The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(55) by Susan Mallery
She smiled. “Yes, I’m overwhelmed, but I’m not the least bit offended. I wouldn’t have known where to start with clothes.” She looked around the room. “Although I have to admit I would have begun with a little less stock to go through.”
Fatima waved her hand. “It will be fun to try on everything. Go put on some undergarments, including panty hose. While you’re doing that, I’ll sort. It’s better to try on all of one kind of thing at a time. Day dresses and suits, cocktail dresses, then ballgowns.” She raised her dark eyebrows slightly as she smiled a slightly wicked smile. “I might have even brought along a few daring nightgowns…if you’re interested.”
Liana felt herself blush. She had a feeling that everyone in the palace knew where Malik had spent the night. “We’ll, um, do those last.”
Four hours later Liana was exhausted but happy. She’d gone through all the clothes and most of the shoes. She now had a wardrobe fit for a princess, although according to Fatima, she needed dozens more things.
“We might not be as well known as the British royal family,” Fatima said as she sipped her tea, “but we do still find ourselves photographed for tabloids and magazines. Never forget you have a duty to be as lovely and well-groomed as possible. As Malik’s wife, you need to present yourself in such a way as to make the people of El Bahar proud. Young girls will pin pictures of you on their walls and women will copy what you wear.”
Liana shook her head and leaned back into the chair. Dozens of open shoeboxes were scattered around her on the floor. She hadn’t known there were so many styles in existence, let alone ever thought she would have them all in her living room. And the purses. She’d been the kind of woman who had a dark bag for winter and a lighter bag for summer. Now she had more than she could count.
“I can’t imagine anyone hanging a picture of me anywhere,” she admitted. “This is all so strange and more than a little frightening.”
“You were fine last night,” Fatima reminded her. “You held your own with the King of Bahania.”
“Beginner’s luck,” Liana insisted. “We mostly talked about Bethany and her love of Arabian horses.”
“Not luck.” Fatima stared at her intently. Despite helping Liana get in and out of nearly a hundred different outfits, Fatima looked as fresh and relaxed as she had when she’d arrived that morning. “Some people can spend a lifetime traveling in royal circles and still never get it right.”
Liana wondered if she was talking about Iman. If she’d known the queen better, she might have asked. Instead, she shifted the conversation to a safer topic. “Malik does well. I suppose it’s because he was born to the job.”
“Perhaps,” Fatima agreed. “If nothing else, he’s had plenty of practice.” She sipped her tea and eyed Liana. “Did he tell you how he was taken away from his mother when he was only four?”
“I’d heard.” Her heart still ached for the lonely little boy he must have been. “His father raised him after that.”
Fatima nodded. “I never agreed, but my son refused to listen. After all, he’d been taken from me when he’d been that age. I had fought with my husband about the practice, but the old ways can be difficult to change.” Her gaze turned speculative. “I suspect you wouldn’t allow such a thing.”
Liana was shocked. “Allow my child to be taken away from me when he was four, simply because he was one day going to be king? No. I wouldn’t let anyone do it.”
“Malik is very stubborn. What if he fought you?”
Liana set her jaw. “I mean no disrespect, Queen Fatima, but I find the practice inhuman and wrong. Malik might be the Crown Prince, but he doesn’t frighten me. I would not submit to that kind of tradition.”
The older woman sighed with pleasure. “I’m glad. I admire your strength and determination. It took me many years to learn to assert myself, and, by the time I did, it was too late for Givon. And his mother wasn’t very strong at all, so she never fought her husband. So Malik was taken away and expected to be a man from the time he was four.
“I still remember when he fell and broke his arm for the first time. He cried from the pain. His father was gone, but one of the ministers found him and humiliated him for his girlish tears.” Her mouth twisted in remembered anger. “Those were his exact words. Girlish tears. He scolded Malik for the weakness and locked him in his room for the rest of the day. It was only the next morning that he finally took the child to a doctor to get the bone set.”
She set her cup on the table. “Fortunately Givon agreed the man had gone too far, and he was relieved of his position. Still, it wasn’t enough. No one comforted Malik. I tried to go with him to the doctor, but I was not allowed. That night I sat in the hallway outside his room and wished I could hold him close.” She pressed her lips together.
“I can’t imagine what that was like,” Liana said grimly, knowing that she would have torn through the door if someone had tried to keep her from Bethany.
“That is why you are so right for Malik. When you have a son, you will be there to remind Malik of his past and to help him find a new way…a different way…to raise a Crown Prince.”
Liana didn’t know what to say. She hadn’t made up her mind yet as to what she was going to do. While last night had given her reason to think that she and Malik might have a chance of making a marriage between them work, she wasn’t sure she wanted to be a part of the royal family.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online