She shrugged faintly. “Does it matter? Karsten hasn’t been able to get them on his own so far, and by the time our week is out here, it’ll be too late. Food and medicine doesn’t last long in the desert.”
No, he supposed it didn’t.
But maybe there was some way to fix the situation.
“You say you know the checkpoint where the supplies are being held up?”
“It’s on the outskirts of Marrakesh. A lot of our materials pass through that same one.”
Jehan considered. “That’s only a few hours away from here by car.”
“What are you saying?” She frowned. “Jehan, what are you thinking?”
“Let me borrow your phone.”
She handed it over, still staring at him in question. Jehan entered his brother’s number and waited for him to pick up. It took several rings, then Marcel’s confused voice came over the line in greeting. “Hello?”
Jehan got right to the point. “I have a favor to ask of you.”
“Jehan? What the hell are you doing calling me? And where did you get the phone? You know there’s supposed to be no technology or outside communication—”
“I know,” he bit off impatiently. “Where are you right now?”
“Ah...I’m home, but I’m getting ready to head out for a while. What’s going on? Is everything all right with Seraphina?”
“She’s fine. We’re fine,” Jehan assured him. “I need a vehicle. As soon as possible.”
Marcel gasped. “What?”
Seraphina’s eyes went about as wide as he imagined his brother’s had just now.
“It’s important, Marcel. You know I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t.”
“But you can’t leave the villa. If you leave Seraphina alone out there, you’ll be breaking the pact. Hell, you already are just by making this call to me.”
“No one will know I called except you.” Jehan glanced at Seraphina and shook his head. “As for breaking the pact by leaving her at the villa without me, not happening. She’s coming with me, and we won’t be gone long. No one will be the wiser.”
“Except, once again, me.” Marcel groaned. “I probably don’t want to know what any of this is about, do I?”
“Probably not.” Jehan smiled.
Marcel exhaled a curse. “Please tell me you don’t want my Lambo.”
“Actually, I was hoping for one of the Rovers from the Darkhaven fleet. With a full tank of fuel, if you would.”
Marcel’s deep sigh gusted over the line. “Does Seraphina realize yet what a demanding pain in the ass you can be?”
Jehan met her gaze and grinned. “I imagine she’s figuring that out.”
Marcel chuckled. “I’ll drop it off at sundown.”
“Careful with that crate, Aleph. Those glass vials of vaccines are fragile.”
Walking across the moonlit sand with her arm around one of the children from the refugee camp and a box of bandages held in her other hand, Sera directed another of the volunteers to the open back of the supply-laden Range Rover. “Massoud, take the large sack of rice to Fatima in the mess tent and ask her where she’d like us to store the rest of the raw grains. Let her know we have some crates of canned meats and boxes of fruit here too.”
Behind her at the vehicle, Jehan was busy unloading the crates and boxes and sacks they’d just arrived with from the checkpoint near Marrakesh. Sera couldn’t help pausing to watch him work. Dressed in jeans and a loose linen shirt with the sleeves rolled up past his glyph-covered forearms, he pitched in like the best of her other workers. Even better, in fact, since he was Breed. His strength and stamina outpaced half a dozen humans put together.
She still couldn’t believe what he’d done for her tonight. For a village of displaced people he’d never met and didn’t have to care about. All of the indignation and anger she’d felt toward him since their first night at the villa evaporated under her admiration for what he was doing now.
And it wasn’t only admiration she felt when she looked at him.
There was attraction, to be sure. White-hot and magnetic.
But something stronger had begun to kindle inside her today. As unsettling as her desire for him was, this new emotion was even more terrifying. She liked him.
Jehan had intrigued her from their first introduction, even after she’d learned he made his living as a warrior. Their kiss at the banquet had ignited a need in her that she still hadn’t been able to dismiss. And then, when he’d helped her out of her dress that initial night at the villa, she’d wanted him with an intensity that nearly overwhelmed her.
After he’d left her humiliated and awash in frustration, she’d almost been able to convince herself that he was simply an arrogant bastard and an aggravation she would just have to avoid or endure for the rest of their week together.
Now he had to go and do something kind for her like this. Something surprising and selfless.
Frowning, she turned away from him on a groan. “Come on, Yasmin. Let’s go see if Fatima has anything good waiting in her kitchen tonight.”
As they walked into the center of the camp, a Jeep was arriving from the other end of the makeshift village of tents and meager outbuildings. Yellow headlights bounced in the darkness as the vehicle jostled over the ruts in the dirt road into camp. The Jeep came to a halt several yards up and Karsten Hemmings hopped out of the driver’s seat.
“Sera?” He jogged to meet her, a welcoming grin on his ruggedly handsome face. “I was down at the southern camp when I got word the supplies had been released.” He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek as he took the box out of her hands. Then he reached down to pat the child’s head with a smile. “What’s going on? I thought you said you were going to be delayed with your parents for a few more days?”
She shrugged at the reminder of the small lie she’d told him. “I found an opportunity to get away for a little while, so I thought I’d run to Marrakesh and see what I could do about the supplies.”
Karsten made a wry sound in his throat as he tossed the box of bandages to a passing camp volunteer. “How much did it cost this time?”
“A few thousand.”
After haggling the checkpoint supervisor down as far as she could manage, she’d arranged to have the money wired to the corrupt official’s personal account. It simply was the way business was done in her line of work sometimes, but all of the “few thousands” had added up over the years. Her account was nearly tapped dry now—at least until she completed the handfast and her father released her trust.
A group of children ran past and shouted for Yasmin to join them in a game of tag. The promise of treats in the mess tent quickly forgotten, the little girl ran off to join her friends.
“Stay close to camp, all of you!” Karsten called after them, watching them go. Then he cocked his head at Sera. “It’s good to see you. When I heard you’d left to go to your family without telling anyone what it was about, I was afraid something was wrong.” He glanced down, finally taking in her appearance. “What the hell happened to your clothes?”
Seeing how Leila had outfitted her for a week of lounging and potential romance, before Sera left the villa, she’d raided Jehan’s wardrobe for something practical to wear out in the field.