The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(8) by Susan Mallery
They walked down the short hallway and found two bedrooms, each with its own bath. The smaller of the two rooms was still big enough for a queen-sized bed, a desk, a dresser and a large built-in wall unit that housed a state-of-the-art television and DVD player. There was also a collection of movies in a drawer underneath. The attached bath was larger than their kitchen had been back home. The towels were thick enough to double as a mattress in a pinch and there were a collection of bath products by the oversized tub. Small versions of the mosaics in the living room continued here on the walls and floor tiles.
Liana’s room was even more impressive. The king-sized bed took up barely an eighth of the floor space. The four-poster monstrosity required a step stool to reach the mattress. Crisp white linens gave the room a cool air, and fresh flowers added to the ambiance. Her bathroom was huge, with a tub large enough for a committee meeting. Instead of the horses, her bath was decorated with a floral design. In addition to the baskets of bath products, Liana found an array of makeup, brushes and body lotions…all unopened, but calling her name.
“Wow,” she said as she finished her tour.
Bethany tucked a blond strand of hair behind her ear. “I like it here, Mommy. Maybe we can stay.”
Liana grinned. “Wouldn’t that be nice? To live like princesses?” She pulled her daughter close and hugged her. “Maybe you could insist all your classmates bow to you.”
Bethany giggled. “Especially the boys.”
“Of course.All the boys. And some of the girls. The ones who aren’t friendly.”
Still laughing, they returned to Bethany’s room and started to unpack. They’d barely begun the job when there was a knock at the door.
“Stay here,” Liana said as she hurried toward the front room.
Was it Malik? Had he come to talk to her? She found herself in the uncomfortable position of being both hopeful and fearful. Which was crazy. The man was handsome and high-handed, nothing more. Besides, in the morning she and her daughter would be gone, and she would never see him again.
But first you have to get through the night, a voice in her head whispered.
She opened the door and saw an attractive woman in her thirties standing in the hallway. She had dark hair and eyes.
“I’m Dora Khan,” the woman said. “May I come in?”
“Of course.” Liana stepped back to allow her to enter. “Did you say Khan? So you’re…”
“The wife of Khalil, the youngest of the king’s sons.”
Dora wore her dark hair swept up in a chignon. She had perfect skin and her dress was as stylish as Heidi’s. Apparently princesses knew how to shop, Liana thought with a brief flash of wistfulness. She tried not to think about how rumpled her jeans and shirt were after nearly twenty-four hours of travel.
“I just wanted to tell you that I heard about what Malik has done,” Dora said. “I know you’ve been dating for a while, but this is high-handed even for him—to force you to live at the palace when you want to stay at the American School. I understand you have a daughter. Obviously you’re trying to protect her from the scandal this would create.”
Liana blinked twice. “Excuse me? What on earth are you talking about?”
“Your relationship with Malik. I was led to believe that you’ve been seeing quite a lot of each other and that’s the reason you came to El Bahar.”
Were they all crazy, or was it her? Had crossing all those time zones affected her brain? She looked at the attractive woman standing in front of her. “I met the Crown Prince earlier this afternoon when he and several other men barged onto the plane and took away one of the women. Apparently she was engaged, and that was her idea of a romantic welcome back to El Bahar.”
Dora looked confused. “You just met him today? Then what are you doing at the palace?”
“My question exactly.” She recounted the events of the afternoon, starting with the customs line-up and finishing with her entrance into the suite.
“How strange,” Dora said slowly. “This isn’t like Malik at all.” She gazed at Liana speculatively. “It’s been a long time since Malik has shown any real interest in a woman. His father will be pleased.”
Liana held up her hands in a gesture of protection. “He’s not interested. He can’t be. He doesn’t know anything about me. I’m not sure why he did all this, but please be aware that I’m leaving in the morning, just as soon as I get this mess straightened out.”
“Of course.” Dora continued to study her. “Well, welcome to El Bahar, Liana. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your time here.” She smiled. “If nothing else, it’s going to be interesting. Let me know if I can do anything to help. If you really want to leave the palace, I can arrange it. Just say the word.”
“I will, thank you.” Liana watched her guest leave, then closed the door behind her. How odd. Who could have told the princess that she and Malik were involved? She’d only been on the palace grounds an hour or so. Had Heidi hinted at something or was it Malik himself?
The idea of the arrogant Crown Prince laying claim to a relationship that didn’t exist was so ridiculous as to make her laugh. Except that the situation wasn’t exactly humorous. It was more…intriguing, she thought to herself as she remembered her unexpected response to being in Malik’s presence. Something about him was appealing. Not so much his money and position—both of those would be more off-putting, at least for her. She was willing to admit he was plenty handsome. There was something about his height. Or was it his dark eyes? The way they seemed to see into her soul without giving away anything of their own….
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