Captured by the Sheikh

By: Kate Hewitt

CHAPTER ONE


‘SOMETHING’S WRONG—’

Elena Karras, Queen of Thallia, had barely registered the voice of the royal steward behind her when a man in a dark suit, his face harsh-looking and his expression inscrutable, met her at the bottom of the steps that led from the royal jet to this bleak stretch of desert.

‘Queen Elena. Welcome to Kadar.’

‘Thank you.’

He bowed and then indicated one of three armoured SUVs waiting by the airstrip. ‘Please accompany us to our destination,’ he said, his voice clipped yet courteous. He stepped aside so she could move forward, and Elena threw back her shoulders and lifted her chin as she walked towards the waiting cars.

She hadn’t expected fanfare upon her arrival to marry Sheikh Aziz al Bakir, but she supposed she’d thought she’d have a little more than a few security guards and blacked-out cars.

Then she reminded herself that Sheikh Aziz wanted to keep her arrival quiet, because of the instability within Kadar. Ever since he’d taken the throne just over a month ago there had been, according to Aziz, some minor insurgent activity. At their last meeting, he’d assured her it was taken care of, but she supposed a few security measures were a necessary precaution.

Just like the Sheikh, she needed this marriage to succeed. She barely knew the man, had only met him a few times, but she needed a husband just as he needed a wife.

Desperately.

‘This way, Your Highness.’

The man who’d first greeted her had been walking beside her from the airstrip to the SUV, the desert endlessly dark all around them, the night-time air possessing a decided chill. He opened the door of the vehicle and Elena tipped her head up to the inky sky, gazing at the countless stars glittering so coldly above them.

‘Queen Elena.’

She stiffened at the sound of the panicked voice, recognising it as that of the steward from the Kadaran royal jet. The man’s earlier words belatedly registered: something’s wrong.

She started to turn and felt a hand press into the small of her back, staying her.

‘Get in the car, Your Highness.’

An icy sweat broke out between her shoulder blades. The man’s voice was low and grim with purpose—not the way he’d sounded earlier, with his clipped yet courteous welcome. And she knew, with a sickening certainty, that she did not want to get in that car.

‘Just a moment,’ she murmured, and reached down to adjust her shoe, buy a few seconds. Her mind buzzed with panic, static she silenced by sheer force of will. She needed to think. Somehow something had gone wrong. Aziz’s people hadn’t met her as expected. This stranger had and, whoever he was, she knew she needed to get away from him. To plan an escape—and in the next few seconds.

She felt a cold sense of purpose come over her, clearing her mind even as she fought a feeling of unreality. This was happening. Again, the worst was happening.

She knew all about dangerous situations. She knew what it felt like to stare death in the face—and survive.

And she knew, if she got in the car, escape would become no more than a remote possibility.

She fiddled with her shoe, her mind racing. If she kicked off her heels she could sprint back to the jet. The steward was obviously loyal to Aziz; if they managed to close the door before this man came after her...

It was a better option than running into the dark desert. It was her only option.

‘Your Highness.’ Impatience sharpened the man’s voice. His hand pressed insistently against her back. Taking a deep breath, Elena kicked off her heels and ran.

The wind streamed past her and whipped sand into her face as she streaked towards the jet. She heard a sound behind her and then a firm hand came round her waist, lifting her clear off the ground.

Even then she fought. She kicked at the solid form behind her; the man’s body now felt like a stone wall. She bent forward, baring her teeth, trying to find some exposed skin to bite, anything to gain her freedom.

Her heel connected with the man’s kneecap and she kicked again, harder, then hooked her leg around his and kicked the back of his knee so the man’s leg buckled. They both fell to the ground.

The fall winded her but she was up within seconds, scrambling on the sand. The man sprang forward and covered her with his body, effectively trapping her under him.