In HEART OF A DESERT WARRIOR, Iris Carpenter is a geologist
brought into Kadar to run tests on the feasibility of
mining near the Bedouin encampment of Sha'b Al'najid. When
she and her assistant meet with the Sheikh Hakim and his
wife Catherine who hired her, she encounters the one
person she had hoped never to see again, Hakim's cousin,
Sheikh Asad. The team's guide and protector happens to be
the man who broke her heart while in college. The same man
who decided after she had given him her heart and body for
months to tell her that he had plans to marry another.
Sheikh Asad of the Bedouin tribe Sha'b Al'najid told
himself he was only helping Iris with her career but having
her in his country, showing her his lands brought to mind
the past and how much he missed the woman he had left
behind. The woman he had married turned out to be a lot
less than he expected and the only thing he got out of it
was a daughter that he named Nawar. Her name is Arabic for
flower, a flower like an iris.
Iris is afraid that the close proximity with the man she
had never really gotten over would make her forgot the
painful years she had spent getting on with her life. Can
she trust him when he says he wants to help her career, be
friends again? Can she not fall in love with the four year
old daughter that the widowed Asad was raising? Especially
after hearing the truth about his marriage will she be
strong enough to leave when the job is done?
Asad realizes that the years had done nothing but make her
more perfect in his eyes. Will he finally be able to keep
her for his own, a part of him or will she walk away this
time? Can he let her? Is the desire they share enough or is
he lying to himself about how important she is to him and
Lucy Monroe writes romance like no other with her ability
to describe exotic surroundings and make you feel as if you
are really there. She pulls you into the situations, the
questions and dramas surrounding her characters until you
feel what they do and hope and worry right along with them.
As you read the last line you have a warm, contented
feeling and can't wait for the next adventure she will take
Stepping off his private jet, in his designer suit Sheikh
Asad returns to his kingdom ready to secure his legacy. For
beneath the starched white shirt beats the heart of a desert
Iris Carpenter barely recognizes the man standing before
her, heâ€™s even more magnificent than he was six years ago
and even more dangerous. Especially when the searing
heat of his eyes burns hotter than the fierce desert sun.
Iris can resist all she likes, but Asad knows itâ€™s just a
matter of time before the flame-haired temptress is back in
his bed â€” where she belongs!
"You look like you're ready to face a firing squad."
Her field assistant's words stopped Iris at the top of
the grand palace staircase.
Suppressing a grimace at what she could not doubt was
his all too accurate assessment, she turned to face the
college intern and forced a smile. "You look hungry."
"Seriously, this is just dinner right?"
"Of course." Just dinner.
Where they were supposed to meet their liaison while in
Kadar. Asad, Sheikh Hakim's second cousin, or something,
and sheikh himself to a local Bedouin tribe, the Sha'b
Al'najid. Meaning lion, Asad was a fairly common Arabic
name. She would think particularly for a man destined to
be sheikh. Right? There was no reason to think that the
man was her Asad.
No reason other than this awful sinking feeling that had
not gone away since Sheikh Hakim had mentioned the
liaison's name earlier. She'd had a feeling of foreboding
ever since agreeing to this Middle Eastern assignment that
she'd done her best to ignore.
But it was getting harder with every passing moment.
"I'm not feeling reassured here," Russell said as he
stepped onto the stairs, his tone only half
joking. "Dinner isn't a euphemism for kidnap and sell to
white slavers, is it?"
The ridiculous assertion shocked a laugh out of
Iris. "You're an idiot."
Still, her legs refused to move.
"But a charming one. You've got to admit it. And who
wouldn't want to kidnap this?" he asked with a wink, having
stopped to wait for her.
With his shaggy mop of red hair and pale skin, he could
have been her baby brother. If only. Her childhood would
have been a lot less lonely with a sibling. Her parents
hadn't been cruel, only supremely uninterested. Their
lives were complete with each other. They worked together,
they played together, they travelled together and none of
it included her.
She'd never understood why they'd had a child at all and
had long since decided her advent into the world had been
one of those "accidents" of faulty birth control. Though
nothing had ever been said.
