The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(31) by Susan Mallery
Victoria nearly snorted. “And you do?”
“I am aware that both genders can be intelligent.”
“You have a harem.”
“As I have explained, it came with the palace.”
“You don’t seem in any big hurry to convert it to a petting zoo.”
“I doubt you would enjoy sharing space with goats and sheep.”
“That’s true.” She saved the file then closed the program. “So you’re saying women can be leaders in business. What about in politics?”
He angled toward her. “You wish to govern?”
“Not me, but there must be women who are interested. Will they have an opportunity? Do you think El Deharia is ready for its own Queen Elizabeth?”
“Not today.” He glanced at the computer. “Your report was excellent. Well researched, thorough. I enjoyed the graphics.”
“Thank you,” she said primly, not wanting him to know how his praise made her feel giddy inside. “I think these women are creating amazing jewelry. They need a showcase for their talent.”
“You are providing them that.”
“I’m only helping. They’re doing the hard work.”
He studied her. “You’re saying this isn’t about you? That if it comes to pass, you won’t be the one in charge?”
“No. It’s not my business. Rasha is more than capable of managing the business. And I’m guessing that with the excellent wi-fi you have in the palace that there are plenty of teenagers who could manage the Web site. I’m not looking to home in on their show.” She rolled her eyes. “Let me guess. You don’t believe me. I’m just playing you, right?”
“No, you’re not. And I do believe you.”
He looked amused. “Or what?”
“Let’s just say you wouldn’t like me angry. I’d scare you.”
“Yes, I can see that happening.”
They were in his office. She was aware of people on the other side of the closed door and the fact that her appointment would end in a few minutes. Although they lived in the same palace, she rarely saw him. Probably because that was how he wanted it. Tonight was the celebration of his nomination and she would be going with him, but she had a feeling there wouldn’t be much time alone.
She closed the laptop. “Kateb, I…” What to say and how to say it? “I didn’t know you’d been married before. I’m sorry for your loss.”
He didn’t move, yet she felt him close against her. It was as if a wall came down, separating them. “It was a long time ago,” he told her.
“I know. But it must still hurt. I’m sorry.”
“You have no need to be.”
“I know what it’s like to lose someone you love. The pain fades, but it never goes away.”
He nodded slightly.
She stood and reached for the laptop. “About the dinner tonight. Am I supposed to meet you there or what?”
“I will come to the harem.”
“Yusra said she’d bring me something to wear. After last time, I’m almost afraid.”
He gave her a slight smile. “I will speak with her. The clothing will be appropriate.”
She knew it was time to leave, yet she didn’t want to go. She wanted to say something else. But what? They were strangers bound by a single night together. He’d already given his heart to another woman and she wasn’t interested in love. They didn’t belong together. So why did she have the feeling that she would miss him when it was time for her to go?
Kateb found himself looking forward to the evening. Although the idea of a formal dinner didn’t appeal to him, he knew that sitting next to Victoria would be entertaining. She would be interested in the events, ask intelligent questions, then make him laugh with her unexpected and humorous worldview.
She was not who and what he would have expected. Her business plan had impressed him. He would guess she’d been an excellent assistant to Nadim and that the other man had never bothered to notice. Just like Nadim had probably never listened to her snarky comments or noticed the sway of her walk.
But Kateb noticed and it drove him crazy. He couldn’t be near her without wanting her, which was the downside to the dinner.
“Are you ready?” he asked as he walked into the harem.
“I guess. I’m covered, that’s for sure. It’s not anything I would have picked.”
She walked into the room and turned in a slow circle. “Yes? No? I have a formal ballgown if that would be better.”
Yusra had dressed her traditionally, in slim, fitted trousers and a matching long jacket, both in dark gold with delicate embroidery. The jacket buttoned to her neck and the full sleeves came to her wrists. It flared out like a dress, falling almost to her ankles. Yet there were only three buttons, so her midsection was exposed from just below her br**sts to her belly button.
The slight view of her pale skin was both unexpected and erotic. It made him want to unbutton the jacket and pull it off, then remove the rest of her clothing. He wanted her naked, wet and moaning. The image was real enough to make him hard.
He ignored his reaction and concentrated on the way she’d piled her blond hair on top of her head. A few curls fell past her shoulders. Her eyes were large and the color of the desert sky.
“You’re not saying anything,” Victoria told him.
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