The Sheik and the Princess in Waiting(Desert Rogues, Book 7)(58) by Susan Mallery
So much less than he thought. “There are things I’ll miss about being here,” she told him. Mostly him.
His smile faded. “I’m sorry I hurt you when we were at the palace.”
When he’d rejected her, she thought. When he’d turned his back on her offer to make love.
“Yes, well, it’s not a big deal.”
“I don’t believe you,” he said. “It was a big deal to both of us. There are things you don’t understand.”
“Then explain them to me.”
He glanced out the window. “There is a legend that the spring that runs under this house is the result of heartache. That a young man got lost in the desert and wandered for days. He was nearly out of water when he found a single blooming plant. So impressed by the beauty of the flower, he poured his last drops of water onto the parched leaves to give it longer life. Grateful, the flower became a beautiful woman. They made love but in the morning, the young man died from dehydration. The woman wept and her tears became a river.”
He turned back to her. “The garden in the courtyard pays homage to them both.
Some of the plants date back nearly a hundred years.”
“That’s a very sad story.”
“It is a lesson. We must pay attention to what matters. The young woman possessed magical powers. She could have restored the young man first. Instead she took what she wanted and as a result, lost him.”
She shook her head. “I think the lesson is to seize whatever love we can find for as long as we have it.”
“Perhaps you are right.” He rose. “The hot water should be ready soon. You may shower first.”
As appealing as a shower sounded, she had other things on her mind. Maybe it was stupid to take another chance on him and lay her heart on the line. Maybe she didn’t have a choice.
“You don’t have to let me go, Reyhan.”
He stiffened slightly and didn’t look at her as he spoke. “Yes, I do.”
“Why? Who is this other woman you plan to marry? What will she give you that I can’t?”
“Peace of mind.”
After her shower, Emma decided to explore the rest of the small palace. Reyhan had settled in the library and after the cryptic end to their breakfast conversation, she wasn’t sure what was left to say between them.
She had a thousand questions, but what was new about that? She’d had questions from the beginning—such as why had he married her in the first place and why had he stayed married to her? Asking why he had to marry someone else for his peace of mind was way down there on the “questions to ask” priority list.
She climbed to the second story and explored the amazing rooms. There was a large open area that had to be a ballroom, some kind of living room and four incredibly luxurious bedrooms that would rival the elegance of the famous pink palace in the capital city.
Even without any knowledge about antiques, she recognized the beauty of the carved furniture and the glittering gold leaf edging the chairs. There were dressers and armoires and four-poster beds with stairs leading to high mattresses. Amazing murals covered the walls. In one bedroom, she found a pumpkin coach and six horses, all made of crystal. In another there was a carved set of toy soldiers.
On the third floor were more spartan rooms, except for a round room in a tower.
Stained-glass windows cast a rainbow of light on the marble floor. The room was completely empty except for a desk with a chest in the middle.
Curious, she crossed to the desk and opened the chest. When she saw what was inside, her breath caught.
There were pictures. Dozens of pictures, all of a young woman. In some she was laughing, in others serious. Sometimes she faced the camera, sometimes she hid her face. One had been taken while she slept.
Emma felt her heart constrict as she recognized a much-younger version of herself. Reyhan had taken these pictures while they’d been dating and then after they’d married.
Below the pictures were mementos from their dates, all the notes she’d written—and several detective reports. She flipped through them and read his messages to the company he’d hired to check on her for the first few months they’d been separated. He’d obviously wanted to know that she was all right. A few pictures of her had been included with the reports and they were as well-worn as the pages of the report.
“I don’t understand,” she whispered into the silence. Why had he done this? Why had he kept everything?
Had he been any other man, she would have thought—hoped—that he cared about her.
That she mattered. But he wasn’t. He was Prince Reyhan of Bahania and he didn’t let himself care.
Or did he? Emma sank onto the floor and studied the detective reports more closely. Reyhan was proud. He would not give his heart easily, nor would he want it toyed with. Had he cared about her and had she not understood the depth of his feelings? He wasn’t the kind of man who would marry on a whim. He’d chosen her—only her. Now he didn’t want a divorce because he loved someone else but so that he could make a marriage of convenience to produce heirs. He didn’t want to fall in love again—was that because he still loved her, or because the first time things had ended so badly?
She thought about all that had happened so long ago. How she’d hidden away from him, like a child afraid of being punished. How she’d let her parents convince her he didn’t care because it was easier than confessing her guilty secret.
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