March 1, 2002

September 1, 2002

An Arabian Marriage

Sister Brides, book #1

Preview

Frederica Sutton was living happily with toddler Ben, the son of her deceased cousin.

The minute that Jaspar Al Hasayn stalks into her apartment all smoldering gorgeousness and arrogance her happy world is blown apart when she discovers that Ben is part of the Quamar royal lineage, a prince’s son and she could lose him forever. When Jaspar’s family decides to take matters into their own hands and kidnaps Ben, Freddy is heartbroken and furious. If getting Ben back means black mailing Jaspar into marrying her, then so be it! As much as Freddy hates her cool-mannered new husband, there’s something about his feral golden eyes and she finds herself returning to his bed, night after ravenous night. Freddy’s not just sleeping with the enemy she’s married to him.

Excerpt

‘IT IS a matter of family honour…’King Zafir’s voice was thin and weak but fierce longing burned in his gaze as he addressed his only surviving son. ‘You will bring your brother Adil’s son home to us and we will raise him to adulthood.’

Crown Prince Jaspar murmured tautly, ‘Father, with all due respect, the child has a mother—’

‘A harlot unfit to be called a mother!’ In a sudden explosion of anger, King Zafir raised himself from the pillows and thundered, ‘A shameless creature who danced until dawn while her child fought for his life in hospital! A greedy, grasping Jezebel…’ At that point a choking bout of serious coughing overcame the irate older man and he struggled in vain to catch his breath.

Instantly, the King’s medical team was rushed in to administer oxygen. Pale and taut, dark eyes intent, already stunned by the furious outburst that had brought on the attack, Jaspar watched the physicians go about their work and willed his parent to recover. ‘Please, Your Royal Highness,’ his father’s closest aide, Rashad, begged with tears in his strained eyes. ‘Please agree without further discussion.’

‘I had not realised that my father held Western women in such violent aversion.’

‘His Majesty does not. Have you not read the report on this woman?’

As he registered in relief that his father was responding to the treatment the worst of the tension holding Jaspar’s lean powerful frame taut ebbed and he breathed in deep. ‘I have not.’

‘I will bring the report to your office. Your Royal Highness.’ Rashad hurried off.

A thin hand beckoned from the great canopied bed. Jaspar strode forward and bent down to hear King Zafir’s last definitive words on the subject, uttered in a thready tone of deep piety that nonetheless held a rare note of pleading. ‘It is your Christian duty to rescue my grandson…’

As soon as the immediate emergency was over and his father had been made comfortable, Jaspar left the room. As he crossed the anteroom beyond, every person there dropped down on their knees and bent their heads. In receipt of that respectful acknowledgement of his recent rise in royal status, he clenched his strong jawline even harder. Reflecting on the recent death of his elder brother, Adil, who had been Crown Prince since birth, only made Jaspar feel worse than ever.

One day he would be King of Quamar but he had not been brought up to be King. In the instant that Adil had died, Jaspar’s life had changed for ever. He had loved his brother but had never been very close to him. Adil had, after all, been fifteen years older and cut from a different cloth. Indeed, Adil had often cheerfully called his younger brother a killjoy. But, almost inevitably, Adil’s excessive appetite for food and fat Cuban cigars had contributed to his early demise at the age of forty-five.

In the splendid office that was now his, Jaspar studied an oil painting of his jovial brother with brooding regret. Adil had also been an unrepentant womaniser.

‘I adore women. All of them…’Adil had once told Jaspar with his great beaming smile. ‘My wife, my ex-wives, my daughters included, but why should I settle for only one woman? If only we were Muslim, brother, I might have had four wives at a time and a harem of concubines. Do you never think of what life might have been like had our honoured ancestor, Kareem I, not founded us as a Christian dynasty?’

So, when Adil had not been carrying out his duties as Crown Prince, he had sailed his pleasure yacht, Beauteous Dreamer, round the Mediterranean with a string of beautiful fun-loving Western women aboard. Rumours of his eldest son’s discreet double life had occasionally caused King Zafir great disquiet but Adil had always been a most gifted dissembler and his women had always been willing to cover his tracks for him.

It seemed painfully ironic that the much-wanted son which Adil had failed to father with any of his three successive wives should have been born out of wedlock. Had that child been born within marriage, he would have been second in line to the throne but his illegitimacy barred him from what should have been his rightful place in life. Jaspar suppressed a heavy sigh. In his generation, the al-Husayn royal family had had little luck when it came to producing male heirs, although, having fathered several daughters, Adil had remained excusably optimistic that a son would eventually be born.

And just two years ago, a baby boy had been born to an English woman in London. During the hours that Adil had survived before the second heart attack had struck and proved fatal, he had confessed that shocking fact to their distraught father. Unsurprisingly, the news of that unknown grandson had become an obsession with the grieving older man but extensive confidential enquiries had been required even to track the woman down. In fear of a scandal that would reverberate all the way back to Quamar, Adil had gone to considerable lengths not only to disassociate himself from that birth, but also to conceal all evidence of the child’s existence.

It was a mess, an unholy mess, that he was being asked to sort out, Jaspar reflected bleakly as Rashad scurried in with much keen bowing and scraping to deliver a sealed file to his desk. His parent was too ill to be made to consider practicalities, but to bring Adil’s child back to Quamar, shorn of the supposedly unsuitable mother, would be very difficult, if not impossible.

‘His Majesty has made a most clever suggestion which would solve all the problems at once, Your Royal Highness,’ Rashad announced in a tone of excitement.

Jaspar regarded the older man in polite enquiry but with no great hope for Rashad was his father’s yes-man, guaranteed to always agree with and support his royal employer’s every spoken word.

‘We use our special forces and snatch the child…’ Jaspar drew in a very deep and necessary breath of restraint. Sometimes, his father astounded him. A feudal ruler from a young age, his exalted parent had never quite come to terms with the reality that a very different world lurked beyond Quamar’s borders.

‘There would be no need to negotiate with the foreign Jezebel and the boy would be whisked back to Quamar, renamed and raised as an orphan. Perhaps we could say that he is a distant cousin’s child,’ Rashad completed with immense enthusiasm.

Only the fond memory of Rashad playing with him when he was a child himself prevented Jaspar from venting his incredulous dismissal of such an outrageous suggestion. Rashad was not a clever man and he was out of his depth, his sole motivation being a desperate desire to tell his ailing royal employer what he most wanted to hear. As for his honoured parent and sovereign, Jaspar reflected in rueful exasperation, illness and grief had evidently temporarily deprived the head of the house of al-Husayn of his usual common sense and caution.

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