The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(60) by Susan Mallery
“Gee, thanks.” Liana stopped in front of the chair opposite the sofa and rested her hands on top of the back.
“I’ve been living with an El Baharian prince for some time now,” Dora said. “They are difficult men. Passionate and incredibly loyal, which helps, but never easy. They have the normal annoyances inherent in all men, plus the idiosyncrasies that go along with being a member of a royal family. It’s not a life for the faint of heart.”
Dora sat on a pale yellow sofa that brought out the gold in her brown hair. She was as elegant and regal as Fatima, and just as well dressed. Liana had heard the stories of her marriage to Khalil and it was hard to reconcile the princess in front of her with the image of an abandoned executive secretary standing alone and jobless in an airport.
“But I think it’s worth it,” she added. “Khalil is the most wonderful man I’ve ever known. I would change the tide for him if he asked. As he would for me.”
Liana nodded. She’d seen the love between husband and wife with both Dora and Khalil, and Heidi and Jamal. Sometimes when she and Malik dined with the other two couples, she felt a sharp stab of envy for their happiness. She wanted that, too. A caring relationship with a man who loved her as much as she loved him.
“I don’t know what he’s feeling,” Liana confessed. “I can’t figure out why he wants me to stay.”
“Does it matter?” Dora asked. “Isn’t it enough that he does? He chose you, Liana. Out of all the women in the world, he picked you.”
“I know and because I can’t figure out why, it’s driving me crazy.”
“I do empathize with your position, but I’m also selfish. I think you’re wonderful for Malik and I don’t want you to leave.” Dora spread out her hands, palm up. “What do you want?” she asked. “What isn’t Malik doing right?”
“I don’t know.” Malik was doing a lot of things right. If she ignored the fact that he’d tricked her into marriage, he was being a real sweetie. He was charming and attentive whenever they spent time together. If he seemed a little obsessed with her ankles, it wasn’t such a big flaw. He still wanted her to move into his rooms and wouldn’t sleep with her until she did—which she hated but understood.
As for what she wanted…she remained clueless and completely confused.
“I’m going to go talk with him,” Liana said and glanced at her watch. It was nearly two in the afternoon. He was probably still in his office.
“I can’t wait to hear the outcome of this conversation,” Dora called after her. “I want the details later.”
Liana was still smiling when she marched into the foyer of Malik’s office. Zachary took one look at her face, then buzzed his boss and announced her.
Rather than waiting to be let in, Liana walked into Malik’s office and closed the door behind her. Her husband raised his eyebrows.
“An unexpected treat,” he said.
“Yeah, yeah, lay off the ankles this time, okay?”
“As you wish.”
He was so polite all the time, she thought grudgingly. And handsome and attentive and emotionally distant and complicated and good in bed.
“I thought you wanted this marriage to work,” she said.
“But you won’t sleep with me.”
“Not until you share my bed.”
“And I can’t just come in for a few hours and then leave?”
He didn’t bother answering that one.
She sighed. “Fine. Bethany and I will move our things in this afternoon.” Her gaze narrowed. “But don’t think for a second that I’m going to beg you to make love with me.”
A slow, male smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “I promise you won’t have to beg.”
Liana decided to make the move on her own. She didn’t want to get one of the servants to help and have the news spread all over the palace. Not that it was going to be a secret for very long. There were too many clothes for her to transfer everything in a single trip, but it was easier to carry over armfuls of clothes than to pack them all up and then unpack.
As she draped dresses over her arms, she found herself both excited and disappointed. Somehow she’d hoped for more than a teasing acceptance from Malik. After all, her giving in was a big deal. She’d promised herself that he was going to be the one to bend this time, and he hadn’t. What did that say about her strength of character? Or did it mean she was realistic?
She hated that she spent so much of her time second-guessing herself. Before meeting Malik, she’d always known the right thing to do, and now everything was upside down. But a part of her was thrilled at the thought of being with Malik again. As much as she might want to tell herself she needed to live with him to give their marriage a fair chance, she couldn’t deny the anticipation that raced through her at the thought of being able to see him and touch him whenever she wanted.
She paused at the entrance to his private rooms and realized belatedly she didn’t have a key. Not all the doors were kept locked inside the palace, but his suite might be. However, she tried the knob and found it turned easily. After shifting the clothes to a more comfortable position, she pushed open the door and stepped inside.
She hadn’t thought much about what his suite would look like. From what she could tell, they were all variations on a theme. Living quarters faced the ocean and were large and spacious. She’d expected sofas and chairs, a small dining area and artwork reflecting his taste. She found all that in the room, but the elegant furnishings weren’t what caught her attention.
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