The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(56) by Susan Mallery
Fatima rose to her feet. “Enough about the past. We have a glorious future to celebrate. Now that you’ve chosen your clothes, I’ll have the others sent back.” She smiled. “Rihana can move your new things for you.”
Liana frowned. “Move them? I don’t need her help for that. I can carry them into the bedroom myself.”
“Don’t be silly. You don’t need to carry your things across the palace. Without help, it would take too many trips.”
At first Liana didn’t understand what the other woman was saying. Then her meaning sank in. Fatima thought she was moving into Malik’s rooms rather than staying here.
“Fatima, I appreciate all your help and your confidences today,” she began gently. “I hope you’ll understand when I tell you nothing has changed. Malik married me against my will and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I don’t know what’s going to happen between us and until I do, I think it’s important for Bethany and myself to stay in these rooms.”
Fatima stiffened. “You can still say that? After what I told you?”
Liana felt small and ungrateful. She’d never meant to make the queen angry with her. “Everything is so complicated,” she began. “I have a lot to think about.”
“I see.” Dark eyes met her own. “I thought you had realized that Malik was worth fighting for. Obviously I was wrong. Forgive me for taking up your time and boring you with stories from his past.”
Tears sprang to Liana’s eyes. “Fatima, please don’t be like this. I don’t want to be estranged from you.”
“It seems we have no choice. I love my grandson. I thought you were on your way to loving him as well. I thought you would be the one to see past the distance he always keeps to the man underneath. But I was wrong about you.”
“What do you expect from me? When I first got here Malik practically kidnapped me to keep me at the palace, and then he tricked me into marriage.”
Fatima’s mouth was a thin disapproving line. “Yes, I can see how his determination to have you in his life would be distressing. You prefer men who can walk away from their family without a second thought.”
The low blow landed squarely on her pride. She didn’t know how Fatima had found out about Chuck—probably from Bethany—but it didn’t matter.
“You’re not being fair,” Liana said. “I know that Malik is a much better man than Chuck. I just have to be sure.”
“I might not have been able to protect him when he was a child,” Fatima told her coldly. “I know now that I should have fought my son on that point. Nor was I able to protect him from the horror of his first marriage. But you can be sure I will not let anyone else destroy him.”
“I would never do that.”
Fatima glared at her. “What do you think leaving him will do?”
Much as she tried, Liana couldn’t get Fatima’s words out of her head. She felt that the queen was blaming her for wanting to be sure that her marriage to Malik was the right thing for both of them. But the older woman either wouldn’t or couldn’t see her side of things.
Their unfriendly parting made Liana restless, and she paced in the luxurious suite until she felt as if she knew every square foot of marble flooring by heart. Time passed slowly. She kept glancing at the clock, but even the approaching late afternoon wasn’t going to make any difference. Bethany was staying at school until dinner so she could work on a special project with two new friends and their teacher, so she was all alone, with only her memories and her conscience for company.
Was Fatima right? Would her leaving hurt Malik? Did he care about her? How on earth was she supposed to be able to figure that out? The man wasn’t overly forthcoming with his feelings. And what did she think of him? While he could be charming and a pleasant companion, he was also dictatorial and demanding. She paused by the French doors and touched the cool glass. On the other hand, he was a sweetheart with her daughter and an incredible lover. The tiny glimpses she’d had into the workings of his mind told her he was both intelligent and incredibly isolated. He’d held himself apart for so long, she wondered if that would ever change. Was he capable of an emotionally intimate relationship, and did she want to stay if he wasn’t?
Once again she had more questions than answers. Last night had been wonderful. Not just the sex, but before. She’d actually had a good time at the state dinner, even though she’d been terrified. She and Malik had worked well together—they had the potential to be a good team. She sensed that he desperately needed someone on his side—someone he could depend on and trust.
She stared at the beautiful ocean in the distance. Maybe she was going about this all wrong, she thought suddenly. Maybe instead of figuring out what she wanted, which was impossible because she didn’t have enough information, she should figure out what Malik wanted. Did he want emotional depth in his relationship? Was he looking for a surrogate daughter and easy sex, but little else? Her decision depended somewhat on his expectations.
“There’s only one way to find out,” she told herself and quickly left the room.
This time the journey to his office was relatively simple. She remembered where to turn and soon found herself once again facing the imperious Zachary, who gazed at her with faint disapproval.
“You didn’t make an appointment yesterday,” he said by way of greeting. “And the prince is just as busy today. I’m afraid you can’t see him.”
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