Tiger and Bunny
Chandrashekhar

The Sheikh's Disobedient Bride

By: Jane Porter

CHAPTER ONE



TALLYheard the guttural shouts seconds before the gunfire. Dropping to her stomach, she hugged her camera and struggled to protect her head.



“Soussi al-Kebir,” her guide screamed as he ran from her.



Soussi al-Kebir?Tally pressed her forearm to her face, struggling to make sense of the words with the little Arabic she knew.



Soussi were Berbers from the south, those that lived close to the desert. And al-Kebir was big or great. ButSoussi al-Kebir?



More gunfire rang in the small town square, the rat-a-tat of machine gunfire and the hard clattering of horses’ hooves.



Was this an ambush? Robbery? What?



Heart racing, Tally hugged the cobblestones closer, her camera gripped tightly in the crook of her arm, certain any moment a whizzing bullet would hit her.



Not far from her a man screamed and fell. She heard him hit the ground, the heavy thud of body against stone. Moments later red liquid ran toward her, inches from her face and she recoiled, lifting her head to avoid the blood.



It was then a shadow stretched long above her, the shadow enormous, blocking the intense Barakan sun.



Fear melted Tally’s heart. She wanted to squeeze her eyes shut but fear wouldn’t let her. She wanted to be brave and bold, but fear wouldn’t let her. Instead she huddled there, eyes riveted to the shadow and the foot frighteningly close to her head.



The foot was big and covered in pale suede. The soft leather boot the type desert tribesmen wore, they were made of the softest, most supple leather to protect from the heat of the sand and yet light to make walking in the soft surface easier. White fabric brushed the top of his boot. It was the hem of his robe.



Soussi, she thought, putting it together. The huge shadow. The suede boot.Soussi al-Kebir. Chief of the Desert.



Hands encircled Tally’s upper arms and she was hauled to her feet. The same hands ripped her camera away from her even as a dark rough fabric jerked down over her head, turning day to night.



Tally screamed as everything went black, but it wasn’t the dark fabric that upset her. It was the loss of her camera. Her camera and camera bag were her world, her livelihood, her identity. Without her camera and film, she had no way to pay her bills. No way to survive.



“Give me back my camera!” she demanded, voice muffled by the coarse fabric.



“Quiet!” A harsh male voice commanded.



Suddenly she was lifted, tossed high onto the back of a horse and someone leaped behind her, settling onto the blanket and seizing the reins. Heels kicked at the horse’s flanks and they were off, galloping away from the town’s medina, down the narrow cobbled street into the desert beyond.



Panicked, Tally struggled in the saddle, battling to pull the fabric off her head but it’d been pulled low and it was tied somehow, anchored around her shoulders.



“Ash bhiti?”She choked in broken Barakan Arabic.What do you want?



The only response was an arm pulling her closer, holding her more firmly, the arm thickly muscled, very hard, drawing her against an even thicker, harder torso.



“I have money,” she added frantically, growing hotter by the second inside the dark fabric. “I’ll give you money. Everything I have. Just go with me to my hotel—”



“Shhal?”he grunted, interrupting her.How much?



“Nearly five hundred American dollars.”



He said nothing and Tally tried not to squirm even though the fabric was oppressive, suffocating. She had to stay calm, strike a bargain. “I can get more.”



“Shhal?”he repeated. He wanted to know how much more she could get.



It was at that point Tally realized she was dealing with a mercenary. “A thousand dollars. Maybe two thousand.”



“Not enough,” he dismissed, and the arm around her tightened yet again.



“What do you want then?”



“For you to be quiet.”



“I—”



“Enough!”



Fear made Tally silent. Fear made her hold her breath, air bottled inside. She’d read about kidnappings in the Middle East. So now instead of fighting further, she told herself not to scream, or thrash. She wouldn’t do anything to provoke him, or his men, into doing something that would later be regretted.

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