The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(21) by Susan Mallery
“Thank you for the compliment,” she said blandly, trying not to notice how his dark eyes gleamed with a light that had little to do with humor and instead reminded her of the passion that had flared between them only three evenings before when he’d taken her in his arms and kissed her until she was breathless and shaken.
“I’ve decided we shall have a girl next,” Khalil said, placing his arm around Dora’s shoulders. “We have two sons and it’s time for a change.”
Dora turned to her husband. “What makes you think you get to choose?”
He looked insulted by the question. “I am Prince Khalil Khan of El Bahar.”
“As if that explains anything.” Dora leaned toward Liana. “The men in this house are insufferable. Khalil thinks he can get his way simply by announcing his title. As if the waters would indeed part simply to please him.”
“They would,” Jamal said cheerfully. “Happens every time I want them to.”
Heidi, Jamal’s wife, rolled her eyes. “This is all your fault, Your Majesty. You’ve turned reasonably intelligent men into impossibly arrogant princes.”
The king smiled. “To quote our honored guest,” he said nodding at Liana, “thank you for the compliment. I am the king of this great country. How else would my sons be?”
“How about warm and sensitive?” Dora asked.
King Givon dismissed her with a wave, but Liana saw the affection twinkling in his dark eyes. He obviously adored both his daughters-in-law. In fact, from what she could tell, the entire family was close.
All three brothers had similar dark hair and eyes. They were tall men, over six feet, with broad shoulders and trim yet muscular bodies shown off to perfection by tailored suits. King Givon had a bit of gray at his temples, but he, too, was a good-looking man well into his prime. Liana knew that he had been a widower for some years and wondered why he’d never remarried.
It was quite a gene pool, she thought as she gazed around the table. And both the married princes had chosen American wives. Although she vaguely recalled that Prince Jamal had lost his first wife, who had been from a minor Middle Eastern noble family, in a tragic traffic accident.
As much as they made her nervous, she was pleased to be part of the family, if only for the evening. Being with these warm, generous people made her think of her own parents, although their small, three-bedroom home in an older part of San Bernardino was a far cry from life in the palace. She could only imagine what her sister, the hairdresser, would say about her current living arrangements. Chrissie would squeal and laugh until she fell off her five-inch platform shoes.
Malik leaned toward her. “How are you adjusting to teaching at the American School?” he asked.
The room went quiet and everyone looked at her. Liana could feel herself blushing. “It’s only been a few days, but so far I’m enjoying it. My students are bright, which makes the school year more interesting, but also more of a challenge. In the advanced algebra class I’m hoping we’ll have time to start learning calculus.”
“You teach mathematics?” the king asked, as a servant entered with a tray of coffee and dessert.
“Yes. At the high-school level.”
“Have you always wanted to be a teacher?” Queen Fatima asked.
Liana felt like an observer at a tennis match. She had to turn to the other end of the table to answer the Queen Mother. “Yes. Since I was about Bethany’s age. Math was always my favorite subject. I never changed my mind.”
“Mommy wants to go back to college,” Bethany added helpfully, half distracted by the individual chocolate soufflés being placed in front of everyone. She touched the thick, warm sauce with the tip of her finger and quickly licked the skin clean, then grinned. “It’s yummy.”
“I’m so pleased you like it,” Queen Fatima said, then returned her attention to Liana. “More college?”
Liana nodded. “I would like to get my master’s and maybe even my doctorate degree. In theoretical equations.”
“What exactly are theoretical equations?” Malik asked, waving away his dessert and taking coffee in its place.
“You don’t want to know.”
He smiled. A slow smile that was a hundred percent masculine and equally seductive. Liana had the brief thought that she would be willing to give up her own dessert to see that smile again. Then she came to her senses and quickly dug her spoon into her treat.
An hour later Liana and Malik strolled through the lush gardens of the palace. Heidi and Dora had taken Bethany off to see their young children and Malik had offered to walk Liana back to her suite. Liana hadn’t been sure if the events had occurred spontaneously or if they’d been planned. She also wasn’t sure if she cared. After all, how many times in her life had she spent time in the company of a handsome prince? As long as she kept her head firmly on her shoulders and out of the clouds she’d be fine. Besides, real princes did not fall in love with schoolteachers, however much she might like the truth to be otherwise.
“What do you think of the gardens?” Malik asked as they passed a grove of orange trees. “Parts of them are centuries old.”
“They’re lovely,” she admitted, inhaling the sweet scent of flowers she couldn’t identify.
The evening air was warm and seemed to surround them in a gentle embrace. She smiled, knowing she was being fanciful. While she might tell herself to stay sensible, she couldn’t help hoping that Malik would kiss her again. She wanted to know if it had really been that wonderful or if she’d imagined the excitement and desire that had raced through her. Plus, except for that one kiss, it had been years since a man had held her in his arms. She’d forgotten how nice it was to be physically close to someone.
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