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His Queen By Desert Decree

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«His Queen By Desert Decree» - Линн Грэхем

Wife—by royal declaration!Language teacher Molly Carlisle is furious when she's kidnapped by an impulsive young sheikh and taken to the kingdom of Djalia. Until she meets her abductor’s brother and his commanding charisma sends a shockwave of need through her…King Azrael fights hard to resist the temptation of Molly’s bountiful curves—especially when a sandstorm strands them overnight in the desert. To protect her reputation from scandal Azrael declares them secretly married…only to discover his tactical announcement is legally binding—Molly is now his Queen! And Azrael is determined to claim his wedding night…Wedlocked!Conveniently wedded, passionately bedded!
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Wife—by royal declaration!

Language teacher Molly Carlisle is furious when she is kidnapped by an impulsive young sheikh and taken to the kingdom of Djalia. Until she meets her abductor’s brother, and his commanding charisma sends a shock wave of need through her...

King Azrael fights hard to resist the temptation of Molly’s bountiful curves, especially when a sandstorm strands them overnight in the desert. To protect her reputation from scandal, Azrael declares them secretly married, only to discover his tactical announcement is legally binding—Molly is now his queen! And Azrael is determined to claim his wedding night...

‘To recap: you’re telling me,’ Azrael breathed tautly, ‘that even today in Djalia a man can marry a woman simply by declaring that she is his wife?’

‘In front of witnesses. The marriage contract is verbal and complete as long as there are witnesses—’

‘But what about the bride’s consent?’ Azrael demanded. ‘In such a situation the woman has not given her consent.’

‘In law she does not have to give consent for the union to be binding and legal,’ the professor assured him. ‘You must appreciate that such arrangements were common hundreds of years ago, when women were viewed as property. By ancient law you are now a married man and the young lady is your legal wife. May I wish you both every happiness, Your Majesty…’

Azrael’s usual cool was fracturing fast. He was married—legally married—and there was nothing he could do about it. Because even if he was desperate enough to admit that he had lied in the first place the public declaration of marriage he had made would still stand.

He breathed in deep and slow, striving for calm. ‘That was…enlightening,’ he conceded quietly, for want of any better word. ‘I must discuss the situation with…with my wife.’

His wife. It changed everything. His wife.

Conveniently wedded, passionately bedded!

Whether there’s a debt to be paid,

a will to be obeyed or a business to be saved…

she’s got no choice but to say, ‘I do!’

But these billionaire bridegrooms have got another

think coming if they think marriage will be that easy…

Soon their convenient brides become the objects

of an inconvenient desire!

Find out what happens after the vows in:

Wedded, Bedded, Betrayed by Michelle Smart

Expecting a Royal Scandal by Caitlin Crews

Trapped by Vialli’s Vows by Chantelle Shaw

Baby of His Revenge by Jennie Lucas

A Diamond for Del Rio’s Housekeeper by Susan Stephens

Bound by His Desert Diamond by Andie Brock

Bride by Royal Decree by Caitlin Crews

Claimed for the De Carrillo Twins by Abby Green

The Desert King’s Captive Bride by Annie West

The Sheikh’s Bought Wife by Sharon Kendrick

Wedding Night with Her Enemy by Melanie Milburne

Claimed for the Leonelli Legacy by Lynne Graham

Look out for more Wedlocked! stories

coming soon!

His Queen by Desert Decree

Lynne Graham


LYNNE GRAHAM was born in Northern Ireland and has been a keen romance reader since her teens. She is very happily married to an understanding husband who has learned to cook since she started to write! Her five children keep her on her toes. She has a very large dog, who knocks everything over, a very small terrier, who barks a lot, and two cats. When time allows, Lynne is a keen gardener.

Books by Lynne Graham

Mills & Boon Modern Romance

Bought for the Greek’s Revenge

The Sicilian’s Stolen Son

Leonetti’s Housekeeper Bride

The Secret His Mistress Carried


Claimed for the Leonelli Legacy

Brides for the Taking

The Desert King’s Blackmailed Bride

The Italian’s One-Night Baby

Sold for the Greek’s Heir

Christmas with a Tycoon

The Italian’s Christmas Child

The Greek’s Christmas Bride

The Notorious Greeks

The Greek Demands His Heir

The Greek Commands His Mistress

Bound by Gold

The Billionaire’s Bridal Bargain

The Sheikh’s Secret Babies

Visit the Author Profile page

at millsandboon.co.uk for more titles.



