The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(1) by Susan Mallery
Prince Khalil Khan stared out onto the tarmac and told himself what he saw was nothing more than a mirage. He was familiar with the phenomenon, having experienced it both times he’d been stupid enough to get lost in the vast desert of El Bahar. He knew the telltale signs of shimmering heat, a wavering image, the sensation of pain pounding at the back of his eyes.
Unfortunately none of those symptoms occurred at this moment. It was January, not mid-July, and piles of dirty snow stood at the edge of the runway. So much for the shimmering heat. He had no headache—at least not one from staring at the mirage. The image in question neither wavered nor disappeared. It approached steadily in a determined fashion. There was also the small detail of this not being El Bahar. Instead, he found himself in the middle of an airfield in Kansas.
If this wasn’t a mirage, then a dark-haired woman in an ill-fitting wedding gown really walked toward him.
“I’ve committed a grievous sin,” he muttered to himself. “In a past life, if not in this one.”
The woman stopped in front of him. Her eyes, a nondescript shade of brown, were red-rimmed from crying. He bit back a sigh and a curse. He loathed weak females.
“Excuse me,” she said, her voice husky, most likely from her emotional outburst. “I’ve been stranded here.” She motioned to the small airport that primarily served corporate jets. “This is going to sound a little strange, but I need a ride.”
He stared down at her, giving her what his grandmother, Fatima, referred to as his imperious look, although to him it felt no different from any other expression. “You don’t know where the plane is headed.”
The woman swallowed. Two bright spots stained her pale skin, making her look feverish and unattractive. “I know, but it’s not here. I need to get to a city.” Her fingers twisted together. “I’ve been stranded. I don’t have any luggage or regular clothes.” She tugged at the waist of her wedding gown.
He was almost curious enough to ask how she came to be left at the Salina Airport in a wedding gown in the winter. She had no coat, or if she did, she wasn’t wearing it. Perhaps she was unbalanced.
Just then, one of the glass doors opened and a tall, statuesque blonde came out of the terminal carrying a cup of coffee. Her short skirt exposed long, perfect legs, while her too-tight sweater outlined full br**sts that jiggled with each step. When she saw Khalil, she waggled her fingers at him and smiled.
“I got some coffee,” she said, as if he couldn’t figure out what was in the clearly marked cup.
Again he wondered what trick of fate had brought him to this place in his life. What was supposed to have been a simple three-week business trip to the United States had turned into a hellish journey. His assistant, a pleasant and efficient young man, had been forced to return to El Bahar when his mother took ill. Both of the hotels Khalil had stayed in had lost his reservations, forcing him to sleep in a regular room instead of a suite. His jet had developed mechanical trouble, and the plane he’d chartered as a replacement didn’t have the fuel capacity to fly from Los Angeles to New York, hence the stop in this outpost of an airport. Last but certainly not least, his temporary secretary had an intelligence level in direct contrast to the size of her br**sts. She seemed convinced that all she’d been hired to do was smile and preen. He’d made dozens of attempts to explain that he had actual work for her, but it was all beyond her capacity.
Now he stared at a lost bride who wanted his help. So ended his first week. He could only wonder what the other two would bring.
A steady throbbing began at his temples. “There are extra seats,” he said at last. “We are going to New York. You may come if you’d like, but please do so silently. If you so much as sniffle, I will put you out of the plane myself, regardless of our altitude.”
With that, he turned on his heel and crossed to the small corporate jet.
Dora Nelson stared after the stranger. He certainly didn’t understand the meaning of the word gracious, but then she was in no position to complain. Besides, if she was going to be critical about anyone’s behavior on this bright, sunny afternoon, what about her own? She was currently the reigning Queen of Stupid.
As far as she could tell, she’d only been really dumb twice in the past four or five years. Unfortunately both events had occurred within a few weeks of each other. Her first mistake had been believing that Gerald cared about her. Her second had been refusing to get back on his plane that morning. She supposed that a part of her hadn’t thought that her boss and soon-to-be ex-fiancé would really fly off and leave her stranded without her luggage, her purse, or even a coat. She had no money, no wallet, and most likely, no job.
At least she had a ride, she reminded herself as she picked up the trailing skirts of her wedding gown and walked toward the waiting corporate jet. Once in New York, she could phone her bank and get them to wire her some money. Which only solved one of her problems. She didn’t have identification, so flying a commercial plane was out of the question. Then there was that pesky detail of canceling her wedding. It was supposed to be in four weeks. Two days before, she’d been excited to mail out three hundred invitations. She was an idiot.
Dora climbed up the stairs of the jet. Her gown slipped off one shoulder, and she had to stop to jerk it back into place. It wasn’t enough that she didn’t have any regular clothes with her, but just to add to that particular humiliation, her dress was too small. The seamstress had delivered it that morning with a promise it would be perfect. Dora hadn’t been able to stand waiting so she’d tried it on during the flight. The seamstress had been wrong. The cool air nipped at Dora’s bare back, where the buttons couldn’t be fastened.
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