The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(53) by Susan Mallery
“And the marriage progresses equally well?” Fatima asked, then took a sip of tea.
Her well-groomed hair was swept away from her face. Several rings decorated her long, elegant fingers. She looked like a well-dressed matron making a social call, but Khalil knew better. Unlike Dora’s opponents, he’d learned not to underestimate the power of a female in the royal family.
“Dora and I are very happy,” he said.
Fatima didn’t respond. First she nibbled on a shortbread cookie, then patted her mouth with a small, linen napkin.
Khalil wanted to stand up and start pacing, but he refused to let his grandmother intimidate him in his own office. He stayed silent. As did Fatima. The clock in the corner ticked off the seconds. Tension grew. He swore he wasn’t going to give in first.
Finally he couldn’t stand it anymore. He bounced to his feet and stalked to the window. “She’s stubborn and irritating,” he growled, his back to the room. He stared out at a view of the gardens, but didn’t see any of the lush plants. Instead he saw Dora turning away from him, as she had the previous night. Telling him silently that she didn’t want him, forcing him to reduce her to mindless pleading, until her body spoke a truth her lips refused to utter.
“At least she’s intelligent,” Fatima said calmly. “That’s something.”
“Not when the intelligence is used against me.” He turned to face his grandmother. “Her two weeks in the harem taught her nothing of being a good wife.”
“Oh, is that what we were supposed to be doing? How foolish of me. I arranged for her to learn El Baharian customs and history. Perhaps you should send her back to me. Then I can teach her all she needs to know about cleaning and cooking and mending. Would the young prince be more happy then?”
He glared at Queen Fatima and was reminded that his grandfather had always respected his wife…and with good reason. “I have no need for another servant. I want a wife.”
“Perhaps if you weren’t living in separate quarters,” she suggested.
Khalil stiffened. He hated that Dora refused to move into his suite. He was a married man, and it was damned humiliating to have to traipse halfway across the palace just to spend the night in his wife’s bed.
“She refuses to move in with me.”
“Really?” Fatima set down her cup and looked at him. “What did you do wrong?”
His hot temper flared. “Why do you assume that it’s my fault? She’s the one who won’t do as she’s told.”
Those two, short words spoke volumes. He hated the way Fatima could make him feel young and small again and had to resist the urge to remind her that he was Prince Khalil Khan of El Bahar. She’d never been much impressed by that.
“I thought you’d learned, Khalil,” Fatima said. She touched her left cheek, making him instantly aware of the faint scar on his own face. “I thought you would remember the lesson that some words come with a high price.”
“These situations have nothing in common,” he insisted.
“So you have said nothing to Dora that you might regret?”
He didn’t answer. Instead he turned back to the window, refusing to remember the words he’d spoken that first night they’d made love in New York. How he’d convinced Dora that he’d desperately wanted her when in fact he’d found her mostly convenient. But his grandmother’s arrow had found its mark, and he had the sharp cut to prove it.
Dora had told him she wanted him to apologize for what he’d said and to admit that he cared about her. That was her price for her affection. Until then she promised to turn away from his advances, resisting his lovemaking until he forced her to surrender. Every night she kept her word, as did he, breaking her will until she was weak with longing. In the test of stubbornness, they were at a draw.
“You have nothing to be concerned about,” Fatima said calmly. “Your wife is intelligent, healthy and well-mannered. She will not dishonor you or El Bahar. In fact, she is proving to be a great asset. In time she will bear you healthy sons.”
Something in her tone made him wonder where she was going with this. He looked at her. “I agree. All is well.”
Fatima took another sip of her tea. “In time, of course, she will grow to hate you, but this is the way of these kinds of marriages.”
“No!” Khalil said before he could stop himself. “I don’t want her to hate me.”
Fatima raised her eyebrows. “Khalil, you couldn’t possibly care about this girl, could you?”
“Of course not.”
But the words lacked conviction. He didn’t want to admit it, but he did care. He hated that night after night he had to seduce her into wanting him. More times than not, when they had finished making love, Dora turned away from him and cried. She made no sound, but he felt the sobs silently shaking her body. If he touched her face, his fingers grew wet with her tears.
“What do I do?” he asked the woman who had been a second mother to him.
“Oh, Khalil, why do you men make everything so difficult?” She gave him a kind smile. “You woo her. Be the kind of man she can admire. Be tender and attentive, and most of all apologize for whatever it is you have done to hurt her. Make amends. Bend a little. For once in your life, remember you are first a man, and second a prince.”
“Never. What you suggest is unacceptable.”
“Then get used to roaming the halls of the palace every night.”
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