The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(69) by Susan Mallery
“It will be okay,” Liana promised, understanding Bethany’s conflicting emotions. Liana felt them as well. On the one hand she knew in her head that leaving was the best thing for all of them. But in her heart, she thought she was going to die.
She didn’t know how she was supposed to survive without Malik in her life. He’d become her husband, her lover and the keeper of her heart. For Bethany, he was the only father she’d ever known. And what about Malik himself? Liana hated to think about all that he would have to go through as news of her departure spread throughout the kingdom.
But she didn’t have a choice. He’d hurt Bethany and she couldn’t allow that to happen again.
The plane moved slowly backward as they were pushed away from the gate. Liana continued to hold her daughter close and murmur soft promises of better times ahead. Her own eyes filled with tears as she wondered how long it would take to stop loving Malik. What other man could measure up to the glory that was her handsome prince?
She had a bad feeling that she would love him forever. She would grow old with only her memories for company. She thought of the condoms they’d used and birth control pills she now swallowed faithfully and had the fleeting regret that she wouldn’t have his child.
Bethany looked up at her. “Maybe he would have learned to love us back,” she said. “Can’t we give him another chance?”
“I wish we could,” Liana said. “But some people don’t change. He hurt you, sweetie, and I didn’t want him to go on hurting you.”
“I’m better,” her daughter said through her tears. “Please, Mommy. Just one more chance?”
Liana was tempted to jump up and demand that they let her and Bethany off the plane. But she resisted the impulse. “It will be easier when we get home. You’ll see.”
The lie tasted bitter. Being home wouldn’t help. Nothing would help for a long time. But eventually time would start the healing process and they would—
Bethany pointed out the window. Liana stared, then blinked. In the distance a group of men on horseback rode toward the plane. Dust billowed up around them until they reached the paved runways. The plane lurched to a stop.
“Ah, ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. There’s been a slight change in plans.”
He continued talking, but Liana wasn’t listening. She recognized the man on the lead horse. Despite the robes and headdress, she knew his face, his body, even his heart. Gladness filled her. More tears spilled over, but these were of promise and joy.
“He’s not letting us go!” Bethany screamed in delight. She unfastened her seatbelt. “Hurry, Mommy. Let’s meet him at the door. Oh, I knew he wouldn’t let us go.”
Liana gave a slight smile to the stunned passengers sitting around them. She and her daughter slid into the aisle and started toward the front door. As it opened, a stunned flight attendant tried to stop them.
“You’ll have to return to your seats,” she said in a stern voice.
“Don’t mess with her,” Bethany said. “She’s gonna be the queen.”
Liana didn’t say anything. She simply maneuvered herself and her daughter past the woman. But before they reached the door, a tall handsome man entered the plane. His dark gaze found her at once, and his hard expression softened.
Her heart rose in her chest, and her body began to shake. Her love for him filled her.
“I couldn’t let you go,” he said, then looked at Bethany.
To Liana’s surprise and great relief, he crouched down to child level and held open his arms. Bethany cried out his name and barreled into him. She wrapped her thin arms around his neck and clung as if she’d never let go.
“I’m sorry,” Malik said quietly. “I was very wrong to hurt you, and I promise to do my best to keep it from happening again. Of course I love you. You are the daughter of my heart. You will always be my sweet Bethany.”
“Are you my daddy now?” she asked.
Malik looked at Liana as if waiting. She nodded.
“Yes,” he told the little girl. “If that is what you want.”
“I love you, Daddy.”
Malik’s eyes closed briefly as he held her tighter. “I love you too, daughter.”
Then he rose to his feet. Still holding Bethany’s hand, he reached for the microphone.
“Ladies and gentlemen. I’m sorry for the delay in your departure. You’ll be on your way shortly.” He paused, then set the microphone back in place and turned to Liana. “You left me because you thought I did not love your daughter.”
“You said you were willing to take a chance on me if you didn’t have to worry about her.”
“I still believe that.”
“So you will now stay?”
“If that is your wish.”
He smiled. “Liar. You want more. You want it all.”
Her joy grew. “Of course.”
“Very well. I am Malik Khan, Crown Prince of El Bahar. This is my land and these are my people. You are Liana Khan, wife of the Crown Prince. Your place is at my side. Stay.” He held out his free hand to her. “Stay because you are the possessor of my heart. Stay because I need you. Stay because I love you now and will for all time.”
As her daughter had before her, Liana threw herself at him. He caught her against him and held her close. “I love you,” she whispered as spontaneous applause broke out among the passengers. “And I will stay with you forever. On your land, with your people.”
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