The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(12) by Susan Mallery
He spun back to face her. Rage boiled inside of him. Rage and anger and frustration because there wasn’t a damn thing he could do to fix the problem.
Amber leaned against the sofa and smiled at him, her lovely cat smile exposing small, white, straight teeth. Behind those perfect features and that incredible body lay the heart and soul of a snake.
He knew the truth about her—that when she was in El Bahar she played the dutiful daughter, but when she left her country and family behind, she transformed. Out in the world, Amber was a hedonist. She’d taken her first man when she was thirteen. Since then her conquests had grown in number. He’d heard her called a beautiful whore, and he wasn’t sure he could find it in himself to disagree with the assessment.
She pushed away from the sofa and walked toward him. “I will have you,” she whispered. “You will marry me, and then you will bed me. I will be your wife.”
She laughed. “Break the engagement? I think not. After all, you’d have to give a reason. What would you say?”
She laughed again. “Ah, that. You would go to my father, the prime minister of El Bahar, and offer him proof of my wild ways. You would taunt him with the facts, telling him that his favorite daughter, the very jewel of his life, was a great seducer of men? I don’t think so.”
Her brown eyes twinkled at the thought. “How sad he would be. That great statesman, a true leader and advocate of the people brought down by a wayward child.”
Khalil ground his teeth together. He wanted to deny all that she said, but he could not. Amber was right—lif he, Khalil, told her father the truth about his daughter, the man would be destroyed. Ancient El Baharian custom demanded that the father take responsibility for the sins of his children. Aleser would resign as prime minister, and El Bahar would lose a great man. The choice was simple—his silence for his country’s future.
“I have money,” he said.
She dismissed him with a wave. “I have money, too, Khalil. What I don’t have is a title. I wish to be a princess.”
“What about queen?” he asked. “I would have thought that was more to your liking.”
She looked thoughtful. “It’s something I’ve considered, but I’m afraid that’s not an option. You see, I’ve already been with your brother.”
He froze. Not out of anger—at this point he didn’t give a damn about Amber’s bedmates—but in shock. Malik?
“It was after he lost his wife,” she said. She put her hands on her slender waist, then ran them down her hips. “He was so very sad, and he’d been drinking. I was alone, and one night I thought we could make each other feel better. He was very impressive.” Her gaze dropped to his crotch. “I’m hoping it’s a family attribute. Shall we see if we are as well-matched?”
Disgust with her curled in his stomach.
She moved closer. “Why wait? We will be married soon enough. In time I’ll have sons, Khalil. Your sons. And then you can deny me nothing.”
Coldness swept through him. It chilled him to his bones, then froze his soul. Resolve steeled his spine. He would not marry this woman. Somehow he would find a way to keep Aleser in office and avoid bedding this witch of a woman.
“Get out,” he told her. “I have no use for a whore this night.”
Her expression of good humor slipped a little. “Be careful,” she warned. “I’m a formidable enemy.”
“As am I, Amber. You believe you can say or do as you wish because I am trapped, but you are wrong. Know this.” He took a step toward her. “I will face down the devil himself before I marry you.”
“Yes, but will you destroy El Bahar?” she asked as she moved to the chair by the front door and retrieved her wrap. “You see, Khalil, the devil isn’t the problem. You are your own worst enemy in this. You’re a dutiful prince. You adore your people and your country. You would die for them.” She laughed. “You would even marry me for them. So you see, I have nothing to fear.”
She gave him a mocking bow, then left. Even as she closed the door, he could hear the light sound of her laughter.
He swore long and loud into the silence. Anger, no rage, raced through him, propelling him back to the window. He curled his hands into useless fists and wished to be anywhere but here.
He would not marry her. He swore by his honor as his father’s son he would find a way out of this dilemma. But how? Did Amber have him so neatly trapped that there was no escape?
He paced to the door, then returned to the window. Frustration built inside of him. Could he tell his father privately? Would the king believe him without proof? Khalil shook his head. If he had proof of Amber’s true nature, the king would feel obligated to go to his good friend, Aleser, and tell him about his daughter. As far as Khalil could see, all roads led to disaster.
He had paced for nearly an hour when the phone rang. The sharp sound startled him. He crossed to the instrument on the desk in the corner and picked up the receiver. As he did so, he heard Dora’s voice.
Khalil was about to hang up when a man said, “Dora, it’s Gerald. Where the hell have you been?”
Khalil heard Dora’s sharp gasp over the phone. He had the brief thought that he shouldn’t listen, then dismissed the idea of hanging up. He was curious about Gerald. The man had behaved inappropriately and was a fool. Dora wasn’t especially beautiful, but she was a good worker and he, Khalil, liked her.
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