The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(58) by Susan Mallery
The truth appeared without warning. It burst into her mind like flowers blooming in spring—all bright and beautiful and tempting. Was she right? Could she truly believe?
“You want me to stay,” she breathed. “You want me to fall in love with you.”
He rose to his feet. “Of course,” he said curtly. “What did you think? Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting in five minutes.”
Still stunned by Malik’s revelation, Liana didn’t know what to make of an invitation to dine with the family that night. She was more than a little nervous about seeing Fatima again and wondered if she was going to be lectured by the king and Malik’s brothers. But instead she and Bethany were made welcome in the private dining room and spent a pleasant evening enjoying their host’s company. Afterward, Malik walked them both to their suite.
“I’m going to bed now,” Bethany said as soon as they entered the living room. “I’m really, really tired, and I’m sure I’ll be asleep in five minutes.”
She gave them each a hug and a good-night kiss, then skipped down the hall and into her room. When the door shut, Liana sighed.
“My daughter is many things, but she’s not subtle.”
Malik stared after her. “She is a wonderful child. You’re very lucky to have her.”
“I know, but thank you for noticing.” She shifted uncomfortably, not sure if she should invite him to sit down or simply throw herself into his arms. “I appreciate that you’ve taken so much time with her.”
He turned his steady, dark gaze on her. “I do it because I want to. For no other reason.”
She smiled. “That’s what makes it so meaningful. Bethany thinks the world of you.” She pressed her lips together, then decided this wasn’t the time to explain to Malik that her daughter thought of him as a surrogate father. It was too late to prevent Bethany from being hurt if they left El Bahar. Better for her to enjoy her time here. And who knows. Things might work out between Malik and herself. Speaking of which…
She cleared her throat. “What were your plans for the rest of the evening?”
He stepped close and cupped her face. “You are a light in the evening sky.”
“All other beauty pales before your radiance.”
“Malik, you’re being weird again. It makes me nervous.”
He kissed her mouth. “I want you to know how I appreciate your womanly charms.”
She felt herself melting against him. “You have some impressive male charms, as well.” She wrapped her arms around his waist. “I don’t think Bethany will be asleep in five minutes, but it’s not going to take her too long to settle down. Would you like a drink while we wait?”
He brushed his lips against hers again…slowly, seductively. His tongue moved against hers and made her gasp. She was already on fire. Heat filled her and she felt her panties growing damp as her body readied for his invasion. The thought of having to wait even five minutes was physically painful.
“I will dream of your slender ankles, your pale skin and the sweet scent of your essence,” he said, stepping back.
“Would you please speak in English?”
Malik shrugged regretfully. “Sorry, Liana. I’m not staying here tonight. You are my wife and when we next make love, it will be in my room, in my bed and with your daughter sleeping down the hall.”
Irritation joined the passion. It made for an interesting combination. “You’re blackmailing me.”
“I told you I wanted you to move into my suite. It’s where you belong.”
Her gaze narrowed. “You expect me to give in on everything. What do I get in return?”
He didn’t answer. Instead he turned and left.
She stood staring after him, then grabbed a pillow from the sofa and tossed it at the closed door. The childish gesture didn’t make her feel any better, nor did it make the situation any more clear. Malik’s sudden flowery compliments were very strange. And she hated his insistence that she move into his rooms. What was that all about? She paced the room, something she’d been doing a lot of these days, and knew she wouldn’t be falling asleep anytime soon. She was too aroused, too ready for her lover’s touch. Damn the man. She could only hope he was as uncomfortable as she.
“Do it,” a little voice in her head whispered. “Would it be so terrible to go live with him?”
But that was too much like giving in. She was always the one who bent in this relationship. Just once she wanted him to be the one to give in.
“You’re making Mommy really crazy,” Bethany confided later the next week as she and Malik walked back from the stables.
Malik wasn’t sure if she offered good or bad news. “How do I make her crazy?”
The nine-year-old removed her riding hat and smoothed her blond braids. She smiled up at him. “She says we eat with you every night and all you do is talk about im-impersonal stuff.” She stumbled over the word, then continued. “And when you’re alone you keep talking about her slender ankles and her porcelain skin. She says she’s beginning to feel like the doll of the month on a cable-shopping channel.”
Her small nose wrinkled. “Do you really like her ankles?”
“I’m sure they’re very nice,” he said. “But they’re not my favorite part.”
“Then why do you talk about them all the time?”
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