*Waving atcha, guys!”
Who’s excited about the Royal Wedding…… We’re having a party in this house tomorrow to celebrate the wedding of the year. Cannot wait!
I’m working so hard on great stories for you. HITCHED TO THE ITALIAN is heading for final edits and my editor is in bits over some scenes. *Evil laugh*. I’m working on OUR RULES too. And GREGORIO’S BRIDE, which will be a Christmas story and is rocking along. But it’s time for the next two episodes of DESERT CAPTIVE… Enjoy!
Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2018
EPISODES FIVE AND SIX
While Bella waited for him to speak, Gilchrist stood, and moved to study a vibrant bouquet of fresh flowers.
He sniffed a fat pink rose.
His fingertip stroked the velvet petal like a lover.
It sorted of reminded her of the way Sarif had touched her, his fingertips gentle as they’d stroked her bare back, after a tumultuous de-flowering that had shocked both of them to the core. The memory of how he’d towered over her, his dark face fierce, those sharp cheekbones flushed. She remembered how his eyes had gone wide as he’d cum. She remembered how he’d felt inside her, thick, powerful, overwhelming really as he’d taken her body and every thought in her mind. All those memories, and more, made her shiver.
Annoyed with herself, she wondered why the moment that had changed both their lives forever had leaped into her mind right at that moment.
Gilchrist was too busy with the flowers to notice, thank goodness, because that man’s intuition was a blade honed by intelligence and an experience of people that made it razor sharp.
At the moment, it appeared he needed time to gather his thoughts. and that bothered her.
It bothered her a lot, because in her experience of him in the past, the Colonel was not a man who second guessed himself.
Once he made a decision, he was a man of action.
However, it appeared, he was happy to show her a softer side to his personality, if the way he delicately inhaled the scent of another flower was anything to go by.
That tickle of alarm, of the feeling that something was off, again slid down her spine.
Without turning, he took out of his inside jacket pocket a slim silver metal device in the shape of a pen.
She recognised a device that was state-of-the-art, a new digital scanner.
He pressed a button, a tiny blinking blue light appeared and he moved the scanner around and through the flowers, beneath the clear glass vase, then did a quick and thorough sweep of the room including her bed.
While he was busy looking for God knew what, Bella sat there and waited.
Slipping the scanner into his pocket, he returned to his seat.
From a side pocket he produced a small clear plastic bag.
The bag contained three tiny bugs, listening devices.
“Found these in here this morning.”
Something of her shock must have shown on her face because he nodded.
“I thought it wise to take precautionary measures. After all, they failed to kill you or severely injure you once. Who was to say they may not make another desperate attempt to take the life of you or your child. A nurse who is one of ours did a quick sweep of the room while you slept. To be honest, we didn’t expect to find anything, since we believed we had you wrapped up all nice and tight. You may imagine our surprise.”
Through her good eye, Bella peered at the bugs.
“They look Russian.”
“Which means they didn’t overhear my conversation with Sarif, because I assume you found them before he arrived,” she muttered.
Gilchrist’s bushy brows rose above his black framed glasses.
“I suppose it all depends on who they are working for, doesn’t it?”
Her eyes flew to his.
“You suspect Sarif?”
“He actually entered the room early this morning. When he took a break, our nurse did the scan. Who else was in here alone with you?”
He was right.
Sarif had been permitted entry to her room while she slept.
Gilchrist continued, “From what I hear, to gain access, he and the Quarram Ambassador made a bit of a nuisance of themselves with the authorities who run this hospital. We slipped up there, and I can assure you a head will roll because of it.”
Returning the little bag to his pocket, he sat back, looking pleased, he had her full attention.
“From what we’ve learned of Sarif’s character, during his many trips to London to attempt a dialogue with you, and may I just say I’ve been impressed at the way you managed to keep him at arms length for so long, he is a man who is not only ruthless, but by his recent behaviour, he is not shy to place himself above the law. When I say he is not afraid to take any prisoners, I mean it in a literal sense, which is unfortunate news for you, my dear.”
“I know he is a difficult man, however, it’s terribly unfortunate that you are not on speaking terms with your father, Arabella.”
She frowned, not liking where the conversation was going.
