Read Her Desert Knight Online

Authors: Jennifer Lewis

Her Desert Knight

All it takes to reawaken Dani’s sensuality is one superhot sheikh in this story from
USA TODAY
bestselling author Jennifer Lewis!

Daniyah Hassan paid the price for leaving home and defying her father. Now the divorcée is back in Oman, nursing her wounds and fending off an arranged marriage. Enter maverick investor Quasar Al Mansur: though Dani’s sworn off men, she instantly melts in his heat.

Quasar’s always had his pick of starlets and socialites, but Dani’s beauty and vulnerability tempt him beyond reason. Even after he discovers she’s off-limits, Quasar will never let their decades-old family feud stop him from getting what he wants….

His lips met hers in a rush like the eagle falling on its prey.

Far from diving for cover, Dani's mouth rose to his and melded with it. Sensation crashed over her. She was dimly aware of their natural surroundings, the wind in the trees, animals scurrying nearby, and of his hands resting warmly at her waist, but her whole being focused on the kiss and the powerful and intense effect it created in her body. Heat flooded her core, spreading out to her limbs, squeezing the breath from her lungs as she gave herself over to the sensation.

She'd never experienced a kiss like this. Chemistry, was it? Or was it that she'd never kissed a man as gorgeous and dashing as Quasar? Either way the effect was overwhelming.

She had no idea how long they kissed, but when they finally pulled apart and she opened her eyes, she found herself blinking against now-unaccustomed daylight. “Oh, dear.” The words spilled out.

Quasar gave an amused frown. “Oh, dear? That's not the effect I intended.”

* * *

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Dear Reader,

Her Desert Knight
is the third book in a series that was never intended to be a series. When I sold my first Harlequin Desire novel,
The Boss’s Demand,
the story of Elan Al Mansur’s romance with his assistant Sara was intended as a stand-alone. When the book came out, I received emails from readers asking if I planned to write stories for his two brothers, who were mentioned briefly in the final wedding scene.

It took me a few years to write
The Desert Prince,
about tradition-bound Salim’s reunion with the unsuitable college girlfriend he tried to forget—and the child he never knew existed.

I had a hard time figuring out the story for Quasar, the youngest and wildest of the three brothers. What kind of woman would stop an international playboy in his tracks and make him rethink his freewheeling ways? Finally I had an idea and wrote
Her Desert Knight.
It’s been more than seven years since the first book, so my apologies to those who have been patiently waiting all that time.

I hope you enjoy Quasar and Dani’s story and please keep in touch!

Jen

HER DESERT KNIGHT

Jennifer Lewis

Books by Jennifer Lewis

Harlequin Desire

^
The Prince’s Pregnant Bride
#2082
^
At His Majesty’s Convenience
#2094
^
Claiming His Royal Heir
#2105
Behind Boardroom Doors
#2144
†The Cinderella Act
#2170
†The Deeper the Passion…
#2202
†A Trap So Tender
#2220
Affairs of State
#2234
A High Stakes Seduction
#2334
Her Desert Knight
#2340

Silhouette Desire

The Boss’s Demand
#1812
Seduced for the Inheritance
#1830
Black Sheep Billionaire
#1847
Prince of Midtown
#1891
*Millionaire’s Secret Seduction
#1925
*In the Argentine’s Bed
#1931
*The Heir’s Scandalous Affair
#1938
The Maverick’s Virgin Mistress
#1977
The Desert Prince
#1993
Bachelor’s Bought Bride
#2012

*The Hardcastle Progeny
^Royal Rebels
†The Drummond Vow

Other titles by this author available in ebook format.

JENNIFER LEWIS

has been dreaming up stories for as long as she can remember and is thrilled to be able to share them with readers. She has lived on both sides of the Atlantic and worked in media and the arts before she grew bold enough to put pen to paper. She would love to hear from readers at
[email protected]
. Visit her website at
www.jenlewis.com
.

For my sister Annabel

Acknowledgments:

Many thanks to the readers who asked me for more stories about the Al Mansur brothers and fired my imagination to write them. Also thanks to my agent Andrea and the many people who read and improved those stories, especially my editors Demetria Lucas (book one), Diana Ventimiglia (book two), Charles Griemsman (book three).

