The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(30) by Susan Mallery
Fatima surprised her by laughing. “Yes, but the point is you were thinking it.” The older woman took a seat on the far end of the sofa, then patted the cushion next to her, indicating Dora should sit as well. Dora sank down gratefully.
“I’m a bit eccentric,” Fatima continued. “Some of it is age, but a lot of it is just me. I’ve had more than seventy years to perfect my oddness and I take great pleasure in doing or being the unexpected.” She leaned forward and lowered her voice. “We’re surrounded by men, my dear. If you haven’t noticed, you will. Givon’s sweet wife died some years ago and I can’t get him to remarry. He had three sons. Bahania, our neighbor to the east and the land of my birth, has a royal family with four sons and only one daughter. We women have to stick together.”
Dora didn’t know what to say to Fatima, so she kept quiet. She still had the oddest sensation of being caught up in a dream. Of course, she’d been living with that feeling since Khalil had first walked into her bedroom and told her that he wanted her.
“The palace is in an uproar,” Fatima said. “Part of the problem is that the youngest son of the king married in a foreign country in a civil ceremony to a complete stranger.” Fatima leaned forward again and patted the back of Dora’s hand. “No offense, dear, but we don’t know you, do we?”
Dora could only manage a weak, “I suppose not,” in response.
“Then there’s the whole issue of Khalil not being like this at all. I won’t say he’s the most arrogant of his brothers because they can all be difficult, but he’s not impulsive. Now if Malik had suddenly shown up with a bride in tow, that would have been more understandable. But not Khalil.” Fatima frowned thoughtfully. “How well do you know my grandson?”
Dora swallowed. “I, um, worked for him while he was in the United States. I was his secretary.”
Finely plucked eyebrows rose at her statement. No doubt Fatima knew that Khalil had been away for all of three weeks.
“An impulse,” the dowager queen said more to herself than Dora. “Has he told you about his scar?”
The unexpected question left Dora blinking in confusion. “The one on his face?”
“It’s the only one I know about, although if he has a more interesting scar you must tell me the story.”
Dora felt as if she’d taken a wrong turn and ended up in an alternative universe. “I don’t know how he received the scar on his face and that is the only scar I know about.”
“Too bad.” Fatima laced her hands together on her lap. “You must ask him about it, then. From that scar Khalil learned many things, including not to speak without thinking first. I simply do not understand. I’m sure you’re a lovely girl, but you’re nothing like Amber. Is that why he married you?”
Coldness returned to Dora, and with it the sense of stepping off into darkness. “Who is Amber?”
Fatima studied her for a long time. Dora didn’t know what the other woman was thinking, and she didn’t want to know. She had a feeling that things had just gone from bad to worse.
“Until your marriage, Khalil was engaged to the youngest daughter of El Bahar’s prime minister. I take it he never mentioned this to you?”
Dora could only shake her head. Engaged? He’d been engaged? She swallowed, but the sick feeling in her stomach didn’t go away. Then why had he married her? That first night he’d talked of being swept away, but that couldn’t be it, could it? Had he really fallen for her? She wanted to believe that was the reason he’d acted so hastily, but she’d never had that kind of luck before.
“When were they to have been married?” she asked, her voice low and scratchy.
“Khalil never agreed to a date,” Fatima said thoughtfully. “I hadn’t realized that before, but it all makes sense now. He was waiting to fall in love. How very romantic.”
Dora tried to look suitably impressed herself, but she had a feeling she still looked a little green and unstable. Khalil desperately in love with her? She wanted it to be true. More than anything. Was it possible?
“Here’s what we shall do,” Fatima told her. “El Bahar moves quickly into the modern world, but we also remain steeped in our traditions. The people will not approve of the youngest son of the king marrying a woman in a foreign country. It smacks of—” Her gaze widened. “Oh, dear, you didn’t marry because you were pregnant did you?”
“I’ve known him less than a month,” Dora blurted. Then there was the matter of them only doing it the one time. Pregnancy was hardly an issue.
“Of course. Well then, to dispel that rumor and any others, I suggest you two have a second marriage ceremony. This one a bit more traditional. Say in two weeks? In the meantime we can all start mending fences with the prime minister and his family.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Dora told her honestly. “If you think that will help, then I’m happy to participate.”
“Good.” Fatima rose to her feet. “Now it’s time to dress for dinner. I don’t suppose Khalil bought you anything from Chanel, did he? The boys did not inherit my sense of style.”
She walked into the bedroom and moved to the open suitcases on the bed. Dora trailed after her. By the time she reached Fatima’s side, the older woman had been through most of her things and had created two piles. Dora guessed they were “keep” and “discard.”
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