The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(39) by Susan Mallery
“Oh, Lord,” Liana murmured. What was she going to tell her parents? Nothing for now, she thought. Nothing until everything was straightened out. If she and Malik were really married, then her parents would have plenty of time to deal with the fact that their daughter had married a prince. If she could get the situation fixed, they might never have to know.
Liana pressed her fingers to her temple. “I don’t feel too good.”
“Perhaps you should sit down,” Fatima said, leading her over to the sofa.
Dora gave her a sympathetic smile. “I’ll order tea.”
Liana looked at her. “I don’t think tea is going to help this situation.” She shook her head. “This isn’t really happening, is it?
Bethany plopped down next to her. “It’s okay, Mommy. You’ll see. You’ll like being married to Prince Malik. He’s really nice. When we go out riding, he always listens to me and talks to me. Not like some grown-ups. And now we can live here in the palace where there are horses and the babies. I’ll still go to school, of course, and I’ll study really hard and not be a moment’s trouble. Really. So you’ll like being here and will want to stay married to Prince Malik forever.”
Her own daughter had already bought the idea, Liana realized. She’d thought Bethany might be upset, but of course she wasn’t. For the nine-year-old, having Malik as a father was something out of a fairy tale. After all, he was a handsome prince who had taught her to ride a horse and now appeared willing to make all her dreams come true.
“I think I’m going to faint,” Liana said as all the blood rushed from her head and the room swayed.
“Deep breaths,” Fatima instructed. “You’re in shock, but you’ll get used to the idea.” She smiled. “You’re now married to a prince. That can’t be a bad thing.”
Liana wanted to disagree in the strongest terms possible. Of course it was a bad thing. She’d been tricked into marriage by a man she hardly knew. Nothing about her life had prepared her for this, and she didn’t want to be here. If she’d known what was going to happen when she came to El Bahar, she never would have left California.
She looked at the other women in the room. They stared back with varying degrees of concern, but no one was shocked. They weren’t appalled and bemoaning her fate. Was she the only one still based in reality?
Heidi leaned forward and smiled at her. “I know this must seem strange, but it’s not as bad as you think. After all, you get to be married to a prince. Imagine how wonderful it would be if you fell in love with him.”
Liana opened her mouth to speak, then closed it. There was no polite way to respond to that comment and she didn’t want to alienate herself from everyone at the palace. In love with Malik? Not her, not ever. If she were left alone with the man for more than three minutes, she would skin him alive…or worse. In love. That was ridiculous. Just because he was sort of attractive and fairly decent to her daughter. And the sex had been spectacular, she added grudgingly. More than spectacular. It had been intense enough to change the earth’s rotation. But that was lust, not love, and, as for the rest of it, she would never allow herself to care for someone who thought he could get whatever he wanted just by pushing other people around.
Besides, she had a life of her own. Which reminded her. “I have to get back to my condo,” she told Fatima.
“Of course. You’ll want your things.”
Liana didn’t want to think about the reality of having to move back into the palace. So she didn’t. “Actually, I was more concerned about my lesson plan. I need to go over it for Monday.”
Fatima patted her hand. “That’s not necessary, my dear. You’re the wife of the Crown Prince. You won’t be teaching anymore. In fact, you never have to worry about working again for the rest of your life.”
Not having to work again might be someone else’s fantasy, Liana thought grimly, but it wasn’t hers. She enjoyed taking care of herself. Being with Chuck had taught her not to depend on anyone else, and she didn’t intend ever to forget that lesson.
So she sat quietly through her tea with Fatima and the two princesses, and, when she could, she escaped back to the guest suite where she and Bethany had first stayed. There she made the first of her two phone calls. She was not about to accept her current situation without a fight.
However, thirty minutes later she was forced to concede defeat. The administrator of her school had congratulated her on her unexpected nuptials and had gone on to inform her that not only had her classes already been reassigned to other teachers, but that her account had been credited for her full two years of salary. Liana grimaced. There wasn’t a doubt in her mind as to where that money had come from, and if Malik thought he could buy her off, he was going to be surprised.
Her second call had been to the American consulate. While the man at the office had been sympathetic and understanding, he hadn’t been the least bit helpful. El Baharian desert marriages were legally binding. If she and the prince had consummated the union, then she was married for the next thirty days. After that time, she could pursue a divorce. Oh, and he had also suggested it would be very nice if she didn’t make an international incident about the issue. Relations with this very rich Middle Eastern country were most cordial and the United States government intended to keep them that way.
Liana got the message. This was her problem and no one was going to help her out of it.
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