This is not an excerise in well-crafted writing; it was written for a friend who complained there were no Mills & Boon heroines with her name. The following piece of writing there are mixed metaphors, tacky plot lines, excessive adjectives and phrases that will make you cringe. It is best read if at the breaks you insert a cheesy dum-dum-DUM!! of suprise, shock and suspenseful revelation.

Tessa stared into the distance, unmoved by the magnificent splendour of the desert sunset, her entire mind filled with guilt and horror at the terrible secret she held deep inside her. But even so, a small shoot of hope had sprung up. Perhaps this was the fresh beginning they needed. A chance to wipe away old hurts and grievances and start something new and wonderful together.

"You called for me?" a deep voice growled in her ear.

Heat coiled in Tessa's belly, but now was not the time to give in to the insatiable passion between them. This was possibly the most important conversation of their lives; not a time to be ripping clothes off one another.

Stepping closer to the window and away from he intoxicating heat, Tessa turned to confront Ashraf Muzutab, Sheik of Zalheiba.

Ash stared into Tessa's eyes, tempted to lose himself in their brilliant green depths, but then noticed her full lower lip was trembling and those glorious eyes were glistening with unshed tears. Ruthlessly squelching the urge to take her in his arms and kiss away all her troubles, Ash contented himself with lifting a hand to her cheek and murmuring, "What's wrong? Has your grandmother's cancer regressed? I understand if you feel you need to be with her. I can have a plane here within the hour and you can be by her side before morning."

A single tear welled up and slid down Tessa's cheek. He leaned forward and brushed it away with his lips, tasting its salty bitterness, and feeling her pain as his own.

Ash's gentleness was her undoing. Flinging herself into his embrace, she sobbed into his traditional Zalheiban state robe, until her heart was wrung dry. Finally, she regained her composure enough to tell him that nothing was wrong with Grandma Isabella; "It is something much, much –" Words failed her, and she gazed into the deep dark eyes above her, seeking the reassurance and understanding she so desperately needed.

"Do you love me?"

Her tremulous plea hurt Ash with its uncertainty. "Of course, my darling. Nothing could come between us now we have found one another again."

Tessa took a deep breath and blurted out her secret, "I'm pregnant!"

"We are going to have a baby? Ash asked his tone incredulous.

Tessa nodded, unsure of what his reply might mean.

Suddenly he whooped and lifting her feet off the ground, danced them around the room.

"This is amazing, astonishing, stupendous, tremendous! No wonder you were hesitant in telling me, we had agreed not to have children until later but now! This is the greatest news ever! This is what we have needed: a commitment of and made by our love."

Tessa who had thought she had no tears left now felt them forming again. But Ash's joy was too complete to notice them.

"We shall be the best parents ever!" He enthused. "Our child shall want for nothing. He will have everything that ever took his fancy. And if it's a girl, I'm sure I could love her as well!"

"But could you still love it if it was . . . your brother's?"

Tessa watched in horror as Ash's jubilant smile faded and his eyes turned cold as stone.

"How could you do this to me?" His harsh rasp was distant and impersonal as a stranger's, sending shivers of fear down Tessa's spine.

"I didn't mean to! It was a mistake," Tessa cried.

"How could it be a mistake? Did you accidentally fall on each other while naked? Get out of my sight!" He yelled.

"Never!" Tessa declared. "I regret what happened, but it was your fault as much as mine! It was two months ago, when I had just found out that you had a woman down in town whom you visited when you had to 'work late'. You left me, and I turned to Zameel for comfort. We drank too much and it just happened, we didn't mean it to."

"You are nothing more than a common whore. Leave me now or I will have you executed."

Tessa stalked out of the room. She knew Ash would do as he had threatened and she had seen the horrible dank pits that were called cells. Slamming the door to her bed chambers behind her, Tessa began pacing the pink marble floors. So he wanted her to leave did he? Well, she knew people so far away that if she went any further she'd be coming back. Let's see how he like being walked out on while in the depths of despair.

Ash heard the slamming door and the sound shattered the ice which had encased his heart as soon as she had said 'your brother's'. He leapt up and ran to his brother's suite intent on murder or at least grievous bodily harm.

Zameel looked up calmly at his rampaging brother and sighed, "She told you then? If you take a minute to think with your head instead of listening to your heart, brother, you'll remember prostate cancer left me impotent 3 years ago."

"But you still made love, she said so."

"Did she also tell you we were drunk? Because we were very very drunk. Nothing happened. Nothing could have happened; we were incapable of doing anything."

Then Ash sprinted back to Tessa's rooms but he was too late. She was already gone. But not for long if, he had anything to do with it.

"You belong to me, Tessa." Only the desert heard his voice. Only the desert sent sighs of agreement on the wings of the cool, evening breeze. Only the desert understood his desolation . . . and his determination.

By selling one of the many expensive necklaces Ash had given her, Tessa was able to buy a small attic apartment in the middle of the bustling metropolis. It was small and bare but at least it was private. She kept up to date with her booming fashion business over the internet, fearing Ash would find her if she used something traceable like phone or fax. Tessa worked hard, pushing herself to exhaustion to fall into a dreamless sleep late in the night. But still a certain face had a way of popping up in the most inconvenient places, in her cereal while eating breakfast, in the reflection of a puddle on the cracked pavement outside her apartment and behind her eyelids every time she closed her eyes. Ash smiling, Ash angry, Ash staring poignantly into the depths of her soul; the endless parade was driving her slowly mad. Staring into the fridge, Tessa was trying to decide if she wanted yoghurt or cheese or if she could keep either of them down as her morning sickness worsened, when she heard a loud banging on her door. Grumbling, she opened it expecting to see her landlord. She gasped, "You!"
"You!" she repeated, staring at Zameel in shock. "What the hell are you doing here? Where's Ash?"

"On the other side of the world. Bursting in on all your unsuspecting friends, demanding to know where you are," Zameel replied. "He doesn't know you as well as I do. Doesn't know that you would stay in Zalheiba City, the last place anyone would look for you, or so you thought.

Tessa ignored the disturbing possessive, arrogant quality in is voice to ask, "But why are you here?"

"To come to take you back . . . as my wife."

"What?!" Tessa stumbled back in shock. "Are you insane?"

"Yes," he declared. "Insanely in love with you."

He advanced on her and she kept retreating until her back hit the wall. Smiling pitilessly at her dilemma, he trapped her in his arms and drew her inexorably closer. Tessa heard pounding, which might have been someone coming to save her but was probably her just her wildly racing pulse.

"Help!" she managed to scream before his mouth ruthlessly covered hers.

Ash burst into the room and sucker punched Zameel to the ground. Zameel groaned weakly but lay where he fell.

"Darling!" exclaimed Ash pulling Tessa into his arms, almost crushing her ribs in his relief.

"But, but," stuttered Tessa. "How did you know?"

"While flying over Cambodia, it suddenly struck me as strange that you assumed you had made love when you were too drunk to remember anything. He fed you that vile story, didn't he?"

"Yes," whispered Tessa too overcome to do anything but be held in his arms. "But, the baby! You hate me!" she remembered.

"No. The child is mine, and even if it weren't I would not let you run off. I could never hate you, my love. You make me whole. I felt as if I were half alive, the days that you were gone. Promise me you will never leave again."

Ash's eyes smouldered, demanding her promise. But Tessa's heart was too full for words. She reached up and kissed him with the full force of her agreement and love.