The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(17) by Susan Mallery
Daphne hated to burst their bubble, but she wouldn’t pretend to be something she wasn’t. “Murat and I haven’t found anything. I don’t know why he announced we’re engaged, because we’re not. And there isn’t going to be a wedding.”
The three women looked at each other, then at her.
“That changes things,” Cleo said brightly.
Daphne smoothed the hem of her skirt. “I know it sounds terrible.”
“Not at all,” Emma said.
“Sort of,” Billie said.
Daphne couldn’t help smiling. “You guys are great.”
“Thanks,” Cleo said, preening a little. “I like to think we’re pretty special.”
Daphne chuckled for a second, then sobered as she thought about her impossible situation. “My family is big into politics and power,” she said. “Years ago I was traveling through Europe during a summer break from college and I met Murat.
I didn’t know who he was and we hit it off. When he invited me back here, I was stunned to find out I’d been dating the crown prince.”
“I know that feeling,” Emma said. “Reyhan isn’t going to be king, but he’s still royal. I had no idea.”
Billie put her arm around Emma. “She’s our innocent.”
Daphne sighed. “Then you can imagine my shock. Before I knew what had happened, we were engaged and everything was moving so quickly.”
Billie frowned. “Were engaged. Obviously you didn’t get married.”
“I think I remember reading about that,” Billie said. “Ten years ago I was a serious tabloid junkie.”
“You still read the tabloids,” Cleo said.
“Yeah, and then you steal them from me.”
“Ladies,” Emma said, holding up her hand to stop their bickering. “I believe Daphne was talking.”
Cleo smiled at her. “Go on, Daphne.”
“There’s not much else to say. Things didn’t work out and I left. My family was furious and didn’t speak to me for ages. Eventually we patched things up.” Sort of. Her mother had never really forgiven her for not marrying a future king.
“Then a few weeks ago my niece, who is barely eighteen, told me that she was flying over to meet Murat and get engaged.”
Billie raised her eyebrows. “What? That doesn’t sound right.”
“I agree,” Cleo said. “Murat can be all formal with his ‘I’m the crown prince’ but he’s never been into silly young women.” She winced. “Sorry. Not that your niece is silly or anything.”
“I know what you mean,” Daphne said. “She’s still a kid in so many ways. She’s only had a couple of boyfriends and none of them were serious. Murat is nearly twice her age. I was determined to talk her out of it, which I did, just in the nick of time. We were flying here when she suddenly realized she was making a huge mistake. So she went back to the States, and I stayed to tell Murat there wasn’t going to be an engagement. The next thing I knew I was locked in the harem and he was announcing our engagement in the papers.”
Emma sighed. “That’s so romantic.”
Cleo and Billie looked at her. “That’s kidnapping,” Cleo said.
“Well, maybe technically, but he must really love her.”
Daphne shook her head. “I hate to burst your bubble, but Murat doesn’t love me.
It’s been ten years. He doesn’t even know me anymore.”
“So why the sudden engagement?” Billie asked.
“I have no idea,” Daphne told her.
“He has to have a reason,” Cleo said. “Men always do things for a reason. Has he been pining for you all these years?”
“Gee, let’s count the number of women he’s been out with in that time,” Daphne said humorously. “I’m going to guess it’s around a hundred or so.”
“But he wasn’t serious about any of them.”
Emma scooted forward in her seat. “If it’s not too personal, why did you leave last time?”
Good question. “There were a lot of reasons. Things moved so quickly—I didn’t get a chance to figure out if this was the life I wanted before I found myself engaged. When reality set in, I panicked.”
“But you loved him,” Billie said. “Didn’t you?”
“As much as I could at the time.” Daphne thought back to how brightly her feelings had burned. “I was pretty innocent, and Murat was the first guy I’d been serious about. I’m not sure I knew what love was. We were so different.”
Although getting over him had taken what felt like a lifetime. She still had scars.
Cleo smiled at her. “Ah, to be that young again. Wouldn’t you like to go back in time and talk to that Daphne?”
“I don’t know what I would say to her.”
“Would you tell her to stay?” Cleo asked.
“Why not?” Emma asked. “Are we getting too personal? Does this feel like an interrogation?”
“I’m okay,” Daphne told her. “And I wouldn’t have told her to stay because I know what happened after. Murat didn’t love her…me. He didn’t bother to come after me. Not a phone call or a letter. He never cared enough to find out why I’d left.”
She expected the three princesses to look shocked. Instead Cleo sighed, Billie shook her head, and Emma’s expression turned sad.
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