Dear Reader,

I’m thrilled to tell you about my new Harlequin Presents book ‘Scandal: His Majesty’s Love-Child’.

You mightn’t realise it from the title but this is a sheikh story, part of the Dark-Hearted Desert Men series. I was thrilled to be asked to write this, especially as it was part of a small continuity with books written by some of my favorite authors.

Tahir is a man who never fitted in. Rejected in his youth he’d rebelled, devoting himself to life in the fast lane, building a commercial empire from nothing, tasting most of the pleasures the world has to offer and remaining steadfast in only one thing: being a loner. He’s handsome, successful, wealthy and, despite his predilection for dangerous sports... he’s bored.

But into Tahir’s glittering world comes Annalisa: responsible, gentle, caring and capable. Actually, it’s Tahir who bursts into Annalisa’s life, crashing his helicopter loaded with vintage champagne and caviar in a dust storm while on the way to a celebration. Imagine being in Annalisa’s position – camping alone at a desert oasis when she sees this:

"A tall man. Dark haired, wearing a tuxedo and black leather shoes, was slipping down the dune towards her. His dress shirt was ripped open and filthy, revealing bronzed skin and the top of a broad chest. A dark ribbon, the end of a bow tie, fluttered against his collarbone.

His face was long and lean and so caked in sand she could barely make out his features. Yet the solid shape of his jaw and the high angle of his cheeks hinted at a devastating masculine beauty. His temple was a mass of dried blood that made her suck in a dismayed breath.

But it was his eyes that held her still as he slithered down the slope. Piercing blue, they mesmerised her. Such an unexpected colour here in a desert kingdom. Even as he staggered towards her his tall frame looked improbably elegant and absurdly raffish. As if he’d drunk too much at a society party and wandered unsteadily off."


I’ll let you in on a secret. I was channelling Daniel Craig as James Bond when I wrote this scene. So what if Tahir is tall and he’s got dark hair! James Bond’s nonchalant masculine elegance, even when wounded, worked for me. It works for Annalisa too, especially when she discovers a side to Tahir no one else has seen. As a result their lives become inextricably combined and complicated.

To find out more about the book, visit http://www.annie-west.com and go to the page for ‘Scandal: His Majesty’s Love-Child’.

I hope you enjoy the excerpt I've included below.

Warmest wishes,

Annie West



Excerpt from Scandal: His Majesty's Love-Child

by Annie West

Side by side they watched the comet track towards the horizon. To the naked eye it was just visible.

When it was gone they stood a moment longer, alone in the vast silence. Then Annalisa began to dismantle the telescope.

Emotions flooded her, too many to name. But as she worked on her father’s precious equipment she realised that rising above them all was a sense of loss. Her fingers faltered at the task she’d done countless times. Her breath hitched.

Since her father’s death she’d focused on this night. On fulfilling his dying wish.

Now it was done. Time to move on. Yet suddenly her plans for the future seemed insignificant in the face of the emptiness engulfing her.

She felt...bereft. Her father truly was gone. Her past life, so busy and organised and full, was over.

The future yawned like a dark void. A shudder ripped through her.

‘Here,’ said a warm voice in her ear. ‘I’ll finish, if you trust me.’

Annalisa watched his deft movements. How easily he stowed the telescope and hoisted the case, leading the way to the tent.

‘Just like that and it’s all over.’ Her voice sounded stretched and brittle.

‘Until the next time Asiya passes by.’

‘Of course.’ She entered the tent and fumbled inside for the lantern.

It was ridiculous to feel this way. Her grief seemed as fresh as on the day her father died. She pursed her lips, striving to conquer the raw pain of loss. She had everything to look forward to. Travel. A career. New friends. New experiences.

Yet at this moment she felt so alone.

Finally the lamp glowed reassuringly. She turned away, only to find Tahir unexpectedly close, his warmth enveloping her.

Their eyes met and held.

‘Ah, Annalisa, don’t weep.’ His hoarse whisper scraped across her skin.

‘I’m not-’ Her words stopped as he reached out and brushed her cheek. Hard callused fingers against wet flesh.

Amazement froze her.

She didn’t cry. She’d had no time for tears.


Though her father was gone the locals still came to her for advice. It was she who’d reassured them. Who’d lobbied for a doctor to replace her father. Who’d taken the new medico to meet the community and help build acceptance for him. Who’d ensured her father’s comet got official recognition.

Now it was all done and she was no longer needed.

She felt...adrift.

Horrified at her weakness, she stared up into eyes as clear and pure as those alpine streams she’d dreamed of seeing for herself. Tahir’s brows furrowed as if in concentration while his long fingers smoothed her cheek.

She swayed forward to the rhythm of his touch then, startled, drew back.

Dark lashes veiled his eyes. His face was expressionless, still, waiting. He cupped her jaw and the pulse beneath her chin throbbed against his touch.

