The Sheik and the Princess in Waiting(Desert Rogues, Book 7)(21) by Susan Mallery
“Do men in Bahania have more than one wife?” she asked.
“No. That practice died out long before it was outlawed. Men quickly came to realize that keeping one wife happy was a full-time job.”
“I’ve never understood why the multiple-wife thing was so popular,” she said as they stepped out into a beautiful formal garden. She recognized it as the one she could see from her balcony. Where Cleo and her husband had come to be alone.
“It would be easy for a woman to be with more than one man in an evening, but after men, um, have their way, they’re sort of out of it for a while.”
Halfway through her sentence, she realized she’d stepped into some very dangerous territory. Did she really want to be having this conversation with Reyhan?
He stared at her, his expression unreadable but not the least bit friendly. “You know this from personal experience?”
“No. I’ve just…heard.”
“It is not about pleasure,” he told her, his voice slightly strained. “It is about children. A woman is with child for nine months. In that time, a man can continue to impregnate other women, while she can only bear him one son at a time.”
“Oh. That makes sense.” She spoke brightly, as if this conversation was no big deal. “Good point. What’s that?”
She pointed at a large statue of a horse rearing. It was life-size and pure white.
“A gift from the king of El Bahar some years ago. We have always had close ties with our neighbor.”
“I remember hearing that.”
Reyhan led the way down a narrow path. Lush plants grew on both sides and tall trees offered shade. It was early April and still pleasant but she was sure by mid-July the temperature, even in morning, would be unbearable.
“Here we are,” he said, pointing to a small but exquisitely built chapel.
Spires reached toward the heavens. All of the windows were stained glass and looked ancient. Stone steps led into a darkened and cool interior.
Emma walked inside and instantly felt at peace. Half a dozen pews flanked a wide center aisle. In front, more stained-glass windows stretched up to the arched ceiling.
“Master craftsmen were brought in from France,” Reyhan told her. “They worked for three years on the chapel, all in secret. While they were here, they trained many local masons who incorporated the designs in their own work.”
Emma touched the carved wood pews. The finish was thick and glossy, obviously well cared for. What a private treasure, she thought.
“Are services ever held here?” she asked.
“On special holidays.”
She fought a sudden longing to attend one, knowing she would be gone and forgotten before the next occasion.
Reyhan led her back into the palace. They walked down several flights of stone stairs, until she was sure they were underground.
“Long-lost treasures were recently returned to us,” he said, pushing opening a massive wooden door. “Tapestries and statues, along with jewels and pieces of furniture. Local experts are restoring our history to us.”
He showed her a wall-size tapestry in a frame. Two women matched threads and carefully repaired a large tear. It took Emma a second to see the scene—four men galloping across the desert. Their expressions were intent and fierce, their faces slightly familiar.
She glanced at Reyhan, noting the similarity in the shape of the eyes and build of the bodies.
“Relatives?” she asked.
“Ancestors. This dates back to the 1200s.”
She wanted to touch the cloth, but knew too much handling could damage the delicate treasure.
He showed her shelves of statues and stacks of carved furniture. “Pieces are moved around in the palace,” he said. “Some things are on display here in the city museum. Others are sent on tour around the world.”
“I can’t imagine what it would have been like growing up here,” she said as they left the storage area and climbed stairs to the main level.
“As a young child, I had little use for the past. It was simply information I needed to learn to please my tutors.”
“I suppose. We never appreciate what we have when we’re young. Not unless we lose it.”
He glanced at her. “What did you lose?”
She thought of her childhood. Loving, if overly protective. “I’m not sure there was anything. I was speaking in general.” She glanced around at the city-size rooms they passed. “I think my entire house could have fit in there. You and your brothers must have had a good time playing hide-and-seek in here.”
“We were not permitted to play games in the main rooms of the palace.”
“Probably just as well. You could have gotten lost for days.”
“Our tutors would have come looking for us.”
Tutors. Not exactly a reference she could relate to. “You didn’t go to the local schools?”
“No. When I was eleven I was sent to boarding school in Britain.”
“It’s that whole prince thing, huh?”
He glanced at her. One corner of his mouth curved up. “Prince thing?”
She grinned. “You know. Being royal. It made you different.”
“We were given many unique opportunities.”
“I suppose you would have to learn things regular kids didn’t. Like how to behave in certain situations, and rules about running a country. Of course I’ll bet each of you had your own horse. I guess it’s a tradeoff. There are advantages and disadvantages to most circumstances.”
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