The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(18) by Susan Mallery
“It’s pride,” Emma said. “They have too much of it. It’s a sheik thing. Or maybe a royal thing.”
“I’m not sure what pride has to do with it.”
Cleo shrugged. “You have to look at it from his point of view. He offered you everything, and you walked away. That had to have tweaked his tail just a little. Tweaked princes don’t go running after women.”
“Mere women,” Billie said in a stern voice. “You are a mere woman.”
Emma grinned. “The princes are so cute when they’re all imperious.”
Daphne felt as if she’d just sat down with the crazy family. “What are you talking about?”
“That you can’t judge Murat’s feelings for you solely on whether or not he came running after you when you left,” Cleo said. “He’s the crown prince and has that ego thing going on even more than his brothers. It’s possible that in that twisted ‘I’m the man’ brain of his, he thought it would show too much weakness.”
“But if he’d cared…”
“It’s not about caring,” Emma said. “You’re looking at the situation logically, and like a woman. Reyhan loved me and yet he ignored me for years. His pride wouldn’t let him talk to someone he thought had rejected him, let alone admit his feelings. Murat could be the same way.”
Daphne thought about all the women he’d seen over the past decade. “I don’t think he’s actually been doing a lot of suffering.”
“Maybe not,” Cleo said. “But it’s something to think about. If he matters at all.”
Just then the gold doors opened and several servants entered with carts.
Billie smiled. “Did we mention we’d brought lunch?”
The women gathered around the dining room table and enjoyed the delicious food.
Conversation shifted from Daphne and her situation to how each of them had met their husbands, then to shopping and the best place to get really gorgeous, if uncomfortable, shoes. They left a little after three.
Daphne closed the door behind them, then retreated to the sofa in front of the garden window. Despite everything, she’d had a nice day. Had her engagement to Murat been real, she would have been delighted to know that these women would be a part of her life.
But it wasn’t real, and their theory that Murat’s pride had kept him from holding on to her was nice to think about but was not in any way true.
“Not that it matters now,” she whispered. Somehow she’d managed to get over him.
At least she didn’t have to worry about that now. Her feelings weren’t engaged and her heart was firmly out of reach. She was going to make sure things stayed that way.
Daphne planned a quiet remainder of the day. She assumed Murat wouldn’t come back to torment her until the morning, and she was partially right. Around four the gold doors opened again, but instead of the crown prince, she saw the king.
“Your Majesty,” she said, coming to her feet before dropping into a low curtsy.
Murat’s father walked toward her and held out both his hands. He captured hers and kissed her knuckles. “How lovely to have you back in Bahania.” The handsome older man chuckled. “Most young women today don’t know the first thing about a good curtsy, but you’ve always had style.”
“I had several years of training in etiquette. Some of it had to rub off,” she said with a smile. While she might not be excited about what Murat was up to, she couldn’t help being pleased at seeing the king. He had always been very kind to her, especially when she’d been young, in love and terrified.
“Come,” King Hassan said as he led her to the cluster of sofas. “Tell me everything. You and your family are well?”
“Everyone is great.” Except for Laurel who was furious about Brittany not marrying Murat. “They send their best.” Or they would have if they’d known she would be speaking with the king.
“I’m sure they’re very excited about what has happened.”
Her good mood slipped. “Yes. My parents are delighted.”
King Hassan had to be close to sixty, but he looked much younger. There was an air of strength about him. Authority and determination. No doubt that came from a royal lineage that stretched back over a thousand years. He was considered one of the most forward-thinking leaders in the world. A king who earned his people’s respect through his actions and loyalty to his country.
Murat would be equally as excellent a leader, Daphne thought. He’d been born to the position and had never once stumbled. Which made him admirable, but not someone she wanted to marry.
“My son sends you a surprise,” the king said as the gold doors opened again.
Servants appeared with the carts they seemed to favor. But this time instead of food they brought clay and sculpting tools.
Her fingers instantly itched for the feel of clay, while the cynical part of her brain wondered if he thought he could bribe her with her hobby.
“You must thank him for me,” she said as the servants bowed and left.
“You can thank him yourself. He’ll be by later.”
Oh, joy, she thought as she smiled politely.
“You are aware of the date,” King Hassan said.
Daphne blinked at him. “Today’s date?”
“No. That the wedding date has been set. It is in four months. The challenge will be to get everything done in such a short period of time, but I am sure that with the right staff, we will be successful.”
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