She couldn't imagine what they would have done with a
child like Russell; he didn't fade into the background with
No, no matter how many surface resemblances they shared,
he would have been an even bigger cuckoo in their family
nest than she'd been.
Nevertheless, Iris and Russell really did look like they
could have come from the same gene pool. Oh, he had
freckles and she didn't and his eyes were green rather than
her blue. However, they both had curly red hair (like her
mother), slightly squared chins (like her father) and skin
as pale as the white sands of New Mexico. At
five–foot–ten, Russell was average height for a
man, just like she was for a woman at five–five.
They both tended to dress like the science geeks they
were, though tonight she'd donned a vibrant blue sheath
dress and a black pashmina. Instead of her usual ponytail,
she'd pulled her hair back in a loose knot and even gone so
far as to put on mascara and lipstick, though she almost
never wore makeup. She was dining with a sheikh and his
family after all.
Two sheikhs, her worried brain reminded her.
Russell was in his own version of dress formal, khaki
slacks and a button–down oxford instead of his usual
t–shirt and cargo pants.
Still, neither of them were
She groaned at his humorous conceit. "Anyone with half
a brain would know better than to go through the trouble of
He laughed, not taking offence and not entirely masking
a concerned expression she didn't want to see.
No matter what, she would be fine. She would. She was
no longer a naÃ¯ve university sophomore, but a professional
geologist with an eminent private survey firm.
"So, why the long face?" Russell asked, taking another
step down as if coaxing her to do the same. "I know you
tried to get out of doing this assignment."
She had, but then she'd realized how foolish she was
being. She couldn't go through her career refusing the
more than lucrative assignments in the Middle East just
because she'd once loved a man who came from this part of
the world. Besides, her boss had made it clear that this
time, she didn't have a choice.
"I'm fine. Just a little jet lagged." Forcing her feet
to move, she started down the stairs.
Russell falling into step beside her when she reached
him, he put his arm out for her and she took it.
She wasn't dwelling on the possibility that Sheikh Asad
was her Asad. Not at all.
After all, what were the chances it was the same man who
had done such a good job decimating her heart six years ago
that she hadn't gone on another date until after she
graduated? That it was the one man that she had hoped to
live the whole rest of her life without ever seeing again?
Small. Almost nonexistent.
So, her Asad had been part of a Bedouin tribe and, she'd
found out at the end, slated to be sheikh one day.
It didn't have to be the same man. She was praying it
wasn't the same man.
If it was her Asad, or rather the Asad â€“ he'd never
really been hers and she had to stop thinking of him that
way â€“ she didn't know what she would do. Working toward
the coveted position of senior geologist with Coal,
Carrington & Boughton Surveyors, Inc., she couldn't refuse
this assignment based on personal reasons. Not when she
was back in the office and definitely not now that she was
already in country.
She wasn't about to commit career suicide. Asad had
taken enough from her, her faith in love. Her belief in
the rosy, bright future she'd ached for and dreamed of. He
didn't get her career too.
"What did the diamond say to the copper vein?" Russell's
youthful voice pulled her out of her less than happy
thoughts as they made their slow way down the stairs.
She rolled her eyes. "That joke is as old as the
bedrock in Hudson Bay. The answer is: nothing, minerals
It was a hoary old joke, but when he laughed, she found
herself joining him.
"I'm glad to see you still have a sense of humor." The
deep voice coming from the hall below didn't sound happy at
In fact, it sounded almost annoyed. But Iris didn't
have the wherewithal to worry about that little
inconsistency. Not when the rich tones that still had the
power to send her heart on a drum roll and little pops of
awareness to spark along her every nerve ending belonged to
a man she had truly believed she would never see again.
She stopped her descent and stared. Asad looked back at
her, his dark chocolate gaze so intense, she felt the
breath leave her lungs in a gasp.
He'd changed. Oh, he was still gorgeous. His hair
still a dark brown, almost black and with no hint of grey,
but instead of cropped close to his head like it had been
back in school he wore it shoulder length. The different
style should have made him seem more casual, more
approachable. It didn't.
