Summary: Set in Ancient times. Jasmine is promised to Malik Ishtar and sold. The young girl remains timid in his presence, and refuses to be too open with him. Malik will do anything to gain her trust and break the barrier she has set between them. Will he win her heart? Or will Jasmine prevent remain cold?(Malik&Jasmine romance) *~*~*~*~*~*~*
My Dearest

Chapter 1-Sold

She dreamt of slavery. Of shackles and chains; a long journey over miles and miles of sand dunes, until a golden palace loomed ahead. She was weary. The huge gold plated doors swung open to reveal someone on the other side. She'd never met him before, but he was a comforting presence. Like a blonde tanned angel, his soft lavender eyes giving her a sense of security. He smiled at her.

Jasmine jerked awake to glare at a hawk who had screeched overhead. Her turquoise eyes scanned the darkness for her captors. 'Maybe they left me to die,' Jasmine thought sarcastically, but much to her dismay, she spotted them guarding the circle of sleeping girls. Jasmine had been kidnapped right out of her house just days before by criminals who sell girls to wealthy men as mistresses, and alike. She and half a dozen other girls were travelling with these men who, along the way, met possible clients, and the girls one by one were sold off. At the moment, they were on their way to a village where they had agreed to meet with a man named Ishtar, interested in buying a girl for his son. Ishtar was a very rich man and very high in authority as he was the Pharaoh Yami's Chief Advisor. Jasmine was scared. She didn't want to be sold to a man she didn't know. She wanted to go back home. But that option was out of the question for her. Jasmine sighed and lay back down in the sand, closing her eyes.

'Don't be so nervous,' she thought, trying to calm the knots in her stomach, 'what are the odds you'll be chosen when this Ishtar man can choose from all the other girls. They're more outgoing and girly like than me, I'm positive his son would rather have one of them.' Jasmine drifted back to sleep, these reassuring thoughts floating around in her head. Maybe her captors would even let her go if she hung around them too long without a single sales offer.

"Get up, girls! I hope you all know how to ride, because we're travelling the rest of the way by horse!" One of the thieves called, rousing the sleepy girls. Jasmine sat up and rubbed her eyes, ruffling her blonde hair in attempt to get most of the sand out. The thieves moved about the group, assigning them all to horses. One of them helped Jasmine up and pointed her towards a dapple-grey Arabian steed.

"May I ask the reason we take horses now, when we have travelled by foot the past three days?" She inquired as he helped her prepare to get on the horse's back.

"That is none of your business, just get on." He answered, turning away from her.

Jasmine watched him leave, then, grabbed some of the horse's mane, pulling herself up and swinging her leg over the other side of the horse. She already knew the answer to her question. When on their last trip to meet a client, they had to make a good impression; let him know that they kept their girls well taken care of. Jasmine found that there was no stirrup on the other side of the saddle, and looked down in puzzlement. 'Strange,' She thought, as the last girl was hoisted atop a chestnut Arabian horse, trembling with fear.

"Now, for those of you who have ridden before and are farm girls, you would probably notice that there is no stirrup on the right side of your saddle."

"What's a stirrup?" Mumbled a girl in front of Jasmine.

The man ignored her and continued. "This is because you will be riding side saddle-style. It's the formal lady like form of riding a horse. We all must make a good impression for Mr.Ishtar, wouldn't you think, girls?" He smiled. They all nodded, and Jasmine smiled a bit. She liked Seth, even though he was a con-man, she still liked the idea he tried to make them all feel a little more secure by not being completely serious and letting them know he would not harm them. His guards on the other hand, would always throw menacing scowls the girls' way, for what reason, they had no clue. "My men will help you get in the proper position."

"Just put your right leg over the knot, see? There you're a natural." Seth joked, smiling up at the turquoise-eyed girl. Jasmine smiled sheepishly, and looked down. He patted her knee, and went on to help the others.

"But I don't want to do this! I'm scared! Please I want to get off!" Cried a girl younger than Jasmine. She looked up to see men forcefully making the girl stay on the horse.