“What has my father got to do with Sarif or Quarram?”
“It’s not your father I am concerned about at the moment, it is another member of your family.”
Unease slid into her belly.
“It’s Rupert, my dear.”
She shook her head.
“I don’t understand. Rupert’s only a boy. He’s a student. He’s studying anthropology at Cambridge.”
Gilchrist took a breath and when his eyes met hers, the expression in them—one of doom—made her breath hitch.
“Right at this moment, Rupert Faulkner is rotting in a dungeon in an ancient Moorish prison in up country Quarram.”
Bella’s head spun.
“What the hell for?”
“Apparently he tried to smuggle an ancient piece of antiquity out of the country.”
Bella didn’t hesitate.
“Bullshit. Rupert is a straight arrow.”
“Has the British Consul in Quarram made a formal complaint?”
“I imagine they would, if they knew anything about it.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It seems there is no official record of Rupert entering the country in the first place. There is certainly no official record of him having left. There is only one person who wields enough power and authority in Quarram to make custom documentation and a British citizen disappear…”
Oh, Bella could join the dots just fine.
“Sarif,” she whispered.
For a long pause no one spoke, until she blurted, “But what on earth would he have to gain?”
Gilchrist studied her face, her eyes.
“I think that bump on the head may have affected your reasoning. You are carrying his child. His heir. If Sarif cannot persuade you to accompany him to Quarram, it appears he’s perfectly ready, willing and able to blackmail you to bend to his Imperial will.”
Bella’s nostrils flared.
“If he did that I would kill him.”
“Understandable. However, killing Sarif would not bring your brother back. It would only sign his death sentence.”
Sincerely shocked, because Gilchrist was not describing a Sarif El Haribe that Bella recognized.
The Sarif she knew had a deep seated sense of right and wrong.
He put duty, to his people and his country, at the centre of everything he did.
“This doesn’t make sense. Sarif is no dictator or despot,” she said now. “Why would he do such a thing?”
Gilchrist lifted his hands in a who-knows gesture.
“And therein lies the rub. He has no history of violence or a psychological kink in his make up, that we know of, to suddenly morph into a tyrant. However, something fundamental has changed him. And I thought you might hold the answer to why he would entice your brother to Quarram, plant an artefact on his person as he attempted to leave the country and then make him, to all intents and purposes, disappear.”
“Wait. He enticed Rupert to Quarram? How?”
“How do you think? By offering a rare opportunity for a British anthropology team to have the first look at a new find. Kept strictly hush-hush of course. They didn’t use any of the main airports to fly in and out, for obvious reasons.”
“Thieves,” Bella breathed. “Due to the way terrorist groups in the region have pillaged world heritage sites there’s a thriving market in rare Arab antiquities.”
“Precisely. What young man of his energy and intellect, thirsty for adventure and fired up with a voracious ambition to make a name for himself in his chosen field, could possibly resist such temptation?”
Now that, temptation, she could readily believe of Sarif.
Hell, hadn’t she succumbed to his lethal temptation herself?
Bella closed her eyes.
“God, my mother must be frantic.”
Gilchrist pursed his lips.
“I suspect she might be, if she knew anything about it.”
Bella’s eyes flew to his.
“He’s not told her?” she asked referring to her father.
“Not yet. He reached out to me first. I was on my way to see you when events,” he waved a hand down her person lying in the hospital bed, “somewhat overtook us.”
Again she closed her eyes.
God, that meant her father not only knew she’d been injured, but that she was pregnant.
An unmarried mother.
He’d never forgive her for that.
This situation was one hot mess.
But it was a vivid anxiety for her baby brother that made her heart twist in her chest.
Rupert was clever.
He was physically fit since he rowed for his university team, but he was not equipped to deal with isolation, maybe even starvation and worse…
Her imagination wanted to run wild.
Then logic took control.
There was no way that any man from the royal house of El Haribe would torture an innocent young man—a boy.
“Sarif would never harm him.”
Gilchrist sat back and folded his arms.
His eyes fixed on Bella’s face.
“Are you sure about that? What about to gain parental control of a son?”
“He’s an Arab. He’d do anything to legitimise his child,” she whispered her thoughts aloud.