Back Cover Text



Title Page

About the Author





html#litres_trial_promo"> CHAPTER FIVE









KING AZRAEL AL-SHARIF OF DJALIA studied the British newspaper headline with scorchingly angry dark golden eyes, his wide sensual mouth set in a harsh line. Long, luxuriant black hair fanned round his set bronzed features as he sprang upright.

‘I do not think you should concern yourself with such trivia, Your Majesty,’ his right-hand man, Butrus, assured him. ‘What does it matter to us what other countries think? We know the truth. We are not backward. It is merely that Djalia’s infrastructure was neglected while the dictator was in power.’

What infrastructure? Azrael almost asked, because his tiny oil-rich country was suffering from a sustained half-century of neglect. Hashem had been a cruel potentate of legendary excess, as fond of torture and killing as he had been of spending. A newly enthroned monarch, painfully aware of the trusting expectations of a people who had suffered greatly under Hashem’s rule, Azrael sometimes felt weighed down by the amount of responsibility that he carried. But he was downright enraged when other countries laughed at Djalia through the offices of their media.

The newspaper showed a cart and oxen travelling down the main road of Jovan, their single city, and asked if Djalia was the most backward country in Arabia. Azrael was willing to admit that anyone looking for skyscrapers or shopping malls or fancy hotels would be disappointed because, except for a showpiece airport and an imposing motorway to the former dictator’s palace, there was nothing contemporary anywhere else in the country. But given time, Djalia would move out of the Dark Ages and into the twenty-first century.

Mercifully Djalia had the wealth to power that transformation and Djalian citizens from all over the globe, medical staff, engineers and teachers, were already flooding back home to help in that Herculean task. Azrael, whose besetting sin was a serious nature that lent him a forbidding aspect beyond his thirty years of age, thought with relief about all those people coming home to help rebuild the country that he loved more than his own life. People like him who believed in religious tolerance and female equality and who desired to live in a modern, enlightened society where all had access to education and healthcare.

‘You are right, Butrus. I will not concern myself with such nonsense,’ Azrael acknowledged briskly. ‘We must have faith in the future.’

Relieved to have lifted his monarch’s mood, Butrus departed, having decided not to mention another possible problem. According to the staff at the newly opened embassy in London, Tahir, the King’s younger half-brother, was infatuated with a sexy redhead. Another piece of trivia, Butrus decided loftily, for boys chased girls and that was life, although for Tahir, who had grown up in the much more restricted society of the neighbouring country of Quarein, it was undoubtedly a novelty to even be allowed to speak to an unmarried woman.

Azrael studied the walls of his twelfth-century office and then studied his desk instead. He lived and worked in a castle. He was a very fortunate man, he told himself nobly. He had refused to take up residence in the late dictator’s vulgar gilded palace, which was currently being converted into an opulent and very much-needed hotel. He would not think about the reality that that palace had enjoyed an Internet connection and many other contemporary enhancements.

But he could live without those soft unnecessary extras, he assured himself. They were not necessary to a man who had spent a great deal of his life in a nomadic tent and an equal amount of it as a soldier in the desert. He was tough. He did not need such comforts. He had also known that his people did not want to see him occupying Hashem’s palace, which was a symbol of both suffering and selfish extravagance. He had to show that he was different despite the blood in his veins, the blood that he fortunately also shared with his heroic father, Sharif, who had been executed for his opposition to Hashem.

A knock on the door was swiftly followed by its noisy opening, framing Butrus, who was pale as death and sporting an aghast expression. ‘I am so sorry to enter in such a rude way, Your Majesty, but I’m afraid that your brother has done something very shocking...very shocking indeed. A huge scandal will break over our heads if we cannot find a remedy.’

* * *

A mere day before King Azrael’s faith in his family’s intelligence was destroyed by his brother’s act of insanity, Molly remained in blissful ignorance of the storm clouds of threat gathering around her.

In fact, Molly was happy. Small and curvy, her eye-catching fall of long coppery ringlets dancing on her slim shoulders, her green eyes sparkling, she was visiting the care home where her grandfather was lodged.

