The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(37) by Susan Mallery
She waited until Sandy slowed the vehicle, then opened the door before he brought it to a complete stop and jumped onto the paved walkway.
“I want to see the king,” she demanded as she made her way past the armed guards at attention.
Malik was already behind her. He grabbed her arm and spun her around to face him. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Getting this mess straightened out. There’s been a mistake. Obviously you and I aren’t really married. I don’t know what you think you’re doing but it’s not going to work.”
Two voices spoke at the same time. Liana groaned, then jerked her arm free and saw that Fatima and her daughter had come out to greet them. Bethany’s eyes were huge and her mouth quivered as if she wasn’t sure if she should smile or not.
“Mommy, did you really marry Prince Malik?”
“No, I did not,” Liana said, glaring at him, daring him to contradict her. “There was a little mix-up at the desert camp, but I’m going to see the king and we’ll get it all straightened out.”
“Malik?” Fatima asked inquiringly.
“There was a change of plans,” her grandson said dryly. “It wasn’t a welcoming ceremony after all. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”
Liana planted her hands on her hips. “Don’t try and pass your actions off on others. You’re the one responsible.” She looked at the queen. “Excuse me, Fatima, but where is the king? I must speak with him right away.”
“I’ll take you to him,” Malik said stiffly.
“I’ll see him alone, thank you very much.” Liana started toward the palace. “You’ve already done quite enough.”
But it wasn’t to be. Even as she started down one of the many hallways, Malik caught up with her and took her hand. No matter how she pulled, he wouldn’t release her. And to make the situation even more humiliating, she’d turned the wrong way, so they had to backtrack to get to the king’s offices.
“You’re leaving as soon as we get there,” she told Malik under her breath. “I will not have this conversation while you’re in the room.”
“Then you won’t be having it, because I’m not leaving.”
“We’ll see about that,” Liana announced, even as she thought to herself that it was unlikely she was going to get her way in this matter. After all, she hadn’t gotten her way in very many other matters where Malik was concerned—except for the issue of living on her own in the housing by the American School. And a lot of good that had done her, she thought grimly. Malik had let her go, only to trick her into marriage.
They rounded the corner and found themselves facing a large set of double doors. The royal seal filled the center of each door and two armed guards stood at attention. For a second Liana wondered if they would be allowed to enter, but then a male secretary came running up and opened the right-hand door for them, bowing and announcing Malik at the same time.
King Givon sat behind an impressively large desk. There were bookcases and a large sitting area by a window that looked over a stunning garden complete with a life-sized statue of an Arabian horse.
The king rose as they entered. “What an unexpected surprise,” he said, smiling at them both. “Miss Archer. I have missed having you here at the palace. I’m pleased you took the time to come and speak with me today.”
His polite greeting left Liana feeling momentarily off balance. She jerked her hand free of Malik’s and nodded at the king. “Your Majesty, I have a small problem and I need your help.”
Givon raised his eyebrows then glanced at his son. “Are you that problem, Malik?”
“Sir,” Liana interrupted, “I would most appreciate it if we could have this conversation without the prince being present.”
“I see.” The king motioned for her to take a seat on one of the low sofas by the window. “And, Malik, do you wish to stay?”
Liana forced herself to settle on one of the soft cushions when all she really wanted to do was bounce to her feet and pace the length of the impressive room. The rugs underfoot looked as ancient as El Bahar itself, yet, despite their age, they were rich with color. Each design appeared to be more perfect than the one before, yet she knew that every rug had a tiny flaw worked deliberately into the weave.
King Givon sat next to Liana and took one of her hands in his. “I’m sorry, my child. I would dearly love to grant your request of an audience without the presence of my son, but as he wishes to be here, I cannot deny him. I hope you’ll understand.”
She didn’t at all, but she doubted it would help to say that. Instead she nodded and stared at her hands. Her hands. Her breath caught as she took in the patterns of henna staining her skin. Her eyes closed as she remembered reading something about henna being applied to the hands and feet of a bride. Why hadn’t she remembered this yesterday?
“I can’t believe it,” she murmured, then looked at the king. “Something horrible has happened. I understand that Malik is your son and the Crown Prince, but I hope you will put your personal feelings aside and hear me out.”
“Of course.” The king nodded gravely.
Malik moved to the window where he stood with his back to them. She had no idea what he was thinking, and she didn’t care. “Yesterday I accompanied Prince Malik out into the desert.” She briefly recounted her expectation that she was to participate in a welcoming ceremony, and how she’d found out this morning that she and Malik had somehow been married.
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