A light in the darkness . . .
The youngest son of Anglesea, the once idealistic Henry has survived the Holy Pilgrimage, but lost all his deeply held beliefs in honor and nobility. Captured in battle, he is sold as a slave into the home of Alif Al-Rasheed, a wealthy Genovese merchant who has converted to Islam. Bereft of faith, imprisoned in a foreign land, Henry has lost hope in his ability to love again—until he lays eyes on his captor’s beguiling daughter.
A marriage of opposites . . .
To Henry, Alya is a beacon of beauty he cannot ignore. But the heart of this proud daughter of Cairo will not be won so easily. Divided by religion, language, and culture, Ayla has little in common with the disillusioned Englishman—and yet he has vowed to protect her life in exchange for his freedom. As they embark on a perilous journey to safety, their bond will grow—and be tested—in ways neither can anticipate. For their greatest challenges will arise where Henry least expects. With threats conspiring to divide them, will he find the strength to stand by Ayla—and together will they find a common ground on which to build a future?
A mix of dust, goat, and spices of a hundred evening cook fires infused the air. Cumin, coriander, and cinnamon twined together and made English’s mouth water. Sunset splashed the sky above Cairo in burnt orange, growing brighter closer to the fiery ball sinking behind the soaring minaret. He tried to remember the name of that mosque, but his head didn’t work like it used to.
After herding a small flock of goats into their pens for the night, he ended his working day with the soft click of the latch.
From the city beyond the walls came the wail of a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. “Allah is great; Allah is great.”
The inner courtyard emptied as people sought their prayer mats. “I bear witness that there is no divinity but Allah.”
English bore witness to no divinity, and he did not pray. At one time, in another land and to another god, he might have.
Drawn to the heat the stones gathered during the day, he pressed his aching back to the wall and waited.
Like him, she did not pray. The girl on the wall. He knew her name as Alya, had heard it called often enough, but to him she remained the girl on the wall.
Curtains fluttered at the open doorway on the roof balcony. Here she came. For certain, she remained unaware of him concealed in the deepening shadows and watching. To be caught with his eyes on her now would mean Bahir and his whip. Still he waited, would not move from this spot until he saw her.
There. A slim figure shrouded by her hijab. The girl on the wall stopped at the parapet and faced the street. She pushed aside the niqab, which concealed all but her eyes. Then, she lifted her hijab and shook her hair free. It spilled down her back as she raised her face in a silent blessing to the day that passed. Dying sunlight rushed to pay tribute to her loveliness. Her hair dark and lustrous as the wood of the wild cherry that grew in a thicket he had once walked, her skin like crushed almonds.
Not that he could see from this distance, but her eyes above her niqab were lighter than he would have expected. A mix of green and brown that he had only glimpsed in passing before she hastily lowered her head. He wouldn’t call her beautiful in the way of other women now hazy in his mind. Her chin held too firm a jut, her nose slightly hawk-like. The strong slash of her cheekbones bore testament to her mixed blood. She had a strong face, fascinating, and in her private moment on the rooftop her elemental fire drew him like a starving man to a feast. Her very essence called to that barely living part of him that remembered life in abundance. In her evening ritual, she discarded the modesty she showed during the day. She believed the rest of the household to be at prayer and in these forbidden moments before she would be called in, or admonished by the older woman who always accompanied her, English became a man again.
Born British and raised in South Africa, Sarah Hegger suffers from an incurable case of wanderlust. Her match? A Canadian engineer, whose marriage proposal she accepted six short weeks after they first met. Together they’ve made homes in seven different cities across three different continents (and back again once or twice). If only it made her multilingual, but the best she can manage is idiosyncratic English, fluent Afrikaans, conversant Russian, pigeon Portuguese, even worse Zulu and enough French to get herself into trouble. Mimicking her globetrotting adventures, Sarah’s career path began as a gainfully employed actress, drifted into public relations, settled a moment in advertising, and eventually took root in the fertile soil of her first love, writing. She also moonlights as a wife and mother. She currently lives in Colorado with her teenage daughters, two Golden Retrievers and aforementioned husband. Part footloose buccaneer, part quixotic observer of life, Sarah’s restless heart is most content when reading or writing books.