The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(23) by Susan Mallery
She remembered bits of the wedding, and she remembered afterward, when she and Khalil had sat together talking. She certainly remembered the champagne. She pressed two fingers to her temple. Even now her head pounded in a not-so-gentle reminder that too much liquor on an empty stomach did not leave her feeling her best.
At some point she must have fallen asleep—she didn’t dare even think the phrase “passed out”—and Khalil had put her to bed. It’s not as if she wanted her husband to make love with her while she wasn’t conscious, so she shouldn’t be upset that she woke up alone. Technically nothing was wrong. Even so she couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t exactly right, either. After all, she’d spent her wedding night alone.
Babette, the owner of the fashion salon, fingered the delicate silk of the column dress. “The fabric is quite extraordinary,” she said. “And the color would be fabulous on madam.”
Oh, right, Dora thought glumly. And wouldn’t madam look amazing with her hips pulling at the seams and completely destroying the line of the dress. But she didn’t say that. She didn’t say anything. The exclusive establishment left her feeling out of place and more than a little inadequate. All the saleswomen looked like former models. Babette was petite and incredibly well-dressed. Despite wearing her new favorite blue dress, Dora felt frumpy and fat by comparison.
Babette regarded her thoughtfully. “However, I’m not sure the style is going to flatter madam.”
What insight, Dora thought sarcastically. Give that lady a prize. Then she sighed and reminded herself that her defensive attitude came more from fear than because she felt slighted. She didn’t belong here. She didn’t belong back in Los Angeles, either. She was homeless and confused and to make matters even more stressful, she’d just married a prince.
Khalil had stationed himself at the rear of the viewing room, close to the entrance of the salon. As soon as Dora had been settled, he’d started making calls on his cellular phone. Now he dropped his phone into his jacket pocket and crossed to stand beside her. His gaze raked over the model who had paused to turn in front of him. Her pouty mouth curved up in what was an invitation to look…and maybe more. Dora wanted to slap the teenager and tell her to go back to high school. Instead she told herself that the shopping trip wasn’t going to last forever.
Khalil turned to Babette. “The girl looks as if she hasn’t eaten in a month. Don’t you pay your models?”
Babette’s perfectly made-up face blanched. “Your Highness, I assure you—”
He cut her off with a glance. “My wife has a wonderful womanly shape. I not only desire her, I am fortunate to have her as the future mother of my sons. She is a princess, madam. You would do well to remember that.”
Babette managed to look both composed and stunned at the same time, while Dora was sure she only looked shocked. Khalil then bent down and pressed his mouth to her cheek. “I still have calls to make. Are you all right?” he asked quietly, his breath tickling her ear.
“I’m fine,” she managed to answer.
“Good. Let me know if they give you any trouble.”
With that he returned to the counter by the door and reached for his phone. Babette gave her an appraising glance. “He must love you very much, Your Highness. You are a fortunate woman.”
Dora didn’t have a response, so she just smiled. She was willing to admit to fortunate, but she was also confused. Did Khalil, as Babette suggested, love her? Dora wanted to believe that was so, but she wasn’t sure. Everything had happened so quickly.
She glanced up in time to see the redheaded model disappearing around a screen. Three more models appeared, each in a different type of clothing. One wore a short nightgown that barely skimmed her knees. The light green silk reflected the light, while side slits emphasized thighs, not hips. The second model sashayed along in a hunter-green velvet evening gown that was so beautiful, it made Dora’s mouth water. The shoulders were wide and padded, the neckline plunging, while the lightweight velvet skimmed over the lower half of the body. Dora thought she just might have a shot at wearing that dress and looking decent.
The final model had been attired for business, in a navy pin-striped coatdress with a wide collar. Behind the models, three more women appeared, each carrying several outfits.
“We will start with the basics,” Babette said, turning to her. “These are all in your size. Why don’t you see what you like, and then we can start with the fittings. Marie—” She pointed to a tall, young blonde. “We’ll need shoes.” Babette looked at Dora. “Your Highness, what size shoes? Oh, and may I offer you some coffee, or perhaps a light snack?”
Three hours later all Dora wanted to do was curl up in a ball and sleep for a week. She hadn’t realized that trying on clothes could be so exhausting. She stood in the center of a large dressing room with two fitters working on the dress she wore.
She’d lost track of how many outfits she’d already chosen. Babette had a master list, but for Dora it was all too confusing. There were the clothes themselves and the shoes. Babette had chosen hats for some of the dresses, as well as pins and scarves. There were wraps for evening gowns and a casual coat for her slacks. One clerk had brought out a tray of costume jewelry, but Babette had cast a meaningful glance at Dora’s impressive wedding band all the while murmuring that “Her Highness will not bother with artificial stones,” and the tray had been whisked away.
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