The home was awash with seasonal bustle and carol singers and some very tasty mince pies and the residents were thoroughly enjoying the entertainment. She gripped Maurice Devlin’s gnarled hand and smiled when he mistook her for her late mother, Louise, and made no attempt to correct him. Her grandfather had dementia and his hold on faces, dates and events had slipped, allowing only brief little windows of comprehension. As he recounted a memory of some long-ago Christmas when he had chopped down a tree for his little daughter’s benefit, Molly was simply delighted that he had recognised her as a relative and that he was enjoying himself.

Winterwood was a very good residential home where Maurice had received the very best of care for the past two years. Unfortunately it cost a lot of money to keep her grandfather there but Molly was very conscious that it was in the old man’s best interests to keep him in familiar surroundings. A sudden change of accommodation and new faces would plunge him into severe confusion. For that reason, Molly had done everything she could to ensure that Maurice could continue to stay at Winterwood but, as she sat there holding his frail hand, she was anxiously aware that the proceeds from the sale of her mother’s last piece of jewellery were almost used up. Sadly, even working night and day, she couldn’t make enough cash to both live and support the top-up fees due to the care home every month.

Something would come up, she told herself optimistically, because agonising over the possibility that something might not was unproductive and Molly was a very practical young woman. As it was, Molly currently had three jobs.

During the day she worked as a waitress. At least two evenings a week she worked a cleaning shift at an office block for Jan, the friend who owned the cleaning business. And last but definitely not least, on weekends Molly was giving English lessons to an Arab prince at the Djalian Embassy, lessons for which she was being paid far more than all the rest of her work combined. Maybe she would suggest an extra lesson, she reasoned, but she winced at the prospect of exposing herself to spending more time with Tahir.

Although, at the same time, she reckoned she needed to be fair to Prince Tahir because he wasn’t harassing her. When she had told him that the flowers and the gifts he was sending her were inappropriate and unwelcome he had stopped. He had also accepted the return of the gifts and apologised profusely. He had never tried to touch her either, but his flirtatious manner and the way he studied her still unnerved her a little and it had been a relief when he’d acceded to her request that one of the embassy staff sit in on their sessions with them.

Of course, Molly would have been the first to admit that she had very little experience with men and was probably judging the young Prince too harshly. She had had to drop out of her first year on a university business course to come home and look after her grandfather and, during the subsequent four years, life as regards dating, aside of one forgettable boyfriend, had pretty much passed her by. Even so, during that period she had still contrived to pass her Teaching English as a Foreign Language qualification. Nevertheless she had no regrets about the sacrifices she had made for her grandfather because she was painfully aware that, during one of the unhappiest periods of her own life, Maurice had come to her rescue and had disrupted his peaceful retirement to take care of her.

Molly’s mother had died when she was four and a few years later her father had remarried. His second wife had resented the very existence of her predecessor’s daughter. With her father refusing to intervene to protect her from his wife’s abuse, Molly’s position in their household had gradually become untenable. Molly had gone to her maternal grandfather for support and he had given her a home. When her father had died, his entire estate had gone to her stepmother. That her mother’s jewellery had become hers when she was still a child was only because her mother had specified that in her will.

As always at the Djalian Embassy that same afternoon, Molly marvelled at how charmingly old-fashioned it was. She gave her lessons in a formal dining room, separated from Prince Tahir by the reassuring width of a banqueting table. The door stayed open, her female chaperone seated in the hallway just outside. Directly within Molly’s view hung a portrait of an eye-catching man. Mr Gorgeous, Molly had labelled him, because he had features that could have given any male supermodel a run for his money. She didn’t want to think about how often Mr Gorgeous had popped up in her dreams. She supposed that what lay in her subconscious and popped up overnight was fairly similar to what many single women dreamt about if they were a little lonely and wondering when their life would finally take off and give them something more exciting to think about.

A bowing, scraping servant brought in the usual tray of coffee and Molly politely averted her eyes from the display. Clearly the young man opposite her was treated something like a deity by the embassy staff. Such effusive servility made her uncomfortable but she accepted that there were bound to be cultural differences in their lifestyles. Being a royal in Djalia was clearly a licence to inspire awe and admiration, even if Tahir was a royal from another country.

The Prince was tall enough to tower over her and she had never managed to discover exactly how old he was, stopping asking only because persistence had begun to seem impolite. However, he looked to be in his early twenties. She reckoned that some women would consider him handsome because he was built like a rugby player and had the jaw to go with it, but his lack of maturity made him unappealing to her.

