The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(24) by Susan Mallery
The two fitters finished their work. Dora took the moment of freedom to step out of the changing room and go find Khalil. What had he been doing all this time?
She made her way into the front of the showroom and saw him speaking with a young woman. At first Dora thought she was one of the salespeople—she was too short to be a model. Then Dora realized their conversation wasn’t the least bit casual.
As she watched, her controlled, elegant husband put his hand on the woman’s shoulder and pushed her away from him. The woman, her long, dark hair swaying down to the middle of her back, glared at him and spoke. Dora was too far away to hear their words, but she read the anger in the woman’s body language. Rage surrounded her like a venomous cloud.
Khalil gestured. The woman shook her head, then, as if she’d just caught the scent of something unpleasant, she froze and turned.
Instinctively Dora took a step back. But it wasn’t enough. The young woman stared at her. She was so beautiful that Dora’s breath caught in her throat. Her perfect features were marred only by the look of pure hatred in her large, expressive eyes. For a moment, Dora thought her life was in danger. Then Khalil took the woman’s arm and led her out of the boutique. Dora moved toward them, wanting to ask him who the woman was, but before she got close enough, Babette had cornered her.
“Your Highness, you must try on the rest of the shoes.”
Dora nodded, but promised herself she wouldn’t forget to speak with Khalil later.
“Khalil, who was that woman in the store?” Dora asked as the limo drove them from the hotel to the airport where Khalil’s private jet waited. “The pretty one you were speaking with so intently.”
Khalil thought about pretending he didn’t know what she meant, but he knew her well enough to know that she wouldn’t be easily distracted.
The pretty one, he thought with faint humor. Amber would be most insulted by the inadequate description. She wasn’t merely pretty—she was a goddess…and a snake.
“She is of no importance,” he told her with a smile. “A friend of the family. Her father works in government. I told her about our marriage.”
“She didn’t seem very happy about it.”
Khalil thought of Amber’s shriek of rage and her threats to both him and Dora. “She was surprised, nothing more.”
He spoke easily because the lies were all Dora needed to know. The fact that Amber had gone for his eyes, then had called him names even he hadn’t realized she’d known wasn’t anything his wife needed to hear.
His wife. He looked over at the quiet stranger he’d married. She might not be as lovely as Amber, but in every other way she was Amber’s superior. If he’d had any doubts, the chance—or perhaps not-so-chance—encounter with his ex-fiancée in the salon had taken care of them. Dora would learn the duties of her new position quickly. She would be loyal, loving, and would never cause a scandal. If he were lucky, she might even grow to be more pliable with time.
He reached over and took her hand. “I’m happy to have married you,” he told her.
She gave him a slightly shaky smile. “I’m glad.”
He squeezed her fingers, then released her. Yes, he’d been fortunate to find a way out of his dilemma, and he’d found an adequate substitute as well. It had been a very successful trip.
Dora stared out the window of Khalil’s jet, but the terrain below was as unfamiliar as a moonscape. She didn’t know enough about the region to be able to tell where one country ended and another began, and unlike her school atlas, the different areas weren’t neatly color-coded. She could only stare and wonder if they’d crossed into El Bahar yet.
The trip was too long, she thought, trying to hold panic at bay. She’d had too much time to think, especially when Khalil had dimmed the cabin lights, stretched out in his comfortable seat and fallen asleep. Now they were within a few minutes of landing, and she desperately wanted to tell him that she’d changed her mind.
She glanced to her left and saw Khalil lost in a report on waste management. He’d slept for most of the eleven-hour flight, then had awakened in time to eat breakfast, shave and change into a clean shirt. She looked at her own wrinkled dress and wished she’d thought to bring something to put on before they landed, but she hadn’t and all her luggage was stowed in the belly of the jet.
I’m fine, she told herself, even though she didn’t believe the words or the sentiment behind them. She wasn’t fine, she was terrified. What on earth was she doing here?
In a panic, she reached for the air phone tucked neatly into her armrest. Then she paused. Who was she going to call? She hadn’t seen her father in twenty years, and her mother had passed away the year Dora had turned twenty-five. There weren’t any other relatives. As for friends, most of them were more acquaintances than people she would feel comfortable confiding in. Besides, what was she going to say? That in day two of her marriage, she was having serious second thoughts? That she was terrified about leaving her country behind and moving to El Bahar?
She dropped her hand back to her lap and sighed. She was going to have to get through the next few days without doing anything rash. In time, the situation would settle down, and she wouldn’t feel so lost in unfamiliar territory.
She looked at Khalil again and saw that he was still reading the same page of his report. Was he distracted as well? Was he having doubts? She desperately wanted to ask him, but then she decided she was afraid of the answer. What would she do if he said yes, that he wasn’t sure, either?
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