The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(42) by Susan Mallery
He laughed again. “You won’t. The books are rare and you might damage one.”
He touched her cheek. “Your points on the women are well taken. And yes, write Princess Dora and ask her advice. She is a strong, intelligent woman. You have much in common with her.”
He left her standing in the middle of the library, feeling as if she’d been struck by a train. What had just happened? What exactly had he said? And why had she reacted so strongly to the thought of the other women? Why should she care?
She walked toward the shelves of books, only to stop. Her breath caught in her throat as the truth…and horror…of the situation crashed into her.
She cared because sometime since arriving at the Winter Palace, she’d fallen in love with Kateb. She’d given her heart to him and now he had the power to destroy her.
She knew love was for fools and now she’d become one. Her fate, her very future, rested on a single moment of chance. If she was pregnant, she would stay in the presence of a man who would never believe she loved him. And if she wasn’t pregnant, she would be forced to leave. There was no middle ground, no happy ending, no way to win.
In this game, the deck was truly stacked against her.
The workrooms of the house shined as if they had been polished for days. Kateb supposed they had. The launching of the Internet site for the women’s jewelry business had attracted many of the village’s residents and Rasha would want to impress her neighbors.
Kateb circulated through the crowd, looking for Victoria more than listening to those around him. He was one of only a few men in a sea of women, which should have made spotting her difficult. However, her blond hair caught his attention.
He saw her speaking with one of the artists. Victoria said something and the other woman laughed. She had her profile to him. Her features had become familiar, yet were still beautiful. He knew that beneath her professional suit lay curves that could drive a man to madness, but he did his best not to think of them. Better to focus on the event itself and on the orders coming in through the Web site.
“Prince Kateb.” Rasha appeared at his side and bowed. “We are so honored that you have come here this afternoon. You have made so much of this possible. We will always be grateful.”
“You have a thriving business,” he told her. “I support that.”
“Thank you.” She waved to the crowded room. “This is all because of Victoria. She is the one who saw the possibilities. She worked tirelessly. Did you see her business plan? It was very impressive. I believe she went to college.”
Rasha’s voice sounded wistful. While many El Deharian women attended college, it wasn’t that common for girls in the village. They went to local schools, then frequently married young and started a family.
“She has a two-year degree,” Kateb said. “In business.”
“Imagine what she could have done if she had been able to earn a four-year degree. Education is so important.”
“Do you have daughters?” he asked.
“Yes. Two. They are eight and ten.”
“Will they go to college?”
She looked surprised by the question. “They are intelligent girls with dreams, of course, but I am not sure…” She cleared her throat. “No woman in my family has attended college and my husband, while supportive, would not see the need.”
A fairly typical reaction, Kateb thought. The men had to be shown the need.
Rasha excused herself to see to her guests. Kateb returned his attention to Victoria. What would have happened to her if she’d gotten a four-year degree? Would she have entered a management training program in a large company? If so, by now she would be close to running the world.
He smiled at the thought. Perhaps the world would be a better place for it.
Yusra moved toward him. “You have seen enough?”
He checked his watch. “I have been here nearly twenty minutes.”
“Plenty of time for them to notice your presence, sir.”
He wondered if Victoria would agree. Regardless, he was ready to return to the palace. Yusra walked with him. Once they were in the street, she paused.
“Victoria is already working with the women who weave. Did you hear? She had written Princess Dora of El Bahar to ask for her help in marketing the fabric. She has a meeting scheduled with the old men who carve. They, too, wish to sell on the Internet.”
He hadn’t heard that. “Interesting. She has started a revolution.”
“In only a few weeks. You must be very proud of her.”
Pride implied he had some influence or control over her actions. She had done all this on her own.
“She isn’t like the women of the desert,” Yusra said earnestly. “At first I thought of her only as someone to please you. To help with the loneliness. I know you still miss Cantara, and that is as it should be. Victoria would be a distraction. But she is more. She saw the truth about Sa’id when the rest of us turned away. She sees the possibilities.”
Kateb stared at the old woman. “What is your point?”
“That it will only be a week or two until we know if she is carrying your child. It seems unlikely, which means you will be letting her go. She has given much to us. So what is to become of her? Will she return to the city and work as Nadim’s assistant? Take another job? Surely she deserves more.”
He hadn’t thought about the future, about what would happen after he knew if Victoria was pregnant or not.
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