The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(7) by Susan Mallery
She let her gaze move to the open windows behind him, through which she could see south, across the city. It was a clear but cold January morning, and from this many stories up, the city was beautiful. She’d never been a fan of New York, but the past few days had changed her mind. There was so much to do. When her temporary job with Khalil ended, she just might spend a few days here on her own…in a slightly less expensive hotel, of course, she thought with a smile.
Khalil continued to type, staring at his screen with fierce concentration. As usual, he wore a well-tailored suit that emphasized the animal strength and grace of his body. Looking there for too long was a dangerous occupation, so she moved her gaze higher. His dark hair hung to the edge of his collar. He wore it brushed straight back, and the thick strands seemed inclined to obey his wishes. She rarely saw a hair out of place.
He had a commanding profile, all sharp edges and lines. When he at last turned to face her, she took in the uncompromising set of his mouth, the faintly stern expression that drew his eyebrows together, the narrow, pale scar on his left cheek.
Occasionally she was able to forget that she was currently employed by royalty, but most of the time it was easy to remember. Khalil held himself slightly apart. He didn’t encourage familiarity and rarely responded to her humor. His keen intelligence kept her from dismissing him as pompous, and his incredible good looks gave her heart a regular workout. He was in many ways, the most complex person she’d ever met.
“How was your morning?” he asked politely as he gave her his full attention.
Dora knew him well enough to know that the question was a courtesy, not a request for information.
“Things are going well,” she said, handing him the fax. “Here’s the update on the new computer chips.”
She paused while he scanned the document. His eyes were large and dark brown. Sometimes she would swear that he could see all the way to her soul, which was ridiculous and wishful thinking on her part. The man barely noticed she was alive. To him, she was efficient office equipment. A robot disguised as a woman.
She brushed her hand against the soft wool of her skirt and smiled at the feel of the supple fabric. As it had that first night, her new wardrobe continued to be a marvel. Today she wore a dark brown straight skirt and a fawn-colored, cropped, boxy cardigan. She would never have thought to put the two different silhouettes together, but they worked perfectly. The dark skirt created the illusion of long, lean lines, while the square-shaped sweater balanced her hips. Last Friday she’d ducked out early and had gone shopping, treating herself to a pair of riding-style boots that completed the ensemble. For the first time in her life, Dora felt vaguely attractive.
Khalil put down the fax. “What else?”
She told him about his new appointment with the scientists working on water reclamation. Khalil turned to his computer and touched a few keys, bringing up his schedule for the next day. Dora’s recent entry was highlighted.
“Very good,” he told her. “As a desert nation, we are especially concerned with providing enough water for our growing population and for irrigation. It is my belief that we will eventually reclaim the desert, although I’m sure she’s going to be most reluctant to be tamed.”
“I didn’t realize the desert was considered female.”
“Most definitely. All things unpredictable have that designation. Boats, planes, Mother Nature.”
She wondered if he had trouble with the women in his life. As far as she could tell, he hadn’t had any more company since the first night they’d arrived. Did the prince have someone special in his life? For all she knew, he was married.
The thought was vaguely disquieting. She pushed it to the back of her mind. “I’ve confirmed the arrangements for dinner tomorrow night,” she said. “I’ll have the wine shipped over in the morning.”
“How much did they protest at us bringing our own?”
She smiled. “Mr. Boulier squawked, but eventually he saw reason.”
“I’m sure you had something to do with that,” he said, then passed her three thick envelopes. “More invitations to charity functions. I only have time for one. Which would you recommend?”
She flipped through the elegant invitations, then shrugged. “It’s your call. Personally I would pick the one that funds Pediatric AIDS research, but there are likely to be more attractive young women at the fashion show to help the homeless.”
She glanced at him from under her lashes, but Khalil didn’t crack a smile. While she wasn’t expecting a knock-knock joke festival, didn’t the man have a sense of humor? Still, she refused to complain. In the past five days, she’d found herself becoming an important part of his team here in the United States. She didn’t just hand out papers or get coffee. Last night she’d dined with Khalil and two senators who had wanted to talk to the prince about the progress El Bahar had made in developing drought-resistant crops. While her official function had been to take notes and keep track of what information he agreed to send to the senators, when the meeting was over, Khalil had stayed up to talk with her for a few minutes, asking her opinion on the meeting.
A quiet knock at the open door broke through her thoughts. She glanced up and saw a waiter standing there with a room service cart. She and Khalil frequently shared a working lunch.
“The dining room, please,” she said.
She picked up the folders she’d brought with her. Khalil collected a few of his own, along with a legal pad. They walked down the long hallway to the dining room, where lunch was being set up.
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