OTP Naruto Uzumaki and Hinata Hyuuga return, this time in a desert tale of adventure and forbidden love. Inspired by "Forged in the Desert Heat" by Maisey Yates, one of my all-time favorite Harlequin romance novels.

Naruto Uzumaki has been away from home his entire life, exiled for the wrong reasons. He has spent his childhood fighting to clear his name, living in the Sand Lands - and his newest mission is rescuing heiress Hinata Hyuuga from desert bandits. She is engaged to Toneri Oosutsuki, a nobleman of Suna, and therefore she has to be kept hidden safe lest a war be started. But in their time spent together, a forbidden heat burns between them as the sand rises.

Nobody and nothing of Naruto is mine. Not even the novel by Maisey Yates. Also, chapter titles named after TCM channel movies, except one in the future.

Chapter One

Expensive and Dangerous Woman

Jumping down from his horse, he made his way for the camping site. His choice of clothing was designed to be light so he didn't burn up, but also to protect him from sunburns. His face was covered at the bottom so that no one would recognize him - well, not like anyone would harm him here because he was friends with this land's leader who was the youngest they had in years, who was the son of the previous...who had been responsible for the tragedies in his life.

This place is for people like me.

These men were bandits, though half of them were shunned for the wrong reasons. Misunderstood, like he was. They were said to have no heart, but what gave society the right to decide that? What did they know of real desperation? What did they know about being at the wrong place at the wrong time, without taking facts into consideration?

Just like he had been through, and he would have been dead if not for a handful he knew he could trust.

He was on his way back to the capital after being on assignment, but he wouldn't be in Suna directly until tomorrow either at first sunrise or noonday. Which meant he had to pause here for the moment and rest, before pitching camp somewhere out there in the sands. If I get lucky, I'll find an oasis. There are a few of those out here while Suna tries to preserve what precious water it has through its pipes.

These things weren't something he took seriously, but when it involved his friends and their people, he was happy to do anything. And they promised me that they had the information that will definitely clear my name, except that means while many will welcome me back, the rest will close-mindedly sneer. "We'll be fine here, Kurama," he said to the proud, reddish brown steed who nickered. He had the luxury of a desert jeep or something that could tolerate the dry, arid atmosphere and landscapes, but his vehicle had been ravaged and wouldn't be ready until he returned "home" - and no, he didn't mean home by that damned place.

And then that voice surprised him: "Naruto Uzumaki."

"Good to see you, too, Kiba."

The Inuzuka clan once resided where he was from before they migrated out here for reasons he wanted to know, but they didn't trust him enough to divulge, and that was fine, because too much knowing could be dangerous, and he had to learn that the hard way. "You're heading back to the capital, I guess," the young man with wild brunette hair and fang-like ruby markings on his face stated, teeth similar to a canine's. "Glad on my part to really see you, but we also waited because we just received something to fit your means."

Naruto raised an eyebrow. His means involved anything like intel and ramen, as well as precious water. Just the simplest things, but there was also something else which he refused to waste his time over. "What would that be?" he asked.

"Well, let's say that it will take place out here as usual. You understand, right?" Conditional armistice, because you take no chances no matter who you are. The Inuzuka have a conscience like me and my friends, but their kind always thinks of themselves first and foremost. Survival of the fittest, especially when dealing. "You are the mayor's friend, which means you can put an end to our business as soon as you're away. Sorry -" A devious wolfish grin. "- but you know how it goes. But anyway, we have everything at your disposal: horses, but you already have a beauty of your own." He eyed Kurama with a glittering eye. "And no vehicle, either, because it's waiting back with those friends of yours. So...we have something much better then."

It was then that his elder sister, Hana - beautiful, brunette hair sleeked back in her ponytail, cheeks bearing markings like her brother which was actually the symbol of their clan - appeared from behind him, pushing the tent entrance aside, smiling. "I heard everything, little brother. And yeah, Naruto, this is something so rare and precious that can't be given away like a gift." She was the softest and gentlest of the family, always looking out for everyone, so Naruto wasn't stupid to not hint the hesitation which increased his suspicions.

"Let me see for myself and decide," he said, and at the sound of Hana's whistling, two Inuzuka men - rough and fit for bodyguard duty - emerged from where she'd come through, and there was a tiny but beautiful young woman in between them.

She glanced up at him with wide eyes, rimmed with red from crying, but now they were dry - and her irises had no pupil, but a pearlescent perfection, just like the full moon. Her hair was long and dark as midnight, hinted with streaks of lavender. But she didn't appear to be filthy or mistreated; those signs would also be that she'd tried to escape, but they were absent. At least she must have common sense because of her surroundings. She'd be dead meat then, or at least a skeleton with bits of meat clinging. He refrained from cringing at that.

