The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(55) by Susan Mallery
“You would have thought I was crazy,” he said, dismissing her. “Or you would have put conditions on the marriage. No, my way was better.”
“What about my feelings? What about the fact that you lied to me and made me believe in you? What about being honest? I still don’t know why you wanted to marry me rather than Amber. All you’ve said is that she wouldn’t have been a good wife and mother. What does that mean? Why do you have to keep so many secrets?”
He glared at her. “I am most concerned about your feelings. Didn’t I give you this job? Don’t I allow you to work?”
“Allow? Allow? You’re kidding, right?” She rose to her feet and stared down at him. “I swear, Khalil, if you’re looking for me to start throwing things, you’re getting awfully close.” She placed her hands on her hips. “You might think you allow me to have this job, but you and your country are getting a hell of a lot of benefit, and you know it. If you gave me the chance, then I’ve more than earned my right to stay here. I’ve made a difference. I’ve gotten dozens of improvements on our contracts with foreign companies. Don’t for a moment think that you can dismiss my contribution.”
“I’m not saying you haven’t helped,” he hedged. “But I don’t understand why you have to be so difficult. You’re ruining things between us.”
She couldn’t believe the audacity of the man. “Me? No, Khalil, you don’t get to pass this one off on me. You want to ignore the ugly reality that is the foundation of our marriage. Until that is fixed, until the past is atoned for, nothing lasting can be built here. We can try, but whatever we build is destined to crumble.”
She dropped her hands to her sides. “I’m willing to meet you more than halfway, but I can’t do it all. You have to be willing to take responsibility for your mistakes. Is it so horrible to admit that you were wrong?”
He rose to his feet and glanced at his watch. “I have a meeting.”
Defeated, Dora nodded. Obviously there was no getting through to him. She walked out of the room and headed for her own office.
Once there she stood at the window and stared out at the garden. What was she doing wrong? Was she wishing for the moon? A part of her simply wanted to surrender. After all, Khalil wasn’t like other men. He was strong, stubborn, opinionated, difficult, a prince. Did the ordinary rules apply to him?
Dora rested her forehead against the cool glass. Outside the temperature had climbed into the nineties. Summer approached with a relentlessness that made her hope the air-conditioning never failed.
Was she wrong? Should she forget what had happened between them and start over? A part of her wanted to say yes. That soft woman’s place deep inside longed to have a real marriage with Khalil. She wanted to move into his suite and sleep with him every night. She wanted to live with him, laugh with him, see him first thing in the morning, feel his body close to hers, not just when they were making love, but at other times. She wanted to be free to touch him and tell him that she wanted him. She wanted a real marriage.
But if she gave in…Dora didn’t have a simple answer for that concern. If she gave in, how could she ever respect herself? She knew that it wasn’t enough that he was nice to her now; he had to understand that she was a person with feelings he had to respect. His casual disregard for her had hurt terribly. Even now the wounds remained raw.
If she gave in he would never treat her any differently. She would only reinforce the idea that if he was stubborn enough, he would get his way. She wanted a shared partnership, or as much of one as was possible with a living, breathing prince for a husband. For that to happen, she would have to be strong.
And if it didn’t, a voice in her head whispered. Another question that didn’t have an answer. If it didn’t, she would have to speak to the king about leaving El Bahar. If Khalil didn’t come around, she would have to get a divorce.
The night was cool after the heat of the day, and Khalil appreciated the sea breeze as he paced on the balcony facing the ocean. He walked back and forth, his hands shoved into his pockets, his mind swirling and racing as he grappled with the reality that was his life.
Damn her to hell, he thought grimly. Then he stopped and smiled. Yes, he wanted to curse his wife and somehow force her to obey him, but he also respected her in ways he never thought he could respect a woman. She was a hard worker—intelligent, resourceful, dedicated. As she’d pointed out at lunch that morning, she’d done great things for El Bahar. She made him proud. So why wouldn’t she surrender to him? Did she really think she could bend him to her will? She couldn’t and yet…
What he hated most was that her siege had started to get to him. Here he was, Prince of El Bahar, actually thinking about listening to his grandmother’s advice. He’d spoken to Fatima several weeks ago, but her words had not faded from his mind. Woo her. Woo Dora. Be all those things a woman wanted a man to be. Adore her, respect her, admire her.
Khalil glared into the darkness. Why should he have to woo his wife? He felt all those things for her already. He had great respect and admiration for her. He did adore her, and if she couldn’t see that, she wasn’t worth the trouble.
The words sounded perfect…in theory. But the truth was, he’d grown tired of their game. He wanted her to want him. He wanted her in his life and his bed, and not because he’d forced her. He wanted her willing and loving.
He froze in midstride. Loving? Did he want Dora to love him?
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