The Sheikh and the Virgin Secretary(Desert Rogues, Book 10)(38) by Susan Mallery
He walked to the bed and took her hand. After pulling her to her feet, he lightly kissed her. “As appealing as your offer is, I must decline. We have guests coming, and I wish you to be there.”
“Have I asked for anything else?”
“Sure. The, ah…” She glared at him, then stomped her foot. “That is incredibly unfair and low. Don’t bring up how nice you’ve been.”
“I negotiate to win.”
She grumbled something he couldn’t hear, then stalked toward the closet. “Fine.
I’ll be at your party, but I won’t like it. And when I mess up, because it’s a when not a maybe, you will have to suffer with the consequences. Are you clear on that?”
Stupid man, Kiley thought as she stared at the clothes in the closet. Not her real ones—they would never do. Instead she flipped through the fabulous designer clothes Rafiq had purchased for her. Okay, what exactly did one wear to a casual-but-elegant, at-home soirée. She’d never been to a soirée. She’d only ever read about them or seen them on nighttime soap operas.
Panic knotted her stomach and made her a little nauseous. An ambassador. Worse, a woman ambassador. What would they talk about? No doubt Madam Ambassador was ambitious and accomplished. What was Kiley supposed to say in the face of that? “Hi, I’m a twit who put my whole life on hold because I thought I was marrying Mr. Right. When that didn’t work out, I became the mistress of a sheik. My entire gender must be so proud.”
She sank onto the small padded bench in the closet and hung her head. Okay, maybe that was a little harsh. She’d been stupid about Eric, but not about Rafiq. He was a great guy. She’d gotten the revenge she wanted, a chance to discover the magic between a man and a woman in the most thrilling way possible and time to regroup. He’d been nothing but supportive and kind. The only thing he’d ever asked for, aside from this party, was fidelity.
Plus, there was nothing wrong with wanting to be a wife and mother. Those were still her goals. The difference was she would think things through more next time. She would be more clear about the man she wanted to marry. Character was everything and all that.
She stood and reached for a pair of silk slacks and a fitted white silk blouse.
When in doubt, keep it simple, she thought.
After hanging them on the hook by the door, she returned to the bathroom where she quickly applied her makeup. When she’d dressed, she returned to the bedroom.
Rafiq was gone, no doubt checking on the last-minute details.
“Couldn’t we have started with a couple of clerks and maybe an undersecretary?”
she muttered to herself as she walked down the hall. “Maybe a gameskeeper or two?”
She found Rafiq in the dining room. Sana stood next to him, explaining what dishes would go where. When he reached for a bowl of nuts, she slapped his hand.
Kiley couldn’t help laughing.
“Did you see that?” he asked in outrage. “She violated my royal person.”
Sana glared at him. “If you snack now, you won’t be hungry later,” the housekeeper said, and then returned to the kitchen.
Kiley moved close. “I believe the violations are my responsibility,” she whispered in his ear.
He chuckled, then stepped back and studied her outfit. “You look very beautiful.
Are you feeling better?”
“A little.” She shook her head. “No. Not really. I’m intelligent and fully capable of holding my own in a conversation. I know that. It’s just…”
He crossed to her and lightly touched her chin. “You wish to make me proud of you.”
She let herself get lost in his dark eyes. “Exactly. If I’d known there was going to be a quiz on current events, I would have studied more.”
“There isn’t a quiz. This is a few friends getting together.”
“Right. That’s why we’ve got the good china out.”
He leaned close. “This isn’t the good china. That has the state seal on it.”
She instantly pictured an aquatic mammal before realizing that probably wasn’t the kind of seal he meant. “Casual is good,” she said. “I can do casual.”
He took her hand and led her to the foyer. They stopped in front of a large mirror.
“You enchant me,” he told her, meeting her gaze in the mirror. “You are completely yourself at every turn. You worry about me, you fuss, you create a sense of home where none existed.”
“I appreciate the compliment, but I don’t think I’ve done all that.”
“You have. Simply by your presence. You have become friends with Sana.”
He wasn’t making sense. “Who wouldn’t? She’s great. And she’s teaching me to make some really cool dishes.”
He smiled. “You take time with people. Now, even though you are nervous, you still show up and intend to do your best. I admire you, Kiley. More than I can say.”
He reached into his slacks pocket and pulled out a small box. She recognized the trademark, dark-green leather, the edging in silver, and turned to face him.
“No, no. Not required. I’m not here for the money or the jewelry.”
“But I want to give you this.”
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, and last week you gave me a car. Rafiq, stop. I’m not like them. I’m here for a nobler purpose.” Because she was falling for him, she thought, knowing she could never say that. Oh, sure, this had started out as a way to get revenge, but it was so much more now.
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