Mouse over the cover to see the hero,
the demigod Seth-Aziz
(book 3 of the Immortal Sheikhs series)
January 18, 2011
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…
The Vampire Sheikh…
Five thousand years is a long time to live underground, without the sun in your face or the wind in your hair. Still, Seth-Aziz has ample compensations for living in perpetual darkness with his arch-enemy always at his throat: the magical powers of a demigod; the ability to become any creature he wishes; the irresistible sexual allure of a vampire.
But the recent defections of his two favorite lieutenants have sparked the fire of fury within Seth, leaving a bitter need for vengeance. Someone will pay, and pay dearly!
Who better than Josslyn Haliday, the last remaining sister of the women who seduced and betrayed his best friends?
What Seth doesn’t count on is Josslyn’s own anger. She will do anything to find her two dear sisters and bring them back to safety. Anything.
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The Winter Palace Hotel
There was someone in her hotel room.
Josslyn Haliday bolted upright in bed, listening intently in the midnight darkness. She heard nothing. But she felt a presence, a thick, almost physical energy creeping over her bare skin. Dark. Ominous. Threatening.
“Who’s there?” she asked into the black void of the room.
Unbidden, her sister Gemma’s last warning echoed through her mind…
Beware the vampire.
Despite the heat of the Egyptian desert pressing in through the open balcony door, a shiver of goosebumps spilled down Josslyn’s arms.
Slowly, she eased her hand toward the shotgun she’d hidden under the hotel’s luxurious bed linens. Her fingers clasped the familiar wooden stock and eased it upward.
“Show yourself or you’ll live to regret it,” she called out in Arabic, and snapped the gun up, sweeping it in a half-circle seeking the unseen intruder.
Joss did not believe in vampires.
Or shape-shifters, or mummies, or any of the other fantastical creatures of the myths and legends her ethnographer sister Gemma seemed to take at face value when listening to the stories of the local villagers. Josslyn was a scientist, an archaeologist, and needed to see hard evidence to instill belief.
This prowler was a common thief, nothing more. The few possessions Josslyn had managed to grab on her way out the door of the villa after Gemma’s dire warning note were all stashed in this room. Their money. Their research. Their passports. Someone was hoping to steal them. That was all.
Obviously, it had been a mistake leaving the balcony door wide open, but when she’d gone to bed earlier, the hotel had been in the midst of one of the infamous Egyptian electrical brown-outs and she would have melted into a puddle of sweat if she’d left it closed and locked.
No problem. She racked the gun. The loud ka-chunk ricocheted comfortingly off the plaster walls, bolstering her courage.
At the French door there was an almost imperceptible scratching noise. Then suddenly a tiny flame flashed red. The silhouette of a large hand cupped it, and the tip of a black Egyptian cigarette flared to life. The rich, acrid smell of tobacco wafted to her nose in the hot stillness.
“What are you planning to do, shoot me?” a deep masculine voice asked. His English was cultured, his tone unsettlingly unperturbed by her threat.
“Stay on my balcony one minute longer and you’ll find out,” she returned.
A thin miasma of smoke was caught in a golden luminescence, reflected by some unseen light below.
“This is, in fact, my balcony as well,” the man said silkily. “I believe we share it.”
She frowned. And searched her memory of the veranda’s setup.
Damn. He was right.
Still… “That hardly gives you license to intrude on my privacy.”
“I do beg your pardon. That wasn’t my intent. I couldn’t sleep and found myself wandering.”
Another puff of smoke drifted into the room. Normally she hated the smell of cigarettes, but there was something… almost alluring about the spicy fragrance of his blend. Again a shiver raced over her arms. Along with the heavier brush of an indefinable sense of unease. The air was electric with it, like a touch of foreboding.
She didn’t believe his assertion. His presence on her balcony had a purpose, and she’d bet her last dollar it wasn’t insomnia. She was also beginning to fear it wasn’t to steal passports, either.
“Get away from my room,” she ordered. “Or I will shoot you.”
He chuckled softly and took a half step closer to the open door. Her pulse leapt. He halted at her threshold, framed by the French doors. She could just make out his body silhouetted against the backdrop of the night sky. He was big and broad.
She really wished she could see his face.
“Your sister sends her greetings,” he said conversationally.
