The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(54) by Susan Mallery
Stay, he thought frantically even as she leaned back against the sofa and smiled at him. Stay with me because I will not survive without you.
But he didn’t say the words. He barely acknowledged that he thought them. For reasons he didn’t understand, she was the one. He would do anything to keep her. Somehow he must find the secrets necessary to bind her to him forever.
Fatima was right. He had to make Liana fall in love with him.
Liana got out of bed in time to see her daughter off to school, then tumbled back onto her mattress where she slept until after nine. When she awoke for the second time, it was to a room full of bright sunshine and a sense of well-being unlike anything she’d ever experienced before.
It wasn’t just that she and Malik had made love the night before…and again in the quiet hours that preceded dawn before he’d left her room to return to his own quarters. She was willing to admit that some of her happiness came from her body’s physical contentment, but there was something else going on. When she’d been in Malik’s arms, she’d felt a true connection. As if all the talk about being joined as one person finally made sense. While he held her and they made love, it was as if she could see into his very soul.
“Ridiculous,” she told herself as she stepped out of the shower and began drying. “Two really don’t become one—despite the words in the marriage ceremony.” Yet she couldn’t shake the idea that there was more between them than just chemistry.
She wrapped the towel around herself and stared at her reflection. Was it real or was it wishful thinking on her part? Had she found a way to touch her husband that had nothing to do with physical contact and everything to do with hearts? Last night had been a revelation on many different levels. She’d learned that she wasn’t anywhere near prepared to be the wife of a ruling monarch and that she didn’t think she would enjoy many aspects of the life. But she’d also seen that Malik’s world was even more empty than she’d imagined, and that he was desperately alone. The fact that he’d reached out to her—marrying her and drawing her into his world—made her feel soft and squishy inside. As if he was willing to trust her and only her.
Did she want that, she asked herself, as she began applying her makeup. Did she want to be the one person Malik went to, the keeper of his confidences? That kind of relationship implied an intimacy that was foreign to her. Malik was nothing like Chuck, yet that was hardly a bad thing. With her ex-husband, she’d never felt like a partner in marriage. With Malik, she wouldn’t be a full partner either. There was so much that he would control by virtue of his title and position. Yet if he truly let her into his heart and soul then they would be partners on a much more important level.
“More questions,” she murmured as she smoothed on eye shadow, then reached for her tube of mascara. Questions of a different kind, but no more answerable than the question of why he’d picked her.
Maybe it was because he felt it, too, she thought suddenly. Maybe he’d sensed their connection from the beginning, long before she’d realized it was there. Was that possible?
The concept of being so intensely close to another human being both intrigued and frightened her. If nothing else, she was going to have to be even more sure that she was making the right decision at the end of the month. Although, now that she knew the truth about Iman, leaving Malik was not going to be so easy. She didn’t want to humiliate him in front of his people. Nor did she want to make a mistake with either of their lives. But she couldn’t stay if it was wrong for her and Bethany to be here.
“Talk about a tangle,” she said as she walked to her closet and began looking at her clothes. She didn’t have any real plans for the day so it probably didn’t matter what she wore. Maybe she should—
A knock at the door of her suite interrupted her thoughts. Still wearing a robe and nothing else, she crossed the living room and opened the door to admit Fatima followed by half a dozen servants. Every one of them had an armful of clothes.
“Good morning,” the elegant queen said, kissing her on the cheek. “I’ve decided that it’s time for you to start dressing like the princess you are. But I could not face a day of shopping so I had the store come to you.”
As Liana watched, more servants came in carrying boxes and bags. There were dresses and ballgowns and dozens of shoes and purses.
“Put them wherever you can,” Fatima said. “Then leave us.” She smiled at Liana. “Rihana will bring us lunch later, so take your time trying on everything. Only pick what you truly love. You can always go shopping in Paris and London later in the year.”
“Okay,” Liana said, stunned by the opulent display.
By the time the servants left, there were clothes everywhere. On sofas and chairs, in boxes stacked in the center of the room and on all the tables. She bent over to finger the skirt of a purple dress, feeling the smooth, cool silk, and wondering how much it all cost. Not that she was going to ask. For one thing, she doubted Fatima would tell her. For another, it didn’t matter. The royal family had a degree of wealth that was beyond imagining.
“Are you overwhelmed?” Fatima asked as she pushed aside a lovely beaded black gown to make room for herself on the sofa. “I’ve been waiting for you to realize you need new things, but last night, when I saw how lovely you looked in your ballgown I decided to take matters into my own hands. Do you mind?”
Liana looked at the beautifully dressed woman, wearing perfectly matched pearls and a green suit that probably cost more than Liana had made in a month…or two. She knew that Fatima was only being kind. Considering how her grandson had married his new wife and the potential for scandal, the queen was taking it all very well. Liana was grateful for the offer of help and friendship.
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