The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(26) by Susan Mallery
When the luggage had been loaded into the trunk, Roger got behind the wheel and started the limo. In a matter of minutes they’d left the airport behind and were headed for the city. Dora let her gaze move from window to window as she took in the sights of her new homeland.
They headed south to the coastal highway, then east, toward the city. The roads were wide and well-maintained, and the cars she saw were a mixture of old and new. The blue sky drew her attention again and again, and she found herself wanting to lower the window so that she could inhale the scents of the air.
“Would you mind?” she asked, lightly touching the control lever.
“Please.” Khalil leaned back in the seat. “This is to be your home. I want you to feel comfortable.”
She thought about telling him that she’d feel much more comfortable if he would touch her arm or take her hand, but she didn’t have the courage. They might technically be married, but she didn’t feel she had the right to any of a wife’s privileges.
She pressed the lever, and the window on her side lowered soundlessly. Instantly a cool breeze whispered against her face. She could feel the warmth of the sun, inhale the faint salt of the sea, along with that strange, slightly sweet aroma.
They were in the far left lane of the highway, moving along at a fast rate of speed. Dora saw rows of palms along the side of the road. “Date palms?” she asked.
“Yes. Not that long ago they were a staple food supply through the long summer. Now they have become more of an export crop, although they are still a part of the El Baharian diet. Look.” He pointed to her left.
She turned and saw a man in nomadic dress leading two camels laden with burlap bags.
“He’s heading for the souk—the marketplace,” he added. “One of the largest and oldest in the city is by the palace. I’ll take you there sometime.” Despite her nerves, Dora felt a flicker of excitement at the thought of all the exotic adventures awaiting her.
They continued toward the city. As they passed through the financial district, she strained her neck to try to see the tops of the glass high-rises. Several of the names on the signs out front were from companies she recognized.
“Jamal, my middle brother, handles the country’s finances, as well as the family money.” Khalil jerked his head toward the cluster of Western-style buildings. “While my father had the idea of making El Bahar the financial center of the Arab world, Jamal is the one who made it happen. He designed the packages that brought the big banking and financial companies here. Of course our billions are substantially less than the Bahanians’ wealth.”
“Who?” she asked.
“Bahania—it’s our neighbor to the northeast. Between us and Yemen. My father always says that his troubles are nothing when compared with the king of Bahania. Where I am one of three sons, the king of Bahania has four sons and a daughter.” He shook his head. “The two fathers are good friends, and for a while my brothers and I thought there would be an arranged match between the two countries, but my grandmother is Bahanian, and there was concern about mixing the blood lines.”
Dora stared at him, her interest in the city temporarily forgotten. “Your father has arranged marriages for his sons?”
“Of course. We’re a royal family.”
As if that explained it all. Except it explained nothing. “But you don’t have an arranged marriage.” Horror gripped her. “You have. You have other wives.” Her stomach tightened as a cold fever swept through her. Wasn’t El Bahar a Muslim country? Weren’t men allowed four wives? Dear God, she’d made a hideously, awful mistake and she had to—
Khalil laughed. “I’m not sure what you’re thinking right now, but you look as frightened as a mouse about to be eaten by a hawk. I have no wife other than you, Dora. El Bahar allows its people to celebrate many religions, but a man may take only one wife. My father claims for some men that’s one wife too many.”
She licked her suddenly dry lips. “Are you sure?”
His expression turned indulgent. “Quite sure. I’ve lived here all my life, and I’m familiar with the customs. Now stop asking questions and look. We’re coming up to the palace.”
Only then did she notice that they’d turned off the main road and were on a side street. Although the street was smoothly paved, the alleys leading off between buildings were cobblestoned. She could see storefronts and small houses right next to an apartment building with brightly colored laundry lining the balconies. In a large side yard, a half-dozen children played soccer. One of the boys—a child of maybe eight or nine—saw the car and called out to his friends. Immediately all the children ran toward the limo. They waved and called out greetings. Khalil put down the window on his side and waved back.
“Prince Khalil! Prince Khalil! Welcome home.”
One of the little girls bent down, picked a flower and tossed it toward the slow-moving car.
Dora felt as if she’d found her way into central casting for some movie from the fifties. “They speak English,” she said.
“Most people here do,” he told her. “It’s required in all the schools, and we encourage it in business transactions. El Bahar is preparing itself to be a major player in this century.”
Dora continued to watch as the car turned down a long, tree-lined street. So far all that she’d seen had made her feel better about her situation. No doubt the worst was behind her.
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