Despite his European designer suit and their civilized
surroundings, he looked like a desert warrior. Capable.
His brown eyes stayed fixed firmly on her. Serious and
probing. The humor that used to lurk there nowhere in
He had close–cropped facial hair that only added
to his appeal, as if he needed any help in that
department. He'd filled out since university days too, his
body more muscled, his presence every bit that of a man of
definite power. At six–feet–three inches, he
had always been a presence hard to ignore, but now? He was
a true Middle Eastern sheikh.
Wishing, not for the first time, that she could ignore
this man, she forced herself to incline her head in
greeting. "Sheikh Asad."
"This is our liaison?" Russell croaked, reminding her
that he was still there.
It didn't help. The young intern was no competition for
attention to Asad and the feelings roiling up from the
depths she'd stuffed them when he left her.
Putting his arm out to Iris, Asad showed no sign of
noticing Russell at all. "I will escort you to the others."
Her frozen limbs unstuck and Iris managed to descend the
remaining stairs. Giving into her urge to ignore at least
his suggestion, she stepped around his extended arm and
headed to where she'd met earlier with Sheikh Hakim, his
wife and their adorable children. If she were lucky, the
dining room would be in the same part of the palace.
"Do you know where you are going?" Russell asked from
behind her, sounding confused.
Asad made a sound that almost sounded like
amusement. "I do not believe Iris has ever let a lack of
certainty stop her from going forward."
She spun around and faced him, long banked fury
unexpectedly spiking and with it not a little pain. "Even
the best scientist can misinterpret the evidence." Taking
a deep breath, she regained the slip in her composure and
asked with frigid politeness, "Perhaps you would like to
the lead the way?"
Once again, he offered his arm. Again, she pushed the
bounds of polite behavior and ignored it, simply waiting in
silence for him to get on with showing them where they were
"Just as stubborn as you ever were."
And she wanted to smack him, which shocked her to her
core. She was not a violent person. Ever. Even in the
past, when he'd hurt her almost beyond bearing, she'd never
had a violent thought toward him. Just pain.
"That's our Iris, as immovable as a monolith."
Asad didn't ignore Russell this time. He gave the
younger man a look meant to quell.
Seemingly oblivious, the college intern grinned and put
his hand out to shake. "Russell Green, intrepid geological
assistant, one day to be a full–fledged senior
geologist with my own lab."
Asad shook the younger man's hand and inclined his head
slightly. "Sheikh Asad bin Hanif Al'najid. I will be your
team's guide and protector while you are in Kadar."
"Personally?" Iris asked, unable to keep her disquiet
out of her voice. "Surely not. You are a sheikh."
"It is a favor to my cousin. I would not consider
relegating the duty to someone else."
"But that's unnecessary." She wasn't going to survive
the next few weeks if she had to spend them in his company.
It had been six years since the last time she'd seen
this man, but the pain and sense of betrayal he'd caused
felt as fresh as if it had happened only the day before.
Time was supposed to heal all wounds, but hers were still
bleeding hurt into her heart.
She still dreamed about him, though she called the
images she woke to in the dark nightmares rather than
She'd loved and trusted him with everything inside her,
believing she finally had a shot at a family and a break
from the loneliness of her upbringing. He'd betrayed both
her emotions and her hopes completely and irrevocably.
"It is not up for discussion."
Iris shook her head. "I...no..."
"Iris, are you okay?" Russell asked, proving maybe he
wasn't as dumb as the rocks they studied.
But she had to be okay. This was her job. Her career,
the only thing she had left in her life that mattered, or
that she could trust.
The only thing Asad's betrayal had left her with. "I'm
fine. We need to join Sheikh Hakim."
Something glimmered in Asad's dark chocolate gaze,
something that looked like concern. She wasn't buying it,
not even if someone else gave her the money to do it.
He hadn't been concerned about her six years ago when
they had been lovers, it was too far a stretch to think he
was worried about her now, when they were little more than
strangers with a briefly shared past.
Asad did not offer his arm again, but turned and began
walking the direction she'd been going to begin with.
So, she had guessed right in this instance.