One

G
oing to her favorite bookshop in Salalah was like stepping back into a chapter of
Arabian Nights
. To get there, Dani had to walk through the local souk, past the piles of carrots and cabbages, the crates of dates and figs, winding her way through knots of old men wearing their long dishdashas and turbans just as they must have done a thousand years ago.

Then there was the store itself. The double doorway of time-scarred wood was studded with big metal rivets, like the entrance to a castle. Only a small section opened, and she had to step over the bottom part of the door into the smoky darkness of the shop. The smoke was incense, eternally smoldering away in an antique brass burner that hung in one corner, mingled with pipe smoke from the elderly store owner’s long, carved pipe. He sat in the corner, poring over the pages of a thick, leather-bound tome, as if he maintained the shop purely for his own reading pleasure. It was entirely possible that the store was a front of some kind, since there rarely seemed to be any customers, but that didn’t diminish Dani’s enjoyment of its calming atmosphere.

The books were piled on the floor like the oranges in the stalls outside. Fiction, poetry, treatises on maritime navigation, advice on the training of the camel: all were in Arabic and nearly all were at least fifty years old and bound in leather, darkened by the passage of many greasy fingers over their smooth, welcoming surfaces. She’d found several gems here, and always entered the shop with a prickle of anticipation, like someone setting out on a journey where anything could happen.

Today, as she stepped over the threshold and filled her lungs with the fragrant air, she noticed an unfamiliar visitor in the picturesque gloom of the interior. The light from one tiny, high window cast its diffuse glow over the tall, broad-shouldered figure of a young man.

Dani stiffened. She didn’t like the idea of a man in her djinn-enchanted realm of magic books. She didn’t like men anywhere at all, lately, but she gave the shop owner a pass as he was quiet and kind and gave her big discounts.

She resolved to slip past the stranger on her way to the stack she’d started to investigate yesterday: a new pile of well-thumbed poetry books the shop owner had purchased at a bazaar in Muscat. She’d almost bought one yesterday, and she’d resolved overnight that today she wasn’t leaving without it.

The interloper was incongruously dressed in Western clothing—jeans and a white shirt, to be exact—with expensive-looking leather loafers on his feet. She eyed him suspiciously as she walked past, then regretted it when he glanced up. Dark blue eyes ringed by jet-black lashes peered right into hers. He surveyed her down the length of an aristocratic nose, and the hint of a smile tugged at his wide, arrogant-looking mouth. A younger, stupider Dani might have thought he was “cute,” but she was not so foolish now. She braced herself in case he had the nerve to speak to her.

But he didn’t. Slightly deflated, and kicking herself for thinking that anyone would want to speak to her at all, she headed for her familiar pile of books. Only to discover that the one she wanted was missing. She checked the stack twice. Then the piles on either side of it. In the dim, smoky atmosphere, it wasn’t easy to read the faded spines, the gold-leaf embossing worn off by countless eager hands. Maybe she’d missed it.

Or maybe he was reading it.

She glanced over her shoulder, then jerked her head back when she discovered that the strange man was staring right at her. Alarm shot through her. Had he been watching her the whole time? Or had he just turned around at the exact same moment she had? She was annoyed to find her heart pounding beneath the navy fabric of her traditional garb.

“Are you looking for this book?” His low, velvety male voice made her jump, and she cursed herself for being so on edge.

He held out the book she’d been searching for. A 1930s edition of
Majnun Layla
by Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, with a faded green leather binding and elaborate gold tooling.

“You speak English.” The first words out of her mouth took her by surprise. She’d intended to say yes, but her brain short-circuited. She hadn’t heard anyone speak English since she’d come back here from New Jersey three months ago. She’d begun to wonder if she’d ever use her hard-won language skills again.

He frowned and smiled at the same time. “Yes. I didn’t even realize I was speaking English. I guess I’ve spent too much time in the States lately. Or maybe my gut instinct told me you speak it, too.”

“I lived in the U.S. for a few years myself.” She felt flustered. His movie-star looks were disconcerting, but she tried not to judge a book by its cover. She cleared her throat. “And yes, I mean, that is the book I was looking for.”

