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Diana's Books

The Sheikh's Forbidden Lover (ebook)

The Sheikh's Forbidden Lover (ebook)

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If you enjoy Harlequin's sheikh romances, you'll love this page-turning contemporary sheikh romance, full of emotion with characters who feel real!

A playboy sheikh, and a beautiful sheikha, born to be enemies.

Sheikh Roshan al-Haidar has no problem agreeing to a loveless, arranged marriage for the sake of peace. After all, how can you love when you have a heart of stone? But after a passionate encounter at a masquerade ball, Roshan becomes obsessed with a mysterious blonde.

When Shakira meets Roshan at the ball she has no clue as to his identity. And, although she’s playing a dangerous game, she stays with him for two days after she realizes who he is because she wants to do something for herself for a change, not for her family and country.

But their time together runs out, her identity becomes known and suddenly all hell breaks loose…


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The stretch limo swept around the circular drive in front of the palace. The impressive white building was lit from below with hundreds of footlights, giving the impression the palace was floating above the city. Exotically dressed people wearing masks—some beautiful, others grotesque—streamed up the steps leading to the magnificent white marble entrance, guarded by tall columns.
Shakira’s excitement stepped up another notch as she scanned the scene from the limo. For the first time in forever, she was doing something just for herself, without interference from her family. It felt dangerous, it felt thrilling, it felt totally liberating.
She blushed as she looked down at what she was wearing. The skintight lacy black dress hadn’t been her first choice, but her decision to attend the masquerade ball had been a late one, and there were few options at the hire store. It was far more revealing than she was comfortable with. Still, no one would ever know her identity, she reassured herself, looking out at the other masked party-goers.
Her brother thought she was here to do a job for him, but she wasn’t. Sure, she’d go through the motions of following his command, but she’d already decided to follow her own agenda. Fun. That one word summed up the only thing she intended to get from this night. She had two days before she returned to the straitjacket confines of her country. Two days, she thought, with a sigh. It wasn’t much time to pack in a lifetime’s experiences before returning to the country she loved and an arranged marriage she didn’t. But she refused to think of such things tonight.
She wound down the window as she waited in the queue of cars which lined the driveway, waiting to discharge their passengers. Music drifted out from the palace. She drank in the exotic glamor of the people in fancy dress, their identities disguised by elaborate masks. A flutter of nerves and excitement played in her stomach, and she checked her dark red lipstick in the mirror—the only part of her face revealed by the mask. Apart from her lips, the enigmatic gold mask remained fixed and inscrutable—the perfect disguise. Not that she needed one. She was raised in seclusion, far from the spotlight which lit the rest of her family.
When the limo finally rolled up to the steps, and it was her turn, she stepped carefully out of the car, ducking her head to prevent the feathers’ tips that adorned her extravagant headgear from coming into contact with the limo’s roof. She stood for a moment, checked her hair was still secured into a French twist, and drew in a deep breath, daunted by the prospect of walking up the steps in the high heels she rarely wore.
She focused so intently on managing the steps without stumbling that it wasn’t until she walked through the entrance that she was suddenly aware that people were looking at her. Despite the extravagance of everyone else’s clothes, people stopped talking and turned her way as she walked by. She felt their appreciation in every cell of her body, charging her with a thrilling sense of possibility.
Instinctively, her gait changed slightly, becoming more sensual in response to their interest in her figure-hugging dress, which left little to the imagination. While it was a far cry from her usual way of dressing, there was a part of her which she’d been suppressing for years that enjoyed being looked at.
She had grown up beside the beach, with the sun, sea, and sand next to her body, and was comfortable in her own skin. And it seemed that everyone else was comfortable looking at her barely concealed skin, too. Which was good because it would make her goal of enjoying a little innocent flirtation easier to achieve. Or not so innocent… if she was lucky.
She just had one little hurdle to cross first. She approached the palace official, and plucking the counterfeit invitation from her bag, handed it over to him. He barely glanced at it before smiling at her and placing the card in a basket with the others.
“As-salam’ alaykum.” He gave the formal greeting with an informal twinkle in his eye.
“Wa-alaykum as-salam,” she replied.
“I hope you enjoy the ball, madam.”
“I’m sure I will, thank you.” She stepped away and thought she’d never spoken a truer word.
She accepted a flute of champagne from a passing waiter, who gave her a warm smile which she returned in full. Um, nice, she thought, appreciating the width of his shoulders and tight behind.
The thrill of danger tracked down her spine as she looked around for the man her brother had instructed her to target. She couldn’t see him. When the decision had been made for her to attend the event, no one had known it would be a masquerade ball. But from what she knew of her target, he’d be easy to spot—tall, handsome, and incredibly arrogant. Maybe the gossip was correct, and he’d decided not to attend his own party. She hoped so. The only reason she wanted to identify the target was the opposite of her brother’s—she wanted to avoid him.
She caught the waiter’s eye again and smiled at his wink. Nothing wrong with a little flirtation to remind herself she was a woman. That was all it would be. Just a reminder of what her life had been like in England, where she’d been able—albeit temporarily—to be herself, an individual, not simply the only remaining daughter in a dysfunctional family. A little, sweet reminder before she returned to her family, her country, and her husband-to-be, who she hadn’t even met. It wasn’t much to ask, was it?
She took a sip of champagne, enjoying the effervescence of the liquid as it tickled her throat. Her senses seemed to be on high alert tonight, she thought, as she looked around. Despite that, she couldn’t see her target. Looked like a no-show. She grunted. That would be like the man she’d heard so much about—a dilettante, an arrogant playboy, who was easily diverted by the next amusement, even before the first one had ended. A man not to be trusted.
She took a second, then a third sip, determined to shake off the remnants of inhibition, which made her self-conscious. Before she knew it, her glass was empty.
So, if he wasn’t going to turn up, maybe it was time to enjoy herself. Now, where was that waiter? But she didn’t have to look for the waiter after all as a couple of men came over and started talking to her. Business could wait. This girl was about to have a little fun.

