The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(47) by Susan Mallery
“Of course you’re welcome. But as to whether you should or not, that’s your decision.”
Liana pressed her lips together. If she wanted to get to know her husband, she was going to have to start to understand his world. In her mind, attending a formal state dinner was about as appealing as a foot surgery and a root canal on the same day. But it would give her an idea about what she was up against.
“I’d like to go, but I don’t think I have anything to wear.”
Dora smiled “That is the least of your problems. Between us, Heidi and I have dozens of gowns, many of which have never been worn. In fact—” Dora tapped her forefinger against her lower lip “—you’re a couple of inches taller than either Heidi or myself, but I do have a gown that is a little long. I haven’t bothered to have it taken up, mostly because I didn’t think the style would flatter me.” She patted her hips. “Those of us shaped like a pear have to worry about certain dresses emphasizing the wrong thing. But you’re more balanced.”
Liana was about to point out that she was also twenty pounds overweight, but she figured there wasn’t any point. Either Dora’s dress would fit or it wouldn’t.
“If that doesn’t work, I’ll bet we can find something else,” Heidi said encouragingly. “Then we’ll do your makeup and pin up your hair and you’ll really feel like a princess.”
Liana doubted that was possible, but she decided not to point out the obvious—that she was a nobody and would remain a nobody. Maybe she could fake being a princess for a night.
Dora rose to her feet and led the way out of the harem. “How do you feel about tiaras?” she asked, her expression serious.
Liana blinked. “I’ve never thought about them one way or the other.”
“Then you’d better start thinking about them because you’ll be wearing one tonight.”
An honest-to-goodness tiara, Liana thought three hours later as she stared at herself in the mirror. Actually she was staring at a woman who looked a lot like herself but was really someone else. She’d never known she could look this good!
Maybe it was the dress or the makeup or the diamonds glittering in her hair. Maybe it was a magic night, and she was caught up in the glow. Whatever the reason, she felt as if she actually looked like a princess.
The gown Dora had loaned her was midnight-blue velvet. The sweetheart neckline dipped low enough to show a hint of cle**age. The fabric smoothed over her body, emphasizing the good curves and hiding the bulges. Small capped sleeves left her arms bare, while the flowing fabric covered the rest of her to the floor.
After Liana was dressed, Heidi had seen to her hair, pulling it up and away from her face. Pins secured the elegant chignon in place. Her bangs had been curled and sprayed and behind them glittered a real diamond tiara. The gems sparkled, and that light added a glow to her eyes. Or maybe it was Fatima’s makeup. Liana had never been one to bother with cosmetics, but the king’s mother knew secrets that made eyes widen and skin seem porcelain perfect.
Liana’s gaze drifted over her reflection, taking in the color staining her cheeks and her mouth, the way her hairstyle made her neck appear long and slender. For the first time in her life she felt truly beautiful. Even if all the finery disappeared at midnight, she didn’t care. At least she’d had the experience of looking like a princess.
A knock at her door startled her. She walked slowly toward the entrance, her unfamiliar high heels slowing her down. But instead of finding Bethany or one of the servants waiting in the hall, she saw Malik standing there.
He wore a black tuxedo and white shirt. The combination of perfect tailoring and his impressive body nearly took her breath away. He was beautiful enough to star in all her daydreams for several lifetimes. Dark eyes regarded her thoughtfully.
“You look lovely,” he said.
She had to force herself to inhale before she could speak. “Ah, thanks.”
“I heard that you wished to attend the dinner tonight. We honor our neighbors to the east. Bahania is a country much like our own—a nation with a monarchy and a desire to maintain a hold on the past while moving toward the future. My grandmother is from that land.”
She nodded. Fatima had already told her a little about what to expect at the dinner. “Do you mind if I come along? You didn’t mention it to me, and if I’m intruding….” Her voice trailed off.
Malik’s expression hardened. “I didn’t tell you because you made it clear you weren’t interested in acting as my wife in any capacity. If that has changed, you are welcome to be at my side.”
He’d answered the question without telling her what he was thinking. But that didn’t surprise her. She’d hardly been open and friendly since finding out about their marriage. Not that he had any right to expect anything different from her. After all, he’d been completely wrong to trick her into marriage. Still, she was realistic enough to know that if she was really going to take the time to get to know the man, she had to stop being mad at him all of the time.
Before she could figure out what to say next, Malik thrust a wooden box into her hands. It was about the size of a loaf of bread.
“These are for you,” he said gruffly. “They are yours alone. They did not belong to Iman. What was hers was sold. I gave the proceeds to the poor.”
Liana had no idea what he was talking about until she opened the lid of the box and found herself staring at a collection of jewels. Diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds and pearls lay tangled together. The display was so opulent, she had a fleeting thought that they couldn’t possibly be real. Yet she knew they were.
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