The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(42) by Susan Mallery
“When I could. There were many things for me to do back at the palace. Studies, lessons. I was presented to visiting dignitaries and expected to sit through many meetings. But when time permitted I escaped to the desert.”
Where he could just be a boy. She could imagine him riding hard and fast as he played with the other children. For an hour or two he wouldn’t be the prince, and how he must have treasured that time.
Daphne shifted on her cushion. She wasn’t used to sitting so low on the ground.
As she got more comfortable, she noticed a group of people walking toward them.
There were maybe seven or eight, both men and women. They took a few steps, stopped, seemed to argue among themselves, then moved forward again.
One of the guards rose and spoke with them. After a few minutes, they were waved forward. The walking, stopping, arguing continued as they got closer.
“I wonder what that’s about?” she asked, nodding at them.
Murat followed her gaze. “They are not sure if they should interrupt us,” he said. “The men resist, but the women insist. Some men should control their wives better.”
“Some men are sensible enough to listen to a more intelligent opinion. What should we do?”
Murat wiped his hands, then rose and helped her to her feet. They stood by the fire and waited as the small group approached.
Everyone bowed. One of the women elbowed one of the men but he didn’t speak.
Finally the woman took a step forward and bowed again.
“Greetings, Your Highness,” she said, speaking to Daphne. “May the new day find you strong and healthy and blessed with good fortune always.”
“May the new day find you equally blessed,” Daphne replied.
“I fear it will not.”
“We should not be here,” one of the men said. He looked at Murat. “We are sorry to have troubled you and your bride.”
“No!” The woman glared at him. “We are in need.”
“How can we help?” Daphne asked.
The woman sighed. “A family who travels with us has a camel in labor. There is trouble of some kind. The man who usually helps with such things did not come with us. We have heard that you are trained with animals. Is it true?”
Daphne took in their robes. While the cloth was clean, it had been mended and patched in several places. She doubted these people could afford to lose a healthy, breeding camel.
The man with her grabbed her arm. “In all this crowd, there must be one other who can assist us. You should not bother the wife of the crown prince.”
“There is no time,” the woman said. “The mother grows weak.” She looked at Daphne. “Please help us.”
Daphne wasn’t sure of the protocol of the situation. Nor did she know if she could help. “I’ve never delivered a camel before,” she admitted. “I’ve had a lot of experience with cows and horses. If that is good enough.”
The woman sagged with relief. “Yes. Please. A thousand thanks. This way.” Then she hurried off.
Daphne started to follow her and wasn’t all that surprised when Murat and his guards fell into step.
“You have delivered cows and horses?” he asked. “In Chicago?”
“No. In the country. It’s not all that far to the farmlands in the south. I would spend a few months there every summer. Nothing against your father and his hundred or so cats, but it was always a nice change to work on big animals instead of small house pets.”
As she walked, she shrugged out of her robes, handing them to Murat who passed them on to a guard. By the time they reached the straw-lined enclosure, she was down to her jeans and a T-shirt. Both of which were going to be pretty yucky by the time this was done. Birth was never tidy.
Three hours later a baby camel teetered on spindly legs. His mother moved close and nudged him until he began to nurse. Daphne leaned against the makeshift fence and smiled. This was the part she liked best—after, when things had gone well.
“Impressive,” Murat said, stepping out of the shadows and moving close. “You were very confident.”
“All that medical training paid off.” She stretched. “I didn’t think you’d stick around. It’s late.”
“I wanted to see what happened.” He put an arm around her and led her away from the pen. “While you were working, I spoke with some of the elders of the tribe.
The mother has died and the father is ill. There are three boys who tend the family’s small herd. They desperately needed this birth.”
“I’m glad I didn’t know that,” she admitted. “I wouldn’t have liked the pressure.”
“Had the camel died, I would have compensated them, but you were able to give them back their livelihood.”
There was pride in his voice, which surprised her. Her parents had never thought much of what she did for a living, why should Murat?
He pulled her close, but she resisted. “I’m pretty stinky,” she said. “I don’t suppose we have a shower in our tent.”
“No, but I can provide you with a bath.”
Their massive private tent had still been under construction at dinner so she hadn’t had a chance to see the interior. Now she followed Murat inside to a foyerlike opening. They removed their shoes. He held open a flap, and she stepped into an amazing world she hadn’t known existed.
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