Happy Friday, dear readers,
It’s been a hot, sunny and busy week what with the impending new release of HITCHED TO THE ITALIAN on Friday 15th June – pre-order available everywhere. I’ve had builders in tool belts climbing all over the roof. Tomorrow a very large ceiling is being plastered and the decorating work can commence. This author’s work is never done…
Talking about work, here’s the next two episode’s of Desert Captive… Oh, Sarif, what the hell is the matter with you?
by CC MACKENZIE
Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2018
While Arabella was violently ill, Sarif punched the internal alarm button, his heart thundering wildly against his ribs.
The vehicle screeched to an emergency stop.
The blacked out dividing window slid down and he saw the fierce dark eyes of one of his personal security detail take in the scene at a glance.
Arabella lay boneless in his arms, her head lolling on her shoulders, but worse was the thin line of blood oozing from her nose. Her skin was cold as ice and deathly white.
Sarif felt something like a helpless wave of sheer panic wash over him.
The door was flung open and his team of military medical personnel, a permanent part of his convoy, moved in.
When he felt her belly contract and go hard beneath his hand, his gaze snapped to a medic.
“Is she in labour?”
The medic placed his stethoscope on her belly and listened.
“The child lives.” Then he listened to Arabella. “She is in cardiac arrhythmia.”
Another medic stuck his head in the doorway.
“My Lord, we have a helicopter ready to take Her Royal Highness to the Royal hospital in Dhuma.”
The speed of action the emergency evoked, plus the traumatic journey that followed, the landing and rapid reaction of medical staff, was beyond harrowing for a man used to being in control of all things in his carefully constructed existence.
Well, he wasn’t in control now, Sarif accepted as he showered in the male doctors’ facilities. He changed into dark blue medical scrubs, which were a little snug over his wide shoulders.
When he emerged, he was directed to Arabella’s room.
He found her surrounded by beeping machines and a flurry of efficient medical staff who all seemed to know what they were doing.
The doctor in charge turned to him.
He was trim, in his mid-fifties, with intelligent dark eyes and the hooked nose of his kind, Tuareg.
“From initial blood and urine samples it appears she has been poisoned from a tincture of a purgative plant or plants. Our lab technicians are working on an antidote. However, our concern is for the health of the child. If he is delivered now, he will not have a fighting chance. His lungs are immature and he is small for his gestation. And we are having great difficulty stabilizing your wife’s heartbeat. It is possible, Lord, that we may have to make a choice between mother or child or we may lose both.”
Sarif’s hands gripped his head as he studied the woman lying, helpless, on the hospital bed. A woman, he knew, did not trust him to do the right thing by her. And why should she? Hadn’t he accused her of considering to abort his son? And now here he was faced with the horrific choice of who lived and who died?
Too many pairs of eyes were upon him now, awaiting his decision.
He had no one to guide him.
No one to turn to for advice.
And why was that?
Because he’d been too stupid and too stubborn to speak to his father, his mother, or his brother to ask for help when it came to his relationship with Arabella. It was as if a veil had been lifted from his eyes. He could see every single blunder he had made. All he had done was to make one bad decision after the other in a fit of pique, anger and a need for vengeance.
He turned to the doctor.
“No one dies this night.”
The doctor nodded.
“I hope Allah will be kind and give Her Highness time to recover. But if the mother or the child deteriorate a decision must be made.”
Sarif could not tear his eyes from Arabella’s face.
He knew the final decision must be his and his alone.
He needed to do his duty to his people and to his country.
“Save my wife.”
As he strode from the room and the noise of those infernal machines, he told himself if the worst came to the worst, there would be more children.
He’d make sure of it.
Even so, his eyes stung and he knew he could not hold it together for much longer. He waved away his security detail and blindly entered the first door he came to, a dark room. The smell of bleach and disinfectant told him it was filled with cleaning equipment. He shut the door, rested his weary head against it and closed his eyes.
All he could think was that he had failed.
Failed to keep safe the woman he had all but forced to marry him.
Failed to protect the child she carried.
But along with the sense of how badly he’d mishandled the entire situation, was another—anger.
An anger that all but obliterated every last sense of personal failure.
He had a traitor in his midst.
And that person would pay the ultimate price for treason and betrayal with his or her life.
The brisk knock on the door had him take a deep and steady breath.
He swiped his wet face.
Tears were for the weak.
He wondered if the interruption meant the worst had already happened and his son was dead.
However, his personal protection officer stood there.
He kept his eyes firmly on the door behind Sarif’s head as he said, “My Lord, King Abdullah has arrived with Queen Janaan.”
Sarif kept his face expressionless as he nodded, even if inside his mind he groaned loud and long.
This was all he needed.
How was he going to explain away how he was a married man and, God willing, soon to be a father?
And yet, as he was led to a private room, Sarif had the plunging belly of a man about to face some unintended consequences of his actions.
“The last time we sat in a room together under somewhat similar circumstances, I might add, I was the one doing the explaining,” King Abdullah said now.
Dressed in a dark business suit, handcrafted in Savile Row as were the blindingly white silk shirt and striped tie, his father surveyed Sarif from beneath a slash of ebony brows.
There was nothing luxurious about the functional room with it’s single desk of polished wood and three leather armchairs.
