The Sheikh and the Virgin Secretary(Desert Rogues, Book 10)(49) by Susan Mallery
Kiley knew that the princess was in her early thirties, but she looked much younger. Perhaps it was the air of contentment that seemed to surround her, as if she had everything she’d ever wanted.
“Do you miss your girls?” she asked.
Phoebe nodded. “That’s the only bad part of traveling. We were going to bring them, but there was a very special sleep-over planned, and that seemed much more interesting to them. Plus, I wanted to have time to get to know you, which wouldn’t have happened with my girls around. They’re very energetic.”
Kiley felt a whisper of envy. She wanted children and soon. Would Rafiq be happy if she got pregnant right away?
“The island is a wonderful place to grow up,” Phoebe said. “There’s so much for children to do, yet everything is so safe. I couldn’t have picked better if I’d tried.”
“It sounds lovely. I’m looking forward to seeing it firsthand. Although maybe as a tourist rather than a future princess.”
Phoebe’s expression turned sympathetic. “A little nervous?”
“More than a little. There’s so much to learn. I had to quit my job because it would have been too weird to be engaged and working for Rafiq. I was terrified I wouldn’t have anything to do. Instead I’m busy all the time. I’m studying the history of the island so I understand the people. Then there’s all the protocol, customs, expectations. It’s a lot to take in. I want to be a good wife. I want Rafiq to be proud of me.”
“I can see that and I admire your energy. But isn’t loving him going to be enough?”
“You’d think,” Kiley said, wishing it were. “It’s my problem, not his. Rafiq has never asked me to learn anything or change.” But she was afraid he would be disappointed if she wasn’t the perfect princess.
“You’re lucky,” Phoebe said. “You won’t be the wife of the crown prince for many years. That will give you a certain amount of freedom.”
“I know. It must have been difficult for you to step right into that role.”
Phoebe shrugged. “I was young and so very much in love. I would have done anything for Nasri. By the time I knew enough to be scared, I knew enough to get by. Then I got pregnant, and once I became a mother, the rest of it didn’t seem so important.” She touched Kiley’s arm. “Don’t worry. You’ll do well, and Rafiq will be there to guide you.”
“Thank you.” Kiley did trust that Rafiq would be a help. “You’re being very kind.”
“I have an ulterior motive.”
Kiley couldn’t imagine what she could have that the other woman wanted. “Which
“I want to know if Rafiq has said anything about his father.” She held up a hand. “I know I’m prying and it’s terrible of me, but I do so worry about those two. They’ve never been close and I know that hurts them both. I kept thinking that as Rafiq got older their differences would fade away, but they haven’t.
There is a distance between them. I’m sure you’ve noticed it.”
Kiley nodded slowly. She didn’t want to be having this conversation. As much as she liked Phoebe, she wasn’t going to betray Rafiq by sharing what he’d told her about his father.
“I know Rafiq enjoys his work,” Kiley said carefully. “And he looks forward to returning home.”
Phoebe smiled. “It’s all right. In your position I wouldn’t have said anything, either. I just wish…” She stared out at the ocean. “I wish things had been different. Nasri was so young when Rafiq was born. Still only seventeen. He wanted to go off to university in England, to grow up and have a life. He had the means to hire staff to look after Rafiq and so he did. He never saw the importance of being a father. He didn’t think about a young child left alone.”
Kiley didn’t want to think about it, either. It broke her heart to imagine Rafiq as a small boy, abandoned by both his parents.
“As Nasri grew, he fell in love and married. I’m sure his first wife tried with Rafiq, but soon she had children of her own. After she died, Nasri lost himself in grief. By the time he surfaced, Rafiq was away at boarding school. There was never a good time.”
“Perhaps the prince should have made time,” Kiley said before she could stop herself. “He was the father.”
“I agree,” Phoebe told her. “As does Nasri. He sees the mistakes he made, but they are in the past and impossible to rectify. I wish I could make you see how much he wants to be close to his son.”
Kiley didn’t like being put in this position, but before she could protest, Phoebe shook her head.
“Enough of such seriousness. At least the cycle will be broken. Rafiq will be a better father to his children and you will be there for them as well. I can already feel the love between you.”
Kiley smiled. “Does it show?”
“You light up when he walks in the room, but isn’t that as it should be?”
She thought about how happy he made her and knew she wouldn’t change anything.
“Yes, it is.”
Kiley did her best not to look at herself in the mirror. Seeing herself in formal clothing would only make her more nervous.
“How did they do it so quickly?” she asked, not really expecting an answer.
“It’s a formal event. Shouldn’t that take weeks?”
“Phoebe is very good at putting parties together.”
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