Nyles Weatherall is a successful businessman, but his family only see him as a source of income. Over time, he’s become friends with an Arabian king and, more importantly to Nyles, fallen in love with Jewel, a concubine in the king’s male harem.
King Kasim has problems of his own. His nephew Mirza is driving a wedge between him and his nomadic people, and challenging Haidar, Kasim’s son, for succession.
Jewel has secrets of his own, closely guarded by Kasim.
For Nyles and Jewel to fulfill their desire of being together, they will face betrayal and deception, and a challenge to the death.
“It’s getting late.” Asif laid his fingers briefly on the back of Nyles’s hand. “Perhaps we could have a nightcap in my cabin?”
The temptation was there. Nyles wasn’t going to deny it. But he’d promised fidelity to Jewel, even though Nyles wasn’t sure of the King’s reception of his petition. He was so close now, he could wait a little longer and prove true to Jewel.
“You’re very gracious, Asif. And the offer is most tempting. However, I must decline. There is a special someone in my life. I bid you goodnight.” For a second or two, Nyles thought he saw irritation rather than disappointment flash in Asif’s eyes. But it was gone almost instantly, and he gave himself a mental shake for even thinking such a thing.
“They are indeed most fortunate. Goodnight.” Asif made no move to rise, and Nyles shuffled from the booth to stroll back to his room.
On impulse he decided to take a promenade on the deck. Looking out into the stars Nyles smiled. There was only one full day’s journey on the ship left. Then he’d be taking far less luxurious transport to get from the airport to where Kasim was currently camped out in the desert.
It was a tradition of the country that its ruler spent a couple of months in tents as their people’s ancestors once did. And as the less wealthy, or the many camel and goat herders, still did.
A familiar voice jolted Nyles from his reverie, and he scurried to hide behind some seating, feeling as if he was a little boy once more, hiding from his governess when she wanted to send him to bed.
Stretched out full length on the bench, Nyles had a perfect view as Ariadne came into view. He choked back a gasp as he saw Asif was at her side. Their heads were close together, suggesting a long intimacy, and Asif, who’d claimed not to smoke, had a cigarette in an elegant black and gold holder. Keeping as still as possible, Nyles strained to hear what was said. But all he clearly heard was Asif murmur, ‘Not successful either.’ And from Ariadne that someone, “Is not going to be pleased.”
Nyles held his breath as the pair stopped close to his bench.
“There’s little point my trying again. He may get suspicious.” Asif took a long draw on this cigarette and blew the smoke into the air. “If I see him, I could suggest the steam rooms, I suppose?”
“No. You’re right. He may suspect. We’ll report back. See what our next orders are.” Ariadne opened her purse and got a cigarette for herself, lighting it from Asif’s
“Shame.” Asif gave a melodramatic sight. “He looked quite ripe for the plucking. When he said he was saving himself, I wondered if he’d ever been ridden.”
“Get your mind out of the gutter and let’s go. You can never be sure who you’ll bump into out here. We’ll go to my cabin.” Ariadne led the way with Asif following.
For several moments, Nyles remained where he was, his heart hammering against his chest. They know each other. Well. They were talking about me. I’m sure of it. But why? He sat up slowly, then rose to his feet.
A sense of relief washed over Nyles at the thought the ship was almost at her destination. Nyles hurried to his room, determined to remain in his cabin until ready to disembark.