Breath of the Desert
Mainstream Romance: Contemporary, Interracial/Multicultural
Cover Artist: Dawné Dominique
Editor: Lara Parker
Line Editor: Zena Gainer
Word Count: 45,402
Release Date: May 19, 2011
Captured as a slave in North Africa, her father killed; there was little else that Aubreigh could imagine to make her life worse. When she's sold to a man she never sees, there is only one reason she must have been purchased. Just the sound of his voice was enough to make her forget she offered herself to him to prevent incurring his wrath, but he refuses her outright.
Only when they are thrown together on a trek across the Sahara does she start finding out the man's secrets. Everything she knows of life changes in the presence of Alaeddine ibn Manad.
Days in the back of a wagon moving fast, taken to who knew where. At least he had given her something to wear. Pushed into the midst of a group of men and carts, they all stared when the man in blue was gone. They were locals if their dress said anything, certainly not one of the blue man’s people. Every night for days the sky changed from mauve to violet and lilac with streaks of purple and finally a deep ultramarine. Days of nothing but worry about what she had been sold into. The men would be forced to work, horrible torture if they disappointed, forced to turn Moor if their master felt inclined. The women though . . . the man in blue said nothing to her, didn't even try. Nor did he lay a hand on her. He just rode a horse along side the caravan of goods. Never seeing his face because of the deep metallic blue veil of his turban, all she could say about the man that owned her was that his arms occasionally pulled free of his clothes showing muscles like ropes. The strongest ropes a ship have ever seen. A house slave, a concubine thrown in his harem, heaven help her those were the charitable possibilities.
The horizon above the palm trees seemed to fade with shadows, the sky lowering. Only as they kept moving could Aubreigh see they were mountains, snow covered peaks in Africa. Days as the Atlas Mountains rose before them closer and closer, snow capped and hazy in the distance. Dry country without water and then the richest of countryside in fertile irrigated splendor. Mountains on one side, a waterless barren on the other filled with men armed with more weapons than a colonial hunter worried about bear and Indians might need. The dirt had turned red supporting fields of crops as far as the eye could see, the green vegetation vivid against such color. Finally a city appeared, its walls as red as the earth.
When they reached the city gate, the man in blue unceremoniously threw a blanket over her hiding her from view. The sounds of people everywhere filled her ears. Voices whose words were unintelligible. Smells she couldn’t identify. Finally, they had left the crowded streets she could glimpse from a hole in the blanket and emerged in elegance.
"Azhi!" The blanket was pulled from her and Aubreigh sat up slowly. They were inside a large riyad, the center of which was a large marble pool of water glittering in the sun, flower petals floating on its surface. It was a veritable jungle within four walls. Palm trees reached to the sky above leaving the shade below dappled from their leaves. Bougainvillea hung from the roof down the pillars that created the horseshoe colonnades among the blue and green tiled walls. Large windows filled the walls of the riyad each covered with an ornate metal grate, more decoration than prison bars. Orange, lemon, pomegranates, figs, mint, geranium, basil, and jasmine were just a few of the plants that grew within the hidden Eden. Aubreigh's bare feet chilled on the stone floor as she climbed out of the wagon. A half dome niche was built into one wall, a luxurious beige divan laid out inside with dozens of pillows in beige and rust. Carved cedar doors studded with brass gave no view to the rooms beyond and Aubreigh turned to the man in blue.
"Where am I?"
Somehow she wasn't sure he actually knew what she was saying, what other question would someone ask when they have been dragged across a country and hidden under a blanket. Marocksh, not Fez or Meknes where all the stories of slaves usually ended, dying to build the palaces of the Sultans. Not that she knew anything more of Marocksh than the other cities only that it lay to the south. And then she was alone. The sounds of the man in blue faded into the depths of the house, without another word to her. Aubreigh was in a marble floored, flower-strewn prison.
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