The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(7) by Susan Mallery
He’d been tall, handsome and he’d made her laugh when he’d confessed that he needed her help—that he was hiding from the far-too-amorous youngest daughter of their host.
“When she comes upstairs looking for me, I’ll hide under the table and you will send her away,” he said. “Will you do that for me?”
He stared at her with eyes as dark as midnight. At that second her stomach had flipped over, her cheeks had flushed and she would have followed him to the ends of the earth.
He’d spent the entire evening with her, escorting her to dinner and then dancing with her under the stars. They’d talked of books and movies, of childhood fantasies and grown-up dreams. And when he’d walked her back to her hotel and kissed her, she’d known that she was in danger of falling for him.
He hadn’t told her who he was until their third date. At first she’d been nervous—after all, even she had never met a prince—but then she realized that for once being a Snowden was a good thing. She’d been raised to be the wife of a president, or even a prince.
“Come back with me,” he’d pleaded when he had to return to Bahania. “Come see my country, meet my people. Let them discover how delightful you are, as I have.”
It wasn’t a declaration of love—she saw that now. But at twenty, it had been enough. She’d abandoned the rest of her tour and had flown with him to Bahania, where she’d stayed at the fabled PinkPalace and had fallen deeply in love with both Murat and every part of his world.
Daphne finished applying her makeup, then unwrapped the towel and stepped into her lingerie. Next she took out the curlers and carefully finger-combed her hair before bending over and spraying the underside. She flipped her hair back and applied more hairspray before finally stepping into her dress.
The silk skimmed over her body to fall just above her knees. She stepped into high-heeled sandals, then stared at her reflection.
Daphne knew she looked tired. No doubt her mother could find several items to criticize. But what would Murat think? How was the woman different from the girl? Ten years ago she’d loved him with a devotion that had bordered on mindlessness. The only thing that could have forced her to leave was the one thing that had—the realization that he didn’t love her back.
“Don’t go there,” she told herself as she turned away from the mirror and made her way out of the bathroom.
Maybe if she arrived at the main rooms early, she could see where the secret door was as the staff arrived with dinner. She had a feeling that Murat would not be letting her out of the harem anytime soon—certainly not for meals. Which meant meals would have to come to her.
But as she stepped into the large salon overlooking the gardens, she saw she was too late. A small cart with drinks stood in the center of the room, but even more interesting than that was the man waiting by the French doors.
She’d been thinking about him while getting ready, so seeing him now made her feel as if she’d stepped into an alternative universe—one where she could summon handsome princes at will.
He turned toward her and smiled.
“You are early,” he said.
“I’d hoped to catch the staff delivering dinner.”
One dark eyebrow rose. “I fail to see the excitement of watching them come in and out of the door.”
“You’re right. If they’re using the door, it’s not exciting at all. But if they were to use the secret passage…”
His smile widened. “Ah. You seek to escape. But it will not be so easy. You forget we have a tradition of holding beautiful women captive. If they were able to find their way from the palace, we would be thought of as fools.”
“Is that your way of saying you’ll make sure I don’t find the secret passage?”
He walked toward the drinks cart. “No. It is my way of saying that it is impossible to open the door from this side. Only someone outside the harem can work the latch.”
He held up a bottle of champagne and she nodded.
“I suppose that information shouldn’t surprise me,” she told him. “So there really is no escape?”
“Why would you want there to be?”
He popped the bottle expertly, then poured two glasses.
“I don’t take well to being someone’s prisoner,” she said as she took the glass he offered.
“But this is paradise.”
“Want to trade?”
Amusement brightened his eyes. “I see you have not changed. Ten years ago you spoke your mind and you still do today.”
“You mean I haven’t learned my place?”
“I like to think my place is wherever I want it to be.”
“How like a woman.” He held up his glass. “A toast to our mutual past, and what the future will bring.”
She thought about Brittany, who would be landing in New York shortly. “How about to our separate lives?”
“Not so very separate. We could be family soon.”
“I don’t think so. You’re not marrying—”
“To the beauty of the Snowden women,” he said, cutting her off. “Come, Daphne.
Drink with me. We will leave our discussion of less pleasant matters to another day.”
“Fine.” The longer they talked about other things, the more time her niece had to get safely home. “To Bahania.”
“At last something we can agree upon.”
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