The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(6) by Susan Mallery
Betrayed by her hormones, she thought in disgust. While leaving him ten years ago had been completely sensible, it had taken her far too long to stop loving him. Even the pain of knowing he hadn’t cared enough to come after her hadn’t made the recovery any shorter.
“Many of the parrots here are quite old,” he continued. “But there is a single breeding pair that has given us a new generation.”
“You no longer have women in the harem. Why do you keep the parrots?”
He shrugged. “Sometimes there is difficulty in letting go of the old ways. But you are not interested in our traditions. You wish to berate me and tell me what I can and cannot do.” He nodded. “You may begin now if you wish.”
Suspicious of his motives, she studied him. But his dark eyes and chiseled features gave nothing away. Still, that didn’t stop her from wanting to know what was going to happen.
“What are you going to do about Brittany?” she asked.
Like she believed that. “Are you ordering the jet to turn around?”
“No. Despite what you think of me, I will not force my bride to present herself.
She will be here in time.”
Daphne glared at him. “No, she won’t. Brittany isn’t going to marry you.”
He dismissed her with a flick of his hand. “The gardens have grown since you were last here. Do you remember? You were quite enchanted with the idea of the harem and disappointed that we no longer used it for its original purpose.”
“I was not,” she protested. “I think it’s terrible that women were kept locked up for the sole purpose of offering sexual pleasure for the king.”
He smiled. “So you say now. But I distinctly recall how you found the idea exciting. You asked endless questions.”
Daphne felt heat on her cheeks. Okay, maybe she had been a little interested in the workings of the harem. Ten years ago she’d been all of twenty and a virtual innocent in the ways of the world. Everything about the palace had intrigued her. Especially Murat.
“I’m over it now,” she said. “How long do you intend to keep me here?”
“I have not yet decided.”
“My family will come to my rescue. You must know they have substantial political power.”
He didn’t seem the least bit intimidated by the threat.
“What I know,” he said, “is that their ambitions have not changed. They still wish for a Snowden female to marry royalty.”
She couldn’t argue that. First her parents had pushed her at Murat, and now her own sister pushed Brittany.
“I’m not like them,” she said.
“How true.” He glanced at his watch. “Dinner is at seven. Please dress appropriately.”
She laughed. “And if I don’t want to have dinner with you?”
He raised one eyebrow. “The choice has never been yours, Daphne. When will you finally learn that? Besides, you do want to dine with me. You have many questions. I see them in your eyes.”
With that he turned and left.
“Annoying man,” she muttered when she was alone again. Worse, he was right. She had questions—lots of them. And a burning desire to deal with the unfinished business between them.
As for the man himself…time had changed him, but it had not erased her interest in the only man she had ever loved.
Daphne stood in front of her open suitcase and stared down at the contents.
While a part of her wanted to ignore Murat’s demand that she “dress appropriately” for their dinner, another part of her liked the idea of looking so fabulous that she would leave him speechless. It was a battle between principles and beauty and she already knew which would win.
After sorting through the contents of her luggage, she withdrew a simple sleeveless dress and carried it into the bathroom. She would let it hang in the steam while she showered. She plugged in the electric curlers she’d already unpacked, then pinned up her hair and stepped into the shower.
Fifteen minutes later she emerged all cleaned and buffed and smoothed. The bath towels provided were big enough to carpet an entire room. An array of cosmetics and skin-care products filled the cabinets by the huge mirror and vanity.
Everywhere she looked she saw marble, gold, carved wood or beveled glass. How many women had stood in front of this mirror and prepared to meet a member of the royal family? What kind of stories had these walls witnessed? How much laughter? How many tears? Under other circumstances she could enjoy her stay in this historical part of the palace.
“Who am I kidding?” she murmured as she unpinned her hair and brushed it out.
“I’m enjoying it now.”
She’d always loved Bahania and the palace. Murat had been the problem.
He hadn’t been that way in the beginning. He’d been charming and intriguing and exactly the kind of man she’d always wanted to meet. As she reached for the first hot curler, she remembered that party she’d attended in Spain where they had first met.
Traveling through Europe the summer between her sophomore and junior year of college had meant doing her best to avoid all her parents’ upper-class and political friends. But in Barcelona, Daphne had finally caved to her mother’s insistence that she accept an invitation to a cocktail party for some ambassador or prime minister or something. She’d been bored and ready to leave after ten minutes. But then, on a stone balcony with a perfect view of the sunset, she’d met a man.
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