"Stay girl, or we'll tie you to the horse ourselves!" Threatened one of the brutal guards. Seth interrupted and told them to leave while he spoke in a gentler more reassuring voice to the young girl.

She nodded, and he left her with an encouraging smile. The girl smiled a bit faintly, and looked up to catch Jasmine's eye.

"You have never ridden before, have you?" Jasmine asked, easing her horse forward a bit beside the girl.

She shook her head, looking nervous. "My father was too poor to afford horses, and I was terrified by them anyways," She replied, shivering a bit, looking uncomfortable on the chestnut.

"It's all right. Once we get going, you will realize it's not that bad at all." Jasmine smiled. "I'm Jasmine, by the way. What's your name?"

"Kiya," The raven-haired girl answered.

"Kiya," Jasmine repeated, smiling. "I have always liked that name. So how about this Ishtar man, do you know anything about him? Or more importantly his son?"

Kiya looked startled. "Of course! Who doesn't? Surely, you have heard of Malik Ishtar."

Jasmine shook her head, puzzled. "Malik Ishtar, I'm supposing, is his son? I've never heard of him."

"You haven't?!" Kiya repeated. "You've never heard of Malik Ishtar? The most handsome beautiful blonde hair in all of Egypt? The most intriguing lavender eyes you'll ever see?" Kiya recited, her brown eyes sparkling dreamily.

Jasmine, again, shook her head. "You have seen this boy before?" She asked.

"Oh, no. But I've heard about how handsome he is by rumour. Not that I'd want to be sold off to him, but he's still an adorable young man. 'To die for', some say." Kiya said.

Jasmine was bewildered, she didn't know what to say.

"Stop chatting, girls. It's time to go." Seth said to the group, mainly leaning towards Jasmine and Kiya.

The front line pushed off into a canter and the rest followed, the horses working as a group. For hours they seemed to canter over the sand dunes carefully, until they reached a flat plain, indicating that they were nearing civilization. The horses snorted, threw their heads up in excitement, and lengthened their strides to a gallop.

"How you doing? Comfortable yet?" Jasmine called to Kiya over the loud sound of the horses' hooves beating at the dry ground.

"I'm doing better!" Kiya called back, shakily, concentrating on staying balanced as she bumped a bit in her saddle.

Jasmine laughed, sitting deep in her saddle as the dapple-grey galloped with spirited strong legs. She closed her eyes to feel the cool breeze flowing around her; she loved a good gallop, even if it wasn't on her own horse at home.

"Slow down!" Seth called to the group as they neared a village market.

The horses were pulled back to a steady, slow, calming canter, and then eventually down to a trot, until finally, the horses slowed to a walk, heaving and snorting out of their nostrils, but thrilled from the run none the less.

Under the shade of a market stand, stood a man clothed in a brown robe, waiting for them. He walked out to greet Seth as the others lined up the girls on their horses.

Jasmine waited nervously between Kiya and another girl with dark brown hair. Seth and the man stood talking and glancing back at the girls every now and then, until finally, the man lowered his hood and stepped out towards them.

"That's Ishtar." Kiya whispered to Jasmine.

"Do not move unless your name is called." Seth ordered, and they all nodded.

Mr.Ishtar began at the front of the line, studying each girl with his lavender eyes.

'Must be where Malik got his eyes from,' Jasmine pondered, sitting still in the saddle and waiting for him to pass her.

But he didn't. Ishtar stood and studied Jasmine for a bit, narrowing his eyes. "What is this one's name?" He inquired.

"Jasmine," Seth answered from behind him.

Ishtar studied her some more before beckoning to Jasmine with his index finger.

"Come here, Jasmine." Seth said.

She nodded and dismounted, walking towards them with trembling steps. 'Please don't choose me. Please don't choose me. Please don't choose me.' Jasmine thought over and over again.

"How about Kiya, my lord?" Seth suggested, sensing that Jasmine was nervous.