“What a shame. I was about to buy it.” He still spoke in English. His features and coloring looked Omani, but his Western clothing and ocean-colored gaze gave him a hint of exoticism. “You were here first.” She shrugged, and tried to look as if she didn’t care.

“I think not. If you knew it was here and were looking for it, clearly you were here first.” Amusement danced in his unusual blue eyes. “Have you read it?”

“Oh, yes. It’s a classic. I’ve read it several times.”

“What’s it about?”

“It’s a tragic love story.” How could he not know that? Maybe he didn’t even read Arabic. He had a strange accent. British, maybe.

“Sometimes I think all love stories are tragic. Does anyone really live happily ever after?”

“I don’t know. My own experience hasn’t been very encouraging.” As soon as she spoke she was shocked at herself. She’d resolved to keep her private torments secret.

“Mine, either.” He smiled slightly. “Maybe that’s why we like to read a tragic love story where everyone dies in the end, so our own disastrous efforts seem less awful by comparison.” The light in his eyes was kind, not mocking. “Did you come back here to get away from someone?”

“I did.” She swallowed. “My husband—ex-husband. I hope I never see him again.” She probably shouldn’t reveal so much to a total stranger. Divorce was rare and rather scandalous in Oman.

“Me, too.” His warm smile relaxed her. “I live in the States myself but I come to Oman whenever I need to step off the carousel and feel some firm ground beneath my feet. It’s always reassuring how little has changed here while I’ve been gone.”

“I found that alarming when I first came back. If it wasn’t for the cars and cell phones we could still be in the Dark Ages. My dad and brothers don’t like me leaving the house without a male relative to escort me. What a joke! After I lived in America for nearly nine years.”

He smiled. “The culture shock can be jarring. I’ve been living in L.A. for the last four years. It’s nice to meet someone else who’s in the same predicament. Would you like to go down the road for a coffee?”

She froze. A man asking you out for coffee was a proposition. “I don’t think so.”

“Why not? Do you think your father and brothers would disapprove?”

“I’m sure they would.” Her heart pounded beneath her conservative dress. Some mad reckless part of her wanted to go with him and drink that coffee. Luckily she managed to wrestle the urge under control.

“Let me at least buy you this book.” He turned and headed for the shop owner. She’d forgotten all about him, ensconced in his own world in the farthest corner of the store. He showed no sign of having heard their conversation.

She wanted to protest and insist on buying the book herself, but by the time she pulled herself together the store owner was already wrapping it in brown paper and it would have been awkward. She didn’t want to make a fuss.

“Thank you.” She accepted the package with a pinched smile. “Perhaps I should buy you a coffee to thank you for your generous present.” The book wasn’t cheap. And if she were paying, it wasn’t a date, right? She was twenty-seven years old. Hardly a blushing girl. She could share a coffee with a fellow English speaker to pass a dull afternoon. Her pulse accelerated as she waited for his response, torn between hoping he’d say yes, and praying that he’d say no.

“That would be very kind of you.” His gaze wasn’t very wolfish. He couldn’t help being so handsome. Women probably misinterpreted his perfectly ordinary gestures of friendliness out of wishful thinking. She wasn’t so foolish.

They stepped out into the fierce afternoon sun and walked down a long block to a row of modern shops, including a fairly new café. It had hip westernized décor, which was strangely reassuring and made her feel less like she was about to commit a massive social faux pas.

He pulled out her chair and she settled herself into it, arranging her traditional dress. Then she realized that she didn’t even know his name. She glanced about, wanting to make sure no one could overhear her. The attendant was gathering menus by the bar, far enough away to be out of earshot. “I’m Daniyah....” She hesitated, her ex-husband’s last name—McKay—on the tip of her tongue. She suddenly decided not to use it anymore. But using her father’s last name, Hassan, which she’d given up when she married against his will, didn’t feel right either. “But you can call me Dani.”

“Quasar.” He didn’t say his surname, either. Maybe it was better that way. They were casual acquaintances, nothing more. And he was even more fearfully good-looking in real daylight, with a strong jaw and tousled hair that added to his rakish appearance.