Go her. Sometimes her intuitive thoughts were on
target, at least when it didn't come to people.
"So, Asad tells us you went to the same university."
Catherine smiled without malice, genuine interest shining
in her gentian blue eyes.
Nevertheless, the memories her words evoked were not
happy ones for Iris. Iris forced something that resembled
a smile and a nod. "Yes."
"It's funny you should have met."
At the time Iris had believed it destiny. She'd been
studying Arabic as her second language, a common practice
for those in her field, but it had felt like more.
Studying the language of his birth had felt like a common
bond between them, as if they were meant to be together.
She had believed him to be an incredible blessing after
nineteen years of feeling like she never really belonged
to, or with, anyone. She'd thought she'd belonged to Asad;
she'd been convinced he belonged to her.
She'd been spectacularly wrong. He didn't want her, not
for a lifetime, or even beyond their few months together.
And he was not hers, not in any sense.
"It was one of those things..." Asad had come on to her
in the Student Union. He'd flirted, charmed and when he
asked her out, she hadn't even considered saying no.
"The Student Union building knew no class distinctions,"
Asad added when it was clear Iris wasn't going to say
"Not in age or social standing," Russell agreed. "I met
a billionaire's daughter in the Student Union at my
And Iris had met a sheikh. Not that she'd known it.
Back then, he'd just been plain Asad Hanif to her. Another
foreign student availing himself of an American university
"She was sweet," Russell continued, "but she doesn't
know the difference between sedimentary and igneous rock."
"So, not a friendship destined to prosper," Sheikh Hakim
observed, his tone tinged with undeniable humor.
"Our friendship prospered." Asad gave her a look as if
expecting Iris to agree, even after the way their
friendship had ended. "Though I knew little of geology and
Iris had no more interest in business management."
"The friendship didn't last, which would indicate our
differences were a lot more important than they seemed at
first." She'd managed to say it without a trace of
bitterness or accusation.
Iris had never really considered herself much of an
actress, but she was channeling Kate Winslet with her
performance tonight. She'd managed to get through
pre–dinner drinks and the first course of their meal
without giving away the turmoil roiling inside her to her
hosts, the Sheikh of Kadar and his wife, just Catherine
Asad laid his fork across his empty salad plate. "Youth
often lacks wisdom."
"You were five years older than me." And worlds wiser
and more experienced.
He shrugged, that movement of his shoulders she knew so
well. It was his response to anything for which there was
no good, or easy to articulate, answer.
"Anyway, I hope my words haven't made it seem I'm
looking to renew any old friendships." Chills of horror
rolled down her spine at the thought. "I'm not. I'm here
to work." It was her turn to shrug, though it was more a
jerk of one shoulder.
She'd never done casual well when it came to Asad, but
it didn't matter. She was in Kadar to work and then she
would be out of his life once again, just as fully and
completely as before. As she was sure he would prefer.
And she was never returning to Kadar. Not ever. No
matter how lucrative a promotion depended on it.
"It would be a shame to travel so far from your home and
spend no time experiencing the local culture." Asad's gaze
bored into hers with predatory intent.
She remembered that look and her heart tightened at
receiving it here, in this place, after everything that had
passed between them and in his life particularly since
"I'm sure living amidst your tribe will give both Iris
and Russell the perfect opportunity to experience much of
our culture," Catherine said with a smile aimed at first
Asad and then Iris. "I love staying with the Bedouin.
It's such a different way of life. Though why it always
seems there's more trouble for our children to get into in
the city of tents than at home, I don't know."
She winked at her husband and Sheikh Hakim gave her such
a look of love and adoration, it was both incredibly
wonderful and painful to see. Here was a couple who loved
each other every bit as much as Iris' parents, but who
adored their offspring with equal if different intensity.
Then the full import of Catherine's words hit
Iris. "We're staying with Sheikh Asad's tribe?" she asked
in shock. "But I thought this would be our home base."
The beautiful Middle Eastern palace that still managed
to feel like a home for all its glamour and size.
"Our current encampment is far closer to the mountainous
region you will be surveying," Asad said, an inexplicable
tone of satisfaction lacing his words.