The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(27) by Susan Mallery
“You have the most curious expression on your face,” he said. “What are you thinking?”
That she would rather die than let him know what thoughts filled her mind! Did she really care why he’d asked? Hadn’t she just spent the past week wishing she had the chance to see him again? Had she really always been this contrary? “That I would love to go. Thank you for asking.”
It was obvious Malik knew she’d been thinking other things, but he didn’t press her. “Good.” He hesitated. “As a sign of respect for the tribespeople, you’ll have to dress traditionally. Fatima has the appropriate clothes at the palace. Perhaps you wouldn’t mind getting ready there.”
Liana had visions of a bikini with harem pants, but hoped that wasn’t what Malik meant. No doubt she would have to be covered and veiled. After all she was entering a very different kind of world.
“Of course. I’ll wear whatever is right for the occasion.”
He rose to his feet as Bethany, in her riding clothes, ran in. “I look forward to it, then.”
Liana stood as well and tried to keep her feet pressed firmly on the ground, although she was sure her bright smile gave her pleasure away. “Until Friday.”
The blue silk shimmered like clear water in sunlight. Liana turned in the mirror and studied herself from different angles. The dress wrapped around her in a way that covered her completely, yet left her free to move. A sheer matching veil covered her hair. Fatima had already shown her the white velvet robe she would wear over the dress and the veil that would hide the lower part of her face from prying eyes.
“The nomads believe that if an unknown man sees one of their women, he’ll be tempted to steal her away. Or at least ravish her,” Fatima explained as she lined Liana’s blue eyes with kohl. “It is quite a compliment.”
“I’m sure the women appreciate their concern,” Liana agreed. “Especially the ones who don’t feel as attractive.”
Fatima smiled. “All women are beautiful. Didn’t you know that?”
Liana smiled. “A lovely philosophy, and one we in the west could learn from.”
Fatima rubbed a red stain on Liana’s mouth, then studied her handiwork. “Perfect. And in your case, it would be best to keep yourself covered, my dear. All that lovely blond hair is sure to be a temptation. Why, I would guess that Prince Malik could get two or three dozen camels for you.”
“As much as that,” Liana said, not sure if Fatima told the truth or not.
When the older woman stepped away, Liana looked at herself in the mirror. Her eyes seemed huge and mysterious, while her lips were dark with the stain. Between the eastern-style dress and the veil, she hardly recognized herself.
Maybe this was all a dream, she thought. After all, she stood in the middle of a harem talking about being sold for a few camels.
Fatima touched her arm and smiled. “You are loveliness itself, Liana. I hope you have a wonderful time with my grandson. Don’t worry about not speaking their language. The people of the desert are most expressive, and you’ll figure out what they’re saying. Besides, Malik will be there. He is fluent in their tongue.”
The queen drew the white velvet robe around her shoulders and fastened it at her neck, then draped the veil over her face.
“It ties in these two places,” she said, demonstrating how to secure the covering. “Although you’ll probably want to wait to wear it.”
Liana felt like an El Baharian princess. She was even going to meet her very own prince. What did it matter if it was only for the evening?
“Thank you for everything,” she said, turning and impulsively giving Fatima a hug. “You’ve been so kind.”
“My pleasure. And while you are off to the desert, I’m going to spend the evening with your charming daughter, who, I believe, is currently with the children in the nursery.” Fatima glanced at her diamond and gold watch. “Malik will be waiting for you. Enjoy, my dear. This will be a night to remember.”
“You look lovely,” Malik said as he held open the rear door of the limo waiting at the main entrance to the palace.
“Thank you,” Liana murmured, hating how nervous she felt now that she and Malik were together. She wanted to tell him that he looked pretty good, too, what with his robes and traditional headdress. The rich-colored garments emphasized his dark strength and made him appear even taller than usual.
She couldn’t remember a time when she’d felt more awkward—not even on her first date, back when she’d been all of sixteen and excited because Chuck Archer had asked her out to a movie.
“I’m a little surprised by our mode of transportation,” she said as she slid onto the butter-soft leather seat. “I would have thought we would need a four-wheel-drive vehicle.”
Malik nodded at the chauffeur hovering by the door, then moved in next to her. “Usually we would, but our friends have set up camp not that far from a paved road. Sandy will drive us out into the desert and we’ll walk the last quarter-mile.” He glanced at her shoes. “I told Fatima you would need sensible shoes. Did she listen and pass the information along?”
Liana held up one foot. Her sandals were flat and very comfortable. “She warned me to wear something I could walk in.”
“Good.” He gave her a quick smile, then looked up when the driver lowered the glass partition. “Yes, Sandy?”
“Are you ready to leave, sir?”
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