Joss faltered. The gun wavered in her hands. “Gemma?” Scrambling up to her knees on the bed, she raised the gun again. “Where is she?” she demanded. “What have you done with her?”
At least she assumed that’s who he meant. Both of her sisters, Gemma and Gillian, had disappeared over the past two weeks. Gillian with a man claiming to be a British lord, an expatriate living on an estate somewhere on the west bank of the Nile River. Gillian had sent a note saying she was with him, and not to worry, but Joss and Gemma had been skeptical. Then a few days ago Gemma had gone looking for her and was abducted by a band of mysterious desert warriors and their sheikh leader. She’d also been able to smuggle a note to Josslyn…parts of which were burned in her memory.
Pack a suitcase…quit the villa…Those men from yesterday are coming back to kidnap you…Go! Now!…Beware the vampire! Do not trust him…
Of course, that last part was crazy. If she weren’t so desperately worried, she’d think Gemma had gone totally off the deep end. Could she have been drugged?
Possibly by the very man on Joss’s balcony?
The shadowed figure at the French door took another drag on his cigarette, dropped it, and ground it out under his shoe. “Actually,” he said. “It is of your other sister I bring word.”
“Gillian? But—” Joss finally unfroze and reached for the lamp on the nightstand. She needed to see this guy.
The light snapped on, dimly illuminating the features of the man. He really was big. Tall. His handsome features were Middle Eastern, but he was dressed as a Westerner, in an elegant white linen suit with stylish Italian leather shoes. He didn’t look menacing, exactly. But arrogant and… formidable.
“Who are you? Are you Gillian’s new—” Lord, how to put it? “—gentleman?”
His lips curved. “Rhys? No. I’m not. My name is Harold Ray and I’m…an acquaintance of his. Please, call me Ray.”
Rhys? The name rang a bell somewhere in her mind. But she couldn’t put her finger on it. “What do you want? Tell me what Gillian said.”
Harold Ray tilted his head. “Wouldn’t you like to put down that gun first?”
“No. Talk to me. Now”
He tisked. “I must say, your sister has much better manners.” He took another step forward, this one bringing him across her threshold.
“Hey! Stop where you are!”
The absurd thought came to her that at least the intruder couldn’t be a vampire. Didn’t they need an invitation to enter? And she could clearly see his reflection in the glass of the French door.
Good grief. Not that she believed any of that bullcrap. It was a testament to her completely frazzled nerves over her missing sisters that the thought had even entered her mind.
Ray gave her a little knowing smile, and brazenly wandered into the room, casting a casual glance around. He extended a finger and touched the head of a bronze statue of Sekhmet that decorated a reading table.
Jesus. Was he really going to make her shoot him?
“Gillian is fine,” he said, temporarily belaying her itchy trigger finger. “And very much in love with Rhys Kilpatrick.”
The name finally hit her. Like an icy dash of hard evidence. Now she knew the man was lying. Rhys Kilpatrick was a dead man. A British officer in General Gordon’s infamous 19th Hussars, killed in 1885. It was his grave marker her historian sister had been searching for when she went missing.
“I don’t doubt Gillian is in love,” Joss drawled. But not with anyone in this jerk’s acquaintance. Time to get rid of this Harold Ray character, whoever he was. He was starting to give her the creeps. His body actually seemed to be getting bigger, shimmering in the golden glow of the lamp.
She slid carefully off the bed, keeping the gun carefully trained on him. And did her best to ignore the way his lascivious gaze slid lingeringly over her own body, which she realized must be all too visible through the opaque fabric of her thin summer pajamas in the lamplight.
“Get out,” she told him firmly. “Get out now, or I swear I will pull this trigger.”
His gaze strayed to the gun, slid up her arm and paused on her neck, then went to her eyes. “You are a brave thing, I’ll give you that, Miss Haliday. I can see why Seth wants you.”
Gemma’s kidnapper must be called Seth, then. And the lying bastard in her room was obviously in league with him. They must be holding both Gemma and Gillian captive.
“You and your buddy Seth can go straight to hell,” she ground out. “I’ll get my sisters back if it’s the last—”
She didn’t see him move. One second he was across the room, the next he was standing in front of her, his hand reaching for her gun. Her pulse surged. Not a chance!
She pulled the trigger.