The Sheikh and the Virgin Secretary(Desert Rogues, Book 10)(54) by Susan Mallery
Rafiq battled fury for the next two days. While Kiley didn’t labor over the topic, he sensed her determination. And try as he might, he couldn’t seem to come up with any words that would convince her to see his side of things.
The prince and Phoebe seemed to sense the disquiet, for they spent much of that time touring the area, as if they wanted to avoid the house.
If Rafiq could have avoided it, he would. He hated that Kiley was so withdrawn.
He missed her laughter, her pleasure in his company. In truth, he understood her need to stand firm on this issue. Unfortunately her principles brought her in direct opposition to his wishes. And he would win this battle, one way or the other.
“Aren’t you going to the office?”
He looked up from his desk at the house and saw Kiley standing in the doorway.
As always, the sight of her brought him gladness, followed by intense anger at her determination to be difficult.
“Eventually. I wish this resolved, first.”
She stepped into the room. “You probably shouldn’t wait that long. There are things you need to take care of.”
“You won’t marry me but still you worry about my work?”
She shrugged. “One has nothing to do with the other. Not marrying you doesn’t make me care any less. It doesn’t make me not love you.”
She moved forward until she stood behind the chair in front of his desk. “I’ve been trying to figure out what’s wrong,” she said quietly, her voice filled with pain. “I have given my heart to you so completely that it’s impossible for me to believe you don’t want to do the same. You have all the symptoms of the condition, and yet you claim not to love me. And then I remember your past. What happened with your parents. Is that it, Rafiq? Were you hurt too many times as a child to believe in love?”
The question made him sound weak and he refused to answer. “My reasons aren’t important.”
“They are to me. I comfort myself with the fact that this isn’t personal. You wouldn’t love anyone, would you? What are you afraid of?”
He glared at her. “I have no fear.”
“You have something. Is it being hurt? Is it that I’ll go away? Because I won’t.
I don’t want to. I’m not your parents. If you don’t believe me, look to my family, at what I’ve been taught. My parents are as much in love today as when they were married. My sisters have wonderful relationships. I made a mistake with Eric, but even there I was loyal. He was the one who betrayed me.”
Her words hurt him as much as if she’d attacked him with a knife. “You will marry me.”
“No. Not until you can admit you love me. Because that’s the irony of the situation. I think you do. I think I matter more than anyone has ever mattered and you’re terrified of that. You’re afraid of being hurt and abandoned. There’s nothing I can say or do to convince you otherwise, so this is all about a step of faith. Are you willing to take it?”
He stood. “Do not presume to know my mind,” he told her coldly.
Her shoulders slumped. “Right. Because pride matters the most. Don’t you get tired of always being right but always being alone?”
She turned and left the room. Silence surrounded him, pressed down on him, gutted him and he could not say why.
Rafiq transferred most of his operation to the house. He told himself it was so that he could spend time with his father and Phoebe, but in truth it was so he could keep an eye on Kiley. How long would she stay? When would she bolt for freedom?
That had to be her plan and he couldn’t let her escape with his child.
He reviewed the oil reserve reports, stopping only when his father walked into the study and took a seat.
“Good news?” Nasri asked, nodding at the papers.
“Yes. The reserves are much larger than we calculated at first. Unlike other parts of the world, we will have oil into the next century.”
“That bodes well for our future economy,” the prince said. He leaned back in the leather chair and studied his son. “Do you see much of your mother these days?”
Rafiq shook his head and tried not to show his surprise at the question. “I have spoken with her twice in the past two months, but before that it was nearly a year since our paths crossed.”
“So you don’t have regular contact with her?”
“No. There is no reason.”
The prince shrugged. “She is your mother.”
“She and I have a biological connection, but little else.”
“She was never warm or maternal,” Prince Nasri said. “But she was very beautiful. I remember the first time I saw her. She was filming a scene on the beach. I was taken with her beauty. She was older by five years. When I was seventeen, that made her seem a woman of the world.” He smiled. “I wanted her to be my first.”
Rafiq hadn’t known that, and frankly he could have gone a long time without hearing the information. He and his father weren’t very close, but that didn’t mean he was comfortable discussing the man’s sex life with Rafiq’s mother.
“I didn’t love her,” Nasri continued. “Love wasn’t important to me. Fortunately she didn’t love me, either, so neither of us was hurt. Although there was an injured party.”
He paused significantly. Rafiq knew his father meant him, but refused to say anything.
“It was never my intention to wound you,” the prince said.
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