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Desert King, Pregnant Mistress

By:Susan Stephens

Desert King, Pregnant Mistress
Susan Stephens


SHE was hiding in a rock pool, watching a naked  man stride out of the  surf. Beth Tracey Torrance, good girl, quiet girl,  shop girl, Liverpool  girl, pressed up against warm rocks in a foreign  land beneath a  blazing sun. And not just any country, but the desert  kingdom of  Q'Adar, where men rode camels and carried guns! Her  stay-at-home self  would say she was mad to be sitting here, frozen to  the spot like one  of the mannequins in the store-her friends would put  it somewhat  stronger-but she was drawn to this man. Just call it  essential  research. Well, she had to give a full report of her trip when  she got  back home, didn't she?

Beth leaned forward cautiously to  take another look. If she'd thought  the lash of sea on rock was  elemental, the man leaving the ocean was  even more stunning. Under  different circumstances she would have turned  away, because he was nude,  but nothing seemed real to her here in  Q'Adar-not the fabulous riches,  the glamour, or the beautiful people.

Where was the camera when  you needed it? With his lean, muscular frame  and regal bearing, she was  sure this man must be a member of the proud  Q'Adaran race. And it wasn't  every day you got the chance to stare at a  man so beautiful he took  your breath away.

Her colleagues at the luxury department store,  Khalifa, would never  believe this! She had amazed them once already with  the news that her  prize for being voted Shop Assistant of the Year for  the Khalifa luxury  group included not just a trip to the desert kingdom  of Q'Adar, but a  fairy-tale gown to wear to the Platinum and Diamond  Ball-being held to  celebrate the thirtieth birthday of the country's  ruler, as well as his  coronation, or whatever it was called when a man  was voted Sheikh of  Sheikhs. And this was the same man whose extensive  business-portfolio  included the Khalifa brand.

She had never met  her boss, Mr Khalifa Kadir, the legendary founder of  the international  chain of luxury stores, but was stunned to think he  would now be known  as His Majesty. His full title was His Majesty  Khalifa Kadir al Hassan,  Sheikh of Sheikhs, Bringer of Light to His  People. It sounded like  something out of a fairy story, Beth thought as  the man walked up the  beach and disappeared behind some rocks.

And now she, Beth Tracey  Torrance, was going to meet the Sheikh of  Sheikhs when he handed her  the trophy she'd won. So, should she bow or  should she curtsey? Beth  wondered, distractedly chewing her lip. There  wasn't much room for  manoeuvre in her tight-fitting dress, so maybe she  should just make a  small bow when she met him … When she met him! When  she, an ordinary girl,  met the Sheikh of Sheikhs! It was all she had  dreamed about for weeks  now. And yet that dream had just been eclipsed  by some man on a beach.

Pressed  back against the rocks, Beth closed her eyes and inwardly  melted.  Forget the sheikh. This man would be branded on her mind for  ever!

He  felt rather than saw the intruder. His training in the special  forces  had served him well. The sixth sense he had developed during  army  service had saved his life on several occasions, and had also  proved a  handy tool when it came to developing his business instinct.  His profits  now rivalled those of oil, and Q'Adar was rich in oil. Most  sheikhs  didn't work, but where was the challenge in spending oil  wealth when  that precious resource seeped out of the ground? And where  was the  satisfaction in paying experts to earn money for him? Where was  the  sense of achievement in sitting back while others did the work for  him?  He was always restless, always seeking the next challenge, and  now he  had accepted the greatest challenge of his life: to rescue his  country,  Q'Adar, from the brink of disaster.

Throwing back his head to  embrace the warmth of the molten sun, the  Sheikh of Sheikhs, His Majesty  Khalifa Kadir al Hassan, rejoiced that  he was more than strong enough  for the task as he luxuriated in the  seductive heat of his native land.

He was gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. And if he'd just turn a little to the right …



What was she thinking?

Beth's  thoughts flew into a frenzy as the man's naked body was fully  revealed.  She exhaled with relief as he turned his back. She didn't  want him to  turn around again or she'd be damaged for life. She'd never  find his  equal. Never! He'd been close enough for her to see  everything! And  there was an awful lot of everything to see. He wasn't  even covered by a  towel, though she could see one neatly folded on a  rock. Thankfully the  rock was some way away, which meant he wouldn't  have to pass her hiding  place when he went to get it. Which meant she  was safe to go on staring  at him. Well, she had to remember every bit  of this in detail to tell  her friends, didn't she?                       


To an untrained observer he  might appear oblivious to the dangers  around him, but he never took  anything for granted, especially his  personal safety. He had made his  life outside Q'Adar, and was still  weighing up the risks here. He had  returned to his homeland at the  request of the other sheikhs, who had  asked him to lead them, and he  was ready to serve. His life experiences  had prepared him for most  things-with the possible exception of the  unfathomable workings of a  woman's mind. His portfolio of business  interests had achieved global  renown, and he had no personal issues to  distract him; no taint of  scandal touched him. As a stranger, to emotion  he doubted it ever  would. His sense of duty was all-embracing, and,  having accepted this  challenge, he wouldn't let his fellow sheikhs down  by carelessly  offering himself up for slaughter.

As he moved  steadily along the beach Khal caught sight of a flash of  glowing hair.  It confirmed his earlier analysis of the situation-the  risk was small.  An agent would have made her move by now. Paparazzi?  The direction of  the sun would have flared off their camera lens. No,  this was a  sight-seeing expedition by an amateur.

Burying his face in the  towel he'd left ready for when he quit the sea,  he took his time,  knowing this would lull the young woman into a false  sense of security.  He could wait all he liked; she couldn't get past  him. He was between  her and the palace, and with the ocean in front of  her, and thousands of  miles of unseen desert surrounding them, she  wouldn't be going  anywhere.

Plus she would be growing increasingly uncomfortable in  the heat, while  he felt refreshed-and not just in the body, but in the  mind; the sea  had cleansed him. He swam every day, either in the pool at  one of his  many homes, or in the ocean. It was one of his few  indulgences. It  allowed him to step outside himself-outside his life.  Pitting his  strength against the ocean gave him something else to think  about other  than balance sheets and treachery. He needed that space.  Q'Adar had  grown fat and lazy in his absence, and he intended to change  that by  setting up a strong infrastructure and wiping out corruption. It  was a  daunting task, and would take many years to achieve, but  eventually he  would reach that goal; he was determined to.

The  fact that someone had managed to elude his security guards was an   example of the general sloppiness he had uncovered, though for now good   business-practice required him to hold back on reprisal until he had a   chance to assess all the players involved. For what was a country,  other  than a business to be managed efficiently for the good of its  people?  It was ironic to think his business acumen was one of the  reasons his  fellow sheikhs had voted him into this position of supreme  power over  them, but he didn't kid himself it had been a popularity  poll-they knew  his reputation. The financial press dubbed him ruthless  and unforgiving,  and where his employees were concerned that was  correct. He didn't take  the livelihoods of fifty-thousand people  lightly. He defended them as  sheikhs of old had defended their  territories, and if that meant cutting  out the dead wood, and  neutralising the competition, then that was what  he did.

But for now his interest lay in tracking down this young  woman. He  would use her as an example of how the security forces were  deficient,  and stealth was his weapon of choice. His angle of approach  would make  her think he was walking away from her, when in fact he would  be coming  closer with every step.