The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(36) by Susan Mallery
“Cat got your tongue?” Amber asked in a low, husky voice.
“No, of course not. I’m just surprised to see you.”
“I can only imagine.” Amber gave her an imperfect smile, then began to walk in a slow circle around her. “My, my, my. You’re not at all what I pictured. I had hoped he might have at least chosen someone more…” She made a fluttering gesture with her right hand.
Amber’s thick, long hair had been piled on top of her head, giving her a few added inches of height. Large diamonds twinkled in the upswept curls. As Dora stared at them, she reached up and touched her own headdress. It was only then that she realized the other woman’s dress resembled a robe, although the fabric of Amber’s gown was thin enough to mold to her body. In fact, everything about Amber’s appearance was either a mockery or an imitation of Dora’s wedding garb. Her heart sank.
“What are you doing here?”
“At the wedding?” Amber asked, deliberately misunderstanding. “I’m the daughter of the prime minister and a close friend of the family. That makes me a very important guest. Of course I’d expected to attend this wedding in a slightly different capacity.” Something flickered in her brown eyes as she continued to circle Dora.
“This is a disaster for all of us,” Amber continued. “I blame myself, of course. If I hadn’t fought with Khalil while he was in New York, none of this would have happened.” She paused and lowered her gaze. “It was a lover’s spat. We were both so silly. Khalil insists on dictating my life, and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I told him it was over.”
She stared directly at Dora. “He was so furious. So I left. But instead of coming after me, he came to you. Into your virgin bed.”
Dora stiffened. How had Amber known that Dora hadn’t…
“He told me,” Amber said, answering the silent question. “He tells me everything. You can imagine how distraught he was to find out that you were innocent. He is, after all, a most honorable man. How could he turn his back on what he’d done? So he proposed. Of course neither of us thought you would accept.”
Dora’s stomach turned over, and her throat tightened. This fabulous creature in front of her was lying. She had to be lying. It hadn’t happened like that.
“He insisted,” she murmured, forcing the words past suddenly dry lips.
“Did he?” Amber asked languidly. She paused in front of the mirror and patted her perfectly coiffed hair. “He can be most convincing. But how awkward for all of us that you believed him. My father is distraught, as is most of the country. I am a favored daughter while you are…not.”
Dora took a step back. She didn’t know what to think or feel. She could only retreat.
Amber smiled sadly. “Then there is the matter of us still loving each other. I don’t know what to do about that.” Their gazes met in the mirror.
“He doesn’t love you,” Dora said shakily, unable to believe what was happening. This wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real. She was dreaming except that her body was too cold, too bruised for her to be anything but very awake. Dreams never hurt this much.
Amber turned to face her. Compassion added incredible beauty to already perfect features. “Dora, has Khalil made love with you once since that first night?”
Dora opened her mouth, but she couldn’t seem to form words. Mutely she shook her head.
“And since you’ve been in my country, has he ever been with you?”
“I’ve been in the harem,” she managed to whisper.
Amber shrugged. “Khalil has managed to find his way inside my father’s house, which is halfway across the city and as well-guarded as the palace. If he’d wanted to, don’t you think he could have made his way down the hall?”
Dora could feel her face flushing, then growing cold. Her eyes burned, but she could not give in to the tears. Was Amber speaking the truth? Dora didn’t want to believe her, but the young woman knew too many details. Had Khalil discussed this with her? The humiliation made her stomach twist and rise. She had to swallow the taste of bile.
“He’s been with me every night,” Amber said quietly. “We’ve been wild for each other. I suppose some of it is the lure of the forbidden.” She sighed. “He’s so filled with passion that it lingers in his eyes even after we’ve sated ourselves.”
A sob formed in Dora’s throat. She didn’t want to believe anything Amber said, but it was too hard to dispute so many facts. If Khalil hadn’t been making his way to Amber’s bed every night, how would she know that he wasn’t with her, Dora? What about the fact that they hadn’t made love since that first night? Dora had been so sure she’d seen passion in his eyes, but had it just been for Amber?
If things had happened differently between herself and Khalil, if they’d been spending time together, she might be able to make sense of this, but they hadn’t. Except for dinner with his family, she never saw Khalil. It had been two weeks since she’d been alone with him. These were hardly the actions of a man deeply in love with his new wife.
Worse, a part of her had never believed what he told her. She’d always wondered how he could have been so swept away by her. She wasn’t the type to inspire that kind of passion. She was just an ordinary woman…nothing like Amber.
Dora motioned to her wedding garb. “Then why is he doing this? Marrying me, I mean.”
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