“A security breach?” Roshan’s brother, Xander, asked, his handsome face creasing slightly. According to one of Roshan’s ex-girlfriends, women found Xander’s saturnine good looks and narrow dark eyes incredibly sexy. Roshan couldn’t see it. All he saw was a younger brother who preferred the world of finance to a world of politics and preferred to be anywhere else than Havilah. Preferably New York.
Roshan shrugged and turned his gaze back to the woman who he’d noticed as soon as she’d entered the room—he, along with all the other men. It would have been hard not to, given the transparency of the black dress, which barely covered her generous breasts and through which a G string was visible. The briefness of her dress contrasted with the impassive gold mask and the elaborate headdress. It spoke of sexiness and danger, not to mention a gorgeous body.
“It’s probably nothing. A drone was seen flying over the top of the palace. It disappeared before we could take it down.”
Xander frowned. “What would our enemies want with photos of the palace’s inner compound?”
Roshan shrugged again. “All knowledge is useful. Even if it’s simply designed to undermine our feeling of security. Anyway, my team is looking into it and will report back by the end of the week.”
“No sooner?”
“Apparently not. I’ve been assured it’s nothing to be concerned about.”
Xander grimaced slightly. “You need to beef up your security. I have a contact in the US who could help. He works at the cutting edge of security systems. Do you want me to run it by him?”
“We’re not talking cutting edge here,” said Roshan, with a shake of his head.
“I don’t doubt it.”
Roshan decided to ignore his brother’s dismissal of the expertise in his country. Xander’s belief that Havilah was a backwater compared to the rest of the world had always irked him. Still, he didn’t want to waste time arguing with him, not when there were sexy women to flirt with. He watched two men join the gorgeous woman and begin chatting to her, as she finished her second glass of champagne. There was no time to waste. “I’m not rising to the bait tonight. There are more important things to focus on.”
Xander followed his brother’s gaze and grinned. “Perhaps I was a bit hasty in booking a flight back to the US tonight. Things are beginning to look interesting here.”
Roshan practically growled at his brother. He was one of the few who wasn’t wearing a mask, as he’d only dropped in briefly to the party to say goodbye. And every woman’s gaze lingered just a little longer on his darkly handsome face.
Xander held up his hand in surrender and laughing, replaced his half-drunk glass on the table. “Okay, she’s all yours. I’m off before she sees me because you know, brother, that you wouldn’t stand a chance next to me.”
“Sure. It would be your humility which she’d find so attractive. Go away, Xander.”
Xander laughed. “I will. I’ll see you when I’m next needed here. Don’t make it soon.”
Roshan watched his enigmatic brother disappear, oblivious to the curious stares. Roshan adjusted his mask as he turned to look at the woman, whose full gold face mask gleamed in the dim lights. He was glad he’d insisted on wearing a different mask to the one everyone thought he was going to wear. He’d put out the word that he couldn’t attend. He wanted to be incognito. He wanted a little fun tonight. Of course he had to marry, but both he and Sheikha Elaheh of Tawazun knew that their marriage had nothing to do with pleasure, but was all about business. And business could wait for another day.
Roshan began to weave his way around the party goers, stopping to test his disguise with a few people he knew by sight. There hadn’t been any flicker of recognition. He looked at the sexy woman. He liked the idea that she wouldn’t know his identity. It would be a good test to see if she liked him for who he was rather than what he was. He continued on to the beautiful woman who was drawing more men to her like bees to a honeypot.
