Chained by silk and jewels
Across the bustling nightclub, bodyguard Zahir El Hashem watches his latest charge swaying temptingly on the dance floor, his pulse quickening. Returning the Princess to her bridegroom might not be such a simple operation after all…
Soraya Karim has always known one day she must resume her royal obligations-just not so soon! Clinging to the last shreds of her freedom, Soraya insists they take the long way back to Bakhara – and their attraction reaches a dangerous fever pitch…
Once they reach the gates of the palace such a liaison will be utterly forbidden. From then duty must reign…Read an Excerpt Behind the Book
“A flawlessly written romance written by a mistress (mistress? I mean this as a compliment!) of the art of romance writing. The dilemma of duty versus the heart is fully explored. Full of emotion and sparkle, this is a novel which won’t let you go until you turn the final page.” ~ Maria, GoodReads
“A compelling book, DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY, draws the reader in with passionate characters placed in morally challenging positions. Soraya’s and Zahir’s allegiance to a good man and leader of their country collides with their love for each other, providing tension and emotional intensity that only the brilliantly gifted Annie West can create.” ~ 5 stars, Donna Zapf from CataRomance
“Loved this book! I’ve read and loved a lot of Annie West books, but this would have to be one of my favorites. So much tension between two very headstrong people. I felt like I was on an adventure with Soraya in this road trip with a twist. ” ~ Margie, Amazon
“DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY is a story of an honorable hero, who appears uncompromising and domineering on the outside but really is intensely emotional and tender. It’s also a tale of a heroine who is wholly loyal to her family and the crown, yet punched in the gut by love and its emotional consequences. Author Annie West’s mastery of subtleties in relationships is amazing to read. Her characters are amazing in their complexities, their interaction and their growing love for each other.” ~ 4.5 out of 5 stars, Nas Dean from Contemporary Romance Reviews
”This is a wonderful story with lots of tension as Zahir and Soraya travel through France and Italy on their way back to Bakhara. They learn that first impressions are not always true and as they get closer both realize they are falling in love but they must think about their duty to their country…I loved this story – it kept me up late. Ms West really knows how to write a story that is filled with angst and passion.” ~ Helen S from Romancing the Tome, Newsletter of the Australian Romance Readers Assn
‘Soraya. What are you doing down here when the party’s in full swing upstairs?’
Zahir halted several paces away. His eyes ate her up, luscious in a long dress of dusky rose. A gown that was innocently demure by the standards of the scantily dressed socialites at the party. Yet it skimmed her body in a way that reminded him too clearly of the hour glass figure that tempted him during each day’s swimming lesson.
Heat clutched deep in his belly.
Her scent, wildflowers rather than hothouse exotics, teased his nostrils. Her hair, held back by jewelled clips, cascaded down her back in a ripple of thick silk.
More than one man had cast covetous eyes on her tonight and Zahir had been busy staking a possessive claim on her to prevent any untoward advances.
Staking a claim on behalf of Hussein, he reminded himself.
She half turned but didn’t meet his eyes. ‘I wanted some peace and quiet.’
At her words he stiffened. He’d seen her excited, happy, indignant and angry but never listless.
There’d been inevitable tension after their kiss. But he’d worked hard not to let her see that taste of her had driven him to the brink of endurance. For her part, Soraya had thrown herself into sightseeing with a fervour that gave no hint she wanted anything else.
At first he’d wondered if she was a little too enthusiastic, then chided himself. It wasn’t that he wanted her pining for what could never be.
‘You’re not enjoying yourself?’ Tonight he’d sought safety in numbers. This exclusive society party had seemed a perfect alternative to a night alone with Soraya and the terrible gnawing tension within.
Beautiful women with come hither eyes and smiles that promised pleasure were here tonight in droves. Yet none had drawn a second glance from him.
Not one could hold a candle to Soraya for beauty or character. She was gentle, despite her bravado in standing up for herself, capable, caring, inquisitive and deeply fascinating. Her fierce independence, her determination and natural exuberance entranced him. With her he’d felt more than he had in a decade and a half. It was like emerging from a grey half life into a world of sunshine and colour.
‘The party is amazing. Thank you for bringing me.’ Yet she didn’t sound as enthusiastic as when she discussed her research project. ‘So many interesting people. So many celebrities. And I’ve never seen so much bling in my life.’
