The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(1) by Susan Mallery
“Oh, Mommy, look!”
Liana Archer glanced up from the romance novel she’d been reading and stared out the airplane window. She saw a brilliant blue sky, an unforgiving sun and nearly a dozen men on horseback riding toward the plane.
“Don’t worry, Bethany,” she told her daughter absently. “It’s just—”
Liana’s eyes opened wide as she realized what she’d just seen. Men on horseback? When the pilot had announced that the plane would be delayed a few minutes because there was a problem at the gate, Liana had assumed there was a technical difficulty or another plane in their space. She hadn’t thought they were about to be assaulted by a herd of native tribesmen.
Not knowing what else to do, she clutched her nine-year-old daughter to her side. “We’ll be fine,” she said with a calmness she absolutely did not feel.
Someone else noticed the group of men. Conversation raced up and down the length of the plane. Several women began to scream. Liana’s heart jumped into hyper-drive, and her breathing increased until she thought she might pass out. Why was this happening? She’d been promised that El Bahar was the safest country in the Middle East. That the king was a good and honest ruler, much beloved by his people. She’d believed the information—otherwise she never would have subjected herself or her daughter to a move that had brought them half-way around the world. So what had gone wrong?
Before she could figure out an answer, the men reached the plane. They circled around, then she heard the sound of the forward door opening and the low, gruff voices of the tribesmen as they boarded the plane.
Both Liana and Bethany shrank back in their seats. At least they were in the rear of the plane, Liana thought grimly as she looked around for the exit by the tail. Maybe she could figure out a way to open that door, and she and her fellow passengers could sneak out to safety.
“Mommy?” Bethany’s voice was shaky and her face pale as she stared at her mother. “Are we going to die?”
“Of course not.” Liana brushed the blond bangs off her daughter’s forehead, then kissed her cheek. “I’m sure there’s a logical explanation for all this and we’ll—”
Several tall, dark men wearing robes and headdresses entered the main cabin. They seemed to be searching for someone.
“What do you want?” a passenger in a business suit asked, rising to his feet. “There are women and children on this plane. If you want hostages, at least let them go.”
The natives ignored him. About midway down the center aisle, they paused. One of them reached for a young woman and drew her to her feet. There was an exchange of conversation that Liana couldn’t hear, then the woman was led away.
Conversation exploded like gunfire. Several shrieks pierced the cabin, and Liana felt herself starting to shake. Dear God, what was happening? To think that one of the reasons she’d agreed to the job in El Bahar had been her love of sheik romance novels. But danger in the land of the sheik was much more interesting in a book. In real life, it was plain terrifying.
A loud male voice bellowed over the din of hysterical passengers. Liana looked up and saw another of the native men standing at the front of the cabin. He was taller than the rest, and darkly handsome in a remote kind of way. He stood with his feet braced and his robe thrown back to expose the gleaming pistol at his waist. She swallowed, trying to console herself with the thought that if they were to be shot, at least it would be a quick death.
“I apologize for your fears,” the man said. He glanced over his shoulder, then shook his head. “A few of the younger men were a little too involved with their assignment and took the game to heart. My instructions were for you to be informed of what was going on before anything began.”
The man gave a low bow. When he straightened, he smiled. The smile transformed his appearance from remote to more appealing than should be legally allowed. “I am Malik Khan, Crown Prince of El Bahar. Welcome to my country. What you have just seen was not a kidnapping, nor were your lives in any danger. A young American woman employed at the palace had requested that her fiancé ‘rescue’ her from the plane. She thought it would be romantic to be swept away by a man on horseback.”
Prince Malik motioned to the left side of the plane. “As you can observe, she is well pleased with what happened.”
“Can you see?” Bethany whispered, still clinging to her mother.
Liana craned her neck as she looked across the cabin and out the far windows. She could just make out the young woman taken from the plane. She stood in the embrace of one of the tribesmen, and if their passionate kiss was anything to go by, she was plenty happy with what was going on.
“They’re kissing,” Liana assured her daughter. “I guess it’s what the man said. Just a joke that got out of hand.”
Bethany grinned, then touched her hand to her chest. “I thought my heart was going to jump right out of my rib cage.”
Liana smiled at her, then kissed her soft cheek. “Me, too, kid. There they would have been, flopping around on the floor.” She demonstrated with her hand, making a wiggly back and forth motion.
“So you are recovered then, young lady? You are not afraid to enter El Bahar?”
Liana and Bethany turned as one. The tall prince stood next to their row. Bethany stared up at the man. “I would very much like to see El Bahar, but not if you’re going to cut off our heads.”
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