‘You look so beautiful today,’ Tahir assured her.

‘We are supposed to be making casual conversation, Your Highness,’ Molly reminded him. ‘Personal comments are unwise.’

He reddened, brown eyes narrowing. ‘Forgive me,’ he declared instantly. ‘I should have said...what have you been doing today?’

‘Yes, that is much better,’ Molly told him with a smile and mentioned her visit to her grandfather.

‘You are very lucky to have such a man in your life,’ Tahir informed her. ‘The only grandfather I ever knew was a monster.’

A slight frown line formed between Molly’s brows. ‘That’s still too personal a remark if you are with someone you don’t know very well.’

‘I am trying to learn you better,’ Tahir responded with a hint of frustration.

‘I am your teacher, not a friend,’ Molly declared. ‘Tell me, what have you been doing since our last session?’

‘Nothing.’ Tahir scrutinised the table almost guiltily as the hovering servant inched up on them to pour the coffee and settled a cup and saucer at Molly’s elbow.

‘I’m sure that’s not true,’ Molly responded, reminding herself what she was earning and knowing that she deserved it because trying to teach moody Tahir anything was like trying to push water up a hill. ‘Have you gone out anywhere? You’re in central London. There are so many interesting places to visit.’

‘I am not a tourist. I am here only to improve my English,’ Tahir responded with hauteur.

‘But if you went out you would have so many more opportunities to practise your English,’ Molly replied gently, reaching for her coffee with an eager hand.

‘I have no friend to go out with,’ Tahir told her, regarding her with unconcealed annoyance. ‘I wanted you to accompany me and then I would go many places but you said no.’

Molly did not want to get into the simple reality that the most senior diplomat in the embassy had advised her not to go out with Prince Tahir because it was not considered safe for him to go anywhere without bodyguards, while the presence of his bodyguards also attracted too much attention to him. Apparently, there were fears that the former overthrown Djalian dictator might have sympathisers in London, who could seek to harm a member of the royal family. That reality aside, however, Molly was grateful that she had not gone on trips with Tahir before she’d realised he was beginning to fixate on her because going any place with him would only have encouraged his interest, and it was not an interest she could reciprocate.

Molly lifted her coffee and sipped it. It was horribly sweet, which made a change from its normal bitterness. Tahir stared across the table at her, making no attempt to touch his own coffee. Surprisingly he started to talk to her then about his impressions of London. Molly realised that she felt oddly spaced out. Relieved that he was finally making an effort, though, she meant to respond to his comments but somehow her brain was too fuzzy for concentration.

Her head felt heavy on her neck and she registered that she felt ridiculously sleepy. She propped her chin on her upturned hand. ‘I think I must be very tired,’ she framed, noticing that her voice emerged sounding slurred. ‘Something is wrong with me...’

‘Nothing is wrong,’ Tahir told her soothingly.

With an enormous effort of will, Molly planted her hands down on the surface of the table and pushed upright. Her cup and saucer slid off the edge of the table and tumbled with a crash on the tiled floor and she studied the broken pieces with a detached interest that felt as strange to her as her heavy, paralysed body.

‘I’m ill...need help,’ she mumbled on a very sudden flash of fear.

‘I will help you,’ Tahir assured her, moving towards her. ‘You will be fine. I promise you.’

‘Don’t want your help,’ Molly slurred, stubborn to the last, but her tongue felt too thick for her mouth and the effort it required to even focus her gaze was too much for her. Her eyes slid shut and she slumped down over the table.

* * *

Molly woke, feeling wonderfully comfortable. Slowly lifting her head, she opened her eyes and stared in shock at her completely unfamiliar surroundings.

She was lying on a bed in a room with bare stone walls that looked positively medieval. She sat up, discovering that she was wearing a white floaty cotton garment that did not belong to her, and she leapt off the ornate bed in growing consternation to rush over to the window. The landscape beyond that window made her brain short-circuit for several terrifying seconds. There was a desert outside, an actual desert with towering sand dunes that reminded her of a picture she had once seen of the Sahara. Her mouth ran dry.

