The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(24) by Susan Mallery
Then she remembered their conversation. And the accusations. Obviously Malik had been listening.
“Mommy? What’s happening?”
Bethany was already up and dressed, but then she’d had a more restful night. Liana smoothed her daughter’s long hair. “These ladies are here to help us pack. We’re moving to the housing by the American School today.”
In her plaid jumper and white shirt, a uniform the school required of all their students, her daughter looked older than her actual nine years. But at the thought of leaving the palace, tears filled her eyes.
“Mommy, I don’t want to go.”
Liana didn’t want to either anymore. But they didn’t belong here. “We’ve imposed on the royal family enough. We need to have our own place.”
“What about riding? Will I still be able to do that?”
“We’ll find a place near the school and you can take lessons.”
Bethany’s lower lip quivered. “It won’t be the same.”
“I know. But it will still be fun.” She turned to the three women still waiting by the open door. “I appreciate the offer, but we can pack ourselves.”
Rihana shook her head. “Prince Malik insisted. He said he didn’t want either of you to be late.” Her pretty face softened with a smile. “He also said to tell the little missy that he would still like to teach her about horses.”
Bethany’s tears faded as quickly as they’d formed and she clapped her hands together. “Oh, can I, Mommy? Please say yes. Please?”
“Of course you can still ride here. When the prince has time for you.”
What else could she say? Her quarrel was with Malik and his treatment of her, not her daughter. And she wasn’t about to deprive Bethany of a wonderful experience just because she, Liana, had to get some distance from the prince.
It would all be for the best, she told herself as she opened the door wide and let the women into the suite. She and her daughter would be much happier on their own. They would have a chance to make friends with the other teachers and their families, to take part in the organized tours and really see the country.
Liana was still busy convincing herself as she hurried toward the bathroom so that she could get ready for school. As she stepped into the shower, she had the wistful thought that she’d already seen more of the El Baharian royal palace than would ever be allowed on the most expansive tour.
The building that housed the staff of the American School had been built with comfort in mind. There was a large grocery and video store across the street and a burger and pizza place on the main floor. Liana’s fourth-floor condo was open and spacious. There were two bedrooms, each with its own bath. A study, gourmet eat-in kitchen, full-sized living room and a powder room for guests completed the floor plan. They had lovely views of a garden, along with the school’s playing field.
While the furniture was utilitarian and wouldn’t win any decorating awards, it was sturdy and looked comfortable. The condo had been decorated in shades of blue and beige, with light oak wood accents. The dining set was oak, as was the bedroom furniture. There were bright prints on the walls and a silk hanging in the small hallway.
A porter had carried up their bags and while Bethany settled herself into her room, Liana explored the kitchen. She opened cupboard doors and studied the dishes and cooking utensils available.
“There’s a popcorn maker,” she called to her daughter. “We could make a big batch of caramel corn after we go rent some movies.”
But her daughter didn’t sound very enthused about the plan. If anything her voice held that “I’m humoring my parent” tone. But Liana knew they were going to be fine here. The rooms were large and airy. The other teachers had been welcoming at work and she was sure they would be just as friendly here in the condo. Besides, it was only for a couple of years. When they left El Bahar, it would be with enough money to buy their own house back in San Bernardino.
“What do you think?” she asked when Bethany strolled into the living room and plopped down on the blue-and-beige plaid sofa.
Her daughter had changed into jeans and a T-shirt. She put her bare feet on the oak veneer coffee table and shrugged. “It’s not the palace.”
“I can’t argue with that.”
Liana had a brief flash of longing for the marble floors and ocean views of her suite there. The horse mosaic had been a work of art. The palace had offered dozens of treasures to be found at every turn—the fountains in the main building and outside, the gardens, the artwork, the elegant dinners, the servants.
She sank onto the slightly frayed sofa and put her arm around Bethany. “Do you think we’ll be happy here?” she asked.
Blue eyes so much like her own regarded her thoughtfully. “We’re together,” her daughter said. “That’s what matters. I know you felt funny about living at the palace, even though I didn’t.” Bethany shrugged. “I just miss it.”
“You’ll have friends here. Girls your own age.”
Bethany smiled. “I’m not upset, Mommy.”
“I know. I’m simply pointing out that there are some advantages to this place.”
“There aren’t any horses.”
No princes either, although Liana told herself that was a good thing.
“What if I buy you a picture of a horse? Or one of those plastic ones? We’ll put it on the coffee table.”
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