The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(25) by Susan Mallery
If only they’d had one more night in New York before leaving for El Bahar. If only she hadn’t gotten so drunk the night of their marriage so they could have talked more and made love. If he could have held her one more time and told her that he cared about her, she would have felt better about everything. But they hadn’t. Instead they’d boarded his private jet, repaired at last. There were not only the pilots, but two stewards who had seen to their every need and not given them a moment’s privacy.
Pressure built at her ears, and she instinctively swallowed. They were descending. Dora looked out the window and saw that they’d left the vast desert behind. Below them was a sprawling city with wide streets and hundreds of buildings, including modern glass towers. She caught a glimpse of glittering blue.
The Arabian sea, she wondered in astonishment. Had she really come halfway around the world?
“There’s the palace,” Khalil said, pointing out the window. “On the coast. You can also see the old city walls.”
She saw a huge creamy-white structure poised on the edge of the water. Beyond it extensive grounds formed a patchwork of colors. The wall he’d spoken of made a rough square around much of the city, although it didn’t include the high-rises she’d noticed earlier.
Excitement began to replace the panic inside of her. From the safety of the jet, El Bahar looked exotic but still welcoming. Perhaps things weren’t going to be so frightening after all.
The jet made a smooth landing, then taxied to a small single-story building at the far end of the runway. As Dora stepped out of the jet, she noticed a much larger terminal across the tarmac.
“That’s for the commercial aircraft,” Khalil said, noticing the direction of her gaze. “Immigration and customs are there, as well. On the far side we have a substantial area for freight companies. They even have their own runways. As you can see, El Bahar is ready for the new century.”
“Very impressive,” she told him.
She walked down the narrow flight of stairs and drew in her first deep breath of El Baharian air. It was slightly cool, but pleasant. She caught the elusive fragrance of a flower of some kind, but couldn’t see anything planted nearby. The sky overhead was an amazing shade of blue, and seemed more vast than any sky she’d seen before. She told herself that she was being fanciful—that this was the same sky she always looked up at. Yet it felt and looked different.
Khalil led the way to the waiting limo. It was white and had two small flags on the hood. The bright gold royal emblem fluttered in the light breeze. As she approached, she noticed the uniformed chauffeur holding open the rear door, but before she could slide onto the back seat, Khalil stopped her with a light touch on her arm.
“Dora, this is Roger, our favorite driver. He’s been with my family for as long as I can remember.”
The chauffeur, an attractive light-skinned man in his fifties, touched the brim of his cap. “Thank you, Prince Khalil, but I must take offense at the phrase ‘for as long as I can remember.’ The young lady is going to think I’m as old as dirt.” The Englishman smiled as he spoke.
“Maybe not as old as dirt,” Khalil admitted. “How about as old as time?”
Roger grinned. “All right, Your Highness. Be that way if you must.” He winked at Dora.
She found herself smiling back at the older man. At least the first person she’d met in El Bahar hadn’t terrified her.
Khalil gripped Roger’s shoulder briefly. “I’m glad you’re the one who came to the airport today,” he said. “Now Dora won’t be so worried about staying in El Bahar.”
She glanced at him in some surprise. “How did you know what I was thinking?”
“I’m your husband. Why wouldn’t I know?”
She didn’t know how to respond to the question. Yes, he was her husband, but he didn’t know her very well. At least she didn’t think he did. Or had she misjudged him? Perhaps he’d been telling the truth when he said he’d noticed her from the first moment they’d met. The idea left a warm glow in her stomach.
“Your wife?” Roger said, his voice laced with disbelief. “Sir, I had no idea.” He pulled off his cap and gave Dora a low bow.
She was so startled by the act of deference that she could do little more than stare at Roger’s close-cut sandy-red hair before glancing helplessly at her husband. But Khalil didn’t look the least bit upset by the other man’s actions. Of course, he was a prince by birth and quite used to this sort of treatment.
“Your Highness,” Roger began. “I meant no disrespect. If I’d known—”
Dora might not know much about being a princess, but she knew plenty about getting along with people. “I hope you would have been as friendly to me,” she said gently, as she cut him off in midsentence. “The prince is correct. This is my first time in El Bahar, and I’m a little nervous. You’ve given me a gracious welcome.”
“Thank you.” Roger nodded his head, then motioned to the open door. “If Your Highness pleases.”
Dora slid onto the rear seat. Khalil followed, but not before Roger said, “Well done, sir. She’s quite the lady.”
Khalil didn’t respond. Dora knew that she wasn’t supposed to have heard the comment, but it allowed her to relax a little. Perhaps she had a chance of getting it right after all. If only the royal family was as friendly as Roger, she would be just fine.
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