The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(38) by Susan Mallery
“Did it ever occur to you that whatever chance we might have had for happiness is now dead because of what you did?” she asked quietly.
Murat stood and moved close. He touched her cheek. “In time you will let go of the past and look toward the future. I can be patient. I will wait. In the meantime I have a meeting.” He glanced at his watch. “For which I am now late.”
“Somehow I don’t think you’ll get a reprimand.”
He flashed her a smile. “Probably not.” He nodded at the clothes. “Are you truly overwhelmed?”
“Of course. How could I not be?”
“Would you like to leave this all behind for a few days?”
“Is that possible?”
“Yes. Although it requires you getting back on a horse.”
“I can do that.”
“Good.” He tightened his tie. “Be ready, tomorrow at dawn. You’ll need to dress traditionally. I will have someone leave the appropriate clothing in our room.”
“Where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise.”
Daphne spent a restless night in the small guest-room bed. She couldn’t stop thinking about Murat, which wasn’t all that uncommon, only this time she wasn’t nearly so angry.
Maybe it was because they’d discussed a little of his past. She wouldn’t have enjoyed being hampered by so many restrictions. While it might be good to be the king, growing up as the prince sounded less fun.
She appreciated his understanding of what her father had done, but hated that such things were commonplace to him. Who had ever cared about Murat simply for himself? Who had ever loved him?
She didn’t mean family, but someone else. A woman. Had there been even one to care about the man more than the position he held?
She opened her eyes and stared into the darkness. Would she have? Ten years ago, if she hadn’t run, would she have loved him more than anyone?
Of course, she thought. She already had. She’d wanted to get lost in him and have him get lost in her. She hadn’t run because of her feelings, but because of a lack of his. At twenty, she’d needed to be important, an emotional equal.
She’d wanted to matter.
Funny how ten years later her goal hadn’t changed.
That’s what he didn’t understand. Of course she was furious about how he’d forced her into marriage. He was wrong and egotistical and he deserved some kind of punishment. But if he’d come to her and even hinted that she mattered, she might have been willing to accept his apology and give things a try. Not that Murat would ever admit he’d done anything wrong, let alone apologize.
While it was her nature to make the best of a bad situation, she believed down to her bones that he had to understand he’d acted selfishly.
She rose and turned off the alarm, then moved into the small bathroom to shower.
Every night Murat invited her to share the large, luxurious bedroom and every night she refused. Now, as she stood under the spray of hot water, she found her body remembering what it had been like to make love with him. She wanted to feel his touch again.
“Which only goes to show you’re in need of some serious therapy,” she muttered as she turned away from the spray.
After drying herself and her hair and applying plenty of lotion to combat the dryness of the desert, she slipped on her bra and panties, then a lightweight T-shirt and jeans. Next came her riding boots, followed by the traditional robes that covered her from shoulder to toes. Last, she slipped on her head covering.
As she stared at herself in the mirror, the only part of her she recognized was her blue eyes. Otherwise, she could have been any other Bahanian woman of the desert. Most women who lived in the city had long abandoned the traditional dress, but she and Murat would be heading into the desert where the old ways were still favored.
She left the bedroom and found Murat waiting for her in the living room.
He wore a loose-fitting white shirt and riding pants. She could see her reflection in his boots.
“I can arrange a Jeep if you would prefer,” he said by way of greeting.
“I’d rather ride. I won’t go off by myself again. I’ve learned my lesson.”
He nodded, then held out his hand. The diamond wedding band rested on it. “We are married. I will not have my people asking questions.”
She stared at the ring, then at him. The internal battle was a short one because she agreed that she did not want others brought into their private battle of wills. She took the ring and slipped it on.
His expression didn’t change at all. She’d half expected him to gloat and was pleased when he didn’t.
“Shall we go?” he asked.
Murat stepped out of the car into the milling crowd by the stable. Nearly fifty people collected supplies, checked horses, loaded trucks or called out names on the master list. His head of security gave him a thumbs-up, before returning to the conversation he’d been having with his team.
Murat helped Daphne out of the car, then waited while she glanced around.
“Did you say something about roughing it?” she asked in amusement. “I was picturing us on a couple of horses, with a camel carrying a few supplies.”
“This is not much more than that.”
She laughed. “Of course not. You do know how to travel in style.”
“Will you feel better knowing we are to sleep in a tent?”
“Gee, how big will it be?”
“Not large. A few thousand square feet.”
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