Sheikh's Forbidden Conquest

By: Chantelle Shaw

CHAPTER ONE

‘WHAT LUNATIC DECIDED to go sailing in this atrocious weather?’ Lexi muttered into her headset as she piloted the coastguard rescue helicopter over the south coast of England and out across the Solent.

The narrow strait which separated the mainland from the Isle of Wight was a popular area for water sports and on a summer’s day, when the sea was calm and blue, it was an idyllic sight to watch the yachts skim across the water with their sails tugging in the breeze. But October had blown in on a series of ferocious storms that had swept away the last remnants of summer and whipped the sea into mountainous waves which crashed against the chalk cliffs, spewing foam high into the air. The white horses reared up in the glare of the helicopter’s searchlight but Lexi knew that an even greater threat lay beneath the sea’s surface, where dangerous currents eddied and swirled, ready to drag the unwary and unwise down into the depths.

She heard the co-pilot, Gavin’s response through her headphones. ‘The yacht which has made an emergency call for assistance was competing in a race. Apparently the skipper thought they would be able to run ahead of the storm, but they’ve hit a sandbank and the boat is taking in water.’

Lexi swore beneath her breath. ‘The skipper took a dangerous gamble to win a race. Jeez, I love the male ego!’

‘To be fair, the storm is stronger than the Met Office predicted,’ Gavin said. ‘The complex tidal patterns of the Solent have caught out many experienced sailors.’

‘The problem is that too many sailors don’t have enough experience and fail to appreciate how unpredictable and dangerous the sea can be, like the man on holiday with his son who we were called to assist two days ago. The boy was only ten years old. He didn’t stand a chance when their boat started to sink in rough seas.’

‘We did all we could,’ Gavin reminded her.

‘Yeah, but we couldn’t save the boy. He was just a kid with his whole life in front of him. What a bloody waste.’

Lexi struggled to bring her emotions under control and concentrated on flying the helicopter in the strong wind and driving rain. She prided herself on her professionalism. The first rule of working for the rescue service was not to allow your mind to linger on past events—even something as traumatic as the death of a child—but to move on and deal with the next incident.

‘The Mayday call confirmed that the three males on the yacht are all wearing life jackets,’ Gavin said. ‘But they’re unlikely to survive for long in these rough seas. The skipper reported that he has received a head injury, but he insisted that he wants his crewmen to be rescued first.’

‘It’s a bit late for him to be concerned for his crew now. It’s a pity he didn’t take their safety into account earlier and abort the race.’

Lexi constantly moved her gaze between the flight instrument panel and the window to scan the wild waves below. Three massive chalk stacks known as the Needles rose out of the sea like jagged teeth. The famous landmark was iconic but the strong currents around the rocks could be treacherous.

An orange glow suddenly flashed in the sky.

‘Did you see the flare?’ Gavin peered through the windscreen as Lexi took the chopper lower. A few moments later he gave another shout. ‘I’ve got a visual—on your right-hand side.’

Lexi spotted the yacht. It had been tipped onto its side by the strong sea swell, and she could make out three figures clinging onto the rigging. She kept the helicopter hovering in position as Gavin went to the rear of the aircraft and prepared to lower the winchman, who was a paramedic, onto the stricken vessel. The buffeting wind made Lexi’s job almost impossible, but she was a highly experienced pilot and had flown Chinook helicopters over the deserts of Afghanistan. A cool head and nerves of steel had been necessary when she had been a member of the RAF and those qualities were required for her job with the coastguard rescue agency.

She spoke to the paramedic over the radio. ‘Chris, once you’re aboard the vessel, remind the crew that the coastguard agency are in charge of the rescue and everyone is to follow your orders, including the skipper. If his head injury looks serious we’ll winch him up first, whether he likes it or not. This is not the time for him to decide he wants to be a hero,’ she said sardonically.





CHAPTER TWO

THE SEARING PAIN that felt as though Kadir’s skull had been split open with an axe was the result of being hit on the head by the sail boom of the White Hawk—his brand-new racing yacht that was now residing at the bottom of the sea. However, his immediate concern was not for the loss of his boat but the welfare of his crew, who were being stretchered off the helicopter that had just landed at a hospital on the mainland.