The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(32) by Susan Mallery
“The problem is easily solved,” Fatima said. “In two weeks, we’ll have a traditional ceremony. That will appease the people.”
“What about Aleser?” the king asked. “How are we to appease him?”
“The man has children of his own. I suspect he understands they can be difficult at times.” Fatima took another bite of salad. Her sharp, brown eyes glittered with amusement. “In the meantime, Dora can come live with me in the harem. I will teach her all she needs to know to be a good wife to a prince.”
Khalil frowned. He’d known that his father had moved Dora into her own suite as an expression of his displeasure, but Khalil had planned to change that arrangement this very evening. She might not be the woman of his dreams, but he’d married her, and he had every intention of bedding her. For one thing, he wanted sons. For another, he’d enjoyed their lovemaking, and he wanted to experience it again. But if she was in the harem, she was out of reach to him.
“That’s not possible,” Khalil said curtly. “Dora and I are married. We will share quarters.”
Fatima raised her eyebrows. “You weren’t in a hurry to correct the situation this afternoon.”
“I was with my father.” Having his hide taken off, he thought grimly.
“No matter. It won’t hurt you to wait two weeks to share time with your bride.”
“As I said, that’s not possible. If nothing else, Dora works for me.”
“Not anymore, Khalil,” Fatima informed him with a triumphant smile. “She’s a princess now, not a secretary. You’re just going to have to do without her.”
When they’d finished dinner, Khalil walked a quiet Dora to the door of the harem. He’d brought up their living arrangements twice more, but Fatima had been adamant. Dora was to spend the next two weeks with her, learning how to be a proper wife. Khalil wasn’t sure what those lessons would entail, but he doubted Dora would take well to them. She was a very Western woman.
“I’m sorry about this,” he said when they stopped in front of an ornate gold door. A design of an exquisite garden had been etched into the precious metal. “I thought we’d be together, but it’s only for a couple of weeks.”
He was speaking as much to himself as to her. For reasons he didn’t understand, a need had built inside of him and made him ache. He wanted her more than he’d wanted anyone in a long time.
She turned on him. “Our living arrangements are the least of our problems, Khalil. Why didn’t you tell me you were engaged?”
He shifted uncomfortably. “Yes, well, perhaps I should have mentioned that.”
“Perhaps? That’s the best you can do? How do you think I felt when I found out that you were supposed to marry someone else?”
“Why does it matter? I married you.”
“Which leads to a couple of dozen other questions.” She turned away from him and pressed her fingers against the door.
“Is this real gold?”
Her question made no sense to him. “Of course.”
Her laugh sounded strangled. “Golden doors and broken engagements. So why did you marry me instead of her? What’s her name? Amber?”
He hadn’t expected to answer questions about his exfiancée, so he wasn’t prepared. The truth was unacceptable. Dora would never understand. He wanted to pound his fist against the wall and scream out his frustration. What had seemed like a sensible plan when he’d been in New York had quickly turned into a disaster. Why couldn’t everyone leave him alone? He was married—his wife was, if not suitable, then someone who could be made suitable.
“I didn’t love her,” he said at last.
Dora stared at him expectantly, but he didn’t have any more to say. He wondered briefly how strange all this must seem to her. A new country, in-laws, a palace.
“You won’t have to stay here two weeks,” he promised. “I’ll speak to my father and have your things moved into my room.” As he studied her, he remembered how it had been between them. The feel of her soft skin and her body, so hesitant, yet yielding. Hot blood coursed through him, arousing him. He moved closer.
“It was good between us,” he murmured, leaning close and touching her mouth with his. “I want you.”
She drew back. “I wasn’t sure what to think. You haven’t wanted to, well, be together since that first time. I thought maybe you’d decided our marriage was a mistake.”
Doubts filled her brown eyes. Doubts and questions. In New York it had been easy to lie to her, but it was more difficult now. Was that because of their location, or did it have something to do with the fact that he knew her better? She was no longer an employee, but a person.
He slipped his hand around the back of her neck and drew her next to him. “It wasn’t a mistake.”
“So you still love me,” she breathed in relief and closed her eyes.
“There will be none of that!”
A sharp voice cut through the quiet. Khalil jumped back and saw his grandmother standing next to him. Fatima took Dora’s arm and led her into the harem. Khalil took a step forward, as if he would go with them, but he had known since he was a young boy that this gold door marked a point of no return for him. He’d never once set foot inside the harem and that wasn’t going to change tonight.
Biting back a curse of frustration, he stalked down the hall and out onto the common balcony. He breathed in the familiar scent of the ocean and the fragrance that was unique to El Bahar.
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