The Sheikh and the Virgin Secretary(Desert Rogues, Book 10)(48) by Susan Mallery
The prince looked unconvinced. “She is of good character?”
Rafiq nodded. “Intelligent, caring, loyal and very kind. She will be a good mother to my sons.”
“And your daughters,” Phoebe said with a sigh. “What is it about you men and your sons? It’s very annoying. Rafiq, I assure you, your father loves his daughters as much as his sons. You need not fear that they’re ignored.”
“I am relieved,” he said, keeping his thoughts to himself. With Phoebe there to watch over her children, he had no doubt his father participated in their upbringing.
But it had been different for him. Prince Nasri had disappeared from his son’s life and had rarely returned. Rafiq could remember months passing without a word. Birthdays and holidays were frequently spent in the company of nannies and tutors. When he’d been old enough to go to boarding school, most of his vacations had been spent there. It wasn’t until he’d turned thirteen that his father had decided it was time for Rafiq to learn about his future duties.
They drove up the driveway. Phoebe smiled.
“I love this house. It reminds me a little of Lucia-Serrat, and yet it’s completely different. You have the best of both worlds here.”
“Is that why my son and heir chooses to stay away for so long?” Nasri asked with a grumble.
Phoebe shook her head. “Be nice. You promised. Part of the reason your son stays away is you’re an old grouch most of the time. You’re not yet fifty, but you have the temperament of a man close to eighty.” She glanced at Rafiq. “Except when he is with the girls. Then he is happy and carefree. I suppose it’s the responsibility.”
Arnold, the driver, opened the rear door and she slid out.
“You will be a big help when you return,” she told Rafiq as she stood on the driveway and smoothed her long, blond hair. “We are both looking forward to that.”
“As am I,” Rafiq said, speaking the truth. He missed Lucia-Serrat. Now that he would marry Kiley and start a family, he found himself ready to return.
The front door opened. Kiley stepped out and smiled.
“Hello,” she said. “It’s lovely to have you here.”
Rafiq saw the terror in her eyes and knew that she would rather be anywhere but here. Still, he doubted Nasri or Phoebe noticed.
She’d dressed in a pale-blue dress that fell loosely to her calves. Her makeup was light, her jewelry conservative. She hadn’t discussed her clothing with him, and he was pleased by her choice. She looked exactly right for the occasion. He could also imagine her brushing close and whispering to him that she wasn’t wearing any underwear.
“You must be Kiley,” Phoebe said, stepping forward and holding out both her hands. “I’m delighted to meet you. At last someone has captured Rafiq’s heart.
I’d begun to lose hope.”
Kiley laughed as the two women hugged. “He sure has dated a lot. I like to think he got it out of his system.”
“Nasri did the same thing,” Phoebe said in a mock whisper. “I believe it makes him appreciate me more.” She turned to her husband and drew him near. “Here she is. Don’t you adore her right away?”
Rafiq moved next to Kiley and put his hand on the small of her back. “Kiley, this is my father, Prince Nasri Majin of Lucia-Serrat.”
Kiley offered a very impressive curtsy. “It is very much an honor to meet you, sir.”
Rafiq watched as his father looked her over. He wasn’t concerned—family opinion mattered little to him—but he wanted the meeting to go well for Kiley’s sake.
At last his father smiled. “Welcome to our family, Kiley.”
Rafiq started to say they should all go inside, but before he could speak the words, Fari burst through the open door and began running in circles around everyone. She yapped and spun and shook with delight.
“Oh, no.” Kiley reached for her but couldn’t catch her. “She’s our new puppy. I locked her up in the bedroom. How did she get out?”
Phoebe laughed. “She’s a wonder.”
“She’s just a puppy,” Kiley said. “And still a little excitable.”
“Here.” Prince Nasri reached for her.
“Oh, you don’t want to do that,” Kiley said, sounding worried. “When she gets excited, she—”
It was too late. Nasri picked up the puppy and brought her to his chest. Fari licked his chin and promptly peed down the front of his shirt.
Kiley and Phoebe sat out on the deck the following afternoon. Fari stretched out at Kiley’s feet and dozed in the sunlight.
“It’s beautiful here,” Phoebe said. “The first time I saw pictures of Rafiq’s house I remember thinking that he’d wanted to keep a piece of Lucia-Serrat with him. While the view is different, the essence of the place is very similar.”
“He misses the island,” Kiley told her. Not that he talked about it that much, but she had a strong sense of his need to return home.
“And we miss him.” Phoebe smiled at her. “I adore my stepchildren. They’re all so wonderful. And they seem to like me, which is great. I would have hated to be wicked and live up to that horrible stepmother cliché.”
Kiley laughed. “I’m not sure you could be wicked if you tried.”
“Probably not, but I do a great crabby. Just ask my husband.”
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