How the heck had she travelled from the Djalian Embassy in London to...? And then she remembered the sweet coffee, her strange symptoms and then what must have been her collapse. She had been drugged. Was that too melodramatic an assumption? Molly was a very down-to-earth young woman and the concept of being drugged and kidnapped initially struck her as too fantastic an explanation to be possible. But then there was the unusually sweet coffee, she recalled, along with Prince Tahir watching her and telling her that she would be fine even though she had patently not been fine. Molly breathed in deep and slow.

‘Mees Carlisle?’ a soft female voice enquired, making her jump and spin in dismay. A young woman, clad in a long dress, was anxiously peering at her through a doorway. ‘I am Gamila and I am to tell you that you are safe. Safe,’ she repeated the word with emphasis. ‘No English,’ she completed apologetically.

‘Safe?’ Molly whispered shakily, suddenly realising that what had happened to her was real and not the result of a waking dream or her imagination. ‘Where am I?’

But the young woman was busy spreading open the door to display a bathroom and Molly was too grateful to see one to persist in enquiries that her companion seemed unable to answer. She closed the door, discovering a new toothbrush awaited her as well as soap and other necessities. Had Tahir kidnapped her? And if so, where was he now? Dear heaven, was he a madman? A sex offender? Had she been teaching English to a seriously dangerous man all these weeks?

Filled with horror and conjecture on worst-case scenarios, Molly ran herself a shallow bath, there being no shower, which surprised her because the bathroom suite and the tiling looked brand new. She was safe, she reminded herself doggedly. Someone had taken the time and trouble to coach Gamila into repeating that message...she was safe. But telling herself that even as she towelled herself dry did not make her feel remotely safe in such a strange environment.

She was abroad without a passport, she thought fearfully. She didn’t own a passport because she had never travelled abroad. Her father had not been a fan of foreign holidays and she had never had enough money to plan such a trip for herself. But when she had studied for her TEFL qualification, it had been her dream to work and live abroad. The only grandfather I ever knew was a monster, Tahir had said. Maybe she should have listened harder because it seemed to her that Tahir took after him. Only a monster with a nasty agenda would drug and carry off a woman to a foreign country. Where were the police? Molly wanted to see a policeman and report her abduction...then she would feel safe from all threat.

A long dress like Gamila’s hung on a hook on the wall. Since her own clothing was nowhere to be seen and Molly felt too exposed in the thin nightie she wore, she put on the dress after ascertaining that it at least smelled as if it was new. Even so, she had no underwear and Molly winced at the lack of a bra because she was extra curvy in the breast department. She had always hated that about her body, she reflected ruefully. Overly generous curves at breast and hip had bloomed as soon as she reached puberty. All very well had such curves been grafted onto a taller body, she conceded, but not so welcome a gift for a girl who barely passed five feet in height.

She emerged from the bathroom to find Gamila waiting for her with a tray of food. Molly studied the tray with distrust. Tahir had drugged her. How did she know the food was harmless? She shook her head in refusal although she was very hungry, and went back into the bathroom to use the tumbler by the sink to drink some tap water, simply praying that the source was hygienic. Gamila, looking puzzled by that demonstration, set the tray down and left the room.

Molly stood at the window staring out at that unbelievable view of the sand dunes. The sun was lower in the sky, turning them a toasty gold shade which was unexpectedly beautiful. It was time for her to find out where she was and when she was getting home, after she had reported Tahir to the authorities. As she stalked to the door in a fine temper a knock sounded on it. She flung it wide.

‘I...’ and then her tongue simply glued to the roof of her mouth because it was Mr Gorgeous from the portrait in the embassy hallway.

There he stood, in his pristine white robes and red chequered head cloth, those stunning features even more arresting in the flesh. It was as if a famous actor had stepped out of a movie screen into her presence. She was deeply shaken and she could barely breathe for nerves. In discomfiture, she backed away fast until her legs hit the very solid wooden bed frame behind her.

‘Miss Carlisle? I am Azrael, Tahir’s half-brother,’ Azrael proffered, rigid in bearing and stilted in speech from the sheer shame of what his little brother had done. ‘I must offer you my most profound apologies for what has happened to you and I assure you that you will be taken home as soon as possible.’

A tiny bit mollified by that unexpectedly humble approach from a man who looked more as if he should be waving a scimitar from the back of a horse in battle, so fierce was his expression, Molly moved forward a step. He was incredibly tall, well over six feet in height. And those eyes, a part of Molly that embarrassed her noted without her volition, he had the most amazing dark golden eyes, so heavily lashed in black that he looked as though he were sporting eye liner.

