The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(13) by Susan Mallery
“How did you find me?” she asked.
“When you canceled the caterer, you left them a phone number. Now tell me what the hell you think you’re doing? You’ve completely canceled the wedding. How dare you do that without speaking with me first?”
“How dare I cancel the wedding? You’re the one who had his hand up a married woman’s skirt, and you want to know how I dare anything? You’re an insensitive cad, Gerald. Do you even know what time it is here?”
“It’s a little after ten. What of it?”
“It’s after one in the morning. I’m in New York. But as you never dial your own phone, you probably wouldn’t recognize the area code.” She sighed. “Not that any of this matters.”
“You’re damn right it doesn’t matter,” Gerald growled. “I don’t care if you’re in New York or Zimbabwe. You get your fat ass back here by the end of the week. Do you hear me?”
Khalil tightened his grip on the phone. Dora’s cry of pain was barely audible, but he heard it.
“No,” she managed, although her voice was a little shaky. “The engagement is over. I can’t believe I was so stupid about you. You’re nothing but a faithless jerk, and I was a moron to think you were more. I’m glad you’re out of my life.”
“You don’t know how I wish I could stay out of it, Dora, but I can’t. Mr. Greene wants to know where you are. However much either of us would like to end it right now, we can’t.”
She sniffed. “That’s where you’re wrong. I have ended it.”
“The hell you have. What am I supposed to tell Greene?”
“How about the truth? How about telling him the only reason you said we were getting married was that you’d gotten caught? Why don’t you tell him that in addition to trying to sleep with me, you’ve also been doing it with Glenda and Lord only knows who else?”
“I will not lose my job because some dried-up old virgin gets cold feet.”
Khalil found himself wondering how Gerald would look after several encounters with a horsewhip.
“You always were an expert at sweet talk,” she said sarcastically. “Go to hell, Gerald. I don’t want anything to do with you.”
“I’ve been to hell,” he countered. “I went there every time I thought about having to make love with you. Did you ever wonder why I never tried? I was actually grateful old man Greene caught us that first night because there was no way I was going to do anything with you. You’re already an old woman, and you’re barely thirty. You were born a virgin, and you’re going to die one. No man in his right mind is ever going to want you. I’d like to—”
Khalil heard a click and knew that Dora had hung up the phone. He replaced his receiver as well, then stood in the silence of the living room. From there he could hear the faint sounds of Dora’s sobs. Her pain was as tangible as the furniture in the room.
He shifted uncomfortably. Until this moment, he’d not thought of his temporary assistant as a real person. She was efficient, intelligent and humorous. He’d enjoyed working with her. He’d known she was alive, but he’d not realized she was someone with hopes and dreams, someone with a spirit, someone now bleeding from the inside.
“We’ve both had a hell of an evening,” he muttered. He’d had to deal with Amber’s threats while she’d been tormented by Gerald. A grim smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. Perhaps he would fix Gerald up with Amber—the two deserved each other.
He crossed to the bar at the far end of the room. He needed a drink. But instead of pouring cognac into the snifter, he paused. An idea formed. It was ridiculous and insane, as was he for even thinking it, but once the idea formed, it wouldn’t go away. He set the bottle back on the bar and moved toward the hallway.
There, the semidarkness swallowed him. As he walked, the sounds of Dora’s cries were more audible. Gerald hadn’t just rejected her, he’d stripped her of the last of her woman’s pride. Perhaps he’d tapped into some secret fear she had of not being pretty, or desirable, or whatever it was that worried thirty-year-old virgins.
He paused outside her door. The idea circled in his brain. He had to find a way to break off his engagement with Amber and do so without endangering her father’s position in his country’s government. He, Khalil, insisted on marrying a virgin. His bride-to-be would be a princess, which was more than license to be ornamental. She had to be intelligent and committed to the betterment of El Bahar. He wanted someone sensible, deferential and even-tempered, yet he wanted to enjoy her company. While marrying for passion would be nice, finding a woman who would be a good mother was more important.
He pictured Dora—her soft brown eyes and easy smile. Her body was harder to imagine, mostly because he’d not paid much attention to it. She had broad hips—childbearing hips. Unlike Amber’s slender frame, Dora had been built to give a man strong sons.
She was not deferential, nor was she likely to allow her will to bend to his, but she had nearly all the other qualities he sought in a wife, and she was a virgin.
He hesitated in the hallway, sorting through the information. His father would be furious. It would be some time before Khalil would be forgiven for such an impulsive act. Turning his back on his engagement with Amber would bring momentary dishonor to his family, and the king would not forget. Khalil drew in a deep breath. Perhaps in time he could explain why, but in the short-term, he would have to accept his father’s displeasure.
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