The Sheikh and the Virgin Secretary(Desert Rogues, Book 10)(40) by Susan Mallery
“Are you sure?” Margaret asked. “He has to settle down sometime.”
“I’m sure he has a princess-in-training all picked out. He’s not the boy next door. He has to be very careful about who he chooses.”
“Agreed. So why not you?”
Kiley knew all the reasons. She didn’t have family connections or the right lineage. Loving him wasn’t enough of a calling card.
“She’s wonderful,” Margaret told Rafiq after dinner. “Where did you find her?”
“She works for me.”
Margaret smiled. “Your secretary. Then she’s not your usual type.”
The ambassador laughed. “She’s a real person with a heart and a brain. You don’t always look for that.”
“I would have thought that to be in your position, some measure of diplomacy was required.”
Margaret shrugged. “I thought we’d known each other long enough for that not to be an issue. But if you’d prefer I can speak more delicately.”
“No. I like that you tell me the truth.” He offered Margaret a glass of cognac, then took one for himself. They were the last ones at the dining room table.
Everyone else had gone out to admire the sunset.
She took a sip, then set down her glass. “Your father has been speaking with me.
You know he’s concerned.”
Rafiq could imagine the subject of their conversation. “I’m past thirty and not engaged. It’s time for me to take a wife.”
“A list has been prepared.”
“I trust you didn’t bring it with you.”
“I wasn’t privy to it. I only know of its existence, and that I wasn’t on it.”
Despite his displeasure at the topic, he smiled. “You tell that story of falling for me all those years ago, but in truth you were far more interested in your career than in any one man.”
“Perhaps,” she admitted. “But it is a good story. Now, back to the subject you don’t wish to discuss. I am your friend and I tell you this as a friend. You will be recalled by the end of the year. Your father is determined to see you married with an heir.”
He shrugged. “Then I will pick a wife.”
“You could sound more enthused about it.”
“Why? It is a duty, nothing more.”
“What about Kiley?”
The idea had crossed his mind. She was all he had ever wanted. But to marry her was to invite disaster. He would start to believe and have expectations. When she let him down, when she proved she was like all the others and that she could not love with any depth, he would be unable to forgive her. There had been too many disappointments in his life for him to be forgiving now.
“Want to tell me why not?” she asked.
“Not really. I will pick a suitable bride and produce an heir.”
“You don’t sound very happy about the prospect. I know you’re a prince, Rafiq, but you’re also a man. Don’t you want to fall madly in love?”
He recalled all that had happened to him while he’d been growing up. All the times he’d been left alone because there was no one to bother. He thought of all
the women who claimed to love him when what they loved was the promise of title and untold riches.
“I don’t believe in love,” he said. “I prefer duty. A desire to serve can be trusted.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, and touched his hand. “I wish I could change your mind.”
“I assure you, I won’t.”
Kiley walked into the restaurant shortly after twelve. The reservation was for twelve-fifteen, but she didn’t want to be late. Actually, she didn’t want to be here at all, but if her presence was required, then she would prefer not to be tardy.
Why had she agreed to this? What had she been thinking? In truth, the invitation had been such a shock that she hadn’t been able to think of a reason to refuse.
She gave her name to the hostess and was shown to a corner table at the rear of the restaurant. Several of the surrounding tables were still unoccupied. Crystal gleamed on white tablecloths as jacketed servers moved quietly among the upscale clientele.
Kiley adjusted the front of her designer dress. It wasn’t anything she would normally have worn to work, but this wasn’t a normal day.
At exactly twelve-sixteen, a beautiful, well-dressed woman approached the table.
Kiley stood and offered a tentative smile. The woman looked her up and down.
“So, you’re the new flavor of the month. You’re not exactly his usual type, are you? Well, sit down.” The woman took her seat and motioned to the waiter. “A martini. Very dry. Tell David it’s me. He knows what I like.”
Carnie Rigby, former beauty queen, former actress and Rafiq’s mother, glanced at her. “Let me guess. You’ll have white wine.”
Kiley figured this had to be some kind of test. No one could be that rude on general principle. At least she hoped not. She leaned back in her seat and turned to the waiter.
“I’ll have a glass of iced tea, please.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The man hurried away.
“Afraid you’ll be muddled this afternoon?” Carnie asked as she shrugged off her jacket. “I doubt my son will care.”
“He might not, but I would.”
“That’s the secretary in you. A secretary. Whatever were you thinking? I heard you’d been to college. Surely you could have done more with your life.”
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