Ishtar stopped to study Kiya for a bit. "Too young," He replied simply, moving along to the end of the line. "How much for the blonde?" Ishtar demanded abruptly.

Seth was a little taken aback but then reminded himself that this was what his business was meant to do. He mumbled a price, head bowed, and Ishtar paid the desired amount of gold coins.

The dapple-grey horse threw up his head and whinnied loudly as Jasmine was led away.

Ishtar stopped in his tracks. "I suppose I should take the horse as well?"

"Of course. It would spare you the expense of transportation and I have no use for this horse anymore." Seth answered, sadly.

Ishtar merely nodded and took the horse's reins, leading it away. "Get on, girl." He ordered.

Jasmine's eyes widened, surprised at how he seemed to think he could order her around, but she did as he said none the less.

The rest of the girls watched Jasmine on the horse's back being led away towards the golden palace, which loomed over the village by Lord Ishtar.

"I'm going to miss her." Said the dark-brown haired girl.

Kiya looked her way with tear-filled brown eyes. "Me too," She whispered, watching her only friend leave forever.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Son!" Ishtar called. "Come see what your father has brought you!"

Jasmine was intrigued. The floors and walls seemed to be made of some sort of solid gold, open entryways covered with beautiful silk curtains on either side of the hall.

"I am in my room, father. You may enter." A voice replied from one of the entryways whose silk curtain was tied up to one side.

Mr.Ishtar led Jasmine into the room. "My son, a birthday gift." He said. "I shall leave you to get to know each other." And with that he walked out of the room, leaving the two alone in silence.

The blonde boy approached Jasmine and she tensed. He circled her several times, taking in her scent and appearance. "Your name?" He inquired, stopping in front of her and studying her face.

"Jasmine," She answered meekly, determined not to make eye contact with him.

Malik cocked his head to the side, his blonde hair brushing over his face, and golden earrings jingling a bit. "My name is..."

"I know who you are," Jasmine said, cutting him off, not wanting to hear the name again as she continued to stare at the ground. To her, his name sealed her fate, and she did not want to be reminded what that was.

Malik frowned slightly, narrowing his eyes. "Do you think it is acceptable for a girl of lower class to interrupt someone of my standard?" He demanded.

Jasmine lowered her head even more, much to Malik's dismay. He'd never seen eyes like hers and longed to gaze into them. "I apologize," She said after a few moments of silence.

Malik smiled slightly, and placed his hand under her chin, lifting her face up towards him. He tilted his head to the other side now, gazing deeply into her turquoise irises.

Jasmine shivered, staring at the soft lavender orbs before her. 'Kiya was right,' She thought. 'He is quite handsome.'

"Hmm," Malik mumbled, releasing her and turning away. "You will be required to wear something a bit more formal for dinner, Jasmine." She shivered as he said her name. "The maids will help you get dressed in the other room, right there." He explained, pointing at the door to his left.

Jasmine nodded, taking in the room's details. A huge bed covered in silky white sheets was in the far right corner, an entry way to the balcony near the head of the bed. On the left side of the room just beyond the door Malik had referred to, was a desk or study of some sort, scriptures and papyrus scattered all across it. She glanced to her right and gasped. A beautiful underground bath or small swimming pool was planted into the floor, cleansing oils and inscence surrounding the borders. This was indeed heaven, but she still felt empty inside.

"Well, what are you waiting for? Go! I've already given the materials to the maids beforehand." Malik said, sitting down at his study.

Jasmine snapped back to reality and made for the door.

"Oh, wait! Before you go, here," Malik said, getting up with a flower in his hand. "It would look perfect in your hair."

She stared at the white flower in his hand, and stayed motionless and he tucked it behind her ear.

"I was right, it suits you perfectly," Malik smiled.

Jasmine blushed and looked down. "Thank you," She replied meekly, leaving through the doorway.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The dinner banquet wasn't much. Jasmine just sat beside Malik, not talking to anyone, but remaining silent like the other woman. So far she did not like the lifestyle at all.

