The Sheikh and the Virgin Secretary(Desert Rogues, Book 10)(20) by Susan Mallery
“Perhaps that has happened in the past, but in this case, you’re wrong. He’s not using me for sex. I’m using him.”
She thought Eric was going to faint. The color fled his face and his breathing stopped. “You can’t be. You were saving yourself for marriage.”
“You’re right, and look what it got me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must return to my lover.”
With that she walked away.
Kiley sipped from her champagne glass and tried not to grin too broadly. But it was hard to act calm when she wanted to race to Rafiq’s side and give him a high-five.
She’d faced Eric and had walked away the winner. He hadn’t intimidated her or made her feel bad. She’d said what she’d wanted to and then she’d left. It was a huge victory and she felt like celebrating.
But as she approached their table, she saw Rafiq was no longer speaking with an oil executive from Bahania. Instead he was engaged in a very intense conversation with a beautiful woman.
She was petite and perfectly dressed in dark red. A little older than Rafiq, perhaps, but only by a few years.
Kiley stopped and watched them for a few seconds, then headed for the restroom.
Her excitement at her victory over Eric faded and in its place was a low pain in her stomach.
She wasn’t crazy enough to worry about every conversation Rafiq had with a woman. But there had been something different this time. An intimacy. They knew each other and had for a long time. There was a past between them.
He had demanded fidelity and had promised the same in return. Had he meant it? Were all men incapable of being faithful, or did she simply bring out that trait in the ones she knew?
They left the hotel shortly after midnight. Rafiq never liked to stay to the end, and Kiley had seemed pleased when he’d suggested leaving. He wondered at the reasons. Sometime after dinner she’d gotten quiet.
Now, in the silence of the car, he prepared himself to find out what was wrong.
In the way of most women, she would at first say nothing. He would be forced to ask again and again until she finally told him. It was a flaw in the female psyche—an inability to state the problem the first time asked.
Often Rafiq simply didn’t bother. The pain wasn’t worth the reward. But in this case he wanted to know what troubled Kiley and, if possible, fix it.
“You are very quiet,” he said. “Did something happen tonight to upset you?”
Was it Eric? She’d told him about her conversation with the other man. At the time he would have sworn she felt nothing for her ex-fiancé, but perhaps she was remembering what could have been.
He didn’t like that, but there was little he could do to stop her from missing Eric. Reminding her of what the other man had done to her seemed cruel. He knew Kiley was sensible enough to recover eventually, but selfishly, he wanted her attention now.
“I saw you talking with someone,” she said. “A woman. Petite. Beautiful. I told myself it was probably nothing, but the conversation seemed…intimate.”
It took him a moment to realize what she was talking about. Had she actually answered his question without prompting? He was so surprised, he nearly missed the point of her words.
“Are you concerned there is a woman from my past who may come between us?” he asked.
Her honesty surprised him. He recalled the evening and searched for someone who fit her description. There had been no ex-lovers there. No one who could have made Kiley uncomfortable. His conversations had been with business associates and their wives.
Except for one woman.
“Was she a few years older and wearing a red dress?”
Kiley glanced at him. “That would be the one. You know her. You have a past with her. I understand that it’s very likely that you’ll run into women you’ve known.
I’m not saying you can’t be friends with them, but we have an agreement that we’ll both be faithful. As you can imagine, I’m a little touchy on the subject.
I need to know you’ll keep your end of the deal.”
Under any other circumstances, he would have laughed, but he was aware of how difficult it had been for her to speak her mind.
“I assure you, I will never be unfaithful to you. I do not give my word capriciously, and once given, it bonds me to the death.”
He glanced at her and saw her eyes widen.
“Wow,” she murmured. “Okay, then. I guess I have to believe you.”
“Even if you did not, I can assure you that the woman I spoke with earlier will never be a threat to you.”
“A bad breakup?”
“Not in the way you mean. She is my mother.”
He enjoyed the sharp intake of breath, then Kiley’s stunned silence. They arrived at her apartment before she could gather her thoughts.
After parking, he escorted her inside and waited while she turned on the lights.
“Would you like something to drink?” she asked. “I have wine in the refrigerator.”
“I’ll get it,” he told her, and made his way into her small kitchen.
Signs of her were everywhere. In the brightly colored curtains at the window, in the stack of books on the kitchen table and the cartoon mug in the sink. He opened the refrigerator and pulled out the bottle of white wine. As he did he noticed a clear plastic container with several chocolate-dipped strawberries and smiled. Did she plan to seduce him later? He must remember to make it easy for her to do so.
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