The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(10) by Susan Mallery
He shifted on the sofa, until he faced her. Several floor lamps cast a warm glow in the room, leaving only the corners in shadow. Despite the late hour and the fact that they were virtually alone, she wasn’t the least bit concerned that Khalil would try anything. Aside from the fact that a fabulously handsome, wealthy prince wouldn’t notice she was a woman rather than a piece of office furniture, she knew in her heart that he was nothing like Gerald. He wouldn’t come on to her simply to relieve an itch.
She’d heard about the passions of men of the desert and watching Khalil, she could believe that he was more close to his animal nature than many Western men. But she still trusted him. He wouldn’t use a woman for sport, which is what Gerald had done.
“What will you do when I leave?” he asked. “Not return to Gerald.”
“Never that,” she promised, then had to clear her throat. It had tightened with a rush of disappointment.
While she’d known that he would be returning to El Bahar in the next couple of days, she’d started to hope he might want to take her with him. A foolish dream on her part. But how could she help wanting to meet his father and brothers, his grandmother, Fatima? She longed to see El Bahar and the palace. Khalil had painted a picture of a wild, untamed land entering the modern age. She found herself wanting to be a part of the transformation. Which was crazy. She was nothing more than a glorified secretary. Women like her didn’t change anything.
He leaned forward and picked up his drink. “I’ll make some inquiries tomorrow,” he said. “I know several executives across the country. You deserve more than what you had, Dora, and I’d like to help you find that.”
His kind words took some of the sting out of being left behind. She told herself it was enough that he would take the time to help her. How many other men would do so after such a short acquaintance? She also told herself that she had better be careful not to make Khalil a saint in her eyes. He was very much a mortal man.
And she was very much a mortal woman, in danger of developing a huge crush on her handsome boss. So the best course of action was to remove herself from temptation.
She rose to her feet. “Good night, Khalil,” she said. “What time tomorrow morning?”
“About eight,” he told her. “Good night, Dora.”
She smiled and left the room. A part of her wanted to believe his low, liquid chocolate voice had lingered over her name, but it was the same part of her that had been willing to believe that Gerald was a man of his word.
As she walked down the hallway toward her bedroom, she decided that despite the late hour, she still wasn’t sleepy. So she would take some time to review her list of what she had left to do to cancel the wedding. If nothing else, dealing with her broken past would remind her how important it was to be sensible in matters of the heart, and that falling for one’s boss was a slick, steep road to disaster.
Ten minutes later she went down the neatly printed list. She’d already had a carefully worded notice canceling the wedding sent out to all three hundred guests. The church, the hall, the caterer, the florist, and the musicians had been canceled. She was stuck with the dress. Dora glanced toward the closet, but she couldn’t see even a hint of white lace. That was because she’d shoved the garment all the way in the back. When she left the hotel, she would give it to the nearest thrift store. She never wanted to see that white gown again.
She left her desk and moved to the bed. Once there, she sank onto the firm mattress. Now, with the clarity of hindsight, it was easy to see how she’d come to be in such a mess, but at the time she’d been blind. Her own loneliness and emotional hunger had allowed her to believe that a slightly handsome, very selfish man was really a charming gentleman in disguise.
She’d worked for Gerald for nearly a year before anything romantic had happened. In that time she’d found herself daydreaming about him. Perhaps it was because she didn’t have anything in her life except her work and a clean, but empty apartment. She had no hobbies, few friends, no social life. She wasn’t the kind of woman men were attracted to. Some of it was her brain—she was usually smarter than the man in question and most were threatened by that. Then there was the matter of her plain face and her less-than-perfect body. And her natural reticence. She’d found herself turning thirty, living alone with no hope for a future beyond growing old by herself.
Then one night she and Gerald had been working late. She’d known he was between girlfriends. He generally dated a woman for a month or two, then dumped her for someone else. That evening she and Gerald had been together in the close confines of the copy machine room. They’d ordered in Chinese, and he’d dug up a bottle of wine somewhere. She’d been tipsy after just one glass, giggling and smiling and wishing it all could be real. Then suddenly it was—he was holding her and kissing her, and she found herself responding hungrily. All her fantasies had filled her mind until she’d convinced herself they were real. That she loved Gerald, and he’d finally recognized he cared about her, too.
Looking back she realized that a part of her had never believed, but she’d ignored the voice of reason because after thirty years of being innocent, she was finally in a man’s arms.
They’d been interrupted before they’d done much more than kiss. Mr. Greene, the company president, had come across them and had been horrified. Company policy forbade casual relationships between employees, and executives had been fired for dallying with their staff. Gerald had told the older man that he and Dora were engaged.
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