The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(56) by Susan Mallery
He physically took a step back. No, not love. He didn’t need a mere woman to love him. He was Prince Khalil Khan of—
He turned at the sound of his name and saw his brother, Malik, and his father standing on the balcony. He walked over to them.
Givon grasped his upper arm and squeezed. “My son, I was wrong to be so harsh with you.”
Khalil stared from one to the other. “What are you talking about?”
Malik leaned against the railing. “I went to our father and told him what happened with Amber. I don’t remember very much about the night. It was a long time ago, and I was quite drunk. At first I thought it was a dream. The betrothed of my brother wouldn’t have come to my bed and been with me. I told myself to forget it, but her scent lingered on the pillow.” He shrugged. “I didn’t know what to do, so I waited.”
Khalil knew that Amber’s behavior wasn’t his responsibility, but he still felt a sense of shame.
“I wanted to tell you before,” Malik admitted, “but I didn’t know what to say. I had no real proof, and it might have been someone else.” He looked up into the night. “How was I supposed to apologize to you for what had happened?”
Givon patted Khalil’s back. “He came to me earlier today and told me the truth.”
Khalil looked at his brother. “Why now?”
“Because I’m finally sure. Amber visited me while I was in Paris. I offered to take her to dinner. Before we’d left the hotel for the restaurant, she offered to ‘renew our acquaintance.’ I knew then that I hadn’t been wrong about that night.”
The king nodded. “So much makes sense to me. Khalil, you were trying to protect both the country and Aleser. You believed, and rightly so, that if he knew the truth about his daughter he would have to resign.” The older man shook his head. “I should have realized there was something amiss when you married impulsively.”
“Now what?” Malik asked. “I don’t think Aleser needs to know Amber’s real nature. He adores her—it would break his heart.”
“It breaks mine,” the king admitted. “She was like a daughter to me, as well. That’s why I was so pleased with the betrothal.” He sighed. “But you are right. We will keep this to ourselves. Fatima will speak with Amber and let her know that she is not welcome in El Bahar except for family visits. She has always traveled so it is unlikely Aleser will comment on any extended absence.”
Malik glanced at his father, then nodded. Khalil had the sense that there was more to discuss, but if so, Malik wasn’t a party to the conversation.
“I’m sorry, Khalil,” Malik said and offered his hand. They shook.
“I appreciate the thought,” Khalil told him, “but you were as much the injured party as myself. Perhaps in time Amber will change, but for now we are best to be rid of her before she can do more damage.”
Malik disappeared back into the palace.
Khalil stood in the darkness and waited for his father to speak. At times like this, the king could not be rushed.
“You were quite ingenious,” Givon said a few minutes later. “You found a way to avoid marriage with Amber and yet not disgrace Aleser and his family. The only price was my displeasure.”
“I knew you’d come around,” Khalil said, leaning against the railing and staring out into the darkness. Although the apology was late in coming, he was pleased to hear the words.
His father joined him. “Dora has surprised us all. She is very good at her job. I’ll admit I was skeptical at first. A woman as liaison with Western companies? A royal princess employed?”
“You should have heard us arguing over her salary,” Khalil said proudly. “Not that she keeps it—the entire amount is donated to the children’s hospital, but she wasn’t going to let me off easily just because we’re married.”
“I will understand if you wish to have the marriage annulled,” the king said quietly. “Dora could have the choice of staying in El Bahar in her present job or returning to the United States. She would want for nothing. Then you would be free to find someone else to marry. I promise this time not to arrange a match.”
Khalil stared at him. An annulment? Dora leaving El Bahar? He remembered her words from earlier that day. She’d told him that until the foundation of their marriage was repaired, they could not build anything lasting.
“No,” he said sharply. “Dora and I are married, and we will stay married. She is my wife, regardless of what anyone thinks, including her!”
Early the next morning Khalil stormed into Dora’s room. He turned on a light and tossed a bundle of clothing onto her bed.
“What on earth?” she asked, then glanced at the clock. “It’s five in the morning. Is everything all right?”
He pointed at the clothes. “They’re for riding. You will get up and put them on.”
It was only then that she noticed what he was wearing. Khalil had dressed in light-colored slacks and a loose shirt. Riding boots gleamed to his knees. He looked like the sheik prince prepared to ride out and survey his kingdom. Despite her best efforts to keep herself under control, she couldn’t stop the thrill of pleasure that raced through her.
“Why?” she asked.
He stared down at her. “We are going riding,” he told her. “I am wooing you. You will find the ride very romantic and notice that I am an amusing companion. Then, when we return, you’ll be overcome, and we’ll make love.”
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