He paused for a moment behind her, taking in the honey brown of her skin and the slope of the neck, above which thick blonde hair was twisted up and under her headdress. He could tell she had fine bone structure by the clear line of her jaw and the delicacy of her collarbone. But she definitely wasn’t skinny. Her shoulders appeared strong and athletic, and her waist narrow. Her bottom flared with a shapeliness which, as he moved around her, was reflected in the fullness of her breasts. She had an amazing figure.
He raised his eyes to her face as she slowly turned to face him. First to appear was the uplifted chin, the slice of jawline tempting him to run his finger around the rim of the mask; then the full impact of the gold mask—inscrutable and alluring—was revealed as she turned to face him; lastly his eyes rested on her lips. They were full, partly open, and painted in a deep, glossy red which sent suggestive ideas into his brain and other parts of his body which he tried hard to ignore. But then she smiled, and all bets were off. The smile was reflected in the warm flare of her eyes, which were of a dark, inviting, melting brown. He responded to their invitation with an answering smile.
He was gratified to see a flicker of response as her shoulders shivered as if something had tracked down her spine, and her breasts rose as she drew in a deep breath. It was all the more gratifying, knowing that there was no way she could recognize him. Her response was a purely animal one, and he was in the mood for animal.
“Good evening,” he said.
She turned fully to him, signaling her interest. The other two men hung on, still hoping.
“Good evening to you,” she said. Her voice was deep and husky. It spoke of cigarettes and drink and late nights. His mind lingered on the late nights, going in a direction it really shouldn’t be going in—not yet anyway. “Don’t tell me,” she said, leaning toward him. He was rewarded with an eyeful of cleavage. “You are the Joker.”
“That’s me,” he said, instinctively echoing her stance. By moving in so close he could feel her warm breath against his neck. “But don’t let it mislead you,” he said. “I’m only a joker on the outside.”
“Let me guess,” she said, pressing her finger to his lips. He licked it lightly. It tasted of the champagne which had spilled from her glass. “And you’re the devil, inside.”
He couldn’t help but smile. She’d hit the nail on the head. “Indeed. But I find it best to hide the real me. It frightens most people away.”
“I’m not most people,” she said.
“I sensed that,” he said, his gaze unable to move from hers, despite her other obvious attractions. There was something intense and intriguing about their velvety depths. There was a lot more to this woman than a killer body. “But it’s surely wise to fear the unknown.”
“Hm,” she grunted, a semi-orgasmic grunt which made his groin tighten with desire. “I’m curious about the unknown, I’m respectful of the unknown, but I’m not fearful of it. I don’t frighten easily,” she said, her long lustrous eyelashes suddenly visible as they dipped behind the gold mask.
Desire gripped him, as he wondered what expression lay behind that impassive beautiful gold mask. “Then your mask and headdress suit you,” he said, glancing up at the elaborate feathered headdress. “Mata Hari,” he murmured. “Interesting. She was an exotic dancer, a courtesan, and a spy.” He paused, focusing on her eyes as he said each word, to see which one resonated. But there was no difference. Either none resonated, or they all did. “I wonder,” he said, “what you are like on the inside, beneath that mask.” He reached out and tugged the mask down slightly.
For a brief moment, he saw a flash of anger in her eyes as her hand clamped onto his and tossed it to one side. She nudged the mask back into place. Her eyes never left his. “A lady has her secrets,” she said, her composure restored once more. “And they are to be revealed by invitation only.”
He smiled and nodded. He’d received the message, loud and clear. He’d crossed a line. “I apologize. Curiosity got the better of me. But you must know that I always await an invitation. I am, after all, a cross between a joker and the devil. Neither, I believe, is insecure in themselves. And it is only someone insecure who takes what does not belong to them. I never do that.”
Her dark eyes searched his, and then she nodded as if accepting his argument. “Good.”