"What do you think, Naruto?" Kiba asked with a whistle. "Might as well be a bride after you settle down back home." You idiot, I have no time right now for a woman. And who the hell would want to be with me because of my history?

"What the hell do you take me for, Inuzuka?" he growled. "I don't waste my time with women, and you know that."

The other man glared back, huffing. "That's your business just like what we do, but I thought you wouldn't just want to leave her out in these deserts. You're not like that at all. Between your homeland and this woman, I'd say the price would be worth it, right, sis?" he asked Hana who sighed and slumped her shoulders.

"Naruto, at least agree to her. Her family could pay handsomely for ransom, but it would deliver a mountain upon all our heads. We have no interests in bringing a war here." The mere word alone was enough to freeze everything - including himself - in the tracks. His heart bounded.

"What do you both mean, war?" His throat felt like it had been parched when it hadn't been long ago since he had his precious cantina to his lips.

Hana nodded somberly. "Yes, the Oosutsuki family. We can't afford to have them infiltrate our desert before they get to Suna. If we believe her ranting, then her name has just given away her affiliation to Toneri Oosutsuki himself."

The Oosutsuki family were one of the oldest in the entirety of the five great nations, though they were minor but influential, and rested between Konoha and Suna. But while Konoha and Suna were on good terms, Kawa - a nation of beautiful wildlife and great rivers - and the desert-ridden Suna were at a breaking point, and it was all thanks to Gaara's father who also ruined Naruto's life. "What's your name?" he asked the girl whose expression didn't change.

"H-Hinata Hyuuga, s-s-sir." Her voice was a soft pitch, clear as water. And when he heard that name, the air could have gotten cold.

Hinata Hyuuga - daughter of the wealthy oil rigger in Konoha. Not only that, but she was engaged to Toneri Oosutsuki. "And why would you drag me into this mess?" Naruto spat at both Kiba and Hana.

Now that made Kiba's leer broader as to show he enjoyed this, attempting to "bargain", but it was so much more, and beneath that, he didn't want the outside to come in and wreck their lands, property and way of life. "Look, Naruto, we either start a war here or end it before it begins. Also, you can just take her, but to threaten us as well? That's one hell of a problem for you, since you'll be pegged with the question as to what you're doing with her in the first place. You'll have a hell of a good time to think about that before you wind up exposing the presence of the bride-to-be of an Oosutsuki."

His hands were tied.

He had just been blackmailed, but it was nothing new. And he had no intentions of leaving the girl here in the inhospitable sandstorms and wilderness. His only choice was to buy her off and then drop her off at the nearest airport, so that everybody was happy. Add that with what little money he had, he couldn't be conned for too high a price on a foreign beauty, and he was the only one who understood the Inuzuka, knew how to deal with them, and intended to have them declared protected. But when he looked into the moonlit eyes of the female - an oil heiress and betrothed of a mayor - Naruto was a bit surprised at the white-hot anger which didn't match the rest of her face.

She might look like she'd been beaten, but she'd saved and stored her energy.

So, Kiba and his clan just wanted her returned unharmed, and they were testing him, Naruto Uzumaki, a wanted criminal from Konoha under the protection of the current mayor of Suna and his siblings. Had they'd touched her in any way, it meant a serious offense against Toneri Oosutsuki and his family as well as Kawa as a whole. That also meant Naruto would have the blame shifted once again to him, on a much worse scale. Sighing with resignation, he offered the money and said that was his last offer.

Thankfully, Kiba only took three quarters of that, and it would be left for water or any precious food if they got lucky on the journey back to Suna.

The girl was handed over to him by one man only, and thrust into Naruto's arms. Her posture was stiff, guarded, and she had not made another sound since telling him her name. She didn't even look him in the eyes, either. "You going to stay for the night, Naruto?" Hana asked now that business was done, making him snort.

"Not even to try her out?" Kiba asked, getting a scowl from his sister as well as a nudge to his ribs. "Ow!"

"War, asshole," Naruto reminded him through his teeth. "Why would I start that just for...trying her out?" To even say those words made his belly and throat tighten. The sooner they got away, the better.

When they were at a safe distance and making way for Kurama, he finally glanced at her again, and those eyes moved in every direction as though looking around to try and calculate. "You're not going to run away now, if that's what you're thinking," he told her. "I'm not going to harm you like those other men."

"...why should I believe that?" she said finally, still refusing to look his way. "And you expect me to ride that horse? They scare me."

Just his luck: a young lady scared of horses. Well, lucky for her, he was an expert and would show her it wasn't as bad as she believed. Maybe she fell off of one as a little girl, or it happened to someone she knew. He picked her up into his arms, right beneath hers, and hauled her over onto the saddle before joining her from behind, her back against the entire front of his body. She didn't even complain. "Sorry you don't like these animals, lady, but I paid close to all of my money to just leave you here. You don't know these lands like I do," he said flatly, making her huff through her nose.