"You've barely had anything to eat. You sure you're not hungry?" Malik asked.

Jasmine nodded, not looking up at him from her hands in her lap.

Malik frowned. 'I wish she would talk to me,' He thought, before turning back to his conversation.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"A bath after dinner is a daily thing. You do not have to join me this day as it is your first. But later on it will be expected of you." Malik explained, taking off his clothes, not looking the least bit uncomfortable.

Jasmine looked away again, sitting on the bed with her knees drawn up and her arms wrapped around her legs. She gazed out the window at the star filled sky, lulled by the sound of water dripping while Malik bathed.

Malik took an oil bottle and emptied some out onto his hand after wetting his hair, studying Jasmine closely. 'She's so shy, so perfect, so... innocent,' He thought gazing at her as she stared out beyond the balcony, sitting on his bed as he lathered the oil in his hair. Malik dipped his head back and closed his eyes, washing it out, leaving himself feeling cleansed and fresh. 'Well, whatever it takes. I shall get to know this girl. Hopefully even break the barrier between us and establish a bond.' He sighed and got out, wrapping a towl around his waist and walking towards her. "You can look now, you know. I'm covered." Malik joked in attempt to catch her interest and be friendly.

Jasmine turned her turquoise eyes up to him unblinkingly, showing no signs of emotion. Her breath however caught in her throat as she gazed upon him. His tanned skin and lean, muscular chest sent hormones raging through her but she fought to control them, looking back out at the balcony.

"You like stars?" Malik asked, getting dressed into his nightwear.

Jasmine merely nodded.

"Me too, they're so mystic sometimes."

She felt Malik settling his weight on the bed beside her, and she tensed.

"Well?" He asked.

"Well, what?" Jasmine replied, panic rising in her at what he might want.

"Are you getting into your nightdress? Or are you just going to sleep in your dinner gown?"

Jasmine let out a sigh of relief. "I don't have a nightdress," She answered.

"Of course you do, over there." Malik said, looking bewildered at her as he pointed to the bench at the foot of the bed.

Jasmine's eyes travelled over to the pure white nightdress. "Oh, um, right. I suppose I'll get changed." She stumbled, getting up to retrieve it.

Malik leaned back, his elbows sinking into the pillows as he studied her with his lavender eyes.

There was an uncomfortable silence, for Jasmine at least. "Um, do you think I could have some privacy, uh... sir?" She asked, unsure of how to address him.

"Please, Jasmine, call me by my name, dear." He smirked.

Jasmine was startled. "Um, can you maybe close your eyes so I can get changed...Malik." She nearly cringed saying the name, but knew she would have to get used to it.

Malik grinned, cocking his head a bit. He loved the way her melodic voice said his name and hope she would say it more often in the future. He closed his eyes.

Jasmine was still a bit uncomfortable, and made sure his eyes were completely closed before she started changing out of her dress and into the nightgown.

Malik squinted his eyes a bit and smiled, watching as the girl finished slipping on the nightdress and adjusted the straps.

"Um... Malik... do you think you could help me?" Jasmine asked timidly.

Malik smiled even more, opening his eyes. "Why of course. Come over here,"

Jasmine approached the bed cautiously and turned around sitting in front of him, moving her hair out of the way.

Malik resisted the urge to caress the timid girl's back and shoulders, he knew that would be a violation of her innocence, and it wasn't time yet. He adjusted the clasp until she said it was fine, then leaned back again.

Jasmine let down her hair and turned to face him. "Thank you,"

He smiled. "No problem at all, Jasmine."

She looked around. "So where do I sleep?" She asked curiously.

Malik stared at her. "Well, right here with me. Did you not know this?"

Jasmine was startled. She had just met this young man! She wasn't really ready to sleep in the same bed as him! But she would have to do what was expected of her, since they had paid their share to own her. Jasmine looked down and shook her head.

"Do not worry. We will not... um... do... anything... until the time is right and you are ready." Malik reassured her.

