The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(11) by Susan Mallery
From that moment until the fight on the airplane less than two weeks ago, Dora had existed in a blurry dream-world. Gerald had attempted to convince her that his passion and his love were real, and she’d let him because she’d wanted it to be true. They’d pulled together a large wedding in less than two months. For the first time in her life she’d belonged to someone. But even then, she’d had her doubts. Gerald had never told her he loved her. And they’d never made love. In fact, he barely touched her.
So while she’d been devastated by what had happened on the plane, she hadn’t been surprised. In that moment, she’d seen the truth in all its ugly harshness. He’d used her vulnerability because he’d wanted to keep his job. He’d never cared about her—she wasn’t even sure he liked her. She was lucky to have escaped him. Except now she would always be alone.
Dora stretched out on the mattress and promised herself she wouldn’t cry. Many women were happy on their own. Perhaps she would never have a husband or children, but she could still be fulfilled. Her mistake had been to put her life on hold while waiting for a man. That’s what she had to change. She would learn to be happy on her own. She was smart, and she wasn’t afraid to work hard. This was the only life she had, and she’d better make the best of it.
That decided, she sat back up and reached for her note-pad. She began a list. As soon as she found a job, she would start taking classes. Cooking, decorating, Italian lessons, gardening, anything until she discovered a hobby about which she could be passionate. She would search out a travel agency that catered to single women. Not to help her find a man, but to give her the opportunity to make friends with other women. She started a list of places she would like to see, then wrote down all the books she’d been telling herself she would read. She closed her eyes for a moment and earnestly promised herself she would learn to be happy by herself. Yes, she’d just suffered through a humiliating experience, but she’d been given a second chance, and she was going to grab it with both hands. She was many things, but she wasn’t a quitter. If she gave up on herself, then Gerald won. She would do anything to make sure the final victory was hers.
Fifteen minutes after Dora had gone to bed, Khalil tried to concentrate on the report he held, but the technical explanation of road resurfacing could not keep his attention. Despite the late hour, the faint sound of traffic on the street below drifted into the room. It had been nearly three weeks, and he was ready to go home.
Khalil missed El Bahar. He missed the bustling city, his work at the palace, his family. While he enjoyed travel from time to time, when his trips were nearly over, he frequently found himself wishing to return home. He’d refocused his attention on the words in front of him when he heard a light tap on the door to the suite. He put down the report and frowned as he glanced at his watch. It was well after midnight, and he wasn’t expecting a visitor. Perhaps Dora had ordered something from room service.
But when he walked to the door and pulled it open, he didn’t see a uniform-clad waiter holding a tray. Instead a petite, dark-haired young woman with the face of an angel stared at him.
Her voice was little more than a low purr. She entered the room, moving with the grace of a cat. A deep blue sequined gown outlined every perfect curve of her siren’s body, makeup accentuated lovely features, especially her full, pouty mouth, and a cloud of sensual perfume settled around her. The light in the parlor flashed against the diamonds glittering at her ears, her neck, and her wrists. Her hands were small, her nails long. She was, on the outside at least, the most lovely female ever born.
She made his skin crawl.
Khalil took a step back to avoid her brushing against him. She caught the involuntary gesture and smiled at him. “Are we to play that game again?” she asked as she moved into the room and draped her fur wrap over one of the chairs. “Am I to be the hunter while you are the frightened prey?” She moved close, neatly trapping him against a pillar. “I like that game.”
Sexual desire glinted in her almond-shaped eyes. She pressed her hands to his chest. “Kiss me, Khalil. Kiss me, and make love with me.”
Swallowing his repugnance, he pushed her away, then stalked to the window. “Get out,” he said, his voice low and controlled only by a supreme act of will. What he wanted to do was toss her out the window, or perhaps find a less violent way to keep her out of his life.
She closed the front door of the suite, then gave a low laugh. “But, darling, I’m the one who’s angry with you. Not the other way around. You’ve been in the city for nearly two weeks, yet you’ve not once called me or asked me to visit. I’m quite put out.” She pouted. The sexy movement of her mouth did little to arouse him.
“We have nothing to say to each other, Amber. I didn’t call you because I had no desire to spend time in your company.”
She waved her left hand at him. The large diamond there glittered like a dime-store bauble. But he knew the oversize solitaire was very real. He should know. He’d paid for it.
“You’re going to have to change your mind about me, my love,” she said. “After all, we are engaged.”
Khalil turned away from her and stared out the window. As much as he wanted to ignore her words, he could not. “I don’t want to marry you,” he growled. “I’ve never wanted you.”
“But you are a prince, and therefore marry for duty and country, rather than personal feelings. I’m your duty, Khalil. I’m your destiny.”
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