The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(1) by Susan Mallery
“I know marrying the crown prince and eventually being queen sounds terrific,”
Daphne Snowden said in what she hoped was a calm I’m-your-aunt-who-loves-you-and-I-know-better voice instead of a shrill, panicked tone. “But the truth of the matter is very different. You’ve never met Prince Murat. He’s a difficult and stubborn man.”
Daphne knew this from personal experience. “He’s also nearly twice your age.”
Brittany looked up from the fashion magazine she’d been scanning. “You worry too much,” she said. “Relax, Aunt Daphne. I’ll be fine.”
Fine? Fine? Daphne sank back into the comfortable leather seat of the luxury private jet and tried not to scream. This could not be happening. It was a dream. It had to be. She refused to believe that her favorite—and only—niece had agreed to marry a man she’d never met. Prince or no prince, this could be a disaster. Despite the fact that she and Brittany had been having the same series of conversations for nearly three weeks now, she felt compelled to make all her points again.
“I want you to be happy,” Daphne said. “I love you.”
Brittany, a tall willowy blonde with delicately pretty features in the tradition of the Snowden women, smiled. “I love you, too, and you’re worrying about nothing. I know Murat is, like, really old.”
Daphne pressed her lips together and tried not to wince. She knew that to an eighteen-year-old, thirty-five was practically geriatric, but it was only five years beyond her own thirty years.
“But he’s pretty cute,” her niece added. “And rich. I’ll get to travel and live in a palace.” She put down the magazine and stuck out her feet. “Do you think I should have gone with the other sandals instead of these?”
Daphne held in a shriek. “I don’t care about your shoes. I’m talking about your life here. Being married to the crown prince means you won’t get to spend your day shopping. You’ll have responsibilities for the welfare of the people of Bahania. You’ll have to entertain visiting dignitaries and support charities.
You’ll be expected to produce children.”
Brittany nodded. “I figured that part out. The parties will be great. I can invite all my friends, and we’ll talk about, like, what the guy who runs France is wearing.”
“And the baby part?”
Brittany shrugged. “If he’s old, he probably knows what he’s doing. My friend Deanna had sex with her college boyfriend and she said it was totally better than with her boyfriend in high school. Experience counts.”
Daphne wanted to shake Brittany. She knew from dozens of after-midnight conversations, when her niece had spent the night, that Brittany had never been intimate with any of her boyfriends. Brittany had been very careful not to let things go too far. So what had changed? Daphne couldn’t believe that the child she’d loved from birth and had practically raised, could have turned into this shallow, unfeeling young woman.
She glanced at her watch and knew that time was running short. Once they landed and reached the palace, there would be no turning back. One Snowden bride-to-be had already left Murat practically at the altar. She had a feeling that Brittany wouldn’t be given the opportunity to bolt.
“What was your mother thinking?” she asked, more to herself than Brittany. “Why did she agree?”
“Mom thought it would be completely cool,” Brittany said easily. “I think she’s hoping there will be some amazing jewelry for the mother of the bride. Plus me marrying a prince beats out Aunt Grace’s piggy Justin getting into Harvard any day, right?”
Daphne nodded without speaking. Some families were competitive about sports while others kept score using social status and money. In her family it was all about power—political or otherwise. One of her sisters had married a senator who planned to run for president, the other married a captain of industry. She had been the only sibling to pick another path.
She scooted to the edge of her seat and took Brittany’s perfectly manicured hands into her own.
“You have to listen,” she said earnestly. “I love you more than I’ve ever loved another human being in my life. You’re practically my daughter.”
Brittany’s expression softened. “I love you, too. You know you’ve been there for me way more than my own mother.”
“Then, please, please, think this through. You’re young and smart and you can have anything you want in the world. Why would you be willing to tie yourself to a man you’ve never met in a country you’ve never visited? What if you hate Bahania?”
Daphne didn’t think that was possible—personally she loved the desert country—but at this point she was done playing fair.
“Travel isn’t going to be what you think,” Daphne continued before Brittany could interrupt. “Any visits will be state events. They’ll be planned and photographed. Once you agree to marry the prince you’ll never be able to just run over and see a girlfriend or head to the mall or the movies.”
Brittany stared at her. “What do you mean I can’t go to the mall?”
Daphne blinked. Was this progress at last? “You’ll be the future queen. You won’t be able to rush off and buy a last-minute cashmere sweater just because it’s on sale.”
Daphne sighed. “I’ve been trying to explain this to you. You won’t get to be your own person anymore. You’ll be living a life in a foreign country with unfamiliar rules and expectations. You will have to adhere to them.”
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