The Sheikh and the Virgin Secretary(Desert Rogues, Book 10)(55) by Susan Mallery
“I survived and grew up,” Rafiq told him. “Unless you have complaints about my work?”
“Not at all. You do your duties extremely well. Somehow you managed to raise yourself with the help of a few nannies and tutors. You should be proud.”
Rafiq shifted in his chair. “I find no cause for pride.”
“I’m sure that is true, but still I have regrets. I think about what you went through and how I should have been there. I was but a child myself, yet I find that excuse has less and less meaning as I get older.”
If Rafiq didn’t know it wasn’t possible, he would swear that his father had been speaking with Kiley. She had been pushing for a reconciliation. Instead it had come from an unlikely source. At what point should he explain that none of this was necessary?
“The past is just that. Over,” Rafiq said. “I appreciate your worry on my behalf, but it doesn’t matter now.”
“I think it does. I am worried about your relationship with Kiley.”
He bristled. “That is not your concern.”
“You are my son. That makes it my concern. Phoebe and I noticed that you both seem less happy than when we arrived.”
“It is nothing.”
Prince Nasri didn’t respond. Silence filled the room. At last Rafiq spoke.
“She has refused to marry me, despite the fact that she carries my child. While I offer her the world, she wants only a declaration of love.”
“Which you will not give her,” the prince said. “Because you do not believe.”
Rafiq wanted to hurry from the room. He didn’t like this conversation.
Nasri leaned toward him. “My son, I cannot tell you how sorry I am. It is my fault you resist Kiley’s precious gift. You haven’t seen much love in your life and that is because of me. I wasn’t there. I didn’t show you what—”
Rafiq rose. “Do you think any of this matters to me?”
“No. She will marry me. With the child, she has no choice.”
The prince stood and faced him. “Why won’t you trust her? Why won’t you let her prove herself?”
Because no one had ever loved him enough to stay.
Rafiq didn’t speak the words, but they reverberated inside his brain. All his life people had left. He had learned not to care, not to let them close enough so that their disappearance was more than a sting. So it was with Kiley. He would keep her at arm’s length, but he would keep her.
Without saying anything more, he walked out of the room and left his father.
There was a solution, he thought. And he would find it.
Kiley was thinking that this wasn’t the best week she’d ever had. Everything had started out with such promise. How had she ended up sad and afraid? Afraid because she didn’t know how to convince Rafiq that caring about her was safe.
“May I join you?”
She looked up and saw Phoebe had strolled onto the deck. “Thank you, yes,” Kiley told her. “I’m tired of my own company.”
Rafiq’s stepmother stretched out on the lounge chair and sighed. “I’m enjoying my time here. At home there are a thousand-and-one things that need my attention. Not to mention how much the girls keep me busy. But here there is only family and a chance to relax.”
“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself.”
Phoebe turned to look at her. “You are not, I fear. Nasri and I know about your situation with Rafiq.”
Kiley winced. “Tell me you didn’t hear us fighting.”
“Of course not. You’ve been most discreet. But the mood changed, and then Rafiq spoke with his father.”
“On purpose?” Kiley asked before she could stop herself. “Sorry. I just didn’t think they talked about anything personal.”
“They don’t. Nasri never knows what to say, although he would rather slice off his arm than admit it. The fear of saying the wrong thing causes him to be critical. Rafiq expects the worst and jumps on any misstep. I have tried, but they are both stubborn. Still, they spoke. I don’t think the wounds are healed, but they are acknowledged.”
“I wish Rafiq could get along with his father. He needs that connection.” He needed a place to call home, she thought. “He’s so good with me, and I know he’ll be good with our baby. It’s just…” She winced. “You knew about the baby, didn’t you?”
Phoebe smiled. “Yes. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you.” She glanced back toward the open door, then lowered her voice. “Kiley, I can help you.”
“How? No offense, but I have trouble believing you’re going to click your fingers and have Rafiq falling at my feet.”
“Unfortunately, no. But I can help you get away.”
Kiley shifted Fari off her lap and sat up in the lounge chair. “I don’t understand. You want me to leave?”
“Of course not. It’s just…I know you’re unhappy and I’m very clear on the law of the land. Your child will have to be raised on Lucia-Serrat. Your choice is to leave the child or live on the island and deal with Rafiq.”
“I figured that part out.” It was like being between a rock and a hard place.
“I’ll be moving to the island.”
“You don’t have to.” Phoebe stared at her intently. “I can take you to a place where Rafiq will never find you. There you can raise your child alone. Without him.” Phoebe sighed. “I don’t like making this offer, but as a mother, I
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