The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(53) by Susan Mallery
“You could take a mistress,” another suggested. “One of the young beauties who travel with us. A man does not miss the main course when there are many sweets at the table.”
He shook his head. Not only was he not interested in any other woman, he had given his word. He would honor his vows until his death.
“A flower needs tending,” the little old man said. “Left alone it grows wild, or withers and dies.”
The other elders stared at him. “You wish Prince Murat to go to her? To go after a woman?”
Murat was equally surprised by the advice. “I am Crown Prince Murat of Bahania.”
The old man smiled in the darkness. “I do not believe her ignorance about your title and position are at the heart of the problem.”
Daphne had said much the same thing.
“The gardener yields to the flower,” he continued. “He kneels on the ground and plunges his hands deep in the soil. His reward is a beauty and strength that lasts through the harshest of storms.”
The cognac had muddled Murat’s brain to the point that the flower analogy wasn’t making any sense. “You want me to what?”
“Go to her,” the old man said. “Provide her with fertile soil and she will bloom for you.”
If Daphne grew anything it would be thorns, and she would use them to stab him.
Go to her? Give in?
Never. He was a prince. A sheik. She was a mere woman.
He reached for the bottle, then stood abruptly and stalked into his tent without saying a word. When he reached the bedroom, he stood in the silence and inhaled the scent of Daphne’s perfume.
How he ached for her.
“Go to her,” the old man had said.
And then what?
Daphne stood her ground with the servants and basically bullied them into helping her set up her art table and supplies in the garden of the harem.
“But the crown prince said you were not to return here,” one of the men said, practically wringing his hands.
“I’m not moving in,” she said, trying to be as patient as possible. “I just want to work here. It’s quiet, and the light is perfect.”
With a combination of prodding, carrying most of the stuff herself and threatening to call the king, she got her supplies in place and finally went to work.
The clay felt good against her bare hands. She had a vision for what she wanted the piece to be, but wasn’t sure if her talent could keep pace with her imagination. Sleeplessness made her a little clumsy—she’d spent the past three nights tossing and turning—but she reworked what she had to and kept moving forward with the piece.
The sun had nearly set when she realized she’d had nothing to eat or drink all day. Dizziness made her sink onto the bench in the garden. But the swimming head and gnawing stomach were more than worth it, she thought as she stared at the work she’d accomplished so far. She could—
“I forbade you to come to this place.”
The unexpected voice made her jump. She stood and turned, only to see Murat stalking toward her.
“I left specific instructions,” he said. “Who allowed you to return to the harem?”
He wore a long cloak over his riding clothes. The fabric billowed out behind him, making him seem even taller and more powerful than she remembered.
She’d missed him. The past seventy-two hours had passed so slowly. Only getting back to her art had kept her sane. She longed to hear him, see him, touch him, but now as he stalked toward her, she wanted to ball up the unused part of her clay and throw it at him.
“I’m not giving you any names,” she told him. “And for your information, I’m simply using the garden as my art studio. I can’t get the right light in our suite, and the main gardens are too busy. All those people distract me. The harem isn’t used, so I’m not in anyone’s way.”
He glared at her. “You are still living upstairs with me?”
“I was, but I have to tell you, I’m seriously rethinking that decision.”
She wiped her hands on a towel and walked away.
Murat watched her go. On the helicopter flight back to the palace, he had thought about all the things he would say to Daphne when he saw her. They had been soft, conciliatory words designed to make her melt into his arms. When she wasn’t in their suite, he had gone looking for her, only to be told she was in the harem.
He had thought that meant she had moved back, but he had been wrong. Now what?
He walked out of the garden only to find his father entering the harem. King Hassan shook his head.
“I just passed your wife. She seemed to be very annoyed about something.”
“I am aware of that.”
His father sighed. “Murat, you are my firstborn. I could not wish for a better heir. You have been born to power and you will lead our people with strength and greatness. But when it comes to Daphne, you seem to stumble at every turn. You must do better. I worked too hard to get her back here and into your life to have you destroy things now.”
Daphne reached the suite she shared with Murat in record time, but once there she didn’t know what to do with herself. She wanted to burn off some of the excess energy flowing through her. She wanted to throw something, but everything breakable was far too valuable and beautiful.
After pacing the length of the living room twice, she stopped by the sofa where one of the king’s cats slept. Petting a cat or dog was supposed to be calming, she reminded herself. She stroked the animal and scratched under its chin, but still her blood bubbled within her.
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