The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(41) by Susan Mallery
She thought of Sabrina’s years growing up, both here and in California. Torn between two worlds. Would Zara have experienced the same fate? And what about Cleo?
“Imagining a different life is difficult,” she admitted. “Fiona was telling you the truth when she said that she couldn’t live in one place for very long. We moved nearly every year. I never knew what she was looking for, but she didn’t find it. Or perhaps there was no goal, and the point was simply to experience different lives.”
“We will never know.” Hassan patted her hand. “I have a matter I wish to discuss with you, my daughter.”
His tone of voice sent warning signals zipping along her spine. Yet she found herself caught up in the words “my daughter.” His daughter? Had she really found her father? Despite the week she’d been in the palace, the concept was still difficult to believe.
“Your Highness,” she said, not realizing she was interrupting him until it was too late and he was already staring at her. “What about the blood tests? Shouldn’t we take care of that. I mean, so that we can be sure?”
“I am sure.”
“Yes, well, this isn’t just about us. Your family will want to be sure. The government of Bahania will want to be sure. Your, ah, people will have questions.”
His people? She couldn’t believe she’d actually said that. She felt like a bit player in a bad movie.
“My people trust me,” Hassan intoned.
“With reason, I’m sure. My point is why ask them to trust you on this matter? Why not let them know for sure?”
The king considered her words, then nodded. “I’ll send my physician to you later today. He’ll draw blood and the appropriate tests will be performed. Does that satisfy you?”
She swallowed. Satisfied didn’t exactly describe the sudden roiling of her stomach. While she knew that confirming her relationship—or lack thereof—with the king was the right thing to do, a part of her didn’t want to know. The voice deep down in her innermost soul had already whispered the truth. Zara didn’t doubt what the blood tests would reveal, and when the truth came out there was no turning back. Her life would be changed forever.
“Good. Now, I have also been considering your future. Once the blood tests have proven what we both already know—that you are my blood—then you will be known to all as my daughter.” He hesitated. “Sabrina frequently chides me for how I say things. She tells me that daughters are different from sons and require different persuading.”
Zara had no idea what he was taking about, but he was making her nervous. “Just say it. I’ll try not to be offended.”
“Perhaps that would be best.” Hassan beamed. “I would be most happy to find you a husband. I mean no disrespect, but you are very advanced in years not to be married. Of course your lack of a husband makes some things less complicated, so I am not displeased. If it has been a matter of finding the right man, I can offer several suggestions.”
Zara opened her mouth, then closed it. She couldn’t breathe and she certainly couldn’t speak. Suggestions? As in he thought he could find her a husband?
She reminded herself that he was the king of Bahania. No doubt he could do whatever he wanted.
“I, ah, feel confident that I can find my own husband,” she said at last, the words trembling slightly.
“You have not done so yet.”
“I know. It’s complicated.” No way was she going to tell him about Jon and the broken engagement. And even though she’d told Rafe about her g*y ex-fiancé, she didn’t think he would be telling her secrets to anyone—not even the king.
“Now that you are in Bahania, you will meet different men. Didn’t you go riding with the duke of Netherton?”
“Uh-huh.” And it had been a disaster. “I’m not exactly looking for a duke,” she told the king. “There’s also the issue of me returning home. What would I do with a husband then?”
Hassan stared at her. “You are home.”
Her stomach flopped over again. “What do you mean?”
He cupped her cheek. “You are my daughter. You belong here—in Bahania. The palace is your home now. You will stay here until you are married. That is the way of things for the daughter of the king.”
He squeezed gently, then released her. Before she could get her lips around a response, he was gone, leaving her gasping, confused and feeling very trapped.
“I can’t believe he’s serious,” Zara said as she walked back toward her room. “Does he really expect me to stay in the palace until I’m married? I have a life, a job, a home.”
“I guess the king doesn’t see it that way.”
Rafe held in a chuckle. He didn’t think that Zara would appreciate his humor. Not when he could practically see the steam coming out of her ears.
“Have you noticed how you spend a lot of your day annoyed?” he asked conversationally. “Didn’t we already do the huffy thing after your ride with Byron?”
She stopped and glared at him. “I wasn’t in a huff then and I’m not in one now. It’s very easy for you to make fun of me. You’re not the one about to be held prisoner in the palace.”
Rafe glanced around at the mosaics on the wall, the two cats strolling past and the antique table next to them.
“It’s a little hard to get worked up about your living conditions.”
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online