She merely nodded, not looking at all convinced.

"Well, if it makes you feel better. We can sleep apart from each other." He suggested, desperate to make the girl more comfortable with him. 'What are you doing? Since when did you care? Normally you would have just held her and gone to sleep by now without a care in the world what she thought.'

Jasmine nodded again, not seeing any better option.

Malik took a deep breath. "Well," He said, putting out the candle. "Goodnight, then... Jasmine." Malik lay down and covered the sheets up to his head.

"Goodnight, Malik." Jasmine said, hesitating a bit as she crawled under the sheets. She could still feel the warmth of his body near even though they were apart and it made her tense up a bit. She couldn't sleep, but soon, the lulling sound of Malik's steady breathing helped her drift off to sleep.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Malik woke suddenly in the middle of the night, shifting a bit and turning to his other side. He smiled at the sight that caught his lavender eyes. Jasmine lay on the bed, almost seeming to be hugging a pillow as she rested her head on it. The moonlight cast shadows over her body as her chest rose up and down to her sleepy breathing. He reached out and touched her cheek gently, almost without thinking. She flinched a bit and he quickly withdrew.

"No, mother. It's not time to get up yet. The horse's don't need feeding for another hour." Jasmine mumbled in her sleep.

Malik cocked his head a bit in surprise but smiled, realizing she was having a dream she was back home. He watched and listened to her speaking to an unknown person, but his face creased in concern when she suddenly started writhing, looking distressed.

"No! Leave me alone! Where am I going? NO!" Jasmine jerked awake, sitting upright and breathing heavily.

Malik jumped back in surprise, staring at her with wide eyes. "You all right?" He asked, reaching a hand out to her.

"NO! Get away!" She shrieked in reaction, slapping his arm away. Jasmine screamed, tumbling off the bed, taking some sheets with her.

Malik slowly crept to the side of the bed to peer over the edge. "Jasmine? You alive?"

She groaned and rubbed her head. "Another one of those dreams again. I hope I didn't hurt you." Jasmine said.

Malik shook his head. "I'm more worried about you. What were you dreaming about?"

Jasmine bit her lip. "N-nothing," She replied.

Malik eyed her; he knew what she was dreaming about. It was the day she was taken away from her family. He wished she would just talk to him about it. He wouldn't be offended or anything. He changed the subject instead, remembering he wanted her to feel as comfortable as possible. "How's your head? Dizzy?" Malik asked in concern.

Jasmine shook her head. "Just bumped it." She replied, rubbing the side of her head gingerly.

"Come back on the bed, we can't have you just sitting there." Malik said.

Jasmine climbed back up and pulled the sheets over her body.

He watched her as she flinched, touching the side of her head. "I'll go get you something cold." Malik concluded, swinging his legs to the side of the bed.

"No, you don't have to-."

"You need it." Malik interrupted.

"Now who's the one interrupting?" Jasmine mumbled, miserably.

"What did you say?" Malik asked.

"Nothing," She replied.

He eyed her and then left the room, walking through the dark empty halls towards the kitchen below. 'Why won't she be more open?' Malik thought. 'I'm doing everything I can to make her feel at home!' 'But this isn't her home. It's nothing like it.' Another voice nagged at him. He sighed and looked down. 'I suppose I should just give her time to adjust and hope things change.'

*~*~*~*~*~*

"Here, this should help." Malik said, handing Jasmine a cool piece of meat.

"Thank you," Jasmine said, looking a bit unsure and disgusted as he handed the meat to her. Looking grossed out and feeling as though she might regurgitate, she put it on the side of her head, and it surprisingly cooled the area.

There was silence for a few minutes as Malik watched Jasmine gaze out the window again, drumming her fingers on the bed.

"What was it like?" He asked suddenly, making her jump a bit.

"What was what like?" Jasmine inquired, confused and she turned towards him again.

"Your home. Could you tell me what it was like?"