‘You speak English,’ she heard herself say rather stupidly.

‘I do,’ Azrael acknowledged, studying her with a concealed appreciation that affronted him, for he did not want to believe that he had the smallest taste in common with a brother who had committed such a very unforgivable act against a woman. But Tahir had more taste than his elder brother would have given him credit for. For some reason, Azrael had been expecting to see a Westernised blonde of pretty obvious attractions.

Instead he had Molly Carlisle before him and there was no contest in that comparison. Her skin was as fine and fair as pearlised silk. She had an astonishing colour of hair such as Azrael had never seen before and a wonderful wealth of it, and eyes the exact shade of his late mother’s famous emeralds. She was a beauty, a truly unusual beauty. His thoughts, his very awareness, were inappropriate, deeply inappropriate in the circumstances, Azrael castigated himself angrily, suppressing his too personal reactions to the very best of his ability.

‘When are the police coming?’ Molly asked baldly.

Nothing could have more surely focused Azrael’s concentration back on his dilemma than that innocent question. In point of fact, Djalia did not currently have a police force, Hashem’s police department having been wholly corrupt. A large new group of male and female applicants was currently in training but, of course, he was not going to tell her that there were no police and expose his much-maligned country to adverse criticism again.

‘It is my hope that we can settle this unfortunate matter without alerting the authorities,’ Azrael told her truthfully, resting the full force of his commanding eyes on her, his royal resolve driving him. He knew how authoritative he was and how intimidating he could be and he was prepared to use that strength against her if necessary. Regardless of the cost, he had to protect Djalia from an international scandal and the risk of the rest of the world finding out what had happened and assuming that they were all ignorant, woman-stealing savages.

Impervious to his extremely bossy manner and commanding stance, because she was immovable when she made her mind up about anything, Molly compressed her lips. ‘I’m afraid not. I want the police. I want your brother...half-brother, whatever he is, prosecuted and punished.’

Taken aback by her complete lack of reaction to his royal poise, Azrael expelled his breath in a measured hiss. ‘There will be no police involved,’ he informed her flatly.

‘I’ve been drugged and kidnapped. I demand justice!’ Molly launched at him full throttle.

‘I must apologise for my inability to meet your demand. My brother is no longer in Djalia to be prosecuted,’ Azrael countered, deciding to pursue another tack.

‘I don’t believe you,’ Molly responded, shocking him with that frank admission, for he had never had the veracity of his words questioned before by anyone. ‘You’re trying to protect him from the consequences of what he’s done—’

‘That is not the case,’ Azrael assured her, and it was the truth because at that moment he would happily have thrown Tahir to the wolves had that been an option but, sadly, it was not.

‘You cannot deny me my rights,’ Molly began, rosy colour mantling her cheeks as fury began to suffuse her, firing through her veins like an intoxicating drug.

His eyes hard as granite, Azrael’s jaw clenched. ‘I can—’

‘You can’t!’ Molly spat back at him in a rage. ‘You can’t deny me my rights. There are international laws protecting women—’

‘Not in Djalia,’ Azrael told her truthfully but without pride.

‘I was drugged and kidnapped—’

‘But Tahir was intercepted as soon as the plane landed and you were immediately removed from his keeping. You are unharmed,’ Azrael reminded her.

‘But I could’ve been the victim of sexual violence!’ Molly shot at him with knotted fists, her temper only rising at his refusal to do a single thing that she asked.

‘I doubt that. Tahir is many foolish things but he’s not a rapist. He thought he could bring you here and shower you with clothes and jewels and that then you would magically find him more appealing,’ Azrael recited with derision. ‘He is infatuated with you but he would never have physically harmed you.’

‘So, in your opinion, it’s basically all right for him to have drugged and kidnapped me?’

‘No, of course it is not right, it is very wrong!’ Azrael proclaimed heatedly, his own temper flaring at her wording. ‘It was a crime and there is no dispute on that issue but we will not involve the police in this matter.’

‘That’s not your decision to make,’ Molly told him angrily, green eyes glittering like jewels, coppery ringlets dancing across her slim shoulders with the livewire energy of her every restive movement.

