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May 15th, 2010
Shadow of the Sheikh
Shadow of the Sheikh
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the hero, Sheikh Shahin Aswadi

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Shadow of the Sheikh
Immortal Sheikhs, book 2
August 2018

(revised and updated from the 2010 Silhouette Nocturne)

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The Immortal Sheikhs…

The three Haliday sisters are not afraid of mummies. Nor of silly ancient Egyptian curses. Get real. This is the twenty-first century! Besides, anthropologist Gemma, historian Gillian, and archaeologist Josslyn Haliday spent their childhoods sharing their sleeping tent with mummies and telling each other stories of fantastic shapeshifters and vampires, as they accompanied their Egyptologist father on his digs…ever since the fateful day their mother mysteriously disappeared into the sands of Egypt twenty years ago.

Brave, modern women all three, it would never occur to any of them to fear the dead…or the living dead.

But that is all about to change…

Shadow of the Sheikh…

The Bedouin believe Sheikh Shahin Aswadi to be the harbinger of death, an immortal shapeshifter who rides the wind in the form of a powerful black hawk, serving his vampire master. Shahin doesn’t mind. The myth makes his duties as commander of Seth-Aziz’s army of immortal followers much easier. No outsider has dared approach his hidden oasis encampment for over a century, too terrified of the ruthless legend of al Shahin.

Until today.

Determined to find her missing sister, intrepid ethnographer Gemma Haliday has foolishly disregarded the dire warnings of her Bedouin friends. To Shahin’s gratification, she walks straight into the trap he has carefully laid for her. He seeks revenge over the defection of his friend, Lord Rhys, over Gemma’s sister.

But far from being terrified, Gemma brazenly barges into Shahin’s tent demanding answers. At first he’s shocked. And intrigued. Then highly aroused. In an impetuous move, he takes the beautiful innocent captive. He decides he will tame her and use her, then gift her to Seth-Aziz as a blood sacrifice.

But things don’t exactly go according to plan. One taste of Gemma’s lips and Shahin knows he must possess her fully. Only for himself. But he wants her willing. He wants her to burn for him as he burns for her, with a desire as hot and vast as the timeless Egyptian desert. There’s just one problem. She wants forever…which is something Shahin can never give.

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From Chapter One

Present day
The Nubian Desert, Upper Egypt

The sound of thundering hoof beats came just split seconds before a half-dozen Bedouin riders burst around the far corner of the temple ruins.

Gemma Haliday leapt to her feet in alarm, the papers in her lap scattering around her like snow in the desert. She’d been sitting on a blanket in a sliver of shade next to the crumbling temple of Sekhmet, quietly working on her current transcription, this one of a local vampire legend.

The camels bore down on her, hell-bent with tassels flying, riders urging them on in loud shouts.

“Joss!” Gemma screamed to her older sister, who was sketching hieroglyphic inscriptions on the other side of the temple wall.

“Already here,” Josslyn said right behind her, accompanied by the welcome sound of a shotgun being locked and loaded.

The beasts coming at them were huge, yet stopped on a dime at their masters’ command, forming a snorting, braying semi-circle around the two sisters. She and Joss were trapped, a tumble of massive stone blocks cutting off any possibility of retreat.

The riders were dressed in the traditional garb of nomad warriors—black trousers, black boots, billowing black bisht cloaks over tunics crisscrossed by leather weapons-belts and straps, curved scimitars at their sides, flowing black turbans covering their heads and faces. The kind of outfits you hardly ever saw anymore, other than in pictures in museums.

The men themselves were huge, too. And they looked mean. Unsmiling. Like they meant business. Especially the guy in the middle. He sat tall in the saddle, his shoulders broad, his features arrogant.

He was staring right at Gemma.

Her pulse went into hyperspace. Her usually loose tongue forgot how to move. Along with her feet.

Stories of kidnapped women and ruthless slave traders ripped through her mind.

Oh. Mygod.

Joss stepped forward so they stood shoulder to shoulder, the shotgun pointed at the ground but visible and at the ready. Josslyn was the oldest sister, and always took charge in a crisis. Thank God. Gemma was more of a negotiator. Somehow she didn’t think that was an option here.

“What do you want?” Joss asked the middle rider, who seemed to be in charge, using her firmest we-may-be-women-but-we-won’t-take-any-of-your-male-chauvenist-bullshit voice.

The man didn’t answer. Nor did his sharp black eyes stray from Gemma. They swept down over her body, then back up, to drill her with a deep, penetrating gaze.

She felt herself blush under the power of it. The look was blatant, unapologetic…and sexual. Like he was stripping her naked and laying her bare by the sheer force of his regard.

Unbidden and unwanted, a zing of response clenched low in her belly, and tightened her nipples. The man was terrifying…but, she had to admit, sexy as hell. The kind of savage, untamed man who came to a woman in her deepest, darkest, erotic fantasies. Ho-boy.

At some silent signal, the man’s camel dropped to its knees and he swooped down from it, landing on his feet in a flurry of dust and billowing cloak.

Joss raised her shotgun. “What do you want?” she repeated, louder, switching to Arabic.

Gemma’s heart pounded like crazy.

Wordlessly, the man advanced on Gemma as though he didn’t even see the weapon. Which was impossible to miss because Joss put it to her shoulder and took aim right between his black eyes.

The good news was that the other riders didn’t move an inch. The bad news was that Gemma couldn’t, either. She stood rooted to the spot, her feet like lead weights, her heart beating in her throat like a bird caught in a net. And still the man advanced on her.

“Stop. Now. Or I’ll shoot,” Josslyn ordered him sharply. She aimed the gun over his men’s heads and started to pull the trigger. Without missing a step, the leader raised a hand and flicked the air as though brushing aside an insect. The gun made a clicking noise. Joss cursed.

With the same hand, he then reached under his robes and withdrew something. Gemma gasped, expecting a weapon—a pistol, or a knife, or even a hypodermic needle.

It was an envelope.

She blinked in surprise.

He stopped in front of her. There was nowhere to run. He was tall. Muscular. Hard. Too big. Too powerful. Too close. He was so close, when his eyes captured hers, she could see there was a ring of gold between the black of his pupils and equally black irises. Predator eyes.

She could smell his body—musky with the heat and the dust of the Egyptian desert, and spicy from some exotic oil of the kind men usually wore to please a woman. Before she could stop herself, her nostrils flared and she drew in a lungful of his arousing scent. His gaze snapped down to her nose. Then lower, to her lips as they quivered slightly.

Something brushed over her skin, hot and electric. Like an invisible wave of energy emanating from his powerful body. Or maybe from that piercing gaze. The earth trembled under her feet, subtly, like a small temblor. Or maybe it was just her knees shaking…

She swallowed. Transfixed.

He reached out, grasped her hand, and placed the envelope in it. “A note, from your sister,” he murmured in perfect English.

She grasped the stiff square of parchment, the shock of his words rendering her even more speechless.

From Gillian?

With one last, bone-shivering sweep of his eyes over her body, the man turned on a boot, strode back to his camel, and swooped up onto it. In less time than it took to realize he was leaving, the animal had risen again, and the riders had thundered away, leaving nothing but a storm of dust in their wake.

When the cloud lifted, they had vanished completely.