She glanced away quickly. Her blood heated just looking at this man. “I’ll have a coffee with milk.”

He ordered, in expert Arabic, without looking at the menu. “Me, too. Though I suppose we should be drinking it black, with some dates, now that we’re back in Oman.”

She laughed. There was something about the way he said it that made her feel like his coconspirator. “It’s terrible. I find myself longing for a burrito or a foot-long sub.”

“Are you going back to America soon?”

His question took her by surprise. “I don’t know. I’m not sure what I’m doing.” It was a relief to be honest. Maybe because he was a stranger, she felt she could let down her mask a little. “I came here in a hurry and now I seem to be becalmed.”

“Becalmed?” He tilted his head and surveyed her with those striking gray-blue eyes.

“It’s an old-fashioned term for a ship that’s stuck out at sea because there’s no wind to fill her sails.” Maybe Quasar was the wind she’d been waiting for? This afternoon was already the most excitement she’d had since her arrival three months ago.

“So you need a bracing gust to set you on your way again.”

“Something like that.” She let the gleam in his eyes light a little spark of...something in her chest. The way he looked at her suggested that he found her attractive. Was that even possible? People used to tell her she was pretty, but her ex made her feel like the ugliest loser in the world. Right now she felt odd and frumpy in the loose dress and pants she’d worn to look modest and tasteful, but Quasar didn’t even seem to notice it. He related to her as easily as if she were in her familiar jeans and T-shirt. “Why are you here?” she asked.

“Visiting my brother and his family. And trying to reconnect with my culture. I don’t want to stay away too long and have my roots shrivel away.” His wry grin was disarming. Just looking at him, seeing the way his white shirt and jeans showed off a powerful physique, was stirring feelings she’d almost forgotten existed.

“If you want to reconnect with your roots, you should wear a dishdasha.” She could barely picture him in the long, white traditional garment, with its knotted sash and ornamental dagger at the waist.

He raised a brow. “Do you think I’d look better in one?” He was flirting.

She shrugged. “No. I’m only wearing this because I don’t want to scandalize my family. I’ve done that enough already.”

Curiosity flared in his gaze, as she’d predicted. “You don’t look like the type to cause a scandal.”

“Then I guess my disguise is working. I’m trying to fit in and fly under the radar.”

“You’re too beautiful to ever do that.” He spoke softly, so the waiter couldn’t hear him, but his words shocked her. She blinked at his bold flattery.

“Even traditional clothing allows your face to show,” he said. “You’d have to hide that to go unnoticed.”

“Or just never leave the house, which is what my father would prefer. He has no idea I’m out here right now. He thinks I’m at home writing poetry in my childhood bedroom. I’m twenty-seven and divorced, for crying out loud, and I have to sneak around like a naughty teenager.”

Quasar laughed and looked as if he were going to say something, but just then the waiter brought their coffees. Dani watched Quasar’s sensual mouth as he sipped his drink and she cursed the shimmer of heat that flared under her voluminous clothing.

“I think you are ready for that breeze to catch your sails,” he said at last.

“I don’t know what I’m ready for, to be totally honest. My divorce just became final.”

He lifted his coffee cup. “Congratulations.”

She giggled. “That sounds so wrong, but it does feel like something to celebrate.”

“We all make mistakes. I’m thirty-one and I’ve never been married. That has to be a mistake of some kind. At least that’s what my two happily married brothers keep insisting.”

“They think you should find someone and settle down?”

“Absolutely. In fact I’m not sure they’ll let me leave Oman until I’m legally wed.”

She laughed. Since his brothers would not be likely to encourage him to marry a divorcée, this put them on a “friends only” footing that was rather reassuring. She could admire him without worrying that anything could come of it. But sadness trickled through her at the realization that she was damaged goods, and safely off-limits. “How do you feel about the idea?”

“Petrified.” He looked rueful. “If I was cut out for marriage, I’d probably have plunged into it by now.”

“You just haven’t met the right person yet.”

“That’s what they keep telling me.”

“It’s better to wait for the right person than to have to extricate yourself after you’ve chosen the wrong one.” He must have no shortage of women trailing after him. In fact two girls had sat down at a table near them and she could see them glancing over and whispering to each other.

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