The Price of Freedom

By: Jenny Schwartz

Duty will bring them together—and tear them apart!

As a guardian angel, Mischa must protect the one man who may be able to bring about lasting peace to the Middle East. As a djinni, Rafe must fulfill the wishes of a terrorist leader. Their duties colliding, Mischa and Rafe become foes, but the heat between them is undeniable.

When the terrorist learns that a guardian angel stands between him and his greatest wish, he orders his djinni to remove her. Taking creative license, Rafe spirits her away to his private oasis, where she will be unable to protect the peacemaker.

Beyond their mutual desire, they find common ground in honor and loneliness. Passion quickly grows into love. But it’s soon clear to Rafe that love cannot be bound, and Mischa must be true to her life’s purpose. Even if Rafe must sacrifice his own taste of freedom to grant hers…

Chapter One

The shadow of Sheikh al-Kaatib’s private jet raced over the desert sands, heading west into the blaze of the afternoon sun.

Inside the plane seven passengers sat in silence. They had exhausted their conversation days ago. Besides, there was much to think about. Three closed their eyes, deliberated and slept. Another three opened notebooks and tapped busily. The seventh passenger tilted back his seat and looked out the window.

A hundred years ago we crossed this desert on camels, Ilias Aboud mused. He could almost see the sway of a camel caravan. Its men would have measured time by the sun and stars and the distance to the next oasis. They would have lived by rules forced on them by the harsh landscape: hospitality to the stranger, loyalty to one’s kin.

War had been brief. A raid, not a sustained campaign. The desert lacked the resources to sustain an army. Men tended their livestock and their trade. Violence flared and died in the face of the overwhelming task of surviving. You counted your wealth in camels and children, and thanked God.

But that was before the strangers and their discovery of oil. Suddenly there was money enough to indulge in the foolishness of war. Vehicles shrank the desert, and people let go of its ways to embrace city life.

And city life was pleasant.

Ilias smiled. His wife and two-year-old son awaited him in Istanbul. He would take a taxi from the airport and be home in time for the evening meal. He would kiss his son and answer his questions. Since little Yusef had learned the word why he used it continuously. Why must he eat carrot? Why didn’t the cat have to eat carrot? Why didn’t he have a tail like the cat?

It would be good to be home. After Yusef went to bed, he and Salwa would talk a little about the meeting and a lot about family news and local gossip. Then they too would retire and find comfort in reunion  . Joy, peace, love. His family kept him sane.

“More fruit juice, sir? Or coffee? There is baklava.”

Startled from his thoughts, Ilias glanced at the steward and the glistening jug of juice the man held. Ice cubes tinkled.

“No. Nothing, thank you.”

The steward nodded and whisked away Ilias’s empty glass. He walked on to the next passenger. “Sir, would you—”

The engines cut out. No warning, just an eerie silence with the impact of a bomb. The steward’s eyes went wide and he ran for the cockpit. Fruit juice sloshed and spilled, falling sticky on the cream carpet.

Ilias clenched his hands, counting. One, two, three…the engines remained silent.

There was still a chance. They wouldn’t make Istanbul but the plane would glide for a short while. Could the pilot land it in the desert without engines? Sheikh al-Kaatib would employ the best pilots.

“God, into your care I consign my family and myself.”

Wind tore at the plane, a violent downdraft that shoved the nose down. A man screamed. Terror of imminent death drained the blood from Ilias’s plump face. He would return to the desert, after all. Violently.

Mischa dived from heaven, piercing through the golden colors of sunset with a warrior’s purpose. Attuned to the rhythm of her humans’ lives, she heard the moment when the engines of the plane carrying Ilias Aboud cut out. An instant later she landed in the cockpit.

The pilot and copilot were bent over their instruments in frozen dismay.

“Now, let’s see.” Mischa took a second and stretched it ruthlessly.

She placed her hands over the instrument panel and sent herself into the plane. Unlike many of her fellow guardian angels, she enjoyed human technologies. She’d studied them and had little doubt that whatever the problem with the engines, she could fix it. For the shaken crew and passengers it would be a little miracle.

“Cupid’s darts.” The angelic expletive escaped Mischa as she examined the engines. They hadn’t simply broken. They had melted as if struck by lightning, and among the destruction were grains of sand. “Impossible.”

Mischa flicked herself into the cabin and sank into a spare seat. She would use a second second to think.

Across the aisle sat Ilias Aboud. She was here because of the danger to him. The young man, plump with the soft living of conferences and formal dinners, was a key actor in the Middle Eastern intrigue. As a scholar and a natural linguist, his passion for peace and his determined pursuit of hope would save thousands of lives. His compassion would bridge cultural divides—if he lived.