Interesting. He raised his eyes to hers again. Her lips parted and her eyes looked alarmed and excited in equal parts.
“Would you like more coffee?”
She looked down at her coffee as if she’d forgotten all about it. She took a sip. He smiled as she tried to regain her focus. “No, thank you.” She took another long drink until the cup was drained. He was impressed by her ability to withhold the shudder from its bitterness. She placed the cup onto the table and looked at him with a bright, if reserved, smile. “Well, it’s been lovely meeting you.”
She was preparing to leave already. He didn’t want that. He might not get another chance.
“You seem reluctant to answer my question.”
She shook her head. “Question?”
He allowed a grin to briefly touch his lips. He had her. “I wondered what it was that made you so understanding of being a fish out of water, a foreigner.”
“Ah, that. Nothing really.” She glanced out the window and long seconds passed without her replying. He wondered if her mind had wandered. But when she returned that soft gaze to him, he could see that it was the opposite. She’d been considering the question. He liked that. She gave things due consideration. She wasn’t in a rush to return an easy answer. “I guess it’s less to do with a place, more to do with a feeling.” He couldn’t argue with that. She sighed and rose. “I must go now.”
He rose too, easily standing a head over her. She looked so fragile, so delicate. He had an impulse to take her into his arms and hold her there, carefully, so as not to crush her. All it would take would be a slight incline of his head to brush his lips against hers. He could see she was thinking the same thing. He stepped away with a smile.
He followed her to the door and stood, watching, as she walked down the stairs. She looked up to the wooded estate beyond, the jut of her jaw strong, her ponytail flicking from side to side as she trotted down the last few rickety wooden steps.
“I forgot,” she said, twisting around at the bottom of the stairs.
“You wanted to talk to me about the Arab horses, their stables.”
He allowed himself a slow, sexy smile. “Next time. When I make you coffee with spices.”
She turned away, but not quickly enough to hide the blush which spread across her cheeks. She waved a brief farewell, obviously not trusting herself to speak, and hurried away.
Lauren couldn’t get away fast enough. She felt as if she were running from a flame that flickered and darted at will, nearly catching her with every teasing brush against her skin. She didn’t stop walking until she entered the cool grandeur of the manor’s hall. Only then did she lean back against the closed door and place her hand against her heated cheek. What on earth had just happened? She’d been curious since the first moment she’d seen him. But nothing had prepared her for being within his orbit, seeing him up close. If she’d been a machine, she’d have said he’d flicked on all her switches. Her breathing was coming fast, her heart beat rapidly, but it was more than that. Her entire skin shimmered with a sensual awareness which his presence had created.
“Miss le Harivel? Is anything the matter? Are you all right?” asked the estate manager with a frown, as he passed through to the offices.
She moved forward, away from the door toward the stairs which would take her back to the safety of her suite of rooms. “Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?” As she ran up the stairs, she felt more alive from being with Rayan than at any other time she could recall.
Was she all right? She was so far beyond ‘all right’ that there were no words she knew to describe how she felt. But maybe after another visit to the exotic Rayan, she’d find the words she needed.
She stopped at the top of the stairs, her heart still pounding, but alongside that crept a sense of fear which soon consumed her excitement. There was no getting away from it—the thought of seeing Rayan again scared her. No, she couldn’t allow herself another visit. It wouldn’t be seemly, it wouldn’t be proper. Besides, her father would arrive next week and she knew, for sure, that he certainly wouldn’t approve.