The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(10) by Susan Mallery
“How about freedom and autonomy?”
“There is power in being desired. The smart women learned that and used it to their advantage. They ruled the ruler.”
“I’ve never been good at subterfuge,” she told him. “Besides, I’m not interested in working behind the scenes. I want to be up front and in the thick of things.
I want to be an equal.”
“That will never be. I am to be king of Bahania, with all the advantages and disadvantages that go with the position.”
Daphne sipped her dessert wine. Disadvantages? She hadn’t thought there could be any. Even if there weren’t, it was a much safer topic than what life would be like in the harem.
“What’s so bad about being the king?” she asked.
“Nothing bad, as you say. Just restrictions. Rules. Responsibilities.”
“Always being in the spotlight,” she said. “Always having to do the right thing.”
“Marrying a teenager you’ve never met can’t be right, Murat, can it?”
His gaze narrowed. “You are persistent.”
“And determined. I love her. I would do anything for her.”
“Even displease me?”
“Apparently,” she said with a shrug. “Are you going to behead me for it?”
“Your casual question tells me you are not in the least bit worried. I will have to do something to convince you of my power.”
“I’m very clear on your power. I just want you to use it for good.” She set down her glass and leaned toward him. “Come on. It’s just the two of us, and I promise never to tell. You can’t have been serious about her. A young girl you’ve never met?”
“Perhaps I wanted a brainless young woman to do my bidding.”
Daphne stiffened. “She’s not brainless. And she wouldn’t have done your bidding.
You’re trying to annoy me on purpose, aren’t you?”
“Is it working?”
“Pretty much.” She sagged back in her chair. “I don’t want you to be like that.
I don’t want you to be the kind of man who would marry Brittany.”
“Do you think I am?”
“I hope not. But even if you are, I won’t let you.”
“You can’t stop me.”
“I’ll do whatever is necessary to stop you.”
His dark eyes twinkled with amusement. “I am Crown Prince Murat of Bahania. Who are you to threaten me?”
Good question. Maybe it was the night and the man, or just the alcohol, but her head was a little fuzzy. There had been a different wine with each course. She’d only taken a sip of each, but those sips added up and muddled her thinking. It was the only explanation for what she said next.
“You’re just some alpha-male dog peeing on every tree to mark his territory.
That’s all Brittany is to you. A tree or a bush.”
As soon as the words were out, she wanted to call them back. Murat stunned her by tossing back his head and roaring with laughter.
Still chuckling, he stood. “Come, we will go for a walk to clear your head. You can tell me all your theories about domesticating men such as me.”
He walked around the table and pulled back her chair. She rose and faced him.
“It’s not a joke. You’re acting like a territorial German shepherd. You could use a little obedience training to keep you in line.”
“I am not the one who needs to stay in line.”
“Are you threatening me?”
As she spoke, she took a step toward him. Unfortunately her feet weren’t getting the right signals from her brain, and she stumbled. He caught her and pulled her against him.
“You speak of domestication, but is that what you want?” he asked. “A trained man would not do this.”
The “this” turned out to be nothing more than his mouth pressing against hers. A kiss. No biggie.
Except the second his lips brushed against hers, every part of her body seemed to go up in flames. Desperate hot need pulsed through her, forcing her to cling to him or collapse at his feet.
They kissed before, she remembered hazily. A lifetime ago. He’d held her tenderly and delighted her with gentle embraces.
But not this time. Now he claimed her with a passion that left her breathless and hungry for more. He wrapped his arms around her, drawing her up against his hard body.
She melted into him, savoring the heat and the strength. When he tilted his head, she did the same and parted her lips before he even asked. He plunged inside, stroking, circling, teasing, making her breath catch and her body weep with desire.
More, she thought as she kissed him back. There had to be more.
But there wasn’t. He straightened, forcing her to consider standing on her own.
She pushed back and found her balance, then struggled to catch her breath.
“Brittany will be in New York by now,” he said.
The sudden change in topic caught her off guard. Weren’t they going to discuss the kiss? Weren’t they going to do it again?
Apparently not. She ordered herself to focus on Brittany. Murat. The wedding that could never be.
“I meant what I said,” he told her. “There will be a Snowden bride.”
“You’ll need to rethink your plan,” she said. “Brittany isn’t going to marry you.”
He stared at her, his dark eyes unreadable. “Are you sure?”
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