The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(15) by Susan Mallery
Blue eyes stared beseechingly up at her. Liana grabbed hold of the anger flaring inside of her. None of this was her daughter’s fault, she reminded herself. Bethany was an innocent in whatever game Prince Malik might be playing with them both. But she couldn’t ignore the fury building inside her. How dare that man use her daughter to get to her? Riding lessons. Yeah, right. Every good prince gave them to absolute strangers on a regular basis. It was probably part of their training.
She forced herself to smile at her daughter and smooth her bangs from her face. “I think learning to ride is a wonderful idea, and if it doesn’t work out here, I’ll check into it in the city. I’m sure there’s a stable close to the American School. Even with all the money we need to save, I’ll bet there’s enough left over for lessons.”
Her daughter opened her mouth to protest, but Liana stopped her with a shake of her head. “I need to talk to the prince first, Bethany. While I’m gone, please start on your homework. After dinner, I thought we’d watch a movie. Would you like to pick it?”
Bethany’s natural good nature asserted itself. “You won’t forget about the riding lessons?”
“I promise I won’t.”
“Okay.” Her daughter kissed her cheek, then stood and skipped out of the room. She paused in the doorway and glanced back at her mother. “I looked this morning and there are Disney movies on the shelves in my room, along with The Little Princess.” She giggled. “Maybe we should watch that one.”
Liana looked at her daughter. Bethany was a pretty child. She still had freckles on her pert nose, and with her slender, athletic body, in a few short years she was going to be a heartbreaker. But for now she was still a little girl. Liana would do anything to protect her, even risk an international incident…or her job.
“The Little Princess sounds great. Will you be all right while I’m gone? I should be back in about twenty minutes.”
“I’m nine!” Bethany reminded her. “I’m not a baby.”
“I know. You’re practically a grandmother. Promise you’ll stay in the suite.”
“Promise,” Bethany called in a sing-song voice as she headed off to her room.
Liana waited until she heard the door close, then she rose to her feet and went in search of Prince Malik.
The palace was huge, and, in a matter of minutes, she found herself completely lost. All the long corridors looked similar enough to confuse her. By the time she’d passed the stone nymph fountain for the third time, she knew she wasn’t going to be able to find her way on her own. Of course, her journey was hampered by a lack of knowledge about her destination.
Finally Liana spotted a young servant and stopped the woman. She explained she was looking for Prince Malik. Complicated directions followed, ending with Liana being escorted to a large set of double doors.
“Here, ma’am,” the young woman said with a smile. “Prince Malik. Good evening to you both.”
“It won’t be a good evening for him,” Liana muttered as a way to gather her suddenly lacking courage. “I plan to tell him exactly what I think of him. How dare he thrust himself into our lives like this and expect…” She verbally stumbled as she realized she had no clue about his expectations, except a burning certainty that they couldn’t possibly either be acceptable or match her own.
That decided, she pounded on the door.
She fully expected to be let into a suite of offices and then to have to explain her presence to a host of secretaries and assistants. Instead, Prince Malik himself opened the door. The sight of him disconcerted her, as did his state of dress.
Liana stared and swallowed and vowed that this time she was going to ignore the heating, melting sensation filling her body. It’s not as if the man were naked, or even close to naked. He wore black slacks and a formal white shirt. He’d been in the process of slipping in cufflinks when he’d answered the door.
Dark eyes locked with hers and the intense expression there nearly caused her not to notice his still-damp hair and the clean look of his freshly shaven face. He was a handsome man—too handsome for comfort—and she had the most disconcerting urge to offer to finish fastening his cuffs for him.
“Liana,” he said, faint pleasure lacing his voice. “This is a surprise. I was on my way out for the evening.”
“I can tell,” she told him, firmly squashing the irrational flare of jealousy that ripped through her. Going out, was he? As in, with a woman? Fine by her. She didn’t care. In fact she was pleased he was going out because then he wouldn’t be around to bother her. Not that he’d been a bother, but he was keeping her here against her will which meant the bothering bit was bound to occur sooner or later.
“I have something to discuss with you, Your Highness,” she said, stepping into his suite. “While it won’t take very long, I consider it most important.”
“Of course you do,” he said with a smile, then motioned for her to take a seat on one of the large sofas in his living room. “And please, call me Malik.”
The request disconcerted her, which made no sense. She found herself slightly off balance and trying not to be intimidated by the luxury and grandeur of his living room.
He had the same view she did, although from a different angle, as his rooms were at the far end of the palace. There was no mural. Instead beautiful paintings covered the plain cream walls. She recognized a couple of the pieces from photos in books. Malik seemed to favor Impressionists, although there was a smaller collection of modern pieces in the dining area to their left.
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