She shook her head and those long tresses slid and curled around her slim back. Was it ridiculous to resent the fact she wore her hair down tonight? He hated the way men looked at her, imagining that bountiful hair loose around her shoulders as she made love.
He knew they did. Any man would.
He did. God help him!
‘But it’s only days till our flight from Rome to Bakhara.’ Her husky words drew his belly tight. ‘It’s crept up on me and I needed time to digest it.’
She went home to marry the finest man he knew.
Zahir ignored the wave of nausea that passed through him at the thought.
‘I know Hussein is looking forward to seeing you.’ If Hussein had any idea of the lovely woman she’d become, he’d be eager for her arrival.
Soraya bowed her head as if in assent. But her grip on the railing reminded him of a falcon’s claws clamped hard and sharp on a leather glove.
‘Soraya?’ He took a pace towards her then, realising, stopped. ‘Are you all right?’
‘Of course.’ She tilted her chin up as she stared across the shimmering brightness. ‘What could be wrong?’
Something was. He’d come to recognise the way she angled that neat chin as a defence mechanism.
He reminded himself his duty was simply to return her safe to Bakhara, not delve into her thoughts and fears.
Yet telling himself couldn’t make it so. Nor could he banish the suspicion he knew exactly what was wrong. That despite her proud front, Soraya felt as he did. That they’d circled an unspoken truth for weeks.
Perhaps the harsh gravel in his voice surprised her for she turned her head, eyes wide and it was there again, that jangle along the senses as if lightning had sparked between them.
Damn it. He shouldn’t feel this. He shouldn’t feel anything except impersonal concern for her wellbeing.
Yet what he felt was personal. Far too personal.
Did she feel it too? Is that why she whipped her head round so fast?
‘Soraya. Please.’ It was no good telling himself this was merely a job. It had ceased to be just a job the moment he saw her in that Paris nightclub.
‘I don’t want to go back,’ she said at last. ‘I don’t want…’ Her voice dipped and she swallowed convulsively. That single movement spoke of a vulnerability that tugged at something in his very core. Something he couldn’t name.
He found himself behind her. Not touching, but mirroring her body with his as if to protect her. He couldn’t keep back.
‘What don’t you want, Soraya?’ His breath held.
A deep breath lifted her narrow shoulders. ‘I don’t want to marry the Emir.’
Soraya and Zahir’s story owes a lot to the old Tristan and Iseult legend. There are various versions but one I know is that Tristan is sent by his king to the lovely Iseult to escort her back with him for her royal marriage to the much older king. Along the way Iseult and Tristan fall in love and that’s where things become complicated. The versions vary on what happens next and whether the ending is tragic or romantic
As a romance writer I had to believe my pair could find a happy ending, but frankly, when I started writing, I wasn’t sure how that would happen. All I knew was that both Soraya and Zahir feel they owe a lifetime’s debt to the Emir who is planning to marry Soraya. The last thing either of them wants to do is betray him. But from the moment they meet they discover an instant, blood-sizzling attraction for each other. That makes their journey, alone together, a real test of character and willpower. Soon things get worse as they begin to realise it’s love they feel, not simple physical attraction. That’s when things become really difficult! This is an intense story fuelled by the tug of forbidden love vs duty
My characters come from a Middle Eastern kingdom where arranged marriages aren’t unusual. But Soraya has been studying far away in Paris, where she’s begun to discover a world and a way of life outside her own. She’s begun to dream of the life she might have if she were free to pursue her own goals rather than marry out of obligation. When she discovers she’s got no option but to travel with the brooding and far too sexy Zahir, she makes one stipulation – that they travel the long, slow way home. She’s not ready to marry yet.
As a result the early part of this book is set in Paris and parts of rural France including the Loire Valley and the lovely Perigord around the Dordogne River. The pair travel by way of Monte Carlo and Rome before finally arriving in the desert kingdom of Bakhara.
I was lucky as I wrote this story as I’d not long ago spent some time travelling in France. Most of the places you read about in the book are based on real locations I had the luck to visit and enjoy. In some cases I changed them a little, for instance the Chateau Azay le Rideau provided inspiration for a luxury hotel surrounded by forest and rose gardens. Others, like Clos Luce, where Leonardo da Vinci once lived, are as I recall them.
I hope you have a marvellous time with Soraya and Zahir, as they battle the odds to find their happy ending.