The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(36) by Susan Mallery
“That’s your only criteria?” she asked, a little unnerved by his calm determination. “What if you don’t like her? What if she smells funny or doesn’t have a sense of humor?”
“Ours will be a marriage of duty, nothing more.”
“You’re expected to have sex with her.”
“Not often, if I do not wish.”
She sat up and glared at him. “Just enough to get her pregnant? That’s romantic.”
“It is easier for a man than a woman,” he said, obviously amused by her reaction.
“Right. Because all cats are gray in the dark, right? That’s beyond disgusting. What about her feelings?”
“If she is a chieftain’s daughter, she will understand the importance of the alliance.”
Victoria stood and glared at him. “Let me guess. She’ll be fulfilled by her children and you’ll have the harem to keep you company.”
“Why are you so angry on behalf of a future wife who doesn’t yet exist?”
“I just am.”
He dropped his gaze to her body. “You know you’re naked, right?”
“Don’t try to change the subject.”
His attention seem to linger on her bare br**sts. “I am simply returning to a subject we were on a few minutes ago.”
He moved faster than she would have thought possible, grabbing her around the waist and pulling her back to bed.
She squealed, but didn’t struggle too much. Not when his hands were so gentle as he explored her. He kissed her, and at the same time, slipped his fingers between her thighs. All the fight went out of her.
“You’re playing dirty,” she complained, even as she wrapped her arms around him.
“I play to win,” he told her before he kissed her again.
Victoria returned to Rasha’s house the following morning. She’d printed out several copies of the business plan and hoped they would be as intrigued as she was.
Rasha welcomed her warmly. “We have been excited since your last visit,” the woman told Victoria. “Together we have come up with several new designs. Would you like to see?”
Victoria studied the sketches of three pairs of earrings, a couple of bracelets and a pendant. They were all so delicate, yet substantial. Perfectly balanced, amazing pieces.
“I don’t know how you do this,” she said, touching the paper. “Do you see it in your head first? Does something inspire you?”
Rasha laughed. “Sometimes. Other times I just play around with shapes until one of them speaks to me. It’s difficult to explain.” She eyed the briefcase Victoria had brought with her. “Good news or bad news?”
“Good news. I have come up with a business plan. I spoke to Kateb about it and he’s very supportive.” She handed Rasha a folder and left the others on the table. “We can go over this together and then you can discuss it with the other artists. When you’ve made a decision, let me know and if you want, we’ll move forward.”
Victoria took her through the plan, page by page. Rasha followed it easily, then frowned when she saw the numbers.
“That is a lot of money,” she murmured. “I am not sure how long it will take us to save it. Many years.”
“You’re not expected to come up with the financing,” Victoria told her happily.
Rasha pressed her lips together. “While my husband is very supportive of what I do, he would never…The men of the village aren’t as modern as those you are used to.”
“Kateb will finance the expansion,” Victoria told her. “As a sign of his support. He will offer a low-cost loan. He believes in you and the other women, Rasha. He appreciates your talent and wants you to be successful.”
“The prince will finance us? He offers his support?”
Victoria grinned. “That should make this a whole lot easier to sell to the husbands, don’t you think?”
“Very much so. How did you convince him? What did you say?”
“I showed him the numbers. He saw the possibilities himself. He’s interested in economic diversity. You will be bringing a lot of money into the village, and he respects that.”
Rasha beamed. “The prince appreciates us.”
She picked up the papers and hurried into the other room where the women gathered around her. She spoke quickly, flipping through the pages. Victoria wanted to point out that Kateb was just a man, like every other. Being a prince was an accident of birth. But they wouldn’t see it that way. He was somehow different from them, separated by station and power.
At least he was a good leader, she thought as squeals of excitement drifted to her. The elders had chosen well.
Would his duty wife appreciate that about him? Would she understand that he was mostly alone, having to decide for the many rather than for himself? Would she offer support and comfort? Would she appreciate how he could be kind, but that he didn’t want everyone to know he had a bit of a soft spot?
Not her business, Victoria told herself. By the time he’d picked his duty wife, she would be long gone. Which should have made her happy, but didn’t.
“We are delighted,” Rasha said when she returned. “How do we thank you for your help?”
“I’m having fun with all this. Don’t worry about it.”
Rasha nodded. “We will design a Princess Victoria collection.”
Her own line of jewelry? Could there be shoes, too? “I’m not a princess,” she said instead. “Just—you know—the girl in the harem.”
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