DESERTS OF THE HEART
By Barbara Clark
A relentless Arabian Prince and an independent psychic join forces to find a stolen ancient sword. As they work together, will they each learn that love can fill the empty desert in their heart?
Tough-minded and honorable, NICHOLAS KADAR BEN HAMAD, known as KADAR, lives in two worlds. Educated in both the U.S.A. and his native land, Duraza, this security specialist for an American company is also heir to an Arabian throne. Forced by circumstances to grow up fast, he fought his first battle for Duraza when he was fifteen, and was kicked off his American grandfather's ranch, at the point of a shotgun, to fend for himself when he was sixteen.
By the time FAITH WEBB was nine, she'd learned three important lessons -- never ask about paranormal gifts or mention the Arabian culture to her mother. And the only person she could depend on was herself. So Faith hid her unusual ability to sense the vibrations of events and emotions embedded in objects; while she struggled with the fearful reality that her most vivid dreams had an eerie way of coming true.
Kadar learns that the ancient Sword of Light, stolen twenty-five years earlier from his father's palace in Duraza, has been traced to a shop in Seawind Beach. If the sword isn't found and returned immediately to Duraza, his father will be forced to give up the throne and go into exile or, worse, be executed. Determined to gain possession of this ancient symbol of his country, Kadar confronts the shop owner, Faith Webb. During the course of his questions, he's surprised by his attraction to this woman he thinks is dealing in stolen goods.
The last person Faith should allow into her orderly world is Kadar, a man who asks disturbing questions. But the moment he walks into her specialty shop, Deserts of the Heart, he sets her unruly imagination dreaming of jasmine-scented nights under a desert moon.
When three men from a Middle East country threaten Faith if she doesn't give them the Sword of Light, Kadar appears in time to disarm the men and save her. Later, she wonders if he's actually their accomplice, and becomes more wary of him.
Faith's comfortable world comes crashing down when she learns her own mother had stolen the sword years earlier and given it to a trusted servant to hide in the mountains at the edge of the Sahara Desert in north Africa. But that's only the first shock. Faith also learns she was born in the Arabian country, Tafala, the bitter enemy of Duraza. And that both her mother and biological father, who'd died years earlier, were from royalty in Tafala.
Deciding to locate and return the sword to its rightful owner, Faith joins forces with Kadar, but hides her Tafalan birth and the source of her information.
As Kadar and Faith work together, their attraction to each other grows, but the question remains, can they trust each other?
The stakes get higher as Faith and Kadar fly to Cairo and then, in disguise, go by boat to an abandoned village on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. There, in order to cross a section of the Sahara Desert, they join a band of Bedouins. To continue their disguise, they travel as husband and wife. Faith dreams that an ambush will set up by an enemy band of Bedouins. She tells Kadar, who warns their hosts. Scouts sent out by the sheik of the tribe report back on the truth of the dream. Faith and Kadar's position with the travelers becomes more secure.
Faith's once quiet, orderly world has changed to days of fighting sand and wind, while she masters the skills of erecting a tent, cooking over an open fire, and living among people in a culture far different from what she has known. On the other hand, her nights have become a far different struggle--coping with her sensual attraction to Kadar.
Kadar is amazed and proud of Faith's adaptability to living and traveling with the Bedouins. He quietly finds ways to ease her work without exposing their cover story. The more he sees her interact with the women and children of the small band, the more he comes to realize her bravery, honesty, and her genuine consideration of others--far different from most women he'd known. Nights spent laying beside her in their tent become a growing challenge not to peel her out of her flowing garments and make love.
After their desert ordeal, the band reaches an oasis of fresh water and lush date palms located at the point where the borders of Duraza and Tafala meet. During the tribal celebration, Kadar faces the sheik's eldest son in a ceremonial knife fight. While it becomes obvious that Kadar will ultimately win, he does the unexpected by surrendering to the son. The son honors Kadar by pledging loyalty to him and to Kadar's father, the Sultan of Duraza.
The climax of the gathering is when the women to dance for the gathering, each one singling out a special man. Of course, Faith dances for Kadar. He answers her silent invitation by sweeping her up in his arms. He carries her back to their tent where they explore the greater sensual attraction that has grown between them, and for the first time, make love. Faith admits to herself that she loves Kadar, but she doesn't tell him. She already knows he'll walk out of her life when the sword is returned to Duraza.
At the oasis, Kadar and Faith leave the traveling band. Using a map provided by Faith's mother, they locate the cave where the sword has been hidden for twenty-five years. However, this sword has developed a paranormal connection with Faith. When she removes the cotton and silk wrappings, the sword greets her as the Chosen One and she experiences a kaleidoscope of images from its history. From that moment, the sword's bond with her is stronger.
When Faith and Kadar reach the border of Duraza, they're shocked to discover Kadar is forbidden to enter the country by decree of his father, the Sultan. The advisory council has been debating Kadar's loyalty to Duraza because of his years spent in America, and his father, as Sultan, has had to issue the order.
