The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(65) by Susan Mallery
“Not everything,” Fatima corrected. “It is a matter of priorities. If you don’t mind my saying so, you’ve gone about things all wrong.”
Dora glanced at her. “In what way?”
“You must earn what you most desire.” Fatima turned to face her. “You are pregnant with Khalil’s firstborn. That gives you power no other woman possesses, but you must be wise when you use that power. Far better for you to win your husband on your own.”
Tears filled her eyes. “So it’s obvious to everyone that Khalil doesn’t love me.”
Fatima touched her bare arm. “What is obvious is that you two began your marriage for reasons other than love. Such is the way of many royal matches. Only the very lucky, or the determined, find love later. Is that what you want? Khalil’s love?”
Dora nodded, then swiped at the tears on her face. “I desperately need that. I can’t live half a life anymore. I’ve done it that way for too long.” She sniffed. “But it’s too late. He’s in love with Amber, and there’s no way I can compete with her. She’s younger, she’s more beautiful.”
Fatima dismissed the information with a wave of her hand. “She’s nothing. You’re the princess…you’re already his wife. Amber is not all you believe her to be. She is like a magician’s smoke. Very impressive during the performance, but nothing remains afterward.”
The older woman stared intently. Dark eyes seemed to see into Dora’s soul. “Khalil went to a lot of trouble to marry you. He turned his back on his betrothed and the traditions of his family. He risked his father’s anger. Have you ever wondered why?”
Dora tried to remember what Khalil had said about that. “He didn’t think Amber would be a good mother.” She rubbed her temples, which had begun to ache. “Except she’s so lovely.”
“What is beauty? True loveliness comes from a good heart, not long legs or a pretty face.” She straightened her shoulders. “When I married my husband, the harem wasn’t as it is today. All those years ago, it was filled with beautiful women from all over the world. I was his wife, but he wasn’t interested in me. Who wants plain bread when there are trays of sweets to explore?”
Dora didn’t know what to say. Women in the harem? At least she didn’t have to compete with that. “What did you do?”
“I decided that possession of his name was not enough. I had to earn his heart. You must do the same.”
Oh, sure, something simple, she thought glumly. “How am I supposed to do that?”
Fatima smiled. “Give him what he most desires and in a way no other woman can. Then you will have all that you most long for in your life.”
“Give him what he most desires…you will have all that you most long for in your life,” Dora muttered when Fatima had left her alone on the balcony. “Oh, sure. Words to live by. But what do they mean?”
Although she spoke the question aloud, no answer appeared to her. The silence itself seemed to mock her, and she had to fight against the pressure of more tears. She didn’t want to cry anymore, she thought. She didn’t want to be unhappy. She had to find a way to make her marriage work, or she had to leave. She was tired of her games with Khalil.
But where did she begin? How did she change herself, or get her most stubborn husband to see the truth? Was Fatima correct and could she, Dora, give Khalil his heart’s desire? Did she know his heart well enough to understand what he might want?
Too many questions and no answers. What she needed was to be in her husband’s company. Only his smile, his light touch on her arm, would restore her good humor.
But before she could leave the balcony, a woman appeared out of the shadows. “Ah, Princess Dora, how lovely to see you again.”
Dora froze. The ever-stunning Amber stood in front of her. The young woman had destroyed all of Dora’s illusions, not to mention her wedding day. She didn’t want to hear any more of her hurtful words. What she really wanted was to bolt for cover, but she would be damned if she would let this El Baharian heartbreaker see that she had her running scared.
“Amber. Very nice to see you again.” She gave a regal bow. “Are you enjoying the party?”
“Of course. My father is happy to have his family around him to celebrate this day.” Amber pouted slightly. “He’s been difficult about me being gone so much, but it’s impossible for me to stay long in El Bahar. So painful.”
Dora supposed she should be more sympathetic, but she wasn’t in the mood. Nor did she trust Amber. “I would guess that being around your former fiancé and his new wife would be difficult. How nice that you can afford to travel. It distracts as well as broadens the mind.”
Amber’s delicate eyebrows drew together. “Don’t sound so confident, Your Highness. Things are not as they appear.”
“Aren’t they?” Dora made a great show of glancing at her wedding ring. “And here I thought I was the one he’d married.”
“You might have his name and his ring, but you don’t have his heart. That belongs to me.”
Dora didn’t have a quick response for that one. While she wasn’t sure that Amber knew anything about anyone’s heart, Dora knew that she didn’t have possession of Khalil’s heart, either.
Amber took a step closer. “We’re still lovers. He still visits me when he can.”
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