The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(43) by Susan Mallery
Yusra was right—he couldn’t send her back to work for Nadim, assuming the position was still open. What would she do? Return to America? Work for someone else?
“I think you should help her find a rich husband.”
He stared at the older woman. “What?”
“She needs a husband. You’ve seen her around the palace and today. She’s a woman who was born to give her heart. She should have a family, many children, a place to belong. She respects your opinion. She would listen to you.”
“Then you don’t know her at all,” he said, annoyed beyond reason and not sure why. Getting Victoria married made the most sense. But to introduce her to someone? To know that man would claim the treasure of her heart and her mind? Impossible. “She would never agree to an arranged marriage.”
“You wouldn’t have to tell her what you were doing. You could guide her.”
“Right. Until she figured out what I was doing and threw a large vase at my head.”
“You need to do something. She can’t be sent out in the world unprepared.”
Victoria was many things, but unprepared wasn’t one of them. Still, he understood Yusra’s point. “I will consider the matter,” he said, and walked away.
Victoria knocked on Kateb’s open office door, then walked in. “You sent for me?” she asked, not sure if she was going to have a little hissy fit about that or not. After the successful opening party the previous day, she was feeling pretty darned good about everything, but being “sent for” was still a tiny bit annoying.
Kateb stood and motioned to the sofas by the window. “Yes. I have several things to discuss with you, although I’m sure first you wish to complain about the fact that I sent for you.”
Could the man now read her mind? “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she lied. “You asked to see me and here I am.”
“Because your job is to serve?”
“Something like that.”
His dark gaze drifted over her face. “You’re not a very good liar.”
“Hardly a bad quality. So you sent, and I’m here. What do you want?”
“Rasha and the other women are very pleased with all you did, as am I.”
“I enjoyed helping them. They have a great business and they can use the extra money.”
“Their husbands support them.”
“For now. What happens if one of them does the ‘I divorce thee’ three times or however it works?”
“That is not El Deharian law.”
“Fine. One of the men goes on a camel-stealing rampage and his wife is kicked out onto the street. My point is a woman having an independent income is good for everyone. She gets to feel a little self-worth, and he has to stay in line.”
“I suspect you are more interested in him staying in line.”
She smiled. “Maybe, but you get what I’m saying, right?”
He sighed. “Equality for all.”
“Is this where you point out that I’m difficult?”
“No. I’m saving that for later. I had an interesting conversation with Rasha yesterday. She reminded me that not enough women from the village and the desert tribes are going to college. It is not traditional for them to attend and many fathers are uninterested in doing much more than acquiring a good husband for their daughters.”
Victoria sprang to her feet. “Are you aware of what a waste that is for your country? There are brilliant minds not being used. Who knows what could have been invented or discovered or improved? But no. Let’s keep the women home for breeding. This just really pisses me off.”
“I would not have guessed.”
He leaned back against the cushions, obviously more amused than annoyed. She narrowed her gaze.
“You told me this on purpose,” she snapped.
“You knew it would upset me.”
“I suspected you would have a strong reaction.”
“Do you want me to threaten you or something?”
“No. I wanted to see if you were as passionate about the subject as I had thought you would be.”
“And you should sit down again.”
She wasn’t sure what he was up to, but she sat back on the sofa.
He leaned toward her. “It has come to my attention that you have one of those brilliant minds we were speaking of a few minutes ago. You see need and you fill it, especially where women and children are concerned.”
His assessment pleased her. “Men can take care of themselves. They’ve had the money and power for centuries.”
“We won’t debate that now,” he said. “Don’t try to distract me from what I want to say.”
“I don’t know what that is. How could I distract you?”
He stared at her until she squirmed. “Fine,” she muttered. “Talk away.”
“Should you not be pregnant, what are your plans when you leave here?”
The unexpected question made her glad she was seated. She didn’t want to think about leaving, about being away from him, never seeing him again. But was there a choice? He’d already shortened her time with him from six months to one.
The thought of leaving in a week or two hurt more than she could have imagined and she knew the reason. Love made her vulnerable. Love made her want to stay always, made her want to promise anything so he would keep her around. She’d actually considered offering to be his mistress permanently, knowing he would be marrying someone more appropriate. Which meant she had to leave as soon as she was free. She couldn’t stay here and be a doormat for a man who wouldn’t or couldn’t love her back.
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