The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(39) by Susan Mallery
“However will we survive?”
“Everyone else is housed elsewhere. There is a kitchen tent, a communication tent and so on.”
She shaded her eyes as she stared into the distance. “I’m glad we’re going.”
As was he. Even shrouded in yards of fabric, she was still beautiful. He had not enjoyed the past week—her anger and silence. He hated that she slept in another bed, although he would not force her into his.
Why did she not understand that what was done was done and now they should get on with their lives? Did she really think that being married to him was such a hardship? She insulted him with her reluctance and sad eyes.
“Daphne,” he said, drawing her attention back to him. “About our time in the desert. I would like us to call a truce.”
“I’m not sure that’s possible when only one of us is fighting,” she said. “But I understand what you’re saying.”
She looked at the horses, then the camels and trucks. “Will we be joined by some of the nomadic tribes?”
“Yes. Word has spread that I will be among my people. They will join us as they can.”
She looked back at him. “I agree to the truce, but for your people, not for you.”
“As you wish.”
For now it was enough. If she spent time with him and forgot to be angry, he knew he could win her over. Then when they returned to the palace, all would be well.
“Come,” he said, holding out his hand.
She took it and allowed him to lead her to a snow-white gelding.
“Try not to fall off this one,” he said as he helped her mount.
She settled into the saddle and grinned down at him. “Try not to make me angry.”
“That is never my goal.”
“But you’re so good at it.”
“I am a man of many talents.”
Something flashed in her eyes. Something dark and sensuous that heated his blood and increased his ever-present wanting.
“We’re not going there,” she said. “Don’t think for a moment there’s going to be any funny business.”
“But you enjoy laughing.”
“That’s not what I mean and you know it.”
“So many rules.”
“I mean this one.”
“As you wish.”
She might mean it but that did not prevent him from changing her mind. The desert was often a place of romance and he intended to use the situation to his advantage. Their tent might be large and well furnished, but there was only one bedroom…and one bed.
“Tell me where we’re going,” Daphne said after they’d been traveling for about an hour. “Is it a specific route? We’re on a road.” Sort of. More of a dirt track that cut through the desert.
“Yes. This leads north to the ancient Silk Road. We will not go that far—just into the heart of the desert.”
The Silk Road. She’d heard of it, studied it. To think they were so close. There was so much history in Bahania. So many treasures for her to discover.
She shifted slightly in her saddle. After a few minutes of trepidation after finding herself back on a horse, she’d quickly settled into the rhythmic striding and lost her fear. Murat riding close beside her helped.
She supposed it wasn’t a good sign that the very man who made her insane also made her feel safe. “Will we be camping by an oasis?” she asked.
“Each night. Eventually we will make our way to—” He hesitated.
“What?” she asked.
“We are going to a place of great mystery. It is not far out of our way, and I thought you would enjoy reacquainting yourself with my sister Sabrina.”
Daphne remembered the pretty, intelligent teenager from her previous visit to Bahania. “She lives out here?”
“Yes, with her husband. My sister Zara resides there, as well.”
“Zara. Okay, she’s the daughter of the dancer. The American who found out she was the king’s daughter a few years ago?”
“Exactly. She is married to an American sheik named Rafe. He is the chief of security.”
Murat looked at her. “That is the secret. You must take a solemn vow to never reveal it to anyone.” He seemed to be perfectly serious.
“You know I’m still planning to leave,” she said.
“We agreed not to speak of such things.”
“Not speaking doesn’t take away the truth. But I would never betray the people of Bahania. Or you.”
He nodded, as if he’d expected no less. “You have heard of the City of Thieves?”
She thought for a second. “It’s a myth. Like Atlantis. A beautiful city in the middle of the desert where those who steal find sanctuary. Supposedly some of the most amazing missing treasures are said to reside there. Jewels, paintings, statues, tapestries. If a country has lost something of great value in the last thousand years, it can probably be found in the City of Thieves.”
“It is true.”
She blinked. “Excuse me?”
“All of it. The city exists.”
“You mean like a real city. Buildings. People. Cool stolen stuff?”
“There is a castle built in the twelfth century and a small city surrounding it.
An underground spring provides water. The buildings all blend so perfectly with their surroundings that they cannot be seen from any distance or from the sky.”
He motioned to the large crowd behind them. “We will leave nearly everyone long before we near the city. Prince Kardal will send out his own security forces to escort us in.”
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