Home > The Sheikh's Destiny (Desert Nights #3)

The Sheikh's Destiny (Desert Nights #3)
Author: Olivia Gates

One

Laylah Aal Shalaan felt a shiver burn down her spine.

It wasn’t the below-zero Chicago December evening. That would have caused ice, not fire, to shudder through her veins.

This sensation had scalded through her so many times during the past few weeks, it was as if she were having hot flashes. Which would be some record at age twenty-seven. But then she held other unwelcome records. Like being the only female born to her family in forty years. Why not throw in premature menopause, too?

Not that she really thought abnormal hormones were at work here. An outside influence was. One she couldn’t detect when she’d tried to investigate it, though she’d been certain of its cause for some time.

Someone was watching her.

This felt nothing like having the security detail she’d once had breathing down her neck. Those men had never tried to hide themselves, and to hell with her personal space. Though she shouldn’t have resented them. They’d been doing their job. Of course, with her safety no longer among anyone’s priorities for the past two years, there were no more guards dogging her steps.

Not that she thought that she needed protection. She observed normal safety protocols, like anyone who lived in Chicago did. And since she’d exiled herself from Zohayd and come to live in the Windy City, she always had.

Until tonight.

Usually she would go home with Mira, her business partner and roommate. But Mira had left to see her father, who had been taken to the E.R. in another state. So here she was, alone at night for the first time in more than two years, leaving the deserted building from the back exit that opened onto an equally empty back street.

Not that that had anything to do with what she now felt.

She’d entered the building accompanied by the sensation of being enveloped in that watchful force field. She’d stepped out only to be caught in its electrifying embrace again.

Strangest part was, she didn’t feel threatened by that unwavering intent. Just burning with curiosity and...excitement?

She looked across the street at three parked cars. The nearest had a man slamming the hood, getting inside and driving away with the exhaust firing. The next one, also nondescript, was pulling away from the curb, too. The farthest one, a late-model Mercedes with dark windows, looked empty.

Before she could decide where the influence was radiating from, the second car suddenly floored its engine.

Before she could draw another breath, the car screeched to a halt beside her and its doors burst open. Four men exploded out. She’d barely taken two running steps when they swarmed her.

Hulking bodies and coarse faces, distorted with vile intent, filled her vision. Blood and time thickened, hindering her heartbeat and reactions as hands sank into her flesh, each dig creating a bolt of outrage and terror.

Dread exploded in her chest, fury in her skull as she lashed out with everything she had, even as shards of dialogue lodged into her brain.

“Iz only one, man.”

“Tom said there’d be two. You better not pay half now.”

“Iz the one we want. Ye’ll get yer dough.”

“You said she’d fall at ’ur feet sniveling but she ain’t no pushover. She almost kneed me.”

“An’ she might’ve scratched m’eye out!”

“You quit snivelin’ an’ stuff ’er in the car.”

Each word sank a talon of realization into Laylah’s brain. This wasn’t a random attack. They knew her routine.

No. They couldn’t be the presence she’d been sensing!

They dragged her closer to the car. Once they shoved her inside, it would be over.

She exploded in another manic struggle, drawing blood and shouts of pain and rage until a jackhammer collided with her jaw. Agony turned her brain into shrapnel.

Suddenly, through the vortex of crimson-blotched darkness, one of her attackers seemed to be sucked away as if into a black hole. He slammed into the side of the building with a sickening crunch.

A second assailant turned away, but a hair-raising crack sent his blood arcing inches from her face. His terrified gaze bored into hers before his body slammed into her as if from the impact of a speeding car. He took her down with him.

She struggled under his dead weight, fear pulsing through her disorientation. Who had come to her rescue? Would they turn on her once they had finished off her attackers?

The body pinning her down was heaved away. She wriggled up frantically on the freezing sidewalk and saw...saw...

Him.

A fallen angel. Huge, dark, ominous. Frightening in his beauty, radiating power and menace. Almost impossible to bear looking at, yet equally impossible to look away from.

And she knew him. She’d known him all her life.

But it couldn’t be him. Not only had he changed almost beyond recognition, but what would he be doing here? Now? When she’d been certain she’d never see him again?

Was her jolted brain conjuring up an imaginary savior?

If so, why not one of her cousins who were as well equipped to fill the role? Why him?

Why Rashid Aal Munsoori?

But with her senses stabilizing, no doubt remained. It was Rashid. A remote, if steady, presence in her life during her first seventeen years. The man she’d had a crush on since before she could remember.

He was now facing the remaining two attackers like a monolith, his one-of-a-kind face carved from the coldness of the night, majestic head almost shaved, juggernaut body swathed in a coat that flapped around him like angry creatures from the abyss.

The men recovered from their shock, charged him, snarling, slashing switchblades at him. Dread deluged her.

Unfazed by her shout or their attack, Rashid maneuvered like a matador fielding raging bulls, harnessing the mindlessness of their charge against them. His arms and legs lashed out in a choreography of deadly precision, his methods merciless, flawless, as second nature as breathing was to her. He looked like an avenging demon reveling in vanquishing the loathsome quarry he lived to prey on.

By the time she pulled herself to her feet, Rashid had the two men plastered against the building. One had lost consciousness. The other hung in the air, feet kicking feebly.

Over the night’s moaning wind, she heard rumbles issuing from Rashid. They didn’t sound human.

For a crazy moment, she thought they might not be. That he did have some...entity inhabiting him, one that wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than taking those men’s lives.

That conviction broke her paralysis. “You’ll kill them!”

At her choking protest he turned his head and...ya Ruhmaan.

Merciful God—what had happened to him? He barely resembled the man she’d obsessed over all her life. The eerie blankness in his eyes, the serene viciousness baring his teeth. Like a beast in killing mode.

 

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