The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(47) by Susan Mallery
A light knock on the door interrupted her thoughts. She hurried across the large living room and opened her door. But instead of Rihana, or even Khalil, she saw that Fatima was her visitor.
She smiled at the older woman. “What a nice surprise. Please, come in.”
Fatima did as she requested. She glanced around at the suite, as if she’d never seen the rooms before, then settled on one of the sofas facing the view. “I heard that you had chosen to live here instead of with Khalil. I didn’t realize that privacy was so very important to you. I must apologize for making you uncomfortable by asking you to live with me in the harem.”
Color and heat flared on Dora’s cheeks as she sat opposite her guest. She placed her hands in her lap. “You disapprove of what I’ve done.”
Fatima’s thick hair lay coiled at the base of her neck. Her deep purple suit, all elegant lines with a neatly tailored jacket, emphasized her trim figure. She looked like a successful businesswoman about to attend an important meeting.
“It is not my place to approve or disapprove. Marriage is private between the two parties involved.” She pressed her lips together. “I heard about what happened with Rihana, how you forced Khalil to choose between your obedience and your power in the household. While it was a tidy trick, I’m reminded of an old expression. It’s originally British, I believe. Perhaps you’ve heard it—something about winning the battle, but losing the war.”
“We’re not fighting,” Dora said evenly.
“Aren’t you? When a husband and wife choose separate living quarters, it is rarely an indication that all is well, but then I’m from a different generation.”
Dora lowered her head. She didn’t like misleading Fatima. Khalil’s grandmother had been very kind and generous to her. “Khalil and I have some things we need to sort out,” she said. Actually, she had to do most of the sorting. She was still so confused and hurt by all that had happened.
“If you’re waiting for my grandson to bend, you’re going to be living here a long time. Khalil doesn’t give in.”
“Then it might be time for him to learn.” Dora raised her head and straightened her spine. “I haven’t forgotten your advice about bending, Fatima, but there are times when one has to make a stand. This is one of those times.”
The older woman studied her. “Are you going to tell me what my grandson has done?”
“I can’t.” It was too humiliating to discuss with anyone, even someone as kind as Fatima. Besides, Dora knew that when push came to shove, Fatima would side with her family, not with her grandson’s new wife. “I’m making the best of a difficult situation.”
Fatima’s shrewd, dark eyes seemed to see right through her. “And if he doesn’t change? Then what?”
“I don’t know.”
Then she would leave, she thought. She would find a way to insist that Khalil divorce her, and she would be free. The fact that she had nowhere to go didn’t matter. She wouldn’t stay where she wasn’t wanted and respected.
“I thought you loved him,” Fatima said as she rose to her feet. “I’m sorry that I was wrong.”
Dora felt as if she were six years old, and she’d just been scolded for being clumsy. “I do care for him,” she hedged.
“But you don’t love him. Or if you do, it’s not strong enough that you’ll fight for him.” Fatima walked toward the door.
“Goodbye,” she said as she stepped into the hall. To Dora, the words sounded very final.
When Fatima had left, Dora stood alone in the center of her silent rooms. She wanted to cry out that it wasn’t fair—that Khalil had been the one to lie and deceive her, so why was she being punished? She’d married him with the best of intentions. She’d wanted to make her marriage work, she’d wanted to love him and be with him. But he’d hurt her. Worse, he wouldn’t even take responsibility for his actions. He expected her to just understand and get over it. How could she have a relationship with a man who didn’t see her as someone worth common courtesy?
She paced the length of the room, then returned to the balcony. The blue of the sea soothed her battered spirits but couldn’t quiet her mind. Questions continued to fill her. What happened now? Could she stay in this suite indefinitely? Would Khalil want to divorce her? What would happen if he came to her expecting them to make love again? She doubted she had the power to resist him. As much as she didn’t want to give in, her body betrayed her.
Dora sank down onto one of the chairs and covered her face with her hands. Had she won the battle but lost the war? Was she wrong to want more of Khalil? He’d hurt her so deeply. With him, she’d allowed herself to believe, only to find out it was all a lie. He’d used her because she was convenient and because he thought she would make a decent wife. Hardly the declarations of love that a woman longed to hear. So what happened now?
She didn’t have an answer. So she continued to sit there alone until the sun set. Her only visitor that night was Rihana, bringing her a tray for dinner. Apparently Dora was not to be included in the family meal. She went alone to her bed and stayed alone that night and all through the next day.
Two nights later Khalil appeared in her room. There was no other way to describe it. One minute Dora had been reading and the next her husband loomed in front of her.
“Good evening,” he said and settled next to her on the sofa.
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