Kadar,worried about Faith's ability to endure much more of the extremes of heat and cold, suggests they go to Tafala, in spite of the ongoing war between the two countries.
She reveals the secret of her parentage to him. Soon after crossing the border into Tafala, Faith and Kadar are captured by Tafalan soldiers and brought as prisoners to the court of the Sultan of Tafala, Faith's maternal grandfather. Kadar conceals his identity as the heir to the throne of Duraza.
As Faith, bound by ropes, kneels before her grandfather, she keeps silent about her identity. He doesn't recognize her because her mother had left with her when Faith was three-years-old. Still, she recalls happy memories of the days she'd lived in the palace with her parents and grandparents.
When the magical sword is opened for the Sultan's inspection, Faith feels the sword's anger build. Knowing it can release a deadly bolt of energy, she tries to warn her grandfather. He ignores her and reaches for the sword. At the last moment, she throws herself between her grandfather and the sword, and is struck unconscious by the blast.
When she regains consciousness, the Sultan has learned of her identity, and takes her to his heart as his grandchild.
While Kadar is at risk of discovery and death every moment he's in the palace, he knows how important it is to Faith to become acquainted with her grandfather, so they stay there in the luxurious quarters assigned to them.
Her grandfather shows her the Sword of Night, which was forged at the same time the Sword of Light had been made. According to tradition, both swords once hung side by side in the Hall of Peace, a sanctuary built spanning the borders of the two countries. For six hundred years, the countries had lived in peace until a hundred and fifty years earlier when treachery had closed the border and set the neighbors at war.
During Faith and Kadar's time in the palace, the continuing danger of Kadar being exposed as a Durazanian prince builds an urgency into their lovemaking.
Finally, Kadar, knowing his father and the Sultan of Tafala had been secretly trying to work out a way to stop the hostilities between the two countries, takes the risk of revealing his identity to Faith's grandfather. They are soon deep in plans to establish peace.
In the meantime, Faith doesn't know about the secret talks. She only knows that any commitment between her as a Tafalan princess and Kadar, a prince of Duraza, is impossible.
Bound by honor to take the sword to Duraza, she borrows a horse from the royal stables and sets out alone to Duraza. When she realizes, she's being followed, she hides the sword. Trusting that Kadar will eventually come looking for it, she leaves a clue he'd recognize.
When she races away from the evil men stalking her, Faith's horse trips and goes down. She continues her attempt to evade her stalkers, but is trapped by a rock fall just as her dream had predicted back at her quiet home months earlier. Then when they draw closer, Faith recognizes the three men who'd come into her shop back at Seawind Beach.
While they threaten her, demanding the location of the Sword of Light, Kadar rides to her rescue, sword in hand, leading a small band of Tafalans loyal to Faith's grandfather. After a short battle, Faith's captors and their followers are defeated.
As she moves among the few wounded, one of the older Tafalan warriors recognizes her as the Chosen One and says if she wishes it, the Sword of Light will heal his wounds. She unwraps the sword, and under its guidance, invokes its power using an ancient chant. The sword glows, light twining up and down the ripples of steel color in the blade. Psychic energy builds. Faith touches the sharp tip, then lays the flat of the blade across the wounded man's bandaged chest. Immediately his color improves as the healing power flows through his body. When she sees him open his eyes, she goes to each patient, healing their wounds.
The next day, Kadar and Faith slip across the border into Duraza, evade Kadar's enemies, and take the sword to Kadar's father.
Faith learns that Kadar's father had killed her Tafalan father twenty-five years earlier in a battle over the very oasis where she and Kadar had first made love.
When Faith learns that Kadar had already known the details of her father's death, she's crushed by a deep sense of betrayal. She goes to the study where Kadar and his father are deep in discussion.
At that moment, assassins burst into the room. Kadar protects Faith, but his father is mortally wounded. Once the attackers are eliminated, Faith kneels beside Kadar and his father. She has the choice to use the sword and heal him or allow him to die as her father had died at his hand years earlier.
Once again, she invokes the sword's healing ability and throws her energy into calling life back into his body. However, Faith's psychic energy is low and she ask's for Kadar's help. Together, they grip the hilt and the sword's power sizzles between them and the sword. Working as a unit, they lay the blade on the Sultan's wounded head and then his chest.
Breathless moments pass. The Sultan opens his eyes and greets Kadar and Faith in a weak voice.
While the doctor rushes to his patient's side, Kadar takes Faith into his arms. When their lips meet, They step into a vision of the future when they are married and peace has been established between their two countries.
The vision fades. Kadar lifts his mouth from Faith's and looks deep into her glowing eyes. "You saw the foretelling with me?"
She touches his lips with her fingers. "We saw it together."
He draws in a breath and says, "Faith, I love you. When we first met, my heart was empty like the great desert. Now you've filled it with your warmth, your trust, your beauty. Put the final seal on the vision and say you'll marry me."
And she does.