The Sheik and the Princess in Waiting(Desert Rogues, Book 7)(19) by Susan Mallery
She’d been about to say “Emma Kennedy” but her pride had been bruised. It wasn’t her fault that she couldn’t afford nice clothes. Besides, she was clean and tidy and she’d taken extra time with her makeup, and did Reyhan think she was badly dressed, too?
She raised her chin slightly and looked the man in the eye.
The man raised his eyebrows, color fled his cheeks and his jaw dropped.
“Of course, Your Highness.” He nodded differentially and quickly pushed several buttons on the phone. When he was connected, he announced her and then hung up.
“This way, Princess Emma,” he said, rising, then bowing.
Emma felt kind of small and petty for claiming a relationship that barely existed, but it was too late to call back the words.
She was led into a large open area. There were alcoves leading to private offices. The man apologized for making her wait even a second, then scurried off. Emma entertained herself by studying a color-coded map on the wall. She saw the capital city of Bahania and the ocean. El Bahar was also outlined and there were small markers at random intervals.
She moved closer to get a better look, when she felt a tingling at the back of her neck. Turning, she saw Reyhan striding toward her.
If her heart had not been trapped in her chest, it would have taken flight. He was so tall, she thought foolishly. And handsome. A powerful man who ruled an empire. Emotions flashed in his dark eyes but they were gone before she could catalog any of them. Then Reyhan was standing in front of her, staring, and Emma couldn’t think. She could only breathe in the scent of him and silently wish he would kiss her again.
“Emma,” he said, his voice low and sensual.
That was all. No more than her name and she found herself swaying toward him.
“Now that we have established our respective identities, perhaps you would like to tell me the reason for your presence in my offices.”
“What? Oh.” She glanced around at the people working. They were trying not to pay attention while hanging on every word. “Could we please speak in private?”
He took her arm and led the way into a massive office. A carved wooden desk dominated the center of the room. An exquisite Oriental rug outlined a conversation area, while bookcases lined one entire wall.
She saw another detailed map opposite the window and three different computer systems.
“What is that for?” she asked, pointing at the map.
“It details the placement of the oil wells and pumping stations here and in El Bahar.”
“There are a lot of them.”
He smiled slightly. “Yes.”
She’d heard Bahania was a rich nation—now she could see why.
“Our oil production is my area of expertise,” he said. “That is why I was in Texas getting my master’s degree.”
She thought of all the oil in her own state. “I guess we’re experts, too.”
He led her to the sofa grouping and motioned for her to sit down. When she’d done so, he settled across from her and assumed a patient expression.
Funny how he looked so remote and distant, she thought. As if he hadn’t kissed her the previous evening. As if he hadn’t reacted with desire, breathing hard and wanting her. Or had she imagined his reaction? Had he kissed her to show he still had power over her, while not reacting himself?
She didn’t have enough experience to be able to tell which it had been—a disadvantage she didn’t enjoy because there was no doubt in her mind that Reyhan had known exactly what was going on inside of her body.
“What did you wish to speak to me about?” he asked.
She twisted her fingers together on her lap and shrugged. “I spoke with my parents last night.”
She waited to see if he would say anything, but when he didn’t, she continued.
“You were right…about everything. The marriage, the money, that you tried to get in touch with me.”
She glanced at him. He looked neither surprised nor annoyed.
“I’m sorry I doubted you,” she whispered.
“Why would you not?” he said. “You have known your parents your entire life. We had been together only a few weeks. I disappeared after the wedding without giving you any information. Your parents would have been suspicious. No doubt they thought the worst.”
“They’re good at that,” she said, surprised he was being so magnanimous. She would have expected a little gloating on his part—he’d more than earned it.
“I should have questioned them,” she said. “I wanted to, but I was afraid.”
“That I sought you?”
“That you didn’t. That I’d been far too forgettable.”
He looked at her. “You are many things, Emma, but not that. I, too, could have put more effort into getting in touch with you. I suspected some subterfuge on the part of your father, but I walked away. I assumed that in time you would learn what had occurred and get in contact with me.”
There was more to it than that, she thought. Reyhan was a proud man. He wouldn’t beg. Not for her. Probably not for any woman.
“I should have been more curious,” she told him. “Instead I took the easy way out and I believed them.”
She studied the strong lines of his face. Who was this man who had married her and then walked away? If only she hadn’t been so young and inexperienced. If only they’d met more as equals. Six years ago she might have intrigued him initially, but in time he would have tired of her childish ways. And now?
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