The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(21) by Susan Mallery
He glanced at the tray taking shape in her hands. “You sculpt me carrying dishes?”
She grinned. “Actually I sculpt you about to drop the dishes you’re carrying.
There’s a difference.”
He made a noise low in his throat, which she knew she should take for displeasure, but there was something about it that made her stomach clench.
Perhaps the noise was too close to desire.
Stop that! She grabbed hold of any wayward emotions and reminded herself she needed to keep things firmly in check. Wanting Murat wasn’t in the rules. It would only make things difficult and awkward. Hadn’t she already had to deal with a broken heart once where he was concerned? Was she really willing to forget that the man held her prisoner and threatened a wedding, regardless of her wishes?
“Why are you here?” she asked as she felt her temper grow and with it her strength to resist him.
“Am I not allowed to come and visit with my bride?”
She rolled her eyes and set down the small tray. Next up she began to form tiny glasses and plates.
“I will take your silence as agreement,” he said.
“You may take it any way you’d like, but you’d be wrong.”
He sighed. “You are most difficult.”
“Tell me about it. Of course you’ve made ‘difficult’ an art form. I’m still little more than a student.”
He ignored that, saying nothing as he walked around her and the sculpture. “You have an energy I haven’t seen before,” he said. “Perhaps you needed this time to relax.”
Perhaps, but she wasn’t about to admit that to him. “Is there a point to your visit or are you simply here to annoy me?”
“You will be visited by someone later.”
“The first of three ghosts?”
He frowned slightly, then his expression cleared. “Are you in need of a visit by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future?”
“No. I’ve always kept the spirit of Christmas in my heart.”
“I am pleased to hear it is so. That will bode well for our children. They will have a festive season to look forward to.”
Her jaw clenched. “Is this where I point out, yet again, that I haven’t agreed to marry you, nor am I likely to?”
“You may if it makes you happy. However, I will not listen. Instead I will inform you that Mr. Peterson is an old and valued member of our staff here. He specializes in coordinating formal state events.”
She got it right away. “Like weddings.”
“Exactly. I would appreciate it if you were polite and cooperative.”
She formed a tiny clay bowl and set it on the tray. “I would appreciate being set free. It seems we are both destined for disappointment.”
Murat moved closer. “Why do you attempt to thwart me?”
“Because I can’t seem to get through to you any other way.” She wiped her hands on the damp towel on her workbench, then turned to face him. “I don’t get it, Murat. What’s in this for you?” She held up her hand. “Spare me the party line about marriage and destiny or whatever. Why on earth are you insisting on marrying a woman who doesn’t want you?”
Her gaze met Murat’s with a familiarity that should have annoyed him, but this was Daphne, and he found himself enjoying most everything she did. Even her challenges.
He smiled as he moved close, crowding her. Daphne, being stubborn and difficult and predictable, didn’t move back. She made it so easy, he thought with pleasure. He liked that about her.
“You claim not to want me,” he murmured as he cupped her head in one hand and bent low to kiss her. “Your body tells me otherwise.”
Then, before she could speak whatever nonsense she had in mind, he brushed his mouth against hers.
She squirmed, but he wove his fingers through her hair to hold her in place.
When she pressed her lips together to resist his claim on her, he chuckled, then raised his free hand to her breast.
Instantly she gasped. He took advantage of her parted lips and swept inside. At the same time, he brushed his thumb against her hard nipple.
She held out against him for the space of a heartbeat before she wrapped her
arms around his neck and surrendered. Her mouth softened against him, her tongue greeted him with an erotic dance, and her entire body melted into his.
Heat exploded between them, and Murat found himself fighting his own desire. He had touched her in an effort to teach her a lesson, but now he was the one being schooled on the power of unfulfilled need.
Her hands clutched at him, pulling him closer. She tilted her head and deepened the kiss, even as she pressed into his hand. He explored her breast and found himself hungering to know the taste of her hot skin.
But that was not for now, he reminded himself as he gathered the strength to step back. He would know her soon enough—once she understood that their marriage was as inevitable as the tide.
“You see,” he said with a calmness he did not feel. “You do want me.”
She shook her head as if to clear her thoughts. Her eyes were large and unfocused, her face flushed.
“There’s a difference between wanting a man in my bed for a couple of weeks and wanting him in my life permanently,” she said, her voice low and angry. “If you were trying to prove a point, I’m not impressed.”
“Your body says otherwise.”
“Fortunately I make my decisions with my brain.”
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