‘It is my decision,’ Azrael contradicted softly, wondering what colour would best describe that dark red and yet strangely bright hair and furiously repressing the irrelevant thought. ‘And in Djalia my word is law.’

‘Then Djalia must be a pretty backward place!’ Molly hurled back at him loudly.

Azrael froze as if she had thrown a flaming torch at him, every line of his lean, extravagantly handsome face drawn taut with offence and growing anger. ‘I will not discuss this business again with you until you have calmed down and thought it over.’

‘I’m as calm as I’m ever going to be after waking up to see a desert out of the freakin’ window!’ Molly flung hotly and as he turned on his heel, making her realise that he intended to leave again, she was fit to be tied. ‘Don’t you dare walk out of here and leave me!’

‘You are not in a mood to be reasonable—’

‘How blasted reasonable would you be after being drugged and kidnapped?’ Molly shouted after him, and she kicked the door shut with a resounding clunk on his sweeping departure. She hurt her bare toes and cursed and hopped round the room, ineffectually trying to soothe them while boiling with frustrated fury at Tahir’s brother.

Clearly insanity ran in the family! One abducted her to a foreign country and the other wanted her to be reasonable. What century was he living in? What kind of country was Djalia where women had no rights and some good-looking louse could tell her and with a straight face, mind you, that his word was law? Who the blazes did he think he was to talk to her like that? Well, Molly had no intention of standing for that kind of nonsense. His countrywomen might have no rights, but she knew she had hers and she had every intention of exercising them in the UK, if need be, where the crime had taken place. Yes, she registered belatedly, Azrael’s attitude didn’t really matter because she could go to the police at home and report the crime once she got back there. And he couldn’t stop her doing that, could he?

As if she cared about Tahir or what happened to him! She wanted to know that Tahir would be punished and that he could never, ever do to any other woman what he had done to her. As for that assurance that Tahir would never have physically harmed her, Molly was not impressed. Did she look stupid enough to credit that Tahir had gone to such extraordinary lengths merely to offer her new clothes and jewels? No, she would ensure that the British police dealt with Tahir.

Mollified by that idea, Molly greeted the surprised Gamila with a smile when she crept in carrying Molly’s freshly laundered clothes. Thanking the other woman, Molly vanished into the bathroom to put on her own clothes, snapping her bra on again with deep satisfaction and shimmying into her jeans and sweater. Only as perspiration began to gather on her skin and her face did she appreciate that what she had worn for a London winter was quite unsuitable for a desert climate. Crossly she stripped again and put the stupid dress back on because at least it was cool and comfortable.

Leaving the bedroom, she walked out onto a stone corridor and espied a worn spiral staircase, brows climbing at the sight of it. She walked down into a square turreted forecourt of some kind that was crowded with uniformed soldiers carrying guns, all of whom turned to stare at her in the most unsettling way. Taken aback, she coloured and froze and was grateful when a wiry little man in robes hailed her from several feet away. ‘Miss Carlisle? How may I assist you?’

‘I want to speak to Azrael again,’ Molly said, moving towards him. ‘I want to go home.’

‘Of course. Please come this way. I am Butrus. I work for the King.’

‘What king?’ Molly almost whispered.

‘His Majesty, King Azrael of Djalia,’ Butrus proclaimed with clear pride. ‘Our Glorious Leader.’

Glorious Leader? Oh, how Molly enjoyed that label and she would have struggled not to laugh at it in any other mood but her aggression had been swallowed alive by mind-blowing surprise. Tahir’s brother was the King of this country? That was why there had been that portrait hung in the Djalian Embassy, she realised belatedly. But Tahir had not mentioned his big brother’s exalted status, possibly because he lived in a different country. Molly had looked up Quarein on the Internet, not Djalia, and she knew nothing whatsoever about the country she had landed in.

‘I didn’t realise he was the King,’ Molly admitted thinly, not best pleased to accept her own ignorance.

But it didn’t essentially change anything, she reasoned angrily. She now understood why Azrael could declare that his word was law in Djalia and not be carted away to the funny farm. She also understood that he had much more power over the situation than she had initially appreciated. Well, that was good, Molly thought grimly. With his influence, he would surely be able to get her home to London even faster. And she had to get back, had to get home to be available for Maurice should he need her. After all, she was her grandfather’s only relative and his only representative and she needed to be on the spot to ensure that his needs were always met and that he received the best possible care.


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