The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(13) by Susan Mallery
“Okay,” she said. “Let’s start from the beginning. You’re not marrying Brittany, which is a good thing.”
He had the gall to smile at her. “Did you really think I would be interested in a teenager for my wife? Bringing Brittany here was entirely my father’s idea. I agreed to meet with her only to make him happy.”
Spots appeared before her eyes. “You what?” No way. That couldn’t be true. “Tell me that again.”
“I never intended to marry Brittany.”
“But you…” She couldn’t breathe. Her chest felt hot and tight and she couldn’t think. “But you said…”
“I wanted to annoy you for assuming the worst about me. Then when you offered yourself in Brittany’s place, I decided to consider the possibility.”
Offer? “I never offered.”
“Oh, but you did. And I accepted.”
“No. You can’t.” She pulled out the chair and sank onto the seat. “I know you’re used to getting your way, but this time it isn’t going to happen. I need to be very clear about that. There isn’t going to be a wedding. You can’t make me, and if you try, you’ll be forced to tie me up and gag me as you drag me down the aisle. Won’t that play well in the press.”
“I do not care about the press.”
She grabbed the paper again. “Then why did you bother telling them this?”
He sat down across from her. “Make no mistake. My mind is made up. We will be married. This announcement has forced you to see the truth. Now you will have time to accept it.”
“What I accept is that you’ve slipped into madness. This isn’t the fifteenth century. You can’t force me to do what you want. This is a free country.” She remembered she wasn’t in America anymore. “Sort of.”
“I am Crown Prince Murat of Bahania. Few would tell me no.”
“Count me among them.”
He leaned back in his chair. “You never disappoint me,” he said. “How I enjoy the explosion. You’re like fireworks.”
She glared at him. “You haven’t seen anything yet. I’ll take this all the way to the White House if I have to.”
“Good. The president will be invited to the wedding. He and I have been friends for many years now.”
At that moment Daphne desperately wished for superpowers so she could overturn the heavy table and toss Murat out the window.
“I’m going to speak slowly,” she said. “So you can understand me.
I…won’t…marry…you. I have a life. Friends. My work.”
“Ah, yes. About your work. I made some phone calls last night and found it most interesting to learn that you have left your veterinary practice in Chicago.”
“That was about making career choices, not marrying you.”
“And you have been very determined to keep me from your niece. Are you sure you do not secretly want me for yourself?”
She rolled her eyes. “How amazing that you and your ego fit inside the room at the same time.” Although her sister had made the same accusation.
It wasn’t true, Daphne reminded herself. Murat was her past, and she was more than content to keep him there. She hadn’t spent the last ten years pining.
She’d dated, been happy. He was a non-event.
“I haven’t thought about you in ages,” she said honestly. “I’m even willing to take an oath. Just bring in the Bible. I wouldn’t be here now if you hadn’t acted all caveman over my niece. This is your fault.”
He nodded. “There is a ring.”
She blinked at him. “What? You want to try to buy me off with jewelry? Thank you very much but I’m not that kind of woman.”
He smiled again. “I know.”
Her rage returned, but before she could decide how to channel it, the phone rang again.
She hesitated before crossing the room to answer it. Was Laurel calling back to yell some more? Daphne had a feeling she was at the end of her rope and not up to taking that particular call. But what if it was Brittany, and her niece really was upset?
“Not possible,” she said as she crossed to the phone and picked it up. “This is Daphne.”
“Darling, we just heard. We’re delighted.”
Her mother’s voice came over the line as clearly as if she’d been in the same room.
Daphne clutched the receiver. “Laurel called?”
“Yes. Oh, darling, how clever you are to have finally snagged Murat. The man who will be king.” Her mother sighed. “I always knew you’d do us proud.”
Daphne didn’t know what to think. She wanted to tell her mother the truth—that there wasn’t going to be a wedding, that this was all a mistake, but she couldn’t seem to speak.
“Your father is simply thrilled,” her mother said. “We’re looking forward to a lovely wedding. Do you have any idea when?”
Her mother laughed. “Of course you don’t. You’ve only just become engaged. Well, let me know as soon as the date is finalized. We’ll need to rearrange some travel, but it will be worth it. Your father can’t wait to walk you down the aisle.”
Daphne turned her back so Murat couldn’t see her expression. She didn’t want him to know how much this conversation hurt.
“Laurel was pretty upset,” she said, not knowing what else to say.
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