The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(35) by Susan Mallery
“Time is a great healer,” he said.
“Not in this case. My anger will only grow.”
He tucked her hair behind her ear and smiled. “I have seen the new sculpture you have started. I believe it is going to be me falling down the stairs. You have found a way to release your anger.”
“It’s not enough.” Her blue eyes flashed fury. “You had no right to—”
He pressed his fingers against her mouth. “Let us not have that conversation again.”
“Then which one do you want to have? The one where I call you a lying bastard? The one where I say that taking away my freedom is an unforgivable act and that you’ll never get away with it?”
“They are variations on a theme.”
“It’s what I want to talk about.”
She was so beautiful, he thought. Not just in her fury, but always. There was an intensity about her, and he longed for that energy to be focused on him.
He captured her left hand and held it in his. “You do not wear your ring.”
“Why would I?”
“Because it is a symbol of our marriage and your position in my world.” He pulled the ring from his pocket and tried to slide it on her finger. She pulled back.
“You are not usually one to act like a child,” he said.
“I’m making an exception.”
“Very well. I will leave it here until you change your mind.” He set the ring on the nightstand.
She drew in a breath. “I’m leaving, Murat. Eventually I’ll find a way to escape you and this palace.”
“You are not my prisoner.”
“Of course I am. I have been from the beginning. I don’t suppose you would care to tell me why.”
“You have made all the choices, save one.”
“Yeah, that last really big one when there was a wedding.” She pressed her lips together. “I will leave just as soon as I’m sure I’m not pregnant.”
Her words crashed into him. He stood and stared at her. “Pregnant?”
She rolled her eyes. “Don’t you give me that happy expectant-father face. It’s unlikely. We only did it the one time, and let me tell you how much I’m regretting that incident.”
Pregnant. Of course. He had been so caught up in making love with Daphne that he had not taken precautions, which was very unlike him. He had always been careful not to be trapped by that particular game.
A child. A son. An heir.
“Stop grinning,” she demanded.
“Am I?” He felt as if he could fly.
“There’s no baby.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I’m reasonably confident. It was just one time.”
“It only takes one time.” He cupped her cheek. “You understand the law, Daphne.
You know what happens if there is a child.”
Despair entered her eyes. “You win. I couldn’t leave my baby, and I would never be allowed to take him or her from the country.” She shook off his touch. “But know this. I’m not sleeping with you ever again, and as soon as I know I’m not pregnant, I’m leaving.”
Strong words, but he doubted she meant them. Not completely. “Would you leave the people of Bahania so soon? You are their future queen.”
“They’ve lived without me this long. I’m sure they can survive into the future.”
“You will change your mind.”
“I won’t.” She stood and faced him. “Murat, you think this is a game, but it’s very serious. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be married to you.”
“I will convince you.”
But he could. He knew that. He was Crown Prince Murat of Bahania, and she was a mere woman. Her will could not withstand the pressure of his.
He knew now he should never have let her go all those years ago. It was a mistake he would not repeat again.
“I want to love the man I marry,” she told him earnestly. “I don’t love you.”
“How do you figure? You’re going to force me to love you?”
“It’s not possible.”
Cleo sat in the middle of several boxes of shoes and grinned. “So I guess when you’re the once and future queen, you don’t go to the accessories, the accessories come to you.”
Daphne wove her way between nearly a dozen racks of clothes sent over to the palace by boutique owners and fashion designers.
“The clothes, too,” she said as she took a cashmere jacket off a rack and studied the light-blue color. “This is overwhelming.”
Cleo held up a pair of strappy sandals. “I hate you for not having the same size feet as me. Just so we’re all clear. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shoe this narrow.”
“Or as long,” Daphne said. “I have big feet.”
“But skinny. I, of course, wear a 6 wide.” She wiggled her hot-pink painted toes. “Billie’s going to have a heart attack when I tell her what she’s missed.”
Daphne put the jacket back on the rack and returned to the sofa. “Then please don’t tell her while she’s flying. She only has a couple more weeks until the doctors ground her for the rest of her pregnancy. Besides, as far as I can tell, the clothesfest is going to go on for several more weeks, so she’s welcome anytime.”
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