The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(20) by Susan Mallery
It was impossible to think while his fingers tickled her ribs, then moved higher to her br**sts. He circled the full curves, then teased her ni**les. She gasped as pleasure filled her, and her woman’s place dampened in anticipation of his possession.
“Khalil,” she breathed.
“Yes,” he told her. “Want me, need me, as I have wanted and needed you. Believe in me. Life has just offered you a great prize. Don’t be afraid. This once, reach out and grab it with both hands. If you don’t, you’ll regret it for the rest of your days.”
Of all the things he’d said to her, the last statement was the one that got through. She knew all about regrets. She’d lived with them all her life. She regretted her unhappy childhood, her initial college experience, her lack of relationships through her twenties, her relationship—if she could call it that—with Gerald. So many regrets. And not one of them was about something she’d done. She didn’t regret her actions, just her inactions.
Were her dreams at last coming true?
“Marry me,” he urged, still kissing her neck and her throat. “Say yes.”
She took a deep breath. Did she want to keep living with regret or did she want to take a chance? She bit her lower lip, then closed her eyes and exhaled a single word.
Khalil sat up. “I knew I could make you see sense. Good.”
He bounded to his feet, then reached down and pulled her to hers. Before she had a chance to register her nakedness or be embarrassed, he stepped behind her and gave her a gentle push toward the bathroom.
“Go ahead and shower. There’s much to be done before the wedding. I’ll meet you in the dining room in twenty minutes.”
With that, he was gone. Dora stared after him. Somehow that was not the response she’d expected when she’d agreed to marry Khalil. Married? She shook her head. None of this was really happening. Obviously she was caught up in a weird dream or something. Or maybe she’d hit her head in the night. Either way, she might as well shower, if only to get on with the dream and see what would happen next.
The wedding party consisted of Khalil, Dora, a justice of the peace and the two bodyguards who served as witnesses. Dora glanced around the large parlor in the beautiful hotel suite and told herself that the management had worked a miracle in a very short period of time.
White roses and baby’s breath had been woven through a narrow wooden arch. Large, pale pink urns filled with white roses, lilies and orchids sat on squat tables, which formed a makeshift center aisle in the room. She and Khalil stood on a long, white cloth that had been tacked down from the entrance of the room to the edge of the archway, and soft music played over the suite’s sound system.
Dora clutched her bouquet of exotic flowers more firmly in her hands and told herself that considering there had been less than twelve hours to pull it all together, things had gone surprisingly well. Promptly at two the boutique had delivered a half-dozen dresses for her to look at. She’d chosen a simple ivory lace gown that looked like something from the 1920s. She’d managed to pull her shoulder-length hair up into a French twist so that the delicate pearl earrings Khalil had given her at lunch were visible.
She knew she looked pretty good. Khalil was handsome and confident in his dark suit. Under the circumstances, they were doing well. And that was the problem. She wasn’t comfortable with the circumstances, nor could she stop shaking. Even now, with the judge talking about sickness and health, she felt as if she were still in her dream. Or maybe she’d gotten trapped in a made-for-television movie. Or maybe it was mental illness. Or maybe it was really happening.
Dora didn’t know which would be more frightening. Was she really marrying Khalil Khan, prince of El Bahar? She shook her head slightly, trying to clear her thoughts. Maybe it was the wedding that was messing up her brain, she thought frantically, desperate for an excuse. Nothing was the way she thought it would be. With Gerald, their wedding plans had been a little rushed, but they’d had more than two months in which to come up with a plan. There had been guests and a church and a reception at a hall, and she’d had a real wedding dress.
She glanced at Khalil who listened attentively to the judge. What was he thinking? She wanted to stop the ceremony and talk to him but she didn’t know what words to use. Perhaps he didn’t think this was out of the ordinary. After all, when she’d emerged from her room after her shower, she’d found him already working in his office. He’d given her little more than an absentminded greeting, then he’d thrust a stack of folders at her and had turned his attention back to his computer. She’d spent the morning before her wedding dealing with last-minute business problems. As if nothing between them had changed.
She looked up and realized both Khalil and the judge were staring at her. “What?”
Khalil smiled. “I believe the response he’s looking for is more along the lines of ‘I do.”’
I do what? she wondered, then it sank in. “Oh. Sure. I mean, I do.” She gave a little cough that did nothing to ease the tightness in her throat.
“The ring please,” the judge said, taking Dora’s flowers from her and setting them on a nearby table.
Khalil reached into his pocket and pulled out a diamond ring. Dora stared, first at the glittering piece of jewelry, then at him. Was that for her?
“Fit for a princess,” he murmured and slid it on the ring finger of her left hand.
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