The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(49) by Susan Mallery
Aisha shook her head. “I love Barak,” she said stubbornly.
Murat glanced at the boy and hoped he would be worthy of her devotion. “Very well. Aisha is free to marry Barak.”
Her father started to sputter, but Murat quelled him with a quick glare.
“I give them three camels in celebration of their marriage. May their union be long and healthy.”
Aisha began to cry. Barak bowed low several times, then gathered his fiancée in his arms and whispered to her.
Murat turned to the angry father. “I give you three camels, as well, in compensation for what you have lost in your deal with Farid.”
Murat knew that Farid had offered five camels, but he wasn’t about to give the father more than he gave the couple.
Finally he looked at Farid. “When it is your time, your family may bring you to the mountain of the kings.”
The crowd gasped. The honor of being buried in such a place was unheard of.
Farid bowed low. “I give thanks to the good and wise prince. I wish that I would live to see you rule as king.”
“I wish that, as well. Go in peace, my friend.” Murat then waited as they all left.
“Who is next?” he asked.
Daphne stayed quiet during dinner. Murat seemed tense and restless. He had been that way since returning to their tent.
When the last plate had been cleared away, she put down her napkin and smiled.
“I want to thank you again for what you did today.”
“I do not wish to speak of it.”
“Why not? You made Aisha very happy.”
“I granted the wish of a spoiled girl. She is too young to know her heart. Do you really believe she will love that boy for very long? And then what? She will be poor and hate her husband. At least her father sought to secure her future.”
Daphne couldn’t believe Murat actually thought the marriage of a sixteen-year-old to a man four times her age was a good thing.
“Her father wanted to sell her,” she said in outrage. “That’s pretty horrible.”
“I agree, the father’s motives were suspect, but Farid was a good man, and she would have had financial security.”
“Right. To be sold again into marriage with one of his sons.”
“She might have fallen in love with one as well.”
“Or she might not.”
Murat stared at her as if she were a complete idiot. “As a widow, she would be free to marry whomever she liked. No one could force her into the marriage.”
“Gee, so it’s only the one time. That makes it all right.”
He turned away. “You do not understand our ways and our customs.”
“I don’t think it’s that, at all. I think you’re angry because I petitioned for the girl.”
He stood and glared at her. “I am angry because my wife took the side of a foolish young woman and I did as she requested. I am angry because I believe Aisha chose poorly.”
He stopped talking, but she sensed there was more. Something much larger than Aisha and her problems. But what?
Murat walked away from the table into the sitting area of the tent. She followed him.
“You gave a woman her freedom, Murat. What is so terrible about that?”
“What is so terrible about our marriage?” he asked. “Why do you seek to escape?”
Was that it? Did he see her in Aisha?
“I’m not in love with anyone else,” she told him. “I would have told you if I was.”
“I never considered the matter,” he said, but she wasn’t sure she believed him.
“Being married to you isn’t terrible,” she said slowly, still not sure what they were arguing about. “My objection is to the way it happened. You never asked.”
“I did and you refused.”
“Right. And you went ahead and married me, anyway. You can’t do that.”
“I can and I did.”
She couldn’t believe it. “You say that like it’s a good thing.”
“Achieving my goal is always a good thing.” He moved toward her. “We are married now. You will accept that.”
“And if you carry my child?”
Daphne pressed both hands to her stomach. They should know fairly quickly. “I’m not.”
“You are not yet sure.” He loomed over her. “Make no mistake. Any child will stay here. You may leave if you like.”
“I would never leave my baby behind.”
“Then the decision is made for you.”
She wanted to scream. She wanted to demand that he understand. Why was he being so stubborn and hateful?
“I won’t sleep with you again,” she said.
“So you told me before, yet look what happened.”
She felt as if he’d slapped her. “Is that all that night meant to you? Was it just a chance to prove me wrong?”
“Your word means very little.”
She turned away, both because it hurt to look at him and to keep him from seeing the tears in her eyes.
“I’m sorry I came on this trip with you,” she said. “I wish I’d never left the palace.”
“If you prefer to be back there, it can be arranged.”
“Then go ahead and do it.”
Murat left the tent without looking back. Daphne wasn’t sure what to do, so she stayed where she was. Less than forty minutes later she heard the sound of a helicopter approaching. One of the security agents came and got her, and before she could figure out what had happened, she found herself being whisked up into the night sky.
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