The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(21) by Susan Mallery
Rasha laughed. “We get used to it.”
“That’s almost sad.” Victoria touched a pendant. “I know you sell in the city and here in the village. Anywhere else?”
“We have a man who takes our jewelry to El Bahar and Bahania. They do well.”
Both neighboring countries, Victoria thought. But still relatively small markets.
“What about selling on the Internet?”
Rasha frowned. “Is that possible?”
“Sure. You set up a Web site with pictures and set prices. You’d have to deal with shipping and boxes and insurance. I wonder if mailing into other countries would be a problem? Customs and import fees. Maybe it would be better to find a distributor in, say, the U.S. and Europe.”
“You have many ideas,” Rasha told her. “We are a small factory. No one would be interested in what we have to offer.”
“Don’t underestimate your work. People would be very interested. Handmade jewelry is something to treasure. Your prices are reasonable and the work itself is exquisite. I think you could be very successful.”
Several of the women had stopped working to listen. Victoria couldn’t tell if they were interested or if they were shocked she’d disagreed with Rasha.
“It would be nice not to be dependent on the only person who takes our things to El Bahara and Bahania,” Rasha said slowly. “He does not always give us a good price.”
A few of the women nodded.
“I don’t want to push,” Victoria said, excited about the idea of helping these women be more successful. Still, this was a different culture. Change came slowly. “Would you mind if I talked to Kateb about what I’ve seen and a few of my ideas? If he approved…”
Rasha’s eyes lit up. “You would speak to the prince on our behalf?”
“Of course. I know he’s concerned about growing the economy here. Selling your jewelry abroad would bring in a lot of money. If nothing else, maybe I could set up a Web site for you and see if there’s any interest.”
She wondered how products found their way to the home shopping channels on American TV. Something she would have to look into.
Rasha glanced around the room. All the women had stopped working and were listening.
“Please,” she said, smiling at Victoria. “If the prince thinks this is a good idea, we would appreciate any help you could give us.”
“I’ll talk to him as soon as I can, then get some ideas together.” She ignored the slight flutter in her stomach at the thought of seeing Kateb again. It wasn’t as if she was looking forward to another evening with him.
Not that it was a good sign when she started lying to herself, she thought glumly. She was looking forward to seeing him and was just twisted enough to be thrilled to have an excuse.
Which meant what? That she’d enjoyed the sex? Silly question, of course she had. Or did this mean something more? That she actually liked the man?
Alarm bells went off in her head. Liking was the first step in the slick road to feeling more and she knew the danger of that.
She shook off the thoughts. “I’ll be back in a few days to tell you what he said.”
“Thank you.” Rasha picked up a bracelet and handed it to her. “In honor of your visit.”
The bracelet was beautiful—links of gold that seemed to glow.
“While I’m seriously tempted, I’m going to say no. It’s too much. Save it. If I can help, then I’ll accept it gladly.”
Rasha hesitated, then nodded. “I look forward to seeing you again.”
They walked to the front of the house. Rasha let her out. Victoria noticed a young boy playing in the garden.
“Sa’id,” Rasha said sharply. “Do not stop here. Go at once.”
The boy looked up. He was thin and shabbily dressed, but when he saw Victoria, he smiled.
“Your hair is very pretty,” he said. “I haven’t seen anything like it.”
She smiled back and said, “Thank you,” when what she was really thinking was where on earth would she get highlights done in the middle of the desert? She waved at Rasha and at the boy, then hurried in the direction of the Winter Palace.
She should see Kateb right away, she told herself. If only to talk to him about the women and her plans to take them global. She thought about how he’d kissed her the previous night and the feel of his hands on her body and found herself not-so-secretly hoping he planned to have his way with her again.
Victoria returned to the harem to change her clothes before going to see Kateb. She told herself it was because she wanted to be professional when she talked to him about Rasha and the women making jewelry, but she didn’t actually believe the words.
She kept on the long skirt, but replaced comfortable sandals she could walk in with a high-heeled pair. She exchanged her T-shirt for a fitted camisole-style blouse with lace, added an ankle bracelet, freshened her makeup, then had to press her hand to her stomach to quell the sudden attack of anxious butterflies.
“This is no big deal,” she whispered to herself. “It’s just Kateb.”
Whom she had recently seen naked and made love with.
She was both excited and nervous, while oddly uncomfortable. Not a combination of emotions designed to put her into a meditative state, she thought, trying to find humor because it was better than fear or worry.
She left the harem and went in search of the offices. All working palaces had offices where the day-to-day details were handled. Government required files and computers and good lighting. Even in a thousand-year-old palace.
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