The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(46) by Susan Mallery
Dora passed her a cup of tea. “What on earth are you thinking? You have the most peculiar expression.”
“That I’m a nobody from a small town no one has heard of and I’m sitting here with two princesses and I’m married to a prince. How on earth did this happen?”
Dora brushed her comment off with a wave. “Don’t get caught up in the whole royalty thing. I was an executive secretary until I was thirty. Then I met Khalil. Now, Heidi here actually attended Swiss finishing school, which is pretty close to princess school if you ask me.”
“I didn’t,” Heidi said teasingly. She tucked a strand of long, light brown hair behind her ear and sighed. “Don’t let it get you down, Liana. I know that getting used to being in the palace and married to Malik is going to take some time, but it’s not so very horrible. You do have us to help, and you can take things as slowly as you need to.”
Liana studied both women. They were attractive and well-dressed in clothes that probably cost more than she paid in rent in a month. She wanted to believe that they had something in common, but it couldn’t be true.
“I don’t even know how I got here,” she admitted. “One minute I was teaching math at the American School and the next I was married to a prince.”
Dora sighed. “I don’t know all the details about what happened, but I think I know enough to understand how you feel. For what it’s worth, Khalil married me under false pretenses. It took a long time for us to come to terms with our marriage. Eventually I managed to tame him…or he managed to make me more wild, I’m not sure which.” Her mouth curved up at the corners. “Either way, we’re very happy.”
“She’s right,” Heidi said, leaning forward and touching Liana’s arm. “The Khan men aren’t easy but they’re worth the trouble.”
“You’re both talking as if I’m going to stay.”
“How do you know you’re not?” Dora asked.
Liana was so stunned by the question, she had to stumble for an answer. “I don’t know him. He doesn’t know me. I’m still clueless as to why he wanted to marry me in the first place. We have nothing in common. I don’t know how to be a princess. I’m the first person in my family to graduate from college. What on earth are we going to talk about? How will I keep from completely humiliating myself and Malik? Why would the people of El Bahar accept me?”
“All good points,” Heidi said calmly. “Sounds like you’ve been doing a lot of thinking.”
Dora nodded. “But you left out the most important question, Liana. What do you want from this marriage? Are you so very sure you want to leave Malik before you’ve found out what it’s like to be with him? I won’t disagree that he had no right to trick you into marriage or that you both have to take the time to get to know each other. But this is a wonderful opportunity. You need to be sure you’re not interested in this life before you turn your back on what you have. Once you walk away, there’s no returning.”
“She’s right,” Heidi said. “You’re stuck here for a month, right? Why not take the time to get to know Malik and learn about El Bahar? You don’t have to make up your mind today.”
They were both so calm and rational, Liana thought, slightly stunned by all they were saying. She was still reeling from the reality of her situation, so the thought of stepping back and taking some time to think things through hadn’t occurred to her. But according to all she’d learned, she wasn’t leaving for a month. Should she take that time and assess her situation?
“What have you got to lose?” Heidi asked. “If you find this isn’t what you want, you were planning to leave anyway.”
“You make it sound so simple.”
“Maybe it is.”
Maybe…but it wasn’t. First of all, she had Bethany to think of. The more time her daughter spent with Malik, the more the girl became attached to him. Then there were her own feelings to consider. For reasons she wasn’t willing to explore, she was a little cautious about getting to know Malik any better than she did. As if something deep inside warned her this man could be dangerous to her heart. The last thing she needed was to fall in love with him.
But the alternative was to spend the next few weeks hiding out in her room. Running away from a problem had never been her style. She wouldn’t have gotten through college and been able to raise Bethany on her own if she’d allowed fear to get in her way.
Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to get to know the man to find out if they had anything in common…anything other than an ability to spontaneously combust when they got too close.
“Right now we’re barely speaking,” she confessed. “I wouldn’t know how to start getting to know him.”
Dora and Heidi looked at each other. “There’s a state dinner tonight,” Dora said. “Were you planning to attend it?”
Liana shook her head. “The first I heard about it was earlier when Malik’s secretary recited his schedule for the day. It included the dinner.”
Heidi smiled. “Gee, as the new wife of the Crown Prince, I think you should attend.”
“Obviously Malik doesn’t,” Liana said, suddenly hurt by the realization. “He didn’t say a word.”
“Did he have a chance to?” Dora asked bluntly.
Liana swallowed. “I guess not.” She looked at her new sisters-in-law. “Do you think I should go? I mean, would I be allowed?”
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