The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(57) by Susan Mallery
He looked completely serious as he spoke. Wooing her? Whose idea was this? Khalil was not the type to voluntarily woo a mere woman.
“You can’t simply announce all of this and expect me to fall in with your plans,” she said.
“Of course I can. I’m Prince—”
She waved him off with her hand. “Yes, yes, I know that part by heart. You might be Prince Khalil Khan but pigs will fly before I give in to you. Besides, I don’t know how to ride.”
“Not a problem. I’ll teach you.” His gaze sharpened. “And you will give in because I have warned you about challenging me. You are my wife. You will be most impressed, and you will find yourself falling hopelessly in love with me.”
He turned on his heel and headed for the door. “Meet me by the horse stables in thirty minutes.”
“Get out,” she yelled, tossing a pillow at him.
He laughed as he shut the door behind him.
Dora pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs. Had her husband really said that he was wooing her? Was it possible that he was actually starting to care about their marriage? She desperately wanted to believe it was true, but she wasn’t sure. She’d been disappointed many times before.
The riding clothes lay next to her on the bed. She looked at them, then at the clock. How would a man like him make a woman fall hopelessly in love with him? She had a feeling that his idea of wooing and hers would be quite different.
Dora rose to her feet and picked up the clothes. She would very much like to go riding with her husband. In fact she would be happy to do anything with him. For the past couple of months she’d been afraid he would force her hand by refusing to change at all. Given the choice, she would much rather stay and fight for her marriage than run away and get a divorce.
She pulled off her nightgown and started toward the bathroom. As for his plans to make her fall desperately in love with him…thank goodness he didn’t know how close she already was.
The warm desert air blew softly across Dora’s face. Her mount, a gentle gelding with the patience of Job, cantered along next to Khalil’s powerful stallion. It was early, barely fifteen minutes after sunrise, but they’d already left the palace far in the distance.
Dora found herself laughing aloud with sheer joy as she savored the wonder of the morning. In the past few weeks she’d grown passionate about her rides with Khalil. Thanks to his surprising patience, she’d quickly learned to ride. He’d spent several mornings with her in a training ring before bringing her out into the desert. But after her first ride into the vastness of the quiet dawn, she’d been determined to make the rides a part of her daily schedule.
Up ahead she spotted the small oasis where they frequently stopped. The staff would have put a thermos of rich El Baharian coffee and some fresh pastries into their saddlebags. More often than not, she and Khalil shared breakfast as well as each other’s company on the rides.
When he’d first told her that he was setting out to woo her, she hadn’t much thought what that would be like. She’d expected a few curt compliments, perhaps flowers sent to her office, and of course the occasional ride in the desert. But he had proved more clever than that. He’d tried to scale the walls of her stubbornness with long conversations about the state of the nation and how they could together create change. He’d taken her on a tour of the poor parts of the city and had seriously listened to her suggestions. When parliament met at the beginning of the new term, he invited her along to observe and learn. And he’d found her a lovely white Persian kitten with big blue eyes and a bit of a temper. Then he’d told her that the spitting bit of fluff had reminded him of her.
Now, as they cantered across the dunes toward the small oasis, she glanced at her husband and reminded herself that it was important to resist him. Although the reasons were becoming less and less clear. Despite her resolve, Dora found herself falling more and more in love with him each day. She still hadn’t figured out how to get him to listen to her out of the office. He wouldn’t discuss the problems in their marriage, and he hadn’t once apologized for his early behavior or even admitted he’d been in the wrong. They were at an impasse, and she didn’t know how to change things.
They rode into the oasis. Date palms lined the fresh spring fed by an underground river. New grass carpeted the bank, all the way down to the water. Dora reined in her horse, then waited for Khalil to dismount. He always helped her to the ground, and she let him. They both knew she was capable of dismounting on her own, but she liked the feel of him next to her, holding her close. It was one of the few times they touched outside of the bedroom.
The day was as clear and bright as always. The rainy season had already passed, and they were heading into the heat of summer. She wondered how bad it would be and how long it would take her to adjust. Despite the problems with Khalil, Dora couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Whatever happened between them, she’d decided that El Bahar was her home, and she didn’t plan to leave.
“You’re looking serious about something,” Khalil said lightly as he removed the thermos from his saddlebag.
“Not really. I was thinking about how much I love my new country. It’s very beautiful, a balanced combination of history and future. You’re even somewhat progressive about women.”
“You think so?” he asked. “I’ve heard that the palace has a woman working in government. She’s responsible for acting as liaison between El Bahar and foreign corporations. Can you imagine such a thing?”
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