The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(9) by Susan Mallery
“I will be sure to pass along your offer. Chicago is very different from Bahania.”
“I agree. For one thing, there aren’t any words to describe how cold that wind can be in the winter.”
“We have no such discomfort here.”
That was true. The weather in paradise was pretty darned good.
“You’re not very close to your family,” he said.
Daphne nearly spilled her champagne. Okay, so it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that she didn’t fit in with the “real” Snowdens, but she was surprised Murat would say something like that so blatantly. After all…
The light went on in her head. “You mean I live far away,” she said.
“Yes. They are all on the East Coast. Is that the reason you chose to settle in Chicago?”
“Part of it,” she admitted. “I handle the constant disapproval better from a distance.”
“Aren’t your parents proud of what you have accomplished?”
“Not really. They keep waiting for me to wake up and get engaged to a senator.
I’m resisting the impulse.”
She spoke with a casualness, as if her family’s expectations didn’t matter, but Murat saw the truth in her blue eyes.
Pain, he thought. Pain from disappointing them, pain from not being accepted for who and what she was. Daphne had always been stubborn and determined and proud.
From what he could see, little had changed about that.
Her appearance had been altered, though. Her face was thinner, her features more defined. Whereas at twenty she had held the promise of great beauty, now she fulfilled it. There was an air of confidence about her he liked.
She leaned forward. “I’ve spent the past couple of years studying pet psychology.”
“I have not heard of that.”
She smiled again, her full lips curving upward as if she were about to share a delicious private joke. “You’d appreciate it. The field is growing rapidly.
We’re interested in why animals act the way they do. What set of circumstances combine with their personality to make them act aggressively or chew furniture or not accept a new baby. That sort of thing.”
He couldn’t believe such information existed. “This is what you are doing now?”
“I’m getting into it. I’ve learned some interesting things about dealing with alpha males.” She tilted her head. “Maybe I could use the techniques to tame you.”
“Neither of us is interested in me being tame.”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
“You’re certainly sure of yourself.”
“The privilege of being the alpha male.”
She continued to study him. Awareness crackled between them. He could smell the faint scent of the soap she’d used and some other subtle fragrance he associated only with her.
Wanting coiled low in his gut, surprising him with both its presence and its intensity. After all this time? He’d always wondered what he would feel if he saw her again, but somehow he’d never expected to have a strong need to touch her, explore her, take her.
He wanted to lead her into one of the many harem bedrooms and make her shudder beneath him. Funny how so much time had passed and the desire hadn’t gone away.
“You’re looking very predatory,” she said. “What are you thinking?”
“I was wondering about your art. Do you still make time to do your sculptures?”
She hesitated, as if she didn’t quite believe that was what he’d been thinking, then she answered.
“I still love it, but time is always an issue.”
“Perhaps I should provide you with clay while you are here. You can indulge your passion.”
“How long do you intend to keep me in the harem?”
“I have not yet decided.”
“So we really do need to talk about Brittany.”
Just then the large golden doors opened and several servants walked in pushing carts.
“Dinner,” he said, rising to his feet.
“If I didn’t know better, I would say you did that on purpose.”
He smiled. “Even I can’t command my staff with just a thought.”
“Why do I know you’re working on it?”
“I have no idea.”
Murat had left the menu up to his head chef, and he was not disappointed with the meal. Neither was Daphne, he thought as she ran her fork across the remaining crumbs of chocolate from the torte served for dessert.
“Amazing,” she breathed. “I could blow up like a beached whale if I lived here for too long.”
“Not every meal is so very formal,” he said, enjoying her pleasure in the food.
“Good thing. I’ll have to do about fifty laps in the garden tomorrow.” She picked up her wine and eyed him over the glass. “Unless you plan on cutting me loose sometime soon.”
“Are we back to that?”
“We are. Murat, I’m serious. You can’t keep me here forever.”
“Perhaps I wish to resume the traditional use of these rooms.”
He held in a smile as her eyes widened. “You are so kidding,” she said, although she didn’t sound quite sure of herself. “I’m not going to volunteer.”
“Few women did at first, even though it was a great honor. But in time they came to enjoy their lives. Luxury, pleasure. What more could you want?”
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