Hello, my darlings!
The wind has icy teeth this evening, and it’s snowing. It’s at times like this I could do with the hot desert sun. Here’s Chapter Thirteen, and Khalid’s reached the end of his tether…..
Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014
Three hours later, Khalid sat on a couch in his parent’s sitting room, his aching head in his hands, while a heated debate raged around him.
He’d had enough.
“Quiet!” he roared. His father, mother, brother and Arabella Faulkner simply stared at him as he continued, “Thus far I’ve followed your advice. I brought Charisse here believing the palace was secure. I don’t care how the nurse got through your precautions. The point is that security, even here, is compromised. This is the second attempt on her life and there will not be a third. Do I make myself clear?”
Arabella took a deep breath, gave him a single nod of her head.
Bravely, she stepped closer to put forward her argument.
“To attack her here, in the palace, means the issue that faces us is much bigger than anything we could have imagined. We need to bring in specialists. I have contacts from my time in the military. Good men from the United States and the United Kingdom special forces. Men that we can trust and know how to deal with what we are up against.”
“How did you get the name of the traitor from the nurse?” Khalid wanted to know.
Arabella’s brown eyes went flat and cold. “Sodium Thiopental. She sang every tune we wanted to hear.”
King Abdullah merely nodded.
“So, the nurse is Omar’s niece. And both come from a tribe banished from this land many years ago.”
Khalid knew his history. In Arabia forty years was not a long time to hold a grudge. When his father ascended the throne, times had been deadly with feuds among the tribes. The desert sands had run red with the blood of the fallen. Hatred was an emotion passed from generation to generation. And from what had happened today, their enemies would never give up until they had attained their goal. The death of Charisse.
Why not go after his father, his brother, or even himself?
“If this is revenge for past sins, why attack Charisse? She is beloved by her people,” he spoke his thoughts.
Arabella responded, “To destabilise the region? We only have the woman’s point of view. She was acting on instructions and has no idea who is behind the assassination attempt or why. We can theorise all we like. But the person we need is Omar.”
Khalid gave her such a fierce look, she blinked. “Bring in whomever you need to help us. But find him,” he ordered. The tone was a dismissal. Arabella bowed her head and strode from the room.
“I suspect the attempt on Charisse’s life was a last ditch attempt to stop the wedding,” Sarif said.
Khalid shook his head.
“None of this makes any sense. Surely her father is aware that we will hunt him down and destroy him like a rabid dog?”
His mind seethed over different scenarios, which he knew were a waste of time until they had facts. Now was the time for action.
He turned to his father. “Has the imam arrived to perform the wedding ceremony?”
His father nodded.
Khalid continued, “Then we will be married immediately.”
His family simply stared at him.
“What has Charisse got to say about this?” his mother demanded.
Khalid looked at her. “Charisse,” he said. “Will do as she is told.”
And was that respect in his mother’s eyes? He couldn’t care less. His priority was to keep his woman safe.
Sarif’s dark eyes met his. “Then what?”
“Then I get her the hell out of here. Somewhere secure. And somewhere she can heal. Arabella Faulkner will fly us out tonight.”
He moved to leave, but his mother placed her hand on his arm.
“Where are you going?”
Khalid shook his head. “I cannot tell you that. The less people who know our whereabouts the better.”
His mother jerked back as if he’d slapped her.
Face white she spoke in a shocked whisper, “You don’t trust us?”
Taking her in his arms, Khalid hugged his mother tight, and stared over her head into the stunned faces of his father and brother.
“Of course I trust you. With my life. But we’ve been betrayed twice. There will not be a third time.”
Dressed in black jeans, a matching cashmere sweater and warm jacket to keep out the chill of a desert night, Charisse found herself bundled into the rear passenger seat of an unusual looking helicopter.
A helicopter painted matt black.
Under strict instructions from Khalid, Arabella had packed all the supplies they’d need and checked the aircraft herself.
Dressed in black jeans, sweater and boots, Khalid slid into the seat next to Arabella and indicated Charisse wear the headphones he handed her.
He turned to her, his eyes so dark and intense that her heart beat too fast in her chest.
“Can you hear me?” His voice came, crystal clear, in her ears.
She nodded and was relieved to see her husband smile.
This gorgeous, vigorous and young man was her husband.
She still couldn’t quite believe it.
They’d been married in a ceremony put together so fast, her head still spun. After his declaration of love for her, and his kisses, she’d naturally assumed their wedding night might have been consummated under candlelight. Instead, she was about to be flown away to a secret location.
But then this was Khalid. He never ceased to surprise her.
And by the way his family had behaved, they’d been astonished by the new take charge Khalid, too. His father’s and brother’s eyes held a deep respect for Khalid that Charisse had never seen before, and her own heart swelled with pride for him. If some good came out of this unholy mess, if Khalid and his family became close again, then perhaps it was all worth it.
The information from Arabella that the attempts on her life may not be personal, but rather, an attempt to destabilise the whole region didn’t make sense in Charisse’s opinion. But the El Haribe’s were in contact with their allies, and specialist help, something about black ops teams, had already been despatched from the United States and the United Kingdom.
Her life, Charisse decided, had turned into something from an action movie. Assassins, political intrigue, blood feuds, and the hard truths of her own past, all swirled together in her mind. And even though Khalid had insisted that taking her away to recover and have a honeymoon at the same time was the right thing to do, she couldn’t help the feeling burning in her belly that she was running away.
