The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No(Desert Rogues, Book 9)(59) by Susan Mallery
She swallowed, then shook her head. “You weren’t wrong. Not completely. I know that Murat isn’t interested in me or our marriage, but I…” Her throat tightened.
“I love him. I would have stayed.” She touched her stomach. “When I told him I wasn’t pregnant, he told me to leave.”
The king held out his arms, and Daphne rushed into them. She gave in to the tears.
“I could call him back,” King Hassan said. “He still has to listen to me.”
Temptation called, but she pushed it away.
“Please don’t,” she said as she straightened and wiped her face. “There has been too much manipulation already. I wouldn’t want Murat to be forced into our relationship. I would only want him there because it was what he desired.”
“What will you do now?”
“Go back to the States.”
The king bent down and kissed her cheek. “Stay as long as you would like.
Despite what has happened, you are welcome here.”
“I doubt Murat would be thrilled to come home and find me here.”
“You never know.”
She was pretty sure. He’d let her go without a fight—as he always had.
It took her most of the next day to gather the courage to pack her things and prepare to leave. She only took a few items of the new clothing she’d received since marrying Murat—the things she’d worn in the desert and the nightgowns she’d worn in their bed. She left all the jewelry, including the diamond band that had been her wedding ring.
“Can we do anything?” Billie asked as she hugged Daphne goodbye. “Are you sure you don’t want me to fly you home?”
“I think I’ll be more comfortable on the king’s plane, but thanks.”
Cleo moved in for her hug. “I’m sorry Murat is being such a jerk about all this.
Men are so stupid.” Tears filled her blue eyes. “What I don’t get is I would have sworn he was really crazy about you.”
Daphne had thought so, too, but she’d been wrong. About so much.
“Keep in touch,” Cleo said.
Daphne nodded even though she knew it would never happen. They might send a card back and forth, but in the end they had nothing in common.
“You’ve both been terrific,” she said. “Please tell Emma goodbye for me. And tell Zara and Sabrina I’m sorry I never had the chance to meet them.”
The three women hugged again, then Daphne walked out of the suite with them and carefully closed the door behind her.
She rode alone to the airport. Cleo and Billie had offered to come with her, but she wanted to be by herself. She was done with tears and hopes and shattered dreams. She didn’t want to feel anything, ever again.
But the burning ache inside of her felt as if it could go on forever. How was she supposed to get over loving Murat? Only now that she had lost him forever did she realize that he had been her heart’s desire from the very beginning.
Murat stepped out of the limo and hurried inside the palace. Urgency quickened his steps as he raced up the stairs to the suite he shared with Daphne. He jerked open the door and stepped inside.
The large space echoed with silence.
“Daphne? Are you here?”
He walked into their bedroom. She wasn’t there. Nor was the book she kept on her nightstand. He moved to the bathroom next and saw her makeup tray was empty. She was gone.
Defeat crashed through him. He had gone away to forget her only to realize that she was with him always. Even knowing that he owed her the choice, he wanted the chance to convince her to stay. But she hadn’t even waited two days.
He walked down the hall and into his office. Two things caught his attention at once—a diamond band placed exactly in the center of his desk and the sculpture of the lovers he’d seen before.
He moved forward and picked up the ring. Funny how it still felt warm, as if she had only just removed it. He squeezed it in his hand, then dropped it into his jacket pocket. Then he turned his attention to the clay.
The intense embrace mesmerized him. He followed the graceful line of arms and torso up to the—
His heart froze. No longer were the lovers faceless. She had pressed in features. Just a hint of a nose, a slash for a mouth, but he recognized both of the faces.
Swearing, he picked up the phone and demanded a connection to the airport.
The luxurious jet raced down the runway. Daphne leaned back in the leather seat and closed her eyes. While she doubted she would sleep, she didn’t want to watch as Bahania disappeared behind her.
Faster and faster until that moment just before the wheels lifted off. Then the jet suddenly slowed and sharply turned.
“Everything’s fine, Your Highness,” the pilot said over the intercom. “A signal light came on to tell us the cargo door isn’t closed tight. We need to return to the hangar. It will only take a couple of minutes to fix.”
She nodded her agreement, then realized the man couldn’t see her. “Thanks for letting me know,” she said as she pushed the intercom button on the console beside her seat.
She flipped through the stack of magazines left for her and picked out one on interior design. When she returned to Chicago, she either had to join another practice or go out on her own. That had been her plan when she’d left.
Maybe a change in cities would be nice. She’d never lived in the South or the West. She could go to Florida, or perhaps Texas.
She glanced out the window and saw several uniformed crewmen rushing around the plane. Then the main door opened. Daphne looked up in time to see a tall, handsome, imperious man striding on board.
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