The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(54) by Susan Mallery
He didn’t want that, either. “I will force her to move into my rooms.”
Fatima looked at him as if he were a very simple child. “Yes, I can tell how well that will work with Dora. Why did you ask me what to do if you’re not going to listen?”
“I have listened. You’re not giving me good advice. I am Prince Khalil Khan of El Bahar, and I do not woo women.”
“You are a stubborn fool who is going to live his life alone. Is that what you want?”
He didn’t answer the question and in time, his grandmother left. He paced his office searching for solutions that continued to elude him. He was not going to woo his wife. How degrading. How impossible. She would laugh. He refused to humiliate himself in such a manner.
And yet…the alternative was the standoff that existed between them now. Is that what he wanted? That and the very real possibility that Dora would grow to hate him?
Dora poured more iced tea into her glass and stared at the handsome man sitting across from her. Khalil was telling her about a meeting he’d had that morning with the American scientists who were working on desert reclamation.
“I should have let you deal with them,” he said as he set his fork next to his plate. “They were most difficult.”
“Oh, so now you’re going to give me your dirty work, is that it?” she asked with a smile.
His gaze settled on her face. She wasn’t sure what he was thinking, but his expression was affectionate enough to get her heart fluttering a little faster. It was early April. She’d been in El Bahar nearly three months. Khalil visited her room and her bed nearly every night, and he still had the power to make her weak with longing with just a glance or a light touch of his hand.
“Not my dirty work,” he told her. “You’re better with the scientists than I am. I think it has something to do with your being a woman. You lull them with humor or flash your ankles at them.”
She glanced down at the long skirt that fell nearly to the floor. As per El Baharian custom, and her husband’s request, she wore conservative clothes that covered her arms to the wrist and her legs almost to the ankle. In the privacy of her quarters she sometimes got wild and slipped on an old pair of blue jeans.
“That’s me, the ankle flasher,” she said with a smile.
She was only teasing, but Khalil frowned. “I do not want you exposing yourself to other men.”
She stared at the man she’d married and lived near and worked with for the past three months. At times she knew everything he was thinking, but every now and then, when he once again became the prince of El Bahar, she realized she didn’t know him at all.
“It was a joke, Khalil,” she told him.
“It is not humorous to me.”
“I don’t understand how you can be so possessive in some ways and so insensitive in others.” She paused. Their lunches together were one of her favorite times of the day. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I don’t want to fight.”
He leaned across the small table set up in a corner of his office. “This isn’t fighting,” he told her. “We don’t fight, we talk.”
“What’s the difference?”
“You never throw anything.” His mouth twisted down at the corners. “You’re a Western woman, with coldness and propriety flowing through your veins.”
“You want me to start throwing dishes?” He couldn’t be serious.
“It would be preferable to the silences. Don’t you feel any passion?” He made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “I’m not talking about in bed, but in life. Do you fight for things?”
“Of course. When they’re important.”
She glanced around the well-appointed office. The hand-carved desk dated back to the seventeenth century. They were in the middle of a palace in the capitol of El Bahar. Life was different here, as were the people. Sometimes she forgot that.
“We have different styles,” she told him. “But that doesn’t mean that my way is wrong.”
“Perhaps. But what have you fought for in your life? Not this marriage.”
She straightened and raised her chin. “What do you mean by that?”
“It’s been many weeks but still you live on the other side of the palace. You haven’t once come to my room or touched me first. Every night I am forced to make the journey to your room, to hold you and kiss you until you finally surrender to me.”
“That was your decision,” she told him stiffly. “I swore I wouldn’t give in to you until you apologized for what you did and admitted that you cared about me. You said that you didn’t mind having to seduce me every time. That it was a challenge.”
He stared at her. Despite the tailored suit and tie, he was not like the other men she’d worked with. He was part successful businessman, part prince. For the first few weeks, she’d enjoyed the businessman and had tolerated the prince, but that was slowly changing. The more she learned about Khalil, the more she could care about all of him. But he was a difficult man and refused to ever admit that he was wrong. As much as she longed to give in to him, she knew it would be a mistake. She had to make him see that she was a person with feelings—someone worthy of his affection and consideration.
“You are most stubborn,” he complained.
She shrugged. “As are you. That’s probably why the trait is so irritating in me.” She drew in a deep breath. “Is it so very hard to apologize?” she asked. “All I want is for you to admit that you shouldn’t have lied to me that first night. If you’d come to me and explained the situation, I might have cooperated.”
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