There was a sudden commotion at the door as a couple entered. She looked at them, and he followed her gaze and, for the first time, noticed that they were alone. His rival suitors had evidently picked up on the signals which were passing between the two of them, thickening the air with sensual innuendo.
“Who’s that?” the beautiful woman asked, as the man who’d made the commotion at the entrance surveyed the party.
He gave the name of his friend, who always managed to act more preciously royal than he did.
“Oh,” she said, sounding disappointed.
“Are you expecting someone?”
“No. I just thought it might be the king.”
“You’re interested in the king?”
Did he imagine it, or did that flick of the tongue between those beautiful red lips betray uncertainty? She quickly smiled, and he forgot his suspicions. “Just curious.”
“Have you met him?”
“No. But I’ve heard a lot about him.”
“Anything good?”
Those slender but strong shoulders shrugged. “Good, bad, and everything in between.”
Roshan shifted uncomfortably, knowing he should change the subject but curious to discover precisely how strangers—particularly beautiful strangers—perceived him. “Bad? Surely not?”
Those beautiful lips clamped tight for a moment as if she’d swallowed something distasteful. “Some of the ways the king and his countrymen treat their neighboring countries is quite brutal, I hear.”
He was glad he could hide his surprised response behind the mask. He took a sip of champagne to give himself time to recover. “Really? In what way?”
She shook her head and smiled. “Just hearsay.”
He recovered slightly. “I’m sure he’s not as bad as the hearsay makes out.”
“Are you?”
How had he got himself into a situation where he was defending himself to a stranger while pretending to be someone else?
“Yes,” he said, beckoning over a waiter. He needed another drink. “Because it’s his party and he’s very free with the champagne. And that is a sign that he is a very good man.” He gave her what he hoped was both a winning smile and one which would put an end to that particular subject. “Would you care for another drink?”
Her lush deep red lips worked at the corners, and while he would not take such liberties as to kiss them, his imagination knew no similar bounds.
“No, thank you,” she replied. “Two drinks are all I ever allow myself. I like to keep a clear head at all times.”
He frowned slightly. “You’re not a doctor, someone on duty?”
The quirked lips fell back into place again. His frown deepened.
“No, I’m not a doctor,” she said with that superbly husky voice. “I’m simply a woman who likes to be aware of everything that goes on. Everything around me and everything to do with me. Why would I want to dull my sensations?”
It was his turn to smile. “I agree. The dulling of sensations should be the province of the dull. And I do believe you’re not that.”
She smiled in response, revealing even white teeth and the tip of a pink tongue. Again, a shiver of desire ran through his body. And again, he had to repress it. He knew from their short acquaintance that this woman, Mata Hari, or whoever she was, would make the running, and he would follow.
“I’ve been accused of many things, but never of being dull.” She tapped his chest with her forefinger. It did nothing to control the desire. It turned the shiver into a full-on solid thing that refused to be ignored. He just hoped it could be controlled. “If you’re wondering what I was looking for as I was looking around, it was for some fresh air.”
She hadn’t been in the room long enough to get hot, he thought. Nor was she wearing enough to feel the heat. But he wasn’t about to argue with her. The masquerade ball was an annual event for charity, not something he would miss.
“You know, I was thinking the same thing.” He wasn’t, but he certainly was now. “And I think I know of a place we can go.”
She looked him up and down, and he felt his body react as if her eyes were lasers heating his eyes, his chin, his chest, and lower and then back again. He could have sworn he held his breath as he waited for her response. When it came, it was a simple nod. She had agreed, but to what, he had yet to find out.

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