The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(5) by Susan Mallery
“It was fine,” Liana said, determined to ignore the way her blood seemed to sing as it flowed hotter and faster throughout her body. Yes, the prince was rugged and fabulously good-looking—and well, a prince. But she refused to let herself be distracted by him. By any of this. And how had he had time to get to the palace ahead of them, let alone time to change his clothes? Or had he been wearing that gray suit under his robes?
“You will find the palace very comfortable,” Prince Malik said.
Liana wasn’t sure if he was making a statement or issuing an order. Not that it mattered. “It’s lovely. The palace, I mean,” she said. “Impressive and not where we want to live.”
Bethany came up beside her, and Liana put her arm around her slender daughter. “I am a teacher for the American School. As such, I was promised housing there. I don’t know why you’ve brought me to the palace or what you hope to gain by it, but I insist that you allow us to go there now.”
Malik waved his hand, as if brushing aside her comments. “You’ll be much happier here. The rooms are larger and you may explore as you like. Transportation will be provided each morning and evening to take you to and from the school.”
Liana felt as if she had a bit part in a bad movie, but she was determined not to give in to her threatening hysteria before she had all the facts. “Have we been kidnapped?”
Malik looked insulted by the question. “Of course not,” he said, drawing himself up to his full and impressive height. “I am Crown Prince Malik Khan of El Bahar. I bestow on you the honor of being my guest at the royal palace.”
Liana pressed her lips together, not sure how to respond to that. A soft, snuffling sound interrupted her thoughts. She turned and saw a golden retriever hovering just outside the main door. Its tail wagged frantically, but it didn’t step inside the palace.
Bethany caught sight of the dog and clapped her hands together. “Mommy, can I go pet the dog?”
Liana glanced at Malik. “Is it friendly?”
“Yes. Sam belongs to my nephews, all of whom are much younger than Bethany. He’s very good with children. She will be safe.”
Liana nodded at her daughter. “Go ahead, but stay within sight of the open door.”
Her daughter walked slowly toward the retriever, holding out her hand for the animal to sniff. Sam took a quick whiff, then licked the offered fingers, all the while wiggling with excitement at the thought of a new playmate.
Liana took the opportunity of her daughter’s distraction to step closer to the prince, not because she wanted to be even more under his spell, but because she didn’t want Bethany to hear what she had to say.
“We are not staying here,” she informed Malik. “I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but your conduct is completely unacceptable. I am an American citizen and a guest of your country for the next two years. As such, I expect to obey El Baharian law. In return I wish to be treated with respect and courtesy, neither of which includes holding me anywhere against my will.”
“You do not understand,” Malik said patiently. “It is better for you to be at the palace.”
He looked too intelligent not to get her point, which meant he wasn’t listening. It was a trait shared by many men. Perhaps it was exacerbated by his royal status. Regardless, she had to get through to him.
Liana opened her mouth to speak, then closed it. A whisper of a memory drifted through her mind. She tried to shake it off, but it would not be denied. Then, despite the potential peril of her situation, she couldn’t help laughing softly.
“Your Highness, you do not want to play this game with me. I’ve seen the movie.”
He frowned. “What are you talking about?”
“The schoolteacher brought to the foreign country, the man in the royal house who refuses to let her have her own house. You are not the King of Siam and I am not Mrs. Anna. But if you have any thoughts of recreating that situation, may I take this moment to remind you that not only does the king never sleep with Mrs. Anna, he has the misfortune to die at the end.”
She’d thought Prince Malik might look shocked or disapproving. Instead he startled her by leaning close. “We all die in the end, Liana,” he said, his warm breath tickling her ear. “And make no mistake, I will have you in my bed.”
“If you keep saying things like that, you’re going to scare the poor woman to death.”
Both Malik and Liana turned at the sound of the female voice. An attractive woman with curly light brown hair and wire-framed glasses approached. She wore a chic green dress that screamed designer, and there were the most amazing pearls around her neck. The woman shook her head at the prince.
“I can’t believe you’re using lines like that, Malik. Haven’t you ever heard of subtlety?”
He drew himself up and glared down at the woman. Even though she wore high heels, he was a good six or seven inches taller. “I am Malik Khan, Crown Prince of El Bahar—”
She dismissed him with a wave and turned her attention to Liana. “Pay no attention to that speech. All the princes give it and we’ve learned to ignore them.” She held out her hand. “Hi. I’m Heidi, wife of Jamal, the middle of the Khan brothers.” She glanced at Malik. “You’ve already been tormented by my brother-in-law. What is it about these sheiks? Give them a little power and they want to run all over everyone.”
Liana shook hands with the charming American and gave her a trembling smile, along with her name. She couldn’t remember ever being in a more confusing situation. She felt as if she’d landed on a strange planet…and in a way she had. El Bahar was a very different place from her native California.
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