The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(40) by Susan Mallery
She didn’t remember ever being this cold. The tears fell, and there was nothing she could do to stop them.
“That’s not good enough,” she told him. “I want to know the truth.”
“Why?” he asked as he turned to look at her. Anger sharpened his features. “What will it change? You are my wife, and you will stay my wife.”
She gave a strangled sound and sank onto one of the thick cushions. Amber had been right about everything. What had she done? “She said you were with her. All these past nights when I was in the harem, she said you stole into her father’s house and took her. That was why you didn’t come to me.”
Khalil stalked toward her, then stopped and loomed above her. “I didn’t come to you because I respect my father and grandmother’s wishes. The sanctuary of the harem is absolute. No man may enter. I have lived in the palace all my life, and I have not once stepped foot behind that golden door.”
He placed his hands on his hips and glared. “I thought you were different. I thought you could be logical about all of this, but I see that’s impossible.”
Dora barely heard his words. Too many lies woven through too little truth. She pressed her hands to her face and tried to stop the flow of tears. She had to go. She had to get back to…to…to where? To what? She had no life anymore. Everything she’d known was gone.
“I just want to know,” she whispered.
Khalil sighed. “All right. I’ll tell you the truth.” He bent down and cupped her chin, forcing her to look at him. “All of it. Then we’ll have it out in the open and be able to put it behind us. We’ll start our marriage with a clean slate and go on from there.”
He released her face and began to pace in the tent. His long strides ate up the distance quickly, and he was forced to turn after a mere five steps.
Dora brushed away her tears and ignored the steady dampness that replaced them. She told herself this was a good thing—that once she knew how bad it was, they could talk about fixing the problems. But the coldness only increased, and her heart braced itself for even more pain.
“Amber and I had been engaged from the time we were children. It was the wish of both our fathers.” He paused as if searching for the right words. “We did fight in New York, but only because I told her I didn’t want to marry her.”
She raised her head. “What?”
“I didn’t want to marry her. Amber is not…” He hesitated. “She would not be a good wife or mother. I didn’t know how to break the engagement in such a way as to avoid scandal. Then I heard you on the phone with Gerald, and I thought you might be a good solution to my dilemma. You are intelligent and even-tempered. I thought you could learn the duties and be a good mother. You were also a virgin.” He paused. “I needed a wife, and you were a likely candidate.”
She’d heard too much, she thought, wishing she could transport herself to another place, or even another time. How could she continue to breathe through the gaping hole in her chest? How could her heart continue to beat, her blood flow? Why hadn’t the pain killed her yet?
And then she knew the awful truth—that no matter how much it hurt, she would never die from the agony. She was destined to survive, even though she didn’t want to. She was going to keep on living and suffering and going through the motions because there was no mercy, no escape, no hope.
“So it was all lies,” she said dully. “All of it. When you told me that you wanted me, that you’d wanted me from the beginning.” It was hard for her to talk, nearly impossible for her to go on, but she forced herself to continue. She had to speak the truth. Once she faced it, she could begin the incredibly slow process of putting the pieces back together again…if that were even possible.
“You lied about the passion, you lied when you told me it would be impossible to leave me behind in New York. You made me feel special and important, and it was all a lie.”
Life had become a cruel joke—nearly as cruel as her new husband.
Khalil stopped in front of her. “The past is finished, and there’s no reason to dwell on it. Yes, I stretched the truth to make you feel better. Until the night I heard you on the phone with Gerald, I never thought of you as anything but efficient. I didn’t have any particular regard for you at the time, but you’re my wife, now. I believe we have a chance to make this union successful.”
“Successful? Are you insane?” she asked, pushing herself to her feet.
“Not at all. I made vows to you, and I fully intend to honor them.”
“But nothing is real,” she protested. “You lied about everything.”
“You’re making too much of this.”
“And you’re making too little. You toyed with me. You made me believe in you.”
His mouth twisted. “You wanted to believe me. You were desperate to believe that a prince from a fairy tale had arrived to take you away from your sad, little life. You lied to yourself as much as I lied to you.”
She glared at him. “But I never lied to you. You can’t excuse your own behavior by pointing the finger at me.”
“What about when you told me you loved me? You don’t even know me.”
“I never told you I loved you.”
He met her gaze, then shifted uncomfortably. Silence grew, then pressed down upon them. She hadn’t said she loved him. She was too afraid of the words to ever speak them casually. He was right that she’d wanted to believe in the possibilities, but was that so great a sin?
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