The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(29) by Susan Mallery
The furniture was slightly more Oriental, with black-lacquered sides and gold Chinese characters for drawer pulls. Dora crossed the marble floor and pulled open the wooden closet doors, then blinked in stunned surprise at the empty space before her.
This wasn’t Khalil’s suite of rooms; she hadn’t been put in with her husband. Instead she’d been shown to guest quarters, who knows how far from the family’s section of the palace.
Fear and worry knotted in her stomach. What did this mean? Was it a mistake? Would Khalil come looking for her when he realized she wasn’t to share his room? Or was this the way of royal life in El Bahar? Why on earth hadn’t she done some research before they’d left New York?
Fear turned to panic when she realized that except for Khalil and his family, no one in the world knew where she was. Everything had happened so quickly, she hadn’t had time to call any of her acquaintances. Her mother was gone, she hadn’t seen her father in years. She could simply disappear, and no one would ever miss her.
She walked into the living room and paused by the entrance. Was she a prisoner here? Scenes from old movies filled her brain. Pictures of women trapped, stolen, killed. Her mouth went dry as she wondered if she would ever see the land of her birth again. Sadness filled her as she realized she had only herself to blame for this situation. She’d been so excited to have a man interested in her that she hadn’t thought about the consequences of her decision. A prince had appeared in her sad little world, and she’d jumped at his offer of marriage.
She had to get out of here. Now!
Dora pulled open the door to her suite and stepped into the hallway. Her first shock was that the door opened easily, the second was that there wasn’t a guard posted in the hallway. She still remembered those fierce, armed men by the entrance to the palace.
She looked one way, then the other, trying to remember the direction to the front of the palace. If her suite faced the water then that was south and the palace faced…
“Princess Dora, may I help you with something?”
She looked up and saw an elderly man standing in front of her. He carried several thick towels in his thin, brown arms. His dress wasn’t familiar to her—an open robe over light-colored loose trousers and an equally loose shirt—but his expression was friendly and welcoming.
“Are you hungry, Your Highness? May I bring you a tray of food? Or would you like me to call Rihana?”
She opened her mouth then closed it. Obviously if she wanted to escape, she needed a plan. “I’m fine,” she said. “Thank you.”
She retreated to her room. First things first, she thought, as she shut her door. Item one—calm her heart rate. Item two—figure out a plan.
She collected a pad of fine linen paper from the desk in the corner, then settled on the sofa. After drawing a rough outline of the palace as she remembered seeing it when they’d flown over on their way to the airport, she began filling in the rooms she knew. Which meant she could write in the entrance, a hallway and her suite. Nothing else. Maybe she could ask Rihana to take her on a tour.
Dora leaned back into the comfortable cushions. Perhaps she was making this too difficult, she thought. Maybe she should simply pick up the phone and ask to be connected with Khalil. After all, he was her husband. If they could speak, if she could at least see him, things would be better. That decided, she closed her eyes for just a minute. She hadn’t slept the night before on the plane. She’d been too tense, with too much on her mind. Just for a second, she thought drowsily. One little second…
“I’m sorry, child, but you don’t have much time,” a voice said.
Dora stirred, then blinked and realized she was in a most awkward position, sprawled in a corner of the sofa. She looked up and saw a tall, slender woman with streaks of gray in her thick, dark hair. A beautifully tailored sapphire-colored suit made her look regal, while matching stones glittered at her ears. But it was her face that captured Dora’s attention. Despite her obvious age and the tiny wrinkles in her paper-thin skin, she was an amazing beauty.
“Fatima,” Dora breathed as she first sat up, then rose to her feet. She realized she was speaking with a woman who was both the mother of the king and a queen in her own right. “I mean, Your Highness.” She gave a shaky curtsy.
Fatima patted her smooth chignon and gave a quick wave. “Oh, please, we’re family, my dear. If Grandmother is too familiar, then call me Fatima. Or ‘Exalted One.’ I’ve always enjoyed that particular title. Of course it was first spoken to me by a visiting head of state some forty years ago. The man in question had his hand sliding up my inner thigh as he said it. I informed him that I was more than willing to be his lover but when my husband, the king, found out about our affair, and I was very bad at keeping secrets, he would make sure that particular dignitary lost his ability to ever be with a woman again. If you get my meaning.”
Fatima winked, then her expression turned slightly sad. “I miss him. My husband, not the other man. Despite my teasing, I was a good and faithful wife for nearly forty years. We had a wonderful marriage.” She touched the neckline of her suit. “It’s Chanel. Don’t you simply adore the Chanel line? I knew Coco, but then at my age, it’s easy to have known everyone. So you’re Khalil’s new wife. I would guess that you’re quite confused by all this.” She motioned to the room.
“More now than before,” Dora replied without thinking, then pressed her fingers to her mouth. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that.”
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