The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(58) by Susan Mallery
She spread a blanket on the ground. “How incredibly shocking. I’ve heard the same rumor. I’ve also heard that she’s quite brilliant.”
“Really? Everyone I talk to thinks that her husband is the brilliant one.”
Dora gave him a mocking glare. “I’m sure that’s your favorite rumor of all.”
She took two mugs from her bags and sat on the blanket. Khalil settled next to her. The sunlight illuminated the left side of his face, and she found herself looking at the faint scar on his cheek.
She’d seen it before, of course. It was one of the first things she’d noticed about him. That and the fact that he was impossibly good-looking. A handsome prince, although in this case, both descriptions were accurate.
“Tell me about your scar,” she said impulsively as she reached out and touched the faint, thin line. “Unless you’d rather not talk about it.”
Khalil poured coffee and handed her a mug. “There’s not much to talk about. I was young and foolish.” He shrugged. “I was fifteen and fencing with a friend. We both thought that we were the best ever, perhaps invincible, and it was a competition to determine victor of the world.”
“I didn’t think people got hurt fencing.”
“They’re not supposed to. A protective tip covers the point. But as I said, we were young and stupid and didn’t bother with precautions. The duel was intense, and he managed to cut me on the face.”
He stared out at the horizon. “How strange. I haven’t thought of the incident in years, and now it’s come up twice in just a few weeks. My grandmother reminded me of it shortly after you arrived.”
“Because of you,” he said, although his answer made no sense.
“There was a lot of blood,” he continued before she could ask more questions. “I started yelling. The king and the fencing master came running. I told them both what my friend had done, and in a burst of uncontrolled anger, I swore I never wanted to see him again. I was rushed to the hospital. I was frightened and in a lot of pain, although I wouldn’t admit either to anyone.”
Dora touched his arm. “You don’t have to talk about this if you don’t want to.”
“I’m fine,” he told her. “In a few hours I’d had stitches and was resting comfortably. I had time to regret my harsh words to my friend, and I told my father that I wanted to see him.”
His mouth twisted into a grim line. “But a prince had spoken, and a prince was to be obeyed. My friend had been sent over the mountains to stay with family until I recovered and sent for him again. But there was a car accident, and he was killed on the way. I never saw him again.”
Dora stared at him, not sure what she was supposed to say. “Sometimes I feel as if we’ve never even lived on the same planet. How am I supposed to relate to your life?”
“You can’t. But you can deal with the man who has lived it.” He turned to face her. “Is that so difficult for you to imagine?”
They were suddenly sitting too close. Or had they always been next to each other and had she just now noticed? The air seemed to grow hotter by the second. Khalil shifted until he had his arm around her, and his mouth was inches from hers.
“Kiss me,” he demanded.
She stared at him. “I can’t.” Maybe she’d picked a dumb hill on which to die, but this was the last barrier she had in place against the handsome prince who wanted to steal her soul.
“You won’t. There’s a difference. Stubborn fool. When you have my children playing around your feet will you still deny me?”
She turned away so he wouldn’t see the panic in her eyes. Children. Dear Lord, she had done her best not to think about getting pregnant. At the rate they were making love, it was just a matter of time. Khalil was a vigorous lover who visited her more nights than not. She wasn’t on any kind of birth control and as a princess in El Bahar, she couldn’t exactly walk into the local drugstore and buy condoms.
She’d thought about going to Fatima, but although she and Khalil’s grandmother had made peace, Dora doubted that Fatima would approve of preventing a pregnancy.
Even though they were sitting in the middle of a desert, Dora suddenly felt as if invisible walls had started to close in around her. She was cold and hot at the same time. She didn’t know how to handle this situation.
“We should head back,” she said quickly, trying to pull away from him.
Khalil didn’t release his hold on her. “Not yet. Stay a little while.”
She pressed her lips together. In this mood, when he was caring and conciliatory, it was impossible to resist him.
“Sweet Dora, you are my wife. Why is it so difficult to do as I request?” He sighed. “You are stubborn and infuriating, yet I can’t imagine going an entire day without seeing you. I have told the king I will no longer travel without you.”
Dora stared at him. Unable to help herself, she reached up and touched the thin scar on his left cheek. His eyes were large and dark and filled with an emotion she’d never seen before. Affection perhaps? Vulnerability? Was it possible that Khalil was changing?
She knew what she wanted. In her heart of hearts, she wanted it all—the fantasy and the fairy tale. She wanted her husband to fall in love with her, most likely because she was in love with him. She wanted a real marriage, not this battle of wills they’d somehow created. Yet as much as she wanted to give in, she believed with every beat of her heart that if she didn’t stand firm on this issue that he would grow complacent. He had to understand that he couldn’t play with her emotions. He had to learn that what he’d done was wrong.
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