The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(48) by Susan Mallery
Part of Dora wanted to start screaming at him, demanding that he get out, but only after making arrangements for her to return to the United States, but the rest of her was so grateful for someone to talk to that she nearly wept in relief. Since Fatima’s visit, the only face she’d seen was Rihana’s. And Dora hadn’t had the courage to go in search of company on her own.
“Khalil.” She nodded.
He wore dark slacks and a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Something about his mussed hair and a slight air of weariness told her that he’d been working all day. She longed to return to her job as his assistant, or to any job, just so she could get out of her suite and do something with her time.
“I have honored your wishes,” he said curtly.
“What wishes are those?”
“That you be left alone. Are you enjoying your solitude?”
She closed her book and set it on the table next to her. “I never requested solitude, I simply asked for separate quarters. However, you chose to take advantage of that and cut me off from the world. Does it make you feel big and strong to treat me this way? Is this a game of power? If so, you’re only playing with yourself. I’m not interested in one-upmanship.”
He looked at her for several seconds. “It seems whatever I do, you are determined to assume the worst about me. I honestly believed you wanted to be alone. You are my wife, and as such, a member of this family. You are welcome to leave your suite and join us for any meals you wish. This is a palace, Dora, not a prison.”
She didn’t know what to make of his words. Was he telling the truth, or was this all another act? She stared into his handsome face and had to curl her fingers into her palm to keep from reaching out to touch the slender scar on his left cheek.
“All right,” she said at last. “Thank you.”
“You may also return to work,” he announced. “I will expect you in my office at eight in the morning.”
If he’d asked if she would like to return to work, she would have probably said yes. If he’d even hinted that she had a choice, or that it was her decision, everything would have been fine. But for him to have the nerve to give her permission to help him…She sucked in a breath and felt her temper beginning to rise.
“I don’t think so,” she said coolly, as she rose to her feet. She crossed to the open French doors and stepped out onto the balcony. The sun had long since disappeared behind the horizon, leaving the ocean a dark and mysterious glimmering slate of blackness. She stared out into the night sky and pretended to be fascinated by the stars.
“I am giving you my permission,” Khalil said as he followed her onto the marble balcony.
“Yes, I know. I’m telling you that I’m not interested.” She smiled sweetly.
“I want you working for me.”
She shrugged. “I want you to apologize for what you said to me in New York, for lying and for tricking me into marriage. I want you to admit that you were wrong, and then I want you to tell me that you care about me. I suspect that neither of us is going to get what we want.”
She heard him take a step toward her. “You will not toy with me, wife.”
Finally she turned to face him. “And here I thought that was what you wanted.”
His expression tightened. “I am Khalil Khan, prince—”
She cut him off with a wave. “Prince of El Bahar. Yes, I know. I’ve heard this speech a hundred times before. What exactly is your point?”
He froze in place, obviously stunned by her impertinence. Dora was a little surprised herself, but in a good way. Maybe she’d needed time alone to give her the courage to stand up to Khalil. Right or wrong, it was the only way she knew to change things. As much as she might tell herself she wanted a divorce and to go back home, the truth was a little less clear. In her heart of hearts she was willing to admit that she would prefer to stay here—but only as Khalil’s true wife. He didn’t have to love her but he had to care about her and treat her with respect.
“Being the prince doesn’t give you the right to use people,” she went on, praying her courage lasted five seconds longer than his visit. “You were cruel to me. You lied, and you treated me as if my feelings had no consequence. You took advantage of my innocence.”
“I married you.”
“Right. As if being married to you is any kind of picnic.”
He took one more step closer. Now he was within touching distance…as was she. He took her hand in his and rubbed his thumb across her palm. Instantly shivers rippled through her as heat flamed and her body came to life. She disentangled herself and retreated to the railing.
“Come to work for me,” he said.
Ignoring her still tingling palm, she smiled. “I’m the princess of El Bahar. I don’t work. Besides—” She held up her hands “My henna hasn’t worn off. Tradition states—”
This time he was the one to cut her off. “I’m well aware of the tradition. I was born here.” He glared. “If this is what you wish, so be it. You may stay in your rooms but do not attempt to leave them. You will exist within these four walls. For all I care, you can rot here.” He spun on his heel and headed for the door.
Dora swallowed. She heard Fatima’s words again—the ones about winning the battle but losing the war. Was she doing that again? To live by another quote, pride goes before the fall. Did she really want to spend all her time alone in this suite?
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