The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(20) by Susan Mallery
“Do not cry,” he murmured. “I offer you the world.”
“I only want my freedom.”
“To do what? To give shots to overweight dogs and cats? Here you can make a difference. Here you will be a part of history. Your children and grandchildren will rule this land.”
“It’s not enough.”
He growled low in his throat. Had she always been this stubborn? Was she trying to punish him for what had happened before? All right. Perhaps he could give a little on that point.
“Why did you leave me?” he asked. “Before. Ten years ago. Why did you go?”
Her shoulders slumped again, and the pain returned to her eyes. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Yes, it does. I wish to know.”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“Then explain it to me. I am very intelligent.”
“Not about me.” She swallowed. “Murat, you have to let me go.”
Instead of answering her statement, he stepped forward and kissed her. He caught her by surprise—he could tell by the sudden intake of air and the way she hesitated before responding. But instead of retreating, he settled his hand on her hip and the back of her neck and brushed his tongue against her lower lip.
She parted instantly. As he swept inside he felt the heat flaring between them.
Wanting poured through him, making it difficult to hold back when he wanted to rip off her clothing and claim her right there on the bench.
Instead he continued to kiss her, moving slowly, retreating, pulling back until she was the one to grab him and deepen the embrace. When he finally straightened, she looked as aroused as he felt.
“You see,” he said, “there is much between us. We will take the time to get to know each other better. That will make you comfortable with the thought of our marriage.”
“Don’t bet on it,” she said, but her swollen mouth and passion-filled eyes betrayed her.
Murat brushed her cheek with his fingers, then walked out of the harem. Victory was at hand. He would wear away Daphne’s defenses until she understood that their marriage was inevitable. Then she would acquiesce and they would be wed.
She would love him and be happy and he…
He stepped through the gold doors and into the hallway. He would return to his regular life, content, but untouched by the experience.
Daphne rolled the cool clay in her hands until the combination of heat from her skin and the friction of the action caused the thick rope to yield to her will.
She tore off a piece of clay and pressed it flat, then added it to the sculpture in progress.
The half-finished project had finally begun to take shape. There was a sense of movement in the way the man leaned too far to the right. His body was still a squarish lump, but she knew how she would slice away the excess clay and mold what was left. The head would follow, with the arms and the tray of dishes to come last. The tray that would be on the verge of tumbling to the ground.
Around her, the garden vibrated with life. She heard the chatter of the parrots and the rustle of small creatures hiding in the thick foliage. Several of the king’s cats stretched out in the sun, the slow rise and fall of their chests the only sign of life.
As far as prisons went, this wasn’t a bad one, Daphne told herself, as she picked up another clump of clay. Not that she had a whole lot of experience with which to compare. She’d never been held against her will before. Still, if one had to be, the Bahania harem was the place.
She couldn’t complain about the service, either. Delicious meals appeared whenever she requested them. Her large bed was plenty comfortable, and the bathroom was so luxurious that it bordered on sinful. Still, none of these pleasures made up for the fact that she had been confined against her will with the threat of marriage to Murat hanging over her head.
He had spoken of getting to know each other, but she wasn’t so sure that was a good idea. Men like him didn’t make a habit of letting just anyone see the inner person, and she doubted their engagement gave her extra privileges in that area.
Which left her with the distinct impression that his request had been a lot more about giving himself time to convince her that this was a good idea than any desire he had to share his feelings.
Even more annoying was the fact that a part of her was interested in learning more about the man. Life was never easy when the one who got away was a future king.
She picked up a sharp piece of wood that was part knife, part chisel and went to work on the torso of the sculpture. When the rough shape was correct, she added features to the head, creating a face that was a fair representation of the man in question. A smile pulled at her mouth. She only had to complete the arms and the tray.
“Men have died for less.”
Daphne heard the voice about the same time the sound of footsteps entered her consciousness. She’d been so focused on her work that she hadn’t been paying attention. Now she pressed clay into the shape of a tray and did her best not to react to Murat’s nearness.
“I thought there was artistic freedom here in Bahania,” she said, not looking up from her clay.
“Most artists are too intelligent to mock me.”
Daphne spared him a glance. As always he wore a suit, although this time he’d left the jacket behind. The crisp white shirt he wore contrasted with his dark skin. He’d rolled the sleeves up to the elbow, and she found the sight of his bare forearms oddly erotic.
Sheesh. She really had to get out more.
“My intelligence has never been an issue,” she said. “Do you doubt it now?”
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