Dance of Desire (1001 Dark Nights)

By: Christopher Rice

1001 Dark Nights



Acknowledgments



Once again, a huge thanks to both Liz Berry and M.J Rose for inviting me to be part of this special project. (And Steve Berry for being the instigator.) Another huge thanks to Jillian Stein for making romanceland a better place with her personality, humor and social media saavy.

Kimberly Guidroz and "Shy" Pam Jamison did a wonderful job of editing this one, as always. But Kim, in particular, deserves more thanks than one page can accommodate, for more reasons than I can list here. As always, Asha Hossain does a wonderful job with the Dark Nights covers. Two more big rounds of thanks to cover model Jamison Murphy and photographer Cathryn Farnsworth.

For her friendship and general support of my romantic endeavors, I will always be grateful for the fact that Lexi Blake lives and breathes and is so generous with her knowledge and talent. And in the case of this particular novella, I'm eternally indebted to Liliana Hart, who not only invited me to write a story set in the world of her MacKenzie Family, she allowed me to crossover some of its characters into DANCE OF DESIRE.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't also give shout outs to my good friends and general support network, Eric Shaw Quinn, Becket Ghiotto, Christina Barnett, Karen O'Brien and my mother. And of course, all my Texas relatives who inspired the finer parts of this story.





One Thousand And One Dark Nights



Once upon a time, in the future…



I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.

I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and

the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast

library at my father’s home and collected thousands

of volumes of fantastic tales.



I learned all about ancient races and bygone

times. About myths and legends and dreams of all

people through the millennium. And the more I read

the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered

that I was able to travel into the stories... to actually

become part of them.



I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher

and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I

would not be telling you this tale now.

But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off

with bravery.



One afternoon, curious about the myth of the

Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to

see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar

(Persian: شهریار, “king”) married a new virgin, and then

sent yesterday’s wife to be beheaded. It was written

and I had read, that by the time he met Scheherazade,

the vizier’s daughter, he’d killed one thousand

women.



Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived

in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged

places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had

never occurred before and that still to this day, I

cannot explain.



Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have

taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can

protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to

protect herself and stay alive.



Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.

And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a

point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.

And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that

he might hear the rest of my dark tale.



As soon as I finish a story... I begin a new

one... like the one that you, dear reader, have before

you now.





Prologue



Then



Amber resists, but finally opens her eyes.

Caleb really is kneeling next to her bed, whispering her name.

This isn’t just another one of the sexy, grown-up dreams she’s been having about the boy since summer started. Dreams in which he traces the curves of her body with his fingertips and gazes into her eyes with that serious expression that always makes him look so manly and handsome.

He’s really here, his breath soft against her cheek as he whispers her name.

The smell of his cologne is as strong as all the other woodsy smells inside her father’s lake house. A few hours ago, they’d both gone to bed at the same time. He in one room, she in another. So did he spritz himself before appearing at her bedside? The idea of him doing a little grooming before calling on her in the middle of the night makes her face feel tingly and hot.

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