The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(57) by Susan Mallery
She leaned forward, bracing her hands on the desk and bringing her face to within inches of the secretary’s. “I am Princess Liana, wife of the Crown Prince, and if I want to see my husband, I will. You may either announce me or get out of my way. Those are your choices.”
Zachary flushed. “I’m sure there’s no reason to be rude.”
“Then don’t be.”
She straightened and headed for the closed door on her left. If Malik wasn’t in there, she would keep opening doors until she found him. She might not be sure what was going to happen with her marriage, but while she was here she was not going to let anyone push her around.
“You can’t go in there,” Zachary said as he hurried to get in front of her. They reached the door at the same time. The secretary threw himself against the wood and glared at Liana.
They were about the same height and Liana was fully prepared to take the man on. She was confused and tired and feeling more than a little lost in her current situation. Her husband was an enigma, her grandmother-in-law no longer approved of her, and she had to worry that any decisions she made about her personal life were going to have international ramifications.
“Get out of my way,” she ordered.
Just then the door swung open. Malik stood in the opening looking tall and handsome and annoyed. Liana swallowed, half-afraid he was going to take Zachary’s side. Instead he turned his attention to her and smiled.
“Have you come to see me?” he asked, sounding pleased.
She nodded. “I don’t have an appointment, so that seems to be a problem.”
“No problem.” He took her hand and drew her past the secretary. “This is Princess Liana. She is always welcome and you will interrupt me whenever she asks you to. I don’t care who I’m with. Do you understand?”
Zachary’s flush deepened. He nodded, then gave them both a slight bow.
Malik ushered her into his office, which was nearly as nice as the king’s had been. She had a brief impression of a huge desk and bookcases before he led her to a corner grouping of low sofas. She settled on one of the cushions and Malik sat next to her.
“He’s an annoying little man,” she said, motioning to the now-closed door.
Malik squeezed her hand. “I agree. However, if there was a way to organize the sands of the desert, Zachary would find it. He’s most efficient, so I put up with his pretensions. However, I will not have him insulting you.”
The tone of possessiveness made her knees go weak. Just being this close to Malik, taking in the freshly shaven jaw and the way his suit emphasized his strength, made her want to throw herself at him and beg him to take her. Around him she felt wildly alive. And safe. As if he would always take care of things. Which was insane. She could take care of herself, thank you very much. Still, the feeling lingered, and she found herself wanting to move closer to him.
“Thank you for last night,” he said.
She smiled even as she felt a faint heat on her cheeks. “Yes, well, it was amazing. Thank you.”
“We do well together. Not just in bed,” he added. “I thought we were well matched at the dinner.”
His comments mirrored her own thoughts. She stared at him, at his dark hair and the strong line of his mouth. Centuries of wisdom seemed to glow in his eyes. He had a history, both recent and ancient, that she couldn’t possibly understand. Their lives had nothing in common. Yet she felt as if she understood him. She wanted him and liked him. She cared about him. Which meant it wouldn’t be very difficult for her to fall in love with him.
She pulled her hand free of his gentle hold and laced her fingers together on her lap. “What do you want from me?” she asked. “Is our relationship about sex? Are you looking for a friend and a companion? What do you expect from me? What is my role in all of this? I can’t make any decisions until I understand your goals.”
Malik was silent for a long time. Liana studied his face, trying to figure out what he was thinking. But she didn’t have a clue. Finally, he leaned close and touched her cheek.
“You have slender ankles.”
She blinked. “What did you say?”
He picked up her hand again and held it. “I can wrap my fingers around your wrist with room to spare. You are a delicate flower of a woman, yet so very strong inside.” Then he kissed her palm.
“Malik, what are you talking about?”
He stared intently into her eyes. “Your ankles. They are delicate. I imagine them, seeing them, touching them.”
Something was very wrong, she thought through a haze of confusion. “I’m trying to have a serious conversation about our relationship and you want to talk about my bones?”
Warm fingers stroked her knuckles. “All of you is wonderful.”
If she didn’t know better, she would think he was drunk…or deranged. Was this an El Baharian thing? Maybe they were having a culture clash, and he thought this was how to woo a woman. “I don’t want to talk about body parts right now. What about us?”
“Your skin is the color of cream.”
She jerked her hand free. “You’re not making any sense.”
“I want you to know how much I cherish you.”
“Cherish is all fine and good, but what do you want from me?”
His adoring expression changed into something unreadable. He released her hand and straightened. While he didn’t turn cold, he definitely withdrew from her. At first she felt hurt. As if all his compliments had been some weird game. But then she knew with a clarity she couldn’t explain that Malik wasn’t playing—he was protecting. Her question had terrified him and he didn’t want her to know.
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