The place smelled of hospital.
It was painted institutional pale grey, the floor a polished ivory tile.
His father continued, “You might imagine our… surprise… to discover that not only are you married, but that we are about to become grandparents. If the child survives…”
Sarif closed his eyes tight and ran a hand across the rasp of his jaw.
He reckoned he’d just gone through one of the worst twelve hours of his life.
The last thing he needed was his father on his case.
He shot a glance at the haughty profile of his beautiful mother, at the raised chin and the way her mouth was a thin line of deep displeasure—with him.
His mother wore flat pumps by the house of Chanel.
He reckoned the skinny silk pants, matching tunic that fell to the knees, sleeves tight to the wrist, were by the same designer. Her black hair was covered by a matching silk scarf. The only jewelry, she wore, was the huge diamond of her wedding ring, and single carat diamond earrings.
“And this is the second attempt on her life you say?” King Abdullah drummed his fingers on the arm of his leather chair the color of clear honey.
“And on the life of the child she carries,” Queen Janaan muttered in her slow Texan drawl. Abruptly she stood and paced across the shiny tiled floor. “Poison is the coward’s weapon of choice. There is a good reason why Khalid has Charisse protected by a ring of steel around the White Palace.”
“Onuur is an easier country to manage than Quarram,” Sarif pointed out what was to him glaringly obvious.
However, by the flash of annoyance in his mother’s dark eyes, he reckoned he should adjust his attitude and keep his big mouth shut.
“And you did not think to invite your family to your wedding?” his mother asked in a soft tone that didn’t hide the hurt in her voice or screen the bewilderment in her eyes.
“Time was not on our side,” Sarif said now and wondered how the hell he was going to dig himself out of this unholy mess. The El Haribe family were close. Always had been. They stuck together. His parents had every right to be angry and upset at not being there to welcome Arabella into their family. Plus, his mother was very fond of his new wife, especially after Bella and Queen Janaan had worked together to keep Charisse safe following an attempt on her life.
“So, the only time she had anything to eat or drink was on the plane?” The King asked.
Sarif nodded and took a shaky breath to try and calm his scattered thought process and failed.
The way Arabella’s body had purged itself of a toxin designed to instigate premature labor was something that would give him night terrors for the rest of his life. Her body had been racked with pain. The blood oozing from her nose and mouth had left him helpless to do anything except hold her. Even now, although dressed in clean soft scrubs, her blood was trapped beneath his fingernails.
“We have been down this road before with Charisse,” his mother said briskly. “We again have enemies within. We received help before, and we need that help now.”
His mother shot him a toothy smile that did not quite reach her narrowed dark eyes.
“Well it’s a good job we brought the Monroe brothers with us then, isn’t it?”
For the first time Sarif felt a sense of relief.
The Monroe brothers were ex British special forces, fluent in a variety of indigenous Arab dialects and as tough as they came.
However, they were also very close, both professionally and personally, to Arabella and that thought made him wonder exactly how friendly they were going to be towards him.
He didn’t have to wait long to find out.
The brisk knock at the door heralded the arrival of the eldest of the brothers, Captain Bruce Monroe.
Built like a tank Bruce stood six four in his bare feet.
Right now he wore black combats, a Kevlar vest and was armed to the teeth.
His hair was black and shiny as a raven’s wing.
Bright blue eyes found Sarif’s and held without blinking.
Bruce stalked into the room.
“Well now, isn’t this a fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into, your Royal Highness? Wanna explain to me why the fuck you had Rupert Faulkner, your nineteen year old brother-in-law—for those among us who have no idea who the hell he is—tossed in jail?”
Queen Janaan sank slowly to the edge of a chair and all the while her wide eyes stayed glued in a sort of horrified fascination at her eldest son’s face.
“Omigod. Sarif, did you blackmail poor Arabella into marrying you?”
He had not.
“No. She agreed to marry me before…”
“Before you needed to use your ace in the hole?” Bruce growled the question.
Well, no one had ever said the Monroe brothers were stupid.
Sarif lifted his noble chin.
“I have given orders for his immediate release. As we speak he is winging his way home to England.”
Sarif knew he sounded defensive, but he had done what he thought had been right at the time. As far as he was concerned a wrong decision by him had been put right.
Within two strides Bruce Monroe was in Sarif’s personal space, grabbed him by the neck of his scrubs and jerked him to his feet.
“Wrong. The convoy carrying Rupert Faulkner was attacked this morning. Right now, the boy is in the hands of Yusuf Hassam Nazari.”
Stunned by the magnitude of this disaster, for a moment Bruce’s furious face faded in and out of Sarif’s focus.
Nazari was a sociopath, people trafficker and head of an organized crime syndicate that had spread around the globe.
He was also affiliated with the worst terrorist organization known to man.
“We will get him back,” Sarif growled and took a step back as his personal protection team entered and went for their weapons.
Before lethal forced was used, Bruce released him, but then tested the nerve of his personal protection officers by going nose to nose with their King.
“You fucking betcha we’re gonna get him back. And let me put it this way, his head had better be attached to his shoulders when we do or your wife will personally remove yours from your royal shoulders, Your Highness.”
Oooooooh, Sarif is in deep excrement.
I’m writing up a storm with this story….. Stay tuned….