The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(66) by Susan Mallery
Dora wanted to deny the words. Her husband came to her bed more often than not. He was vigorous and passionate, and she didn’t believe for a single moment that he was with another woman. Khalil had many flaws, but deception wasn’t one of them.
Or was it, a little voice in her head whispered. What about the lies he told at the beginning of their relationship? What about his stubborn refusal to admit that he was wrong and that he’d hurt her?
“I don’t know when he’d have the time,” Dora said coolly, refusing to let the other woman know that she was trembling from both fear and pain.
“Of course you wouldn’t know,” Amber scoffed. “You sleep alone in your chamber on the far side of the palace. You have no way of knowing how often I’ve crept into his bed or he into mine.” She took another step closer and clutched Dora’s arm. “He’s already had me this night. You can plan on spending your evening alone.”
Dora jerked free. She refused to believe these stories, she told herself, even as the hurt ripped through her. “You’re lying. I will tell Khalil of your lies, and you will be banished from the palace.”
Amber laughed. “My father is prime minister of El Bahar and the king’s closest friend. My family has been close to the royal family for generations. Don’t think that a few words and a ring are going to come between me and the man I love. Go to him, tell him what I said, if you dare. Find out how little you matter. You are nothing.”
“I am his wife.”
Dora squared her shoulders. “You are a spoiled child, Amber. In time you will learn that being a man’s wife gives a woman more power than it would appear. You may be younger and beautiful, but I will win this battle.”
Amber shrugged. “We’ll see. And if he doesn’t join you in your bed this night, we’ll both know that I’m telling the truth.”
Dora thought about calling the other woman a bitch, but decided it was too childish. Instead she returned to the glittering ballroom with the intent of finding her husband.
But once inside, the agony of her encounter with the younger woman stole her breath and made her legs tremble. She was going to be sick, she thought as she frantically tried to retrace her steps. Only this time it wouldn’t be because of the baby. Oh, dear God, what if Amber was telling the truth?
Dora could feel herself losing control. Tears threatened and with them, agonized sobs. She didn’t want to lose Khalil—not when they’d come so far. She loved him. Perhaps she’d loved him from the very beginning, she wasn’t sure. She only knew that without him, her world would be smaller and meaner than it had ever been in the past.
A shadow fell over her. She looked up and saw her husband standing in front of her. “You look ill,” Khalil said. “Do you not feel well?”
She opened her mouth to explain, then closed it. What was there to say? Did she dare repeat Amber’s lies? Except there was a small chance that they weren’t lies. And if that woman spoke the truth then she, Dora, would be lost forever.
“I think I’m just tired,” Dora said weakly. “I need to go to my room.”
Khalil wrapped a sheltering arm around her and led her away. When they’d entered her chamber, he turned on the lights, then gently helped her undress. Finally he eased her into bed.
“I’ll make your excuses to the king,” he said, his voice kind, his expression concerned. “Sleep and feel better in the morning. I won’t disturb you this evening.”
She told herself he was just being considerate; she told herself it had everything to do with his perception of her being sick and nothing to do with Amber…but she wasn’t sure.
“I don’t feel that ill,” she murmured. “Perhaps after the party…”
He shook his head. “You often accuse me of being insensitive, so I won’t give you ammunition. If you’re not well, I refuse to insist.” He gave her a sad smile. “It is not in you to be won over this night, sweet Dora.”
He pressed a kiss to her forehead, then left her alone.
She stared after him, willing him to return to her. This wasn’t happening, she told herself, listening to the silence and wondering if that emptiness was going to fill her world for the rest of her life. Amber couldn’t be correct, could she?
Dora sat up and pulled her knees to her chest. Had she come so far only to lose it all in the end, or had the prize never been hers?
She’d been a fool. Khalil had once accused her of being a nobody, and he was correct. She was just a glorified secretary who had happened to snag the attention of a wealthy prince. Not because she was beautiful, or witty, or smart, but because she was available. A virgin with childbearing hips. Talk about a claim to fame.
The first tears fell slowly, then faster and faster. Great sobs robbed her of breath. She clutched her knees, pulling them close to her chest as if she could hold in the last drops of happiness that had been hers. But there was no more happiness…just pain and suffering. If only things had been different.
She cried for what felt like hours, then she brushed her face and told herself to figure out a way to let it all go. The relationship was over, she thought as her heart broke. All her dreams, her plans for the future. Khalil didn’t love her, didn’t even want her. She didn’t know if he’d really been making love with Amber or not, but Dora knew that the young woman in question was determined to win Khalil. Dora had no way to stop her. And if not this stunning creature, then surely another would claim Khalil. He was a prize, the kind of man any woman would desire.
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