The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(19) by Susan Mallery
He released her and sat up. “We are well-matched,” he said, repeating what he’d told her the previous night. “I was not wrong to choose you.”
His words didn’t make any sense. “What are you talking about?”
He frowned as if he expected her to intuitively understand. “Isn’t that obvious? We are to be married this afternoon. The ceremony will be at five. I’ve already spoken to the manager of the boutique where you got your other clothes. One of their salespeople will be bringing by a selection of dresses at two.”
As he spoke, he rose to his feet and reached for a bathrobe she hadn’t noticed draped across a chair. Her ears heard what he told her, her brain absorbed the information, but it had no meaning. He might as well have been discussing the lack of oxygen on Jupiter, or the number of single-celled animals who lived at the bottom of the ocean.
“Married?” she asked, sure she’d misunderstood.
“Yes. That is what I said.”
She pressed her lips together and stared at him. Married? Married? Them? “You want to marry me?”
“Of course. Why are you surprised?”
How much time did he have to listen to that answer? she wondered grimly. This had to be a joke. A cruel bit of humor that had gone awry. Marriage? To her? Sure. Princes fell in love with their secretaries every day. “We’re not in some movie from the forties,” she said angrily. She sat up and pulled her knees to her chest, making sure she remained covered by the sheet and blanket. “I don’t think this is funny.”
“Nor do I,” he said coolly.
Her eyes burned. She realized she was close to crying—probably because there was a part of her that wanted to believe it was all true. She’d never allowed herself the fantasy of imagining Khalil caring about her. It was too ridiculous to stand. But he wasn’t a heartless man; at least she’d never seen proof of that. So why would he act this way now?
“I don’t understand,” she whispered. “Why are you doing this to me?”
“It’s perfectly clear,” he insisted. “I’ve wanted you from the first moment I saw you. You are intelligent, reliable, honorable and healthy. You have all the qualities I require in a wife. Until last night, you were a virgin. I am Prince Khalil Khan and I do not dishonor women.”
This was twisted even for him, she thought, trying to come to grips with what was happening to her. “You can’t mean that. You don’t really want to marry me.”
There were probably forty-seven thousand reasons. Unfortunately she couldn’t come up with one right now. She shrugged and made a vague movement with her hand. “Because.”
“Ah, that makes it all clear.”
He returned to the bed and settled next to her, then he took one of her hands in his. “What are you afraid of?”
She searched his gaze, wondering if she really dared to speak the truth. But as she couldn’t think of anything else to say, she didn’t have much choice. “That this is all a game to you. If it is, I don’t understand the rules, and I know I’m going to get hurt. I don’t want that.” The truth was she wasn’t sure she would survive more heartache right now, thank you very much. She would prefer to be left alone until she recovered her equilibrium.
He reached toward her and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, then touched her face. “I understand,” he told her, even though he couldn’t possibly. “You want to believe me, but you’re afraid. What happened to my lovely desert wildcat?”
“She had another appointment this morning and couldn’t be with us.”
He flashed her a smile. He hadn’t showered or shaved yet, and stubble darkened his jaw. He looked rugged and dangerous and she shivered at the thought of them being intimate again.
“I adore you,” he said and squeezed her fingers. “I know that this has happened very quickly, but that doesn’t make the experience any less valid. Trust me. More importantly, trust yourself, sweet Dora.” He leaned close. “I want you, in my bed and in my world. Marry me. Come back with me to El Bahar. Help me with my work. Help me change the world that is my country. You see, I must go back, but I’m not sure I can if you refuse to accompany me.”
His words fell like rain in the desert. She soaked up every syllable, drank in the sounds, then let them blossom deep inside of her. Oh how she longed to believe him. Could this be happening? Could someone like her really be so very fortunate?
She stared at him as if the truth lay in his handsome features. From the beginning he’d been autocratic and annoying, and he’d worked her hard, but he’d never been cruel. He’d never lied. She’d listened to him while he dealt with both customers and suppliers. He was tough, but honest. He had a moral code. He wasn’t Gerald.
That was what it came down to, she thought. Her fear that like Gerald, he was using her to get something he wanted. Except he was a prince and what on earth could he want that she could give him? She was an unemployed, nearly middle-aged spinster with a few office skills. And he…he was Khalil Khan, prince of El Bahar. In her heart she’d always known that Gerald was much less than she wanted him to be. Something about Khalil made her think he was so much more.
Before she realized what he was doing, he’d taken her in his arms, then stretched her out on the mattress. He reached under the covers and began to stroke her belly.
“Marry me,” he murmured against her neck. “Be my wife. Come home with me. Have my sons. I will make you a princess. My sweet, lovely Dora.”
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