The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(59) by Susan Mallery
His words were a request, not a demand, and she found herself unable to deny him. She wanted to kiss him. She wanted to be close to him, to feel his body next to hers. This was her husband, and it hurt her to deny him. But deny him she must.
Then she again touched the scar on his face. The thin ridge reminded her that Khalil had admitted to making a mistake. Was that his own arrogant, twisted way of telling her there were other words he regretted?
She studied his face, the handsome lines, the set of his mouth. Who was this man she’d married? What did she know of the depths of his soul?
And then she pressed her mouth to his. Not because he’d asked, but because he’d shared a bit of his life with her. Because he’d compromised just a little. And mostly because she needed to feel his hot passion fueling her own.
She slipped her hand into his hair and felt the cool strands slipping against her skin. She leaned into him, wanting to be closer, yet not actually pressing against him. She kept her mouth closed, her kiss chaste, yet she felt the difference in both of them as she gave herself willingly to him.
She rested her free hand on his shoulder, then slowly parted her lips. When he didn’t respond, she brushed her tongue against his lower lip and when he opened for her, she entered his mouth. At the first touch of her tongue against his, he shuddered. As if contact was more than he could stand—as if this surrender of hers was more than he could stand.
She braced herself for his assault, but Khalil did not attack, or even try to make love with her. Instead he broke the kiss. When he pulled back he cupped her face and stared at her.
“Thank you,” he murmured, his voice low and controlled.
She waited, but there were no smart comments, no claims of victory. Instead he pulled her to her feet and helped her onto her horse. They rode back to the palace in silence. Once there, he swept inside without saying a word.
“I’m not discounting all that your majesty has already done,” Dora said patiently. “However, the job isn’t complete. We have more work to do.”
Fire flashed in her eyes, and color stained her cheeks. She looked passionate and committed, and it was all Khalil could do to stay in his seat and listen quietly. What he wanted was to jump to his feet and publicly claim this woman as his. He wanted to drag her off to his rooms and make love with her for the rest of the afternoon.
But he didn’t. For one thing, Dora, his brothers and he were having a working lunch with the king, and Khalil didn’t think that any of them would appreciate his impulsiveness. Well, Dora might, but she would never admit it. Another reason to resist was that his most stubborn wife continued to sleep in her own quarters, across the palace from his. Despite that lone kiss the previous week, she had not willingly come to him and initiated their lovemaking. She frustrated him until he was sorry they’d been at peace with their neighbors for so many generations. He was in the mood to go to war.
Instead he sat quietly while his wife argued with his father. It was the king’s fault. Givon had been the one to set up the brief tour of the country for Dora. She’d spent three days this week visiting nearby towns and villages, and each night she’d returned home filled with ideas.
“The colleges are open to all,” the king said and took a spoonful of sorbet. “Even the women.”
“Yes, and how much they appreciate your forward thinking.”
Her voice was calm, but Khalil caught the faint note of sarcasm in her tone. She was beautiful when she was inspired, he thought suddenly. How had he not noticed that before? When they’d first met, he’d barely seen her. Then they’d married so quickly, and he’d been angry and confused about all that happened. There was also the matter of her resistance. Yet despite it all, or perhaps because of it, he’d grown to see the real woman who was Dora Khan, princess of El Bahar, and he knew that she was a jewel. That he’d stumbled upon her under what were at the very least unusual circumstances only made him treasure her more.
“King Givon,” she said, pushing her dessert aside and leaning forward. “Opening the colleges to women isn’t enough. Despite the advances made during your glorious rule, many families still believe it is a waste to educate a woman. They don’t bother to send them to more than a half dozen years of school, and most only receive that much because your government has made it the law. There are hundreds of bright and articulate females out there, and their potential is going to waste.”
The king raised his bushy, graying eyebrows. “They marry, they produce children. That is not a waste.”
“Oh, I agree completely. If you’re saying that your people are El Bahar’s greatest resource.”
Khalil watched as his father considered Dora’s words. Khalil saw the trap at once, but he had the advantage of knowing his wife’s agile mind. The king was not so fortunate.
“Of course. They are our future.”
“If that is your belief, then I don’t understand your willingness to ignore and waste nearly fifty percent of the resources available to you. Educated women can still marry and have many children, but uneducated ones can do little to improve technology or teach in the schools, or become doctors and lawyers and entrepreneurs.”
She stared at the king. “These women deserve a chance to be their best. Not only for themselves, but for their country. All I’m asking is that you consider preparatory schools for teenage girls. Give them the opportunity to learn what they need so they can attend college.”
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