The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(5) by Susan Mallery
Murat stared at his father. Anger bubbled inside of him, although he was careful to keep it from showing. He’d spent a lifetime not reacting to anything, and that practice served him well now.
“You misunderstand me, Father,” he said in a low voice. “Brittany Snowden is not here in the palace. She is flying back to America even as we speak.”
The king frowned. “Then who is here?”
Murat cut him off with a quick, “Yes.”
One of the many advantages of being the crown prince was the ability to assert his will on others. Ten years ago, when his former fiancée had left without so much as a note, he’d forbidden any to speak her name. All had obeyed except his father, who did not need to pay attention to the will of the crown prince.
“She attempts to defy me,” Murat said as he walked to the window and leaned against the sill. “She stood there and told me she would not permit me to marry her niece.” He laughed harshly. “As if her desires matter at all to me. I am Crown Prince Murat of Bahania. I determine my fate. No one, especially not a mere woman, dares to instruct me.”
His father nodded. “I see. So you complain that Daphne wants to prevent you from marrying someone whom you did not want to marry in the first place.”
“That is not the point,” Murat told him as he folded his arms across his chest.
“There is a principle at stake. The woman did not respect my position ten years ago and nothing has changed.”
“I can see how that would be difficult,” the king said. “Where is she now?”
Murat glanced down as one of his father’s cats stood on the sofa, stretched, then curled back up and closed its eyes.
“I have offered her a place to stay while this is sorted out,” he said.
“I’m surprised Daphne would want to remain in the palace. She has delivered her message.”
Murat stared at his father. “I did not give her a choice. I had the guards deliver her to the harem.”
Very little startled the king, so Murat enjoyed seeing his father’s mouth drop open with surprise.
“The harem?” the older man repeated.
Murat shrugged. “I had to detain her. Although she has defied me and spoken with disrespect, I was not willing to lock her in the dungeons. The harem is pleasant enough and will hold her until I decide I wish to let her go.”
Although that section of the palace hadn’t been used for its intended purpose for more than sixty years, the rooms themselves were maintained in their original splendor. Daphne would be surrounded by every luxury, except that of her freedom.
“It is her own fault,” he added. “She had no right to interfere and keep her niece from me. Even though I was never interested in Brittany and only agreed to meet with her to please you, Daphne was wrong to try to foil me.”
“I understand completely,” his father said. “What do you intend to do with her now?”
Murat hadn’t done anything but react. He had no plan where she was concerned.
“I do not know,” he admitted.
“Will you order the plane to return Brittany to Bahania?”
“No. I know you wanted me to consider her, but in truth, Father, I could not be less interested.” While Murat accepted that he had to marry and produce heirs, he could not imagine spending the rest of his life with a foolish young wife.
“Perhaps I will keep Daphne for a few days,” Murat said. “To teach her a lesson.”
“In the harem?” his father asked.
“Yes.” He smiled. “She will be most displeased.”
She would argue and fume and call him names. She would continue to defy him.
Despite all that had gone on before—what she had done and what he had yet to forgive—he found himself looking forward to the encounter.
Daphne discovered her luggage in one of the largest bedrooms in the harem. The sleeping quarters consisted of several private rooms, reserved for those in favor with the king, and large dormitory-like rooms with ten or twelve beautiful beds lined up against the thick walls.
She doubted there was any furniture newer than a hundred years old. Handmade rugs covered the tiled floors in the sleeping rooms, while carved and gilded pieces of furniture added to the decor.
She ignored the suitcases and instead walked close to the walls. No one could have come in through the main door to deliver her luggage—she would have seen.
Which meant there was a secret passage and door. The getting in didn’t interest her as much as the getting out.
When a careful exploration of the rough walls didn’t reveal any hidden doorway, she moved to the hall. It had to be somewhere. She felt around furniture and
baseboards, paying particular attention to the inner walls. Still she found nothing.
“I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to keeping checking,” she said aloud as she paused in front of a French door that led to a massive walled garden.
Daphne stepped out into the late-afternoon sun and breathed in the scent of the lush plant life. There were trees and shrubs, tiny flowers and huge birds of paradise. A narrow path led through the garden, while stone benches offered a place to sit and reflect. Fluttering movement caught her attention, and she glanced up in time to see two parrots fly across the open area.
“Their loud cries cover the sound of women’s voices.”
Daphne spun toward the speaker and saw Murat standing behind her. He still wore his suit and his imperious expression. She hated that he was the most handsome man she’d ever met and that, instead of being furious, she actually felt a little tingle of pleasure at seeing him.
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