The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(37) by Susan Mallery
Daphne stayed where she was on the sofa while Murat walked through the maze of racks and the boxes of shoes, purses and scarves.
“Have you made sense out of any of this?” he asked.
“Not really. I need a schedule first to figure out what sort of clothing I’ll need.”
“I see. And you do not want to agree to a schedule because that is too much like giving in.”
She shrugged, even though he’d guessed correctly.
“You have time,” he said. “No one will expect you to have a full schedule right away.”
“And if I don’t want one ever?”
He sat down across from her. “There are advantages and disadvantages to any position in life.”
“I know your advantages,” she said. “You pretty much get whatever you want.”
“True, but there is a price to pay.”
“I have much to offer. Favors, knowledge, an interesting circle of acquaintances. Who comes to see me because of who I am and who comes because of what I can do for him?” He loosened his tie. “Now I am aware of the possibilities at the first meeting, but when I was younger, it was not so easy to see those who expected something in return.”
Daphne understood exactly what he meant. “I had the same thing, on a much smaller scale. Not so much with friends, but sometimes my teachers were too impressed by my parents to actually pay attention to me.”
“Exactly.” He shrugged. “Reyhan, Sadik and Jefri were free to roam the city, making trouble, having fun. I was not. While they played, I learned about governments and rulers and history. All in preparation. Each day I was reminded of my responsibility to my people. I did not know who they all were, but sometimes I hated them.”
The man sat across from her but she could easily picture the boy. Tired, restless, but forced to stay inside for one more lesson when all he wanted was to go play with his brothers.
Compassion made it difficult for her to want to keep her distance, which meant he was making good on his word to convince her to care about him. Talk about smooth.
“While we are on the subject,” he said, “your father called me. He wishes to discuss expanding the family business into Bahania, and from there El Bahar and the Middle East.”
Daphne couldn’t believe it. Her own father? Heat flared on her cheeks and she had a bad feeling she was blushing.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’ll phone him right away.”
Murat leaned back in the sofa and shook his head. “There is no need. As my father-in-law, he is due some consideration. I will put my people on it and he can work through them.”
“It’s only been a week,” she said, angry that after years of ignoring her, her father was now willing to use her situation to his advantage. “He could have waited a little longer.”
“Perhaps, but if you allow yourself to get upset over every person who comes looking for something, then you will spend your life in a state of great anxiety. It means nothing, Daphne. Let it go.”
Maybe it meant nothing to him, but it meant something to her. Unfortunately, no matter how much she wanted to hate Murat, he was the only person who could understand what she was going through.
She didn’t want to live in a world where people used her to get what they wanted, yet that had been his whole life.
“Have you ever been sure about anyone?” she asked. “How do you know if he or she is interested in you or what you can offer?”
“Sometimes the situation is very clear. Those are the people I prefer. When I know what they are after I can decide to give it or not. But when they play the game too well…” He sighed. “I was more easily fooled when I was younger. After college, a few women managed to convince me that their love for me was greater than the universe itself when what they really wanted was the title and money.”
She winced. “That couldn’t have been fun.”
“No. But for every half-dozen of them there was someone sincere. A young woman who didn’t know or didn’t care. You, for example.”
She smiled at the memory. “I didn’t have a clue.”
“I know, and when you found out, I thought you would run so far in the opposite direction that I would never catch you.”
Her smile faded. “And when I did run, you didn’t come after me.”
He stared at her, then dropped his gaze to her left hand. “You still refuse to wear your ring.”
“Are you surprised?”
“Want to talk about what I’m feeling?”
“If you would like.”
She narrowed her gaze. “That’s new. Since when do you care about my feelings regarding anything?”
“I want you to be happy.”
She couldn’t believe it. “You kept me prisoner, then married me against my will.
Not exactly a recipe for happiness.”
“We are husband and wife now. I would like you to make the best of the situation. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.”
She leaned toward him. “Murat, when will you see what you did was wrong? Why won’t you at least admit it? I meant what I said. I want out.”
“There will be no divorce. The king will not allow it.”
Daphne stood, with the thought of escaping, only there wasn’t anywhere to go.
She glanced around at all the clothes she had to try on, the reminder about her interviews, the stack of books on history and protocol.
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