The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(11) by Susan Mallery
“I’m not a quitter. And I don’t believe in fairy tales.”
“Nor do I.”
Which brought her back to her earlier question. Why was she here? But she didn’t ask it this time. She was sitting in the magic of the desert night with a handsome prince. It was a moment she wasn’t ready to completely destroy. If this were Hollywood, Malik would take her in his arms and kiss her senseless. Unless it was an R-rated movie, in which case he would do a lot more.
She found herself shivering at the thought of being close to him. Chemicals, she decided in an attempt to think her way out of a situation entirely controlled by hormones, were more powerful than she’d ever given them credit for.
If only he weren’t so good-looking. If only she had a little more experience with his kind of man. Although, as a single mom living in a small town seventy miles due east of Los Angeles, she hadn’t had much opportunity to run into many princes. So where exactly would she have practiced?
Was he going to kiss her? Was he going to try and make love with her? The thought sent heat flooding through her body. She’d never had a one-night stand in her life, and she wasn’t about to start now. In fact, she’d only ever been with Chuck, but there was something about Malik that made her want to throw caution to the wind and….
“Heidi tells me you’re not married,” she blurted out, then could have cheerfully cut out her tongue. Talk about a dumb thing to say.
“So you’re the perennial bachelor, using your princely charms to seduce women?”
Unexpectedly, he rose to his feet. “Thank you for your company this evening, Liana. I’ve enjoyed talking with you very much.”
And then he was gone. Liana stared after him, her mouth open, her eyes wide. What had she said, she wondered, completely stunned by his sudden departure. Had she insulted him with her teasing? But he did try to use his princely charms on women. Why wouldn’t he?
“The rich really are different,” she muttered as she stood and headed back to her bedroom. “And confusing, and the sooner we’re out of here, the better.”
Malik paced the length of the living room in his suite. He’d left the French doors open, and the scent of the Arabian Sea just beyond the palace drifted in. He drew in a deep breath, hoping to chase away the lingering fragrance of the woman.
What the hell had he been thinking, bringing her here? He’d dragged her to the palace without her consent, as if he were some barbarian. His behavior was irresponsible. Worse, just a few minutes ago he’d wanted to rip the clothes from her body and make love to her right there on the balcony. He’d wanted to be inside her, plunging deeply until they were both so lost and mindless with passion that even time stood still.
The image in his head was so powerful, he felt himself growing aroused. The need produced an ache. Not surprising. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been with a woman. Casual relationships were an easy pleasure he did not allow himself. As the Crown Prince of El Bahar, he was held to a higher standard than everyone else. He could not risk exposing himself or the country to the potential disaster of an exposé in the tabloids—or an unexpected pregnancy.
He felt as lost and out of control as a ship in the middle of a violent storm. In truth, he felt violent. If he couldn’t have the woman—and he couldn’t—he wanted to punish, to destroy. He wanted to inflict and feel physical pain. He wanted to move, to run, to force his muscles to work past the point of exhaustion, to make his lungs gasp for breath. He wanted to feel anything but the desire that threatened to rip him apart from the inside.
Why did you bring me here? Liana had asked him the question and he’d been unable to answer. The truth would have terrified her. He’d brought her to the palace because he’d been unable to let her go. In that moment on the plane, when he’d first seen her, he’d felt something. A connection, a link that was so powerful, it had nearly pulled out his soul. Not once in his life had he ever been so emotionally exposed. Not even with Iman—his wife.
He paced to the windows and back, telling himself that in the morning he had to let the woman go. He had no right to keep her. He might be the Crown Prince of El Bahar, but in these modern times he would not be allowed to kidnap an American citizen, no matter how much he might want to do so.
He ached. Not just to make love, but for so much more. He saw his brothers with their wives, and he envied the emotional intimacy they shared, an intimacy he would never be allowed to experience. He longed to be just like everyone else, and that was the one thing he could not have.
So he’d brought Liana here, if only for the night, because of the unexplained desire he felt for her. Because for their brief time together he could pretend that he was like other men, that he might meet a woman, find her attractive, date her and perhaps even fall in love.
He could allow himself this fantasy for a single night, knowing it could never be. He’d learned his lesson well as a boy, and now he lived it as a man. No one breached the walls that surrounded his soul. His wife never had, although she hadn’t much tried.
Iman.Just thinking about her changed his passion to anger. He welcomed the transformation. He forced himself to remember how badly it had all started and the tragedy of how it had ended. The saving grace was that he’d never loved her. He’d never loved anyone. He never would.
But not loving couldn’t take away the wanting, and reality prevented him from having that which he needed. So he continued to pace alone in his room, desperately forcing himself to ignore the ache, the need and the loneliness which had, over time, become his closest friends.
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