Her dark thoughts were interrupted by the whine of the helicopter as the rotor blades spun. And then they were airborne. Charisse had never flown in a helicopter at night. The weather was clear, no cloud, and she realised the light from the moon highlighted the horizon. At first Arabella flew west, towards Sarif’s kingdom of Quaram. But once she’d flown the aircraft over the mountains, it dipped sharply and turned east.
Khalid spun to Arabella, his eyes narrowed and dark. “What are you doing? This isn’t part of the plan.”
She handed him a thick envelope.
“Staying under the radar. Queen Janaan and I had a long chat. She came up with a location that no one will ever think to look for you. Read it.”
Although he didn’t look happy, Khalid whipped out a tiny penlight, tore open the envelope, pulled out thick parchment and read. Charisse watched him shake his head as a big grin spread over his wonderful face.
He turned in his seat, dark eyes twinkling into hers. “You’re gonna love this.”
Arabella spoke in their ears, “Her majesty is a very clever woman.”
Bemused, Charisse asked, “Where are we going?”
Khalid shook his head. “Wait and see.”
Charisse gave him a dark look. She was beginning to find the lack of control over her destination, her future, and any say in what was happening in her country incredibly frustrating. Very soon she was going to have words with her husband. Just who the hell did he think he was?
“Care to share?” Charisse asked.
Her icy tone had his brows shoot into his hairline.
Khalid opened his mouth, but Arabella shook her head, her eyes totally focused on the task at hand. “Not over the radio, please. The hills have ears.”
He shrugged. “Okay. Just sit back and relax.”
Easier said than done.
But Charisse did as she was told.
The only light in the helicopter was from the radar screens, and Arabella took it nice and easy. No one spoke for the next forty-five minutes.
Then the aircraft lingered at the front of a wall of sheer rock, it went up-up-up, until they dipped over the edge into a wide valley surrounded by a mountain range. It was pitch black as the helicopter hovered.
Arabella turned on a flashlight on the undercarriage of the craft and waited. Then lights flickered on the floor of the valley below illuminating a scene straight out of a James Bond movie. There appeared to be a very large landing pad below a huge property built into the side of the mountain.
Once the helicopter rotors ground to a halt, Khalid helped her out. It was just as well his strong arm supported her waist because Charisse felt the world tilt.
“What on earth is this place?”
Arabella tossed her a grin but said nothing, before she shouldered a huge back-pack and trundled out a metal case on wheels from the helicopter.
Khalid held her close, placed a gentle kiss on her forehead that had the blood fizz in her veins.
Dark eyes glittered into hers. “It was built during the second world war as an emergency communications centre for the allies. My father re-fit the building for my mother as a place to escape the stresses and strains of court life. Here, they can chill out, and take time to simply be together.”
Movement sensors had more lights flicker on as Arabella led the way into what looked like a vast cave. But once they entered, wide steps carved out of the rock led up to what appeared to be an ultra-modern concrete box.
Releasing her, Khalid moved to assist Arabella heft the luggage before leading the way up the stairs. They stepped through a vast oak door and entered a fantastical space with high ceilings. The room smelled of candle wax and fresh flowers. Low lights shed a gentle glow on a huge open plan sunken sitting room. Large couches covered in butter-soft leather the colour of treacle, three of them, surrounded a vast coffee table set in front of an open fireplace. Logs flickered lazily in the open hearth. On the right-hand side, one wall was made of glass from floor to ceiling. The constellations glittered with millions of stars in a velvety black sky.
Then Charisse jolted in shock as two grey-haired servants, their eyes wide, materialised from a side door. They’d obviously been woken by their arrival. Khalid immediately went to greet them.
The elderly man’s rheumy eyes lit-up as he recognised his prince.
He smiled, showcasing a mouth with the grand total of three white teeth.
Then he bowed deeply.
Khalid stepped forward. “Faris and Junah, please meet my wife, Charisse, Queen of Onuur,” he said a low voice.
Charisse moved to shake each bony hand. Their eyes were now filled to the brim with an emotion that caught her throat. The love they had for Khalid was clear to see. Then they bowed again and scurried after Arabella to help unload the helicopter.
Feeling strangely shy to be alone with him for the first time since their wedding, which was ridiculous, Charisse took her time to calm her nerves as she explored the immense room hollowed out of sheer rock.
She turned to him. “It’s amazing. Do they look after this huge place on their own?”
Khalid stepped into her, and all the while dark eyes never left her face. Those eyes missed nothing, she realised, as he took her hand and brought it to his mouth.
“They came thirty years ago. And stayed.”
She blinked. And couldn’t help the little shiver that ran up her spine.
“They never left?” Her voice sounded too high. She cleared her throat. “You mean they’re trapped here?”
He shook his head, sent her a slow smile. “They are brother and sister. My parents took them in after they had been shunned by their tribe. They were born with no vocal cords. A birth defect. They are very happy here.”
Charisse’s soft heart broke for the siblings. Even though Dhuma was a forward thinking country, among the desert tribes some things took longer to find acceptance. Communication, the singing of songs, and in particular the telling of stories were the way histories were kept alive. To have members of the tribe who couldn’t speak would be a severe handicap to their ability to survive. And certainly marriage, having a family of their own would have been impossible.
“Can they read and write?”
Khalid nodded. “Yes.” Again he took her hand, and the way his eyes went dark and intense as they met hers had her heart skip in her chest. “Let me show you around.”
Together and with her hand held tight in his, Charisse walked with Khalid into a new future.
By CC MacKenzie
Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2014
Published by More Press
The right of C C MacKenzie to be
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(Morals Rights) Act 2000
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Apart from any use as permitted under
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This book is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, places and
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