The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(14) by Susan Mallery
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m tired and everything is new and confusing. I wasn’t expecting…this.”
Yusra smiled again. “The harem is a beautiful place. You will find it such. There are many wonders, many things to explore. Come. I will show you.”
Victoria followed her down a hallway to several sleeping rooms. There were big beds with gauzy curtains and windows that opened out onto the gardens. Beautiful ceiling fans stirred the air and handmade rugs added color to the floor.
“I took the liberty of choosing this room for you,” Yusra said, entering a large space with French doors that led directly into the garden. “If you don’t like it, you may choose another.”
“This is very nice,” Victoria said, trying not to notice the very big bed—one plenty large enough for two…or even six. Kateb was unlikely to come to the harem. While she was here, she was safe. It was only when he called for her that she had to worry. At least that’s what she told herself as she felt nervous tension tightening her throat.
“Your things are here.” Yusra motioned to the suitcases along the far wall. “Will you need assistance unpacking?”
“No, thanks. I can do it.” After all, she’d managed to pack and unpack for herself for years now.
“I have also provided you with more traditional clothing.”
Traditional as in what?
Victoria followed her into a dressing area with a large closet and several sets of drawers. Long, flowing dresses hung in the closet. She touched one of the patterned sleeves and discovered the material was silk and decorated with impossibly small stitches. Each dress was more beautiful than the next, with swirls of color and fluttering sleeves. It was only when she removed one from the hanger and held it in front of her that she realized the fabric was completely sheer.
Her thighs started to tremble. “So, um, what do I wear under something like this?”
Yusra’s smile turned wicked. “Nothing at all.” She laughed. “You will enjoy these. I did in my day. The beading and patterns are designed to provide a little modesty for the woman and some mystery for the man. The fabric caresses the skin, reminds her of her lover’s touch. You’ll see.”
Too much information, Victoria thought as she quickly returned the dress to the closet. She wasn’t sure why she was the one blushing, but she felt definite heat on her cheeks.
“Let me show you the bath,” Yusra said. “You will need time to get ready.”
Victoria ignored the implication in that statement and instead concentrated on seeing the bath. The harem baths of El Deharia were legendary. She’d heard of gold faucets and tubs as big as pools.
They crossed the hall and walked through a beaded curtain. Victoria’s breath caught as she took in the open area with the stained-glass windows and skylights. The sound of a waterfall filled the air.
On either side of the door were vanities with armless upholstered chairs. The fabric looked old and she itched to find it in a book somewhere to date it. A hundred years old at least, she thought excitedly.
After passing through an archway, they moved into the main area of the bath. Yusra pointed to several doors.
“Steam shower,” she said. “Sauna. Treatment room. Should you desire a massage, we have a masseuse who will come here. She is excellent. Whirlpool tub. Regular shower.”
Why would anyone bother with a regular shower? Victoria stepped closer to the huge pool of swirling water. At one end was a raised rock platform with a waterfall pouring from it. The perfect outdoor shower, right here in the harem bath.
Lush plants grew at the water’s edge. The spray caught the light from the stained-glass windows and created rainbows where it fell. It was paradise, right in the middle of the desert.
“Is the water warm?” she asked.
“Yes. About one hundred degrees. The spring below the palace is filtered, heated water. From here it drains through sand and rock and returns to the earth.”
Perfection and environmentally friendly, Victoria thought, unable to believe this really existed.
“You will want to freshen up from your journey,” Yusra told her.
“Possibly for hours.”
The older woman showed her stacks of fluffy towels on shelves and several terry-cloth robes hanging on hooks. Then they returned to the main room.
“It’s beautiful,” Victoria admitted. While she might be nervous about the circumstances, she couldn’t complain about the working conditions.
Yusra showed her a phone on a small table. “Call if you need anything. Meals will be left in the small kitchen in back. There is fresh fruit and water, as well. Tell the main kitchen what you desire and it will be provided.” She looked at an antique grandfather clock. “The prince is expecting you for dinner tonight. I will send someone to escort you to his rooms in two hours.”
Victoria’s good mood faded. Tonight? So soon?
“We welcome you to the Winter Palace,” Yusra said earnestly. “The prince has been sad for many years now.”
Sad? Kateb? She hadn’t noticed.
“You are the first woman he has brought here in a very long time,” the older woman continued. “Perhaps you can make him smile again.”
It seemed like a tall order. At this point she would accept not being terrified all the time as a win.
When Victoria was alone, she returned to the big bedroom and went through her suitcases. As she unpacked, she kept trying not to think about what might happen that night.
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