“Anything?” Gilchrist asked.
Facing the truth, Bella nodded.
“Good job I have a plan,” the Colonel said.
If he did, Bella wanted to hear it.
She was ready to kick-ass.
First, she needed to know her brother was safe.
Second, she couldn’t wait to listen to Sarif’s explanation.
It had damned well better be a good one.
“I’m all ears.”
“Cambridge University, under implicit instructions from my department, have applied to Quarram for an exploration permit to send a team—actually special agents—to authenticate a find of ancient relics in the north of the country, where we believe Rupert is being held.”
The promise held in those words, that her country was actually going to do something to get her brother out, had a lovely little ripple run through Bella’s blood. A little ripple she hadn’t felt for months since she’d left the service.
“Since you’re telling me this, I assume I’ve returned to active service?”
“You’ve never been off active service, my dear.”
She nodded and took a breath.
“Okay. What’s my role?”
Gilchrist didn’t hesitate.
“Simple. You marry Sarif, become Queen of Quarram, find out what’s going on in the upper echelons of Sarif’s Court, and free your brother.”
The man had lost his tiny mind.
There was no way in hell she was going to marry Sarif now.
“Why on earth would I do something so stupid?”
Bella angled her head.
“Are you really going to suggest I marry Sarif for payback for kidnapping my brother?”
“Only a thought. But now you mention it…”
His eyes narrowed.
“And if I made it an order?”
“You’re forgetting one small thing.”
Those bushy brows rose in a silent question.
“The baby,” she said, pointing to her bump.
He lifted a hand as if to say, no big deal.
“Once you have played your part, we will get both of you out as soon as you request it.”
This time she raised her own brows, and then made an ouch face when her head hurt.
“So, you basically want a female James Bond and a baby to do your dirty work.”
“No one will ever suspect you. It’s the perfect cover.”
At that moment, Bella reckoned that sometimes the best thing you could do was to just remain silent because no words could explain the shit going on in her heart and mind.
He must have read her mind or her face, because Gilchrist shifted closer.
“The entire region is a tinderbox. All it needs is one flare to set it alight. We need to know who are behind the attempted destabilisation of the House of El Haribe. We need someone deep inside the El Haribe family. You’re it.”
Bella simply stared at him.
Well, hell, seemed a pregnant Jemima Bond was supposed to save the frigging world.
She could do this.
After years of living with Queen Charisse heading up her personal protection team, she knew the customs, the languages, well four of them.
She was close to the El Haribe family, especially Charisse and her very westernized husband, Khalid El Haribe.
If the worst came to the worse, Charisse would lend her aid.
And the old fox was right about one thing. Married to Sarif and pregnant with his child, no one would suspect her of espionage.
She took a deep breath, blew out her cheeks, gave him the stink eye.
“Anything happens to my baby and you’ll be it.”
His limpid gaze met hers.
“Excellent. Your country thanks you for your service,” he said and shifted to press the red bell next to her bed.
On cue, a nurse she’d never seen before entered.
Bella studied the metal tray in her hand, in particular the huge syringe.
“What is that?”
The Colonel stood.
“A tracking device. Just in case…”
She blinked as he headed for the door.
“Where does it go?”
He turned, flashed her a white smile.
Bella made a face, which was wasted since he’d already gone.
“Just roll on your left side,” the nurse said in a brisk tone. The woman needed to work on her bedside manner. “It will only hurt for a moment.”
Bella did as she was told.
The scent of antiseptic hit her before the shock of a cold and wet swipe on her ass.
The pain just went on and on, had this woman never heard of a local anaesthetic?
Then there was pressure, a thumb on her ass and a plaster and that was it.
“Well done,” the nurse from hell said. She turned the wall light down low. “Try and get some sleep.”
When she was finally left alone, Bella lay back and stared at the ceiling, and thought of her brother. He’d better be safe and sound, not one hair of his head hurt,
or King Sarif El Haribe would rue the day he’d ever been born.
Looks like Sarif’s in Big Trouble. Then again, so is Bella as we will find out next week. I’m enjoying the thrills and spills of this story as it grows live right in front of your eyes! Scary stuff for an author let me tell you.
Until next time,