Excerpt from Escape from Behruz:
“Olivia.” It had been two years since he’d seen her, but she looked the same. He stood gaping at her like the Behruzi men around him. Something in his essence reached for her, and he wanted... Never mind what he wanted. Never mind the memories that assaulted him and pulled on his heart. Losing her two years ago had almost killed him. He would never let himself be that vulnerable again. He was here for one reason, to get her out of the country. He must focus on that.
She gazed back at him, her eyes big and round in a face that had gone suddenly pale.
“Olivia.” He said it more loudly this time, and everyone turned to look at him. He stepped toward her, but when she cringed, he stopped. “Are you all right?”
“Yes. It’s just such a surprise. What are you doing here?”
“I was looking for you. What are you doing here?”
She wrinkled her brow as if his question confounded her. He saw her as the circle of Behruzis must see her, and he wondered, as they must be wondering, how this tall, green-eyed foreign girl with her silky golden hair and tight-fitting jeans happened to be standing in front of the butcher shop, pale and bewildered, holding a plastic shopping bag and a chador.
“Please move along,” Rashid said to the others. “I’ll take care of the young woman.” They dispersed, glancing over their shoulders as they shuffled off. Rashid stepped forward to face Olivia. “What are you doing here dressed like that? Why don’t you have your hair covered?” What are you afraid of?
She stood there with her chador clutched to her breast, her eyes dazed and round. Something was wrong. This wasn’t a carefree jaunt like those she’d taken when she was a teenager. It occurred to him that she might bolt like a frightened fawn. If she pulled the chador over her head, she could lose herself among the other women on the sidewalk.
Be careful, he said to himself. Go slowly. And so he softened the urgency in his voice. “What are you doing here?”
“I was wearing a chador.” She lifted the fabric to show him it was right there in her arms.
“Well good. Why aren’t you wearing it now? Why are you here? How did you leave the palace?”
There was a glimmer of the old impish Olivia in her voice when she answered. “I snuck out like I used to do when I was younger. Abu-Khan will never miss me.”
“I’m sorry, but you’re wrong about that. The whole palace is in an uproar looking for you.”
“Oh no!” The blood drained from her face. “Oh, I must get back. Abu-Khan will be furious!”
Could she actually be afraid of Abu-Khan? “I’m sure he’s more worried than angry. I’ll let him know you’re okay.” He took out his cell phone and dialed Nur’s number. After a moment, he said, “Tell the sultan she’s all right. Tell him I’ll have her back shortly.” He put the cell phone back in his pocket. “Okay, let’s get you to the palace. I’ll find a taxi.”
“No.” She sounded like the stubborn adolescent she’d once been. “No. I have to take care of something. You go to the palace and calm Abu-Khan down. I’ll return as soon as I’ve finished with my business.”
As if he could walk away and leave her there alone. “What is your business, Olivia? Can I help?”
A camel loped down the street led by a barefooted man wearing a turban. Olivia watched the camel for a moment before answering. “Well, yes, actually, maybe you can.”
“What can I do?”
“The problem is that I have this little guy.” She separated the folds of the fabric to reveal the large, frightened eyes of a puppy. “He’s sick. I need to get him to a veterinarian. Do you know where I can find one?”
“What? Where did you get a puppy?”
She explained, in a disjointed story he could barely follow—about a boy on a bicycle…hippies…vomit…worms.
A sick puppy! He’d been thinking she had some deep, terrible problem, something to do with her life in the palace, or maybe something to do with the revolution brewing in Behruz. But no, it was a puppy. He could help with that. The knowledge made him feel powerful and heroic, as it always had. And that made him feel the aching pull of desire, a feeling she’d made it clear two years ago he had no right to feel.
Judy Meadows, Writer of Fun, Spicy Romance