‘You should be proud,’ he murmured. ‘And happy.’

‘I am.’ She fought back a self pitying sniff. She was stronger than this. Her sudden weakness was inexplicable.

‘You miss him.’ He paused, letting the silence lengthen. ‘It’s difficult being alone, but you’re strong. You’ll survive.’ The words were whisper-soft, barely audible. Yet the timbre of his voice, like a desert zephyr at daybreak, heralded something new.

More than just pity. Understanding. A precious sense that she wasn’t alone. That he knew all she felt.

Abruptly Tahir dropped his hand and stepped back.

The distance between them made her shiver anew. Instinctively she moved forward, only to halt as his eyes blazed with sudden heat.

Ever since falling asleep in his arms Annalisa knew this man was dangerous in ways she barely comprehended. But she’d shoved that knowledge aside, trying to be grateful when he kept his distance.

Now, reading the glittering hunger in his eyes, she knew a reckless desire to walk straight into danger.

Not giving herself time to think, letting instinct drive her, she stepped close, lifting her hand to the hard line of his jaw.

Sensation shot through her as her sensitive palm scraped his shadowed chin. His days’ old growth of beard tickled and teased. Darts of fire scorched through her, making her belly cramp and her legs quake.

His mouth firmed to a severe line and he drew a slow breath. Did he too notice the suddenly heavy scent of musk and heat on the night air? His hand clamped hers.

‘You’re not thinking straight.’ His words were harsh and she read tension in his shoulders.

‘Please, Tahir.’ She didn’t know what she pleaded for, yet she knew she couldn’t bear him to turn away.

‘What is it you want, Annalisa?’ His deep voice sounded strained and his pulse hammered beneath her touch. That reminder of his vulnerability gave her the courage to meet his gaze head on.

Mutely she shook her head, unsure how to answer, yet sure she needed something from him. Just the warmth of his living skin against hers was balm to a heart that hadn’t been allowed time for grief.

The sense of connection felt so real, so profound, she couldn’t turn away.

Annalisa raised her other palm and pressed it against the lapel of his dark jacket, absorbing the rhythmic thud of his heart against her hand. So strong. So alive. ‘Annalisa.’ His deep voice turned gruff with warning or displeasure. ‘Don’t.’

Yet he didn’t move away. He held her gaze with glittering eyes half veiled by long lashes that somehow emphasised the utterly masculine cast of his features.

‘Please.’ It was a whisper of sound as she raised herself on tiptoe so her breath feathered his neck, his chin. His warmth enfolded her, drew her.

This near his mouth was an implacable line, his jaw a study in tension, but the compulsion to touch him, as a woman touched a man, was too strong.

Just this once.

Her eyes flickered shut as she pressed her lips to his. His mouth was soft. Surprised, she pushed closer, enjoying the slight friction as her lips slid along his, revelling in the tickle of stubble against her cheek. She felt daring and powerful and anything but lonely.

She pulled back and opened heavy lids. Her breathing had quickened, or was that his? Their bodies touched in intriguing ways she wanted to explore.

But looking into his tense face with its brooding angles, Annalisa realised she’d overstepped the mark.

The fluttering excitement in her chest died and her stomach plunged. Heat scalded her cheeks and she looked down at the lapel of his tuxedo.

Some tiny part of her mind told her if she lived to be a hundred she’d never see a man look so good in formal attire. But mostly she just wanted the earth to open and swallow her whole.

She bit her lip, an apology trembling on her tongue. Kissing a man wasn’t as easy at it seemed. Especially when he hadn’t invited a kiss.

Hastily she stepped back, only to find her way blocked. An arm like iron barred her way.

Startled, she raised her head. His face was set in grim lines yet the burning heat was back in his eyes.

‘Is this what you want?’ He dipped his head.

Excerpt from the title: Scandal: His Majesty’s Love-Child by Annie West
ISBN: 9780373129287 Copyright ©: 2010 by Harlequin Books S.A.
First North American publication 2010
The excerpt is posted by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.


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Contest!


To celebrate the release of her July 2010 Harlequin Presents title, ‘Scandal: His Majesty’s Love-Child’, Annie is giving away great prizes in a contest exclusive to Newswire readers.

To enter the draw, just answer these two questions:

In which city is the casino Tahir visits in the first scene of this book?
What is the name of Annie’s next scheduled release?


You’ll find the answers on Annie’s website.

Email us at staff@authorsoundrelations.com with your answers before midnight on July 11th, 2010. Be sure to include your full name and mailing address and mark the subject as 'Scandal-West'. Winners will be contacted via email shortly thereafter.

One winner will receive a $25 gift certificate for Amazon and one of Annie’s books. Three more winners will each receive a signed book from Annie’s backlist. That’s four lucky winners.

Good luck!


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