"I was one hell of a good buy, wasn't I?" And he thought he'd end up dealing with a frightened little girl, but she had to be hiding it by trying to be a spitfire. "So, what's your name?" Miss Hyuuga asked him when Kurama carried on trotting through the amber golden sands.

Almost everyone knew him, so he might as well tell her whether she had heard of him or not. "Naruto...Uzumaki. And a pleasure to meet you, Miss Hinata Hyuuga," he said sarcastically, her long onyx hair getting into his face now.

~o~

Night had come now, and no longer was the sun burning her face. Except she hadn't felt it since the time of her capture, making her assume this was what being numb felt like...

...except the sensation of the body of the man behind her. The one who forced her onto the saddle of this animal, making her relive the memory of falling off one when she was a little girl, which had made her father very upset, or maybe her mother moreso. Hanabi loved horses more than she ever would.

This man...Naruto Uzumaki. I heard them talking about him. Said to have killed his parents, but all everyone knew was that he'd been found by their bodies and had run away from Konoha before he could be persecuted. No one knows the solid truth, just suspicions and a still-opened case. I heard that here in Suna, no one cares you're a foreign crook as long as you don't commit crimes on their grounds...

Hinata also heard the guy was a friend of Gaara Sabaku, current mayor of Suna, which was where they were going. His father had been the previous, but while he helped his land prosper, his means were questionable and made enemies of the smaller neighbors - including Kawa. Toneri was especially worried about THAT.

They stopped some time later, and they were still apparently in the middle of the desert. Why would they stop? She'd also be as good as signing her own death warrant if she tried to flee this guy, despite his promise that he wasn't like those other men. Just as the guide warned her when she first went to Kawa, and who would have thought that there would be criminals there who had dealings in this country? Just whisking her from her fiancé's homeland and straight to this hellhole.

She thought she'd been prepared for it all, but being an important figure meant danger in low levels when you least expected it. So much for an escape before her and Toneri's engagement would be announced to the world - and at the cost of something precious to them both, which he gave her last time they met in person.

Just like I was worried about all this time: getting out of line means disaster.

"Why are we stopping?" she asked the man who had most of his face hidden, save for his eyes which she'd seen during the day: broad and blue as the skies, shimmering like water which met it. She still felt uneasy around him, because while those men who abducted her from Kawa and traveled here - which was one of their trade routes, despite current tensions - hadn't so much as left a bruise, she had to keep her guard up around Naruto Uzumaki.

Her skin was tingling; she really needed some treatment as well as sunscreen, or else she'd end up like roasted meat covered with ash. Her lungs felt dry, too, despite having some water before her buyer came along. And he hadn't even been interested in getting her at first. But good God, I have to keep calm. I'll get out of it somehow.

She got down from the horse right after him, thanking God she didn't crumble into ash at the contact. She just let him take her hand and allow her to hop down off that big beast - of course it would take a master horse rider to get her through this ordeal - so after today, the last thing she wanted was getting off on her own due to her body's wobbly state. "We are stopping here for the night after riding for close to seven hours," Uzumaki told her. "If I had my jeep for these sands, it would have been faster, but it's still in repair. And not only that, but the oil prices are ridiculous."

Oil...oh, yes, it was always a major component in her life, being the daughter of an oil tycoon in Konoha. Before her father, her great-grandfather had begun it all, passed it on through the family, so it was all in the blood. She knew all about it herself, but her younger sister had fists made of iron compared to her. Because of her hostess-like personality, Hinata was instead made for marriage as well as being book smart. Her father hadn't demeaned her; he told the truth. It was also because of him that she got entangled and met Toneri Oosutsuki, who also came from a line of executives and had recently been elected mayor.

And because of being engaged to him - and not careful - she'd ended up here in Suna. Fuel in the ground was what started the chaotic road she was on.

In the meantime, until she got the heck out of this sand pit, she thought of Toneri's kind smile, his pearly water-colored eyes and hair soft and white as the clouds. He gave her the butterflies in her stomach and slight heat to her cheeks. Anything to get away from this strange man who had her in his arms after her clumsy tumble off the feet. Quickly, Hinata pushed him away.

Her heart pounded because of the contact, but he was NOT her betrothed. He was the opposite of Toneri in the sense that his equally bright eyes held very little warmth, but at the same time, there was something very intriguing...

The whole story also has paraphrased moments (similar but also different) from the original book. The characters will also have the scenarios, as you have read. :)

I decided to have Toneri and his family come from Kawa (River Country) instead of the moon, and because it rests between Leaf and Sand, according to the geography map on the Naruto Wiki of the Five Great Shinobi Countries.

Review please, and no flames. Lots o lovin' detail, because I am so excited for this story. :D