The Sheik and the Princess in Waiting(Desert Rogues, Book 7)(14) by Susan Mallery
“No. I—I’m fine.”
The king drew her from Reyhan and settled her on the sofa, next to the sleeping Siamese. He took the opposite side of the couch, leaving Reyhan the chair.
Not difficult duty, Reyhan thought as he sat. Emma was in his direct line of vision. He could visually trace her profile, the line of her neck, the length of her bare arms. And while looking at her, he could remember their few nights together. How she’d felt when he’d touched her. How she’d tasted when he’d kissed her. The tight dampness of her virgin body when he’d first claimed her as his own.
The images had an expected result, and he was forced to shift slightly in his chair. Stop, he ordered himself. Thinking about what had been once and never would be again offered torment but little else.
“Tell me about yourself,” the king said. “You are from Texas?”
Emma nodded. “The Dallas area. I’ve lived there nearly all my life. Except when I was at college.”
“Do you have brothers and sisters?”
“No. My parents had actually given up on ever having children when I came along.” She smiled. “I was a surprise.”
The sweet pull of her lips hit Reyhan like a punch in the gut. He consciously relaxed his muscles and sucked in a breath. Soon she would be gone and then he could forget she had ever lived, he told himself.
“A happy one,” his father said.
Emma laughed. “You’re right. My parents have made it very clear how much they adore me.” Her humor faded slightly. “They are extremely protective.”
“As they should be. A daughter such as yourself is a rare treasure.”
“Thank you,” she murmured as she bowed her head.
Reyhan caught the light flush on her cheek. So she still blushed. When he had first met her it seemed that everything he did caused her to blush. A compliment, a kiss, a whisper of desire. She had been the most innocent woman he’d ever met.
“Treasure or not, they made it difficult to have a life,” she said. “Not that I don’t love them dearly. But there were things I wanted to do.” Her voice had turned wistful. “They were very strict about things like school dances and dating.”
His father raised his eyebrows. Reyhan stepped into the conversation.
“Many Western high schools offer chaperoned dances for the students,” he said.
“A dangerous practice,” the king said. “Now you know why I sent you to England for much of your education.”
“An all-boys school,” Reyhan said dryly. “It was thrilling.”
Emma glanced at him and smiled. For that second, there was a connection between them. He could nearly see the sparks arcing across the room and feel the temperature increasing.
“Where did you meet my son?” the king asked, breaking the spell.
Emma returned her attention to the monarch. “At college. It was my first year there. I’d had to beg my parents to let me go. I was very excited, but scared, too.”
“And did he sweep you off your feet?”
She swallowed, blushed, then nodded. “Yes. He was very charming. Very…worldly.”
Reyhan thought of the young man he’d been at twenty-four. Hardly worldly, except in Emma’s inexperienced view. He’d wanted her and he’d pursued her with a single-minded focus that had left her nowhere to escape. He’d been determined to have her, and, upon discovering she was a virgin, he’d married her.
“Yours was a brief courtship,” the king said.
Emma glanced at Reyhan. “I…we…”
“She knew nothing of who I was,” Reyhan said, interrupting her hesitation. “I alone defied you, Father. The blame, the responsibility, is mine.”
Emma’s eyes widened slightly, but she didn’t say anything. The king nodded.
“You stayed together only a short time.” The king’s words were more statement than question.
“You know this,” Reyhan said as he stepped in again. “I was called home because of Sheza’s death.” He glanced at Emma. “My aunt.”
“But you did not return to your wife.”
He had tried, Reyhan thought bitterly. He had called and attempted to see her, but she refused to have anything to do with him. Eventually her father had ordered him to stay away. No explanation save that Emma regretted the marriage and never wanted to see him again.
He’d told himself the sting he’d felt was little more than wounded pride. That he hadn’t actually cared about her. Loved her.
He shrugged with a casualness he didn’t feel. “The past is finished. What value is there in discussing it now?”
“I wish to know,” his father said. He looked at Emma. “So after things did not
work out with Reyhan, you returned to your parents?”
Reyhan didn’t save her from that probing question mostly because he wanted to hear her answer.
“I, ah, stayed with them until the new semester started, then I returned to college. By then, Reyhan was gone.”
True enough. Once he’d realized he’d lost her, he’d finished the requirements for his master’s and had gone back to Bahania. He’d never tried to see Emma again.
“And what do you do now?” the king asked. “How do you spend your days?”
Emma looked confused, as if she expected them to already know this. “I’m a delivery room nurse. I received my RN and went to work in a Dallas hospital.”
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