She just stared at him, too shocked to speak. "You... w-want me to... to tell you about my... home?" Jasmine said, looking as though she thought she had heard wrong.

"Yes. You. Home. Tell me." Malik joked, laughing a bit at her startled expression.

Jasmine smiled for the first time before Malik, putting the piece of meat back down and glancing down at her hands, which were twisting the bed sheets.

"So... will you... please?" He asked after a few moments, glancing where her eyes had travelled to gaze at her soft graceful hands twisting knots into the bed sheets.

Jasmine turned her turquoise eyes up to meet his lavender irises. "Sure, I suppose. What do you want to know?"

"Anything. Tell me what your daily life was like." He suggested.

"Well, it wasn't much. My father owned a horse farm, so all I really did was help take care of them."

Malik cocked an eyebrow. "And... did you have any favourite horses?" He asked, pressing for more information.

"They were all my favourites. But I suppose my horse, Gem, would have stood out above them all. She was an excellent jumper." Jasmine lowered her head. "But... Gem was probably killed in the barn fire when I was kidnapped."

Malik panicked a bit. He didn't want her to be sad! He just wanted a normal conversation. "Well, what about that dapple-grey father brought you here with?" Malik said, acting quickly.

Jasmine frowned. That horse reminded her of her enslavement.

'Oh, Ra, that was a stupid question. Way to make her feel more at home, idiot.' Malik thought. "Oh, uh, never mind that. Tell me about Gem. What breed was she?" He asked, trying to hide his embarrassment.

"She was an Arabian Bay." Jasmine smiled. "She had a white star on her forehead and a snip on her nose. Half of her left hind leg was covered in white, but the rest were dark brown." She laughed at this, tears forming in her eyes. "She looked so strange. But Gem was a sweetheart."

Malik smiled, but it wavered a bit when he realized a tear had rolled down Jasmine's right cheek. "What's wrong?"

Jasmine shook her head, wiping the tear away. "It's stupid. I should not tell you."

"No, please, tell me." Malik pleaded, catching her eye with his desperate lavender orbs.

Jasmine sighed and swallowed, looking away out the window again. "I-I... it just hurts to know I'll never see her again... dead or alive." She closed her eyes.

Malik looked down, her sadness seemed to affect him in a way he'd never known before. He reached out and touched her hand.

Jasmine looked up, feeling the warmth of his hand over hers.

Malik didn't know what to say. "Maybe it's best we get some more sleep." He said tenderly.

She nodded, taking a deep breath and covering herself with the sheets again. Jasmine felt Malik scoot a little closer to her, and froze.

"May I?" Malik asked.

Jasmine didn't reply, her voice seemed to have failed her.

"You are still un comfortable, am I right?"

She nodded and Malik scooted back to his side of the bed. Jasmine turned over on her side to face him from across the bed. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be," Malik replied. "I completely understand. You just need more time to adjust. Now go to sleep."

Jasmine nodded again and smiled. "Goodnight, Malik."

Malik smiled, happy she had said his name. "Goodnight, Jasmine." He watched her close her eyes and slowly drift back off to sleep. 'She's an angel,' He thought, smiling to himself as he closed his eyes to go to sleep himself.

The moonlight poured in brightly through the curtains set over the balcony door and the window, casting gentle shadows over the bed and furniture, and making the water in the bath sparkle. 'Tomorrow should be interesting,' Was Malik's last thought before sleep over took his body and mind; a peaceful sleep with dreams of his angel....

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* *~hontou ni taisetsu na mono igai subete sutte~* (English) (It would be nice if we could put away and throw out) *~shimaetara ii no ni ne~*
(everything except what really mattered, but) *~genjitsu wa tada zankoku de~ * (reality is just cruel)

(First Verse of "Dearest" performed by Ayumi Hamasaki). ***************~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~****************

so what did ya think? I'm open to suggestions and please no flames. I'd really appreciate it if you reviewed and told me what you thought XD Till then, JA NE!!! and have a nice day. ^-^