The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(34) by Susan Mallery
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “We’re thrilled.”
Her father had picked up the extension. “You did good, baby girl.”
Tears burned in Daphne’s eyes. Funny how until this moment, she’d never heard those words from her father before. Apparently she’d never “done good” until she’d been trapped in marriage to a man she didn’t love.
Her mother sniffed. “We would have liked a big wedding, but this is fine, too. I read that there will be a huge reception in a few months, so as soon as you have the dates, let us know. We’ll need to make arrangements to fly over. Oh, darling, I’m so happy for you. Are you happy? Isn’t this fabulous? And just think—in a year or so, we’ll hear the pitter patter of a little prince or princess. Oh, Daphne. You’ve made us so proud.”
Her mother kept on talking while her father added his few comments, but Daphne wasn’t listening anymore. Instead she stared blankly out a window as a horrible, stomach-dropping thought occurred to her.
She and Murat had made love without protection. Right there in the oasis, she’d let him take her to paradise and back never once considering the consequences.
She could be pregnant.
“I have to go,” she said, and listened as they told her of course they understood. A woman in her position had responsibilities and they would talk soon.
She hung up and tried to shake off her daze.
Pregnant. Oh, God. If that was true…She knew enough about Bahanian law to know that no royal child was ever allowed to leave the country in the case of a divorce. Which meant if she had a baby, she would be forced to stay here forever. Abandoning her child wasn’t an option.
“It was just one time,” she told herself as she hurried back to the harem. She couldn’t get pregnant that easily, could she?
As she stepped off the elevator, she saw another young woman in a maid’s uniform sitting in a straight-back chair by the gold harem doors. When the woman saw her, she rose.
“Your Highness, I was asked to wait until you returned. It is my honor to show you to your new quarters.”
Daphne’s headache had returned. “New quarters?” Oh. “With the crown prince.”
The young woman beamed. “Yes. If you will follow me.”
She didn’t want to. She wanted to sit down right there and never move again.
“My things?” she asked.
“Have been sent ahead.”
Of course. Murat would want the details taken care of so she couldn’t put up a fuss.
“Very well,” she said, wanting only to find a quiet place and close her eyes until the pain went away. Not just the pain from her head, either, but the aching in her heart.
She allowed the woman to lead her to the elevator, then through a maze of hallways, with them finally stopping in front of a large, carved wooden door.
The maid opened it and Daphne stepped inside.
Her first impression was of openness and light. Massive windows and French doors led onto a private balcony with what seemed to be a view of the world. It was only after she’d stared at the vastness of the city and the water did she realize they were at the very top of the palace, on the corner.
To the left was the Arabian Sea, twinkling blue and teal and green in the sunlight. To the right was the skyline of the city. And beyond it all, the desert stretched for miles, compelling in its starkness.
When she returned her attention from the view to the room, she saw comfortable furniture, an impressive collection of artwork and a space big enough to roller blade in. Doors led to other rooms. Most likely a dining area, a bedroom and an office, in case the crown prince wanted to work from “home.” Because she had no doubt she had been brought to Murat’s suite of rooms. Where else would his wife live?
Her heart ached, her legs felt as if they would give way at any moment and her head throbbed. She thanked the maid and made her way to what she hoped was the bedroom. Unfortunately, when she stepped inside, she found she was not alone.
Murat sat in a chair in the corner. Waiting? She wasn’t sure. She ignored him as she made her way to the huge bed and crawled onto the mattress.
“You are ill,” he said as he jumped to his feet. “I will call the doctor.”
“I’m fine,” she told him. “Just tired. Please, leave me alone.”
She turned away, curling up on the embroidered bedspread and doing her best not to give in to the tears. Not again. There had been too many over the past few days.
But the strain was too much and the first tear leaked out of the corner of her eye. She did her best to hide it, but somehow Murat knew. He sat on the bed and gathered her in his arms.
“It is all right,” he said quietly.
“No. It’s not and you’re the reason.”
He stroked her hair and her back and rocked her. She wanted to protest that she wasn’t a child, that he couldn’t make things better with a kiss and a hug, but speaking was too difficult. Right now it was all she could do to breathe.
She wasn’t sure how long he held her, but eventually the pain eased. The tears dried up, and when he offered her his handkerchief, she took it and blew her nose.
“I talked to your father,” she said. “He won’t help me.”
“Are you surprised?”
“More like disappointed.” She shifted away from him and stared in his face. “You know I will never forgive you for this.”
Murat did know. Marrying Daphne that way had been a calculated risk. But once he had made up his mind, there was no going back. He would face her wrath in the short term to gain her acceptance in the long term.
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