The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(36) by Susan Mallery
“Cool.” Cleo dropped the shoes back in the box and picked up a leather handbag.
“At least I can borrow this. If you’re getting it. Are you?”
“I have no idea.”
The clothes had started arriving three days ago. At first Daphne had kept the racks in the spare bedroom in their suite, but that space had filled rapidly.
She’d finally asked for a large unused conference area and had all the clothes brought down, along with some sofas and several large mirrors. Dressing as the wife of the crown prince was serious business.
“You should be happier,” Cleo said. “These are all beautiful.”
“I know.” Daphne did her best to smile. She wasn’t sure she’d been convincing.
The problem was without Calah around to distract her—the baby was currently down for her nap—Cleo was far too observant. Daphne didn’t know what to say to her new sister-in-law. That it had been a week and she still felt angry and trapped.
True to her word, she avoided Murat as much as possible and slept in the suite’s guest room. He acted as if there was nothing out of the ordinary and insisted on discussing their future in terms of decades.
“Want to talk about it?” Cleo asked.
“I don’t know what there is to say.” Or how much she was willing to confess.
“I know the marriage happened pretty fast,” Cleo said as she stood and walked over to the same sofa and sat at the opposite end. She fingered her short, spiky blond hair. “There was some talk.”
“I’ll bet. It’s just…” She sighed. “I didn’t ask for this. I know, I know.” She held up both hands. “Boo-hoo for the poor woman who married a prince and will one day be queen. How sad.”
Cleo shook her head. “If you’re not happy, you’re not happy.”
“I wish it were that simple.” She didn’t want to talk about what Murat had done.
Somehow she guessed that Cleo wouldn’t want the information, nor would she act on it.
“Have you thought about giving the relationship a chance?” Cleo asked. “I know these guys act all imperious, but underneath, they’re amazing husbands. You just have to get past the barrier down to their hearts.”
“I don’t think Murat has a heart.”
“Do you really mean that?”
“No.” He must have. Somewhere. “I’m finding the situation overwhelming. I’m doing interviews later for my chief of staff. I need someone to help me stay organized. Invitations are pouring in. I don’t want to accept any of them, but Murat has to go, which means…”
She still hadn’t decided what it meant. Did she go with him? Put on a front and pretend to be the happy bride? Did she refuse? While she wouldn’t mind rubbing his face in what he’d done, he wasn’t the only one involved. In some ways she felt responsible for the citizens of Bahania. She didn’t want them embarrassed by her behavior.
“I don’t want to make life easier for him,” she admitted, “but my own sense of what is right is on his side. I really hate that.”
Cleo leaned close. “You’re thinking too much. Just relax and take each day as it comes. These royal things get easier with time. At least you have the advantage of breeding. You should have seen my first few lesson with the etiquette guy. I think I completely scared him.”
Daphne stared into Cleo’s big blue eyes and easy smile. “I doubt that. I’m sure he was charmed.”
“Not when I accidentally poured the hot tea into his lap instead of his fine china cup.”
Daphne laughed. “I’ll bet that got his attention.”
“In more ways than one.” She shrugged. “The princes are worth it. That’s the best advice I can give you. Know that they’re worth every annoyance, every pain.
I’m so thankful I met Sadik and fell in love with him. It wasn’t easy, but now…”
She grinned. “I know this sounds lame, but my life is perfect.”
“I’m happy for you,” Daphne said, and meant it. Cleo had grown up in difficult circumstances. She’d more than earned her happy ending.
But not everyone’s story was the same. Should Daphne ignore her responsibilities because she was still intent on leaving? Should she play the part while she was here? And if she played it too much, would she become complaisant? She would never forgive herself if she gave in to Murat. Worse, she would have taught him not only was it acceptable to treat her badly, but that there were no consequences. Ignoring everything else, did she want to be married to a man who thought so little of her?
Cleo stood. “Sorry to gush over your clothing and run, but Calah will be waking up soon and I want to be there.” She smiled. “Sadik tells me that our nanny has the cushiest job around. Great pay and I never let her do any work.”
“Your daughter is lucky.”
“I like to think I’m the lucky one.” She wiggled her fingers at Daphne and crossed to the door. When she reached it, she turned back. “If you need to talk more, you know where I live.”
“Good. I’ll—” Cleo gave a laugh and turned around “—look who just appeared,” she said and dragged Murat into the room. “Your wife needs help,” she said. “Too many good clothing choices. Maybe you could talk her into modeling a few things for you.”
Murat glanced between the women. “An intriguing proposition. I will consider it.”
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