The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 1)(67) by Susan Mallery
Give him what he most desires.
Fatima’s words returned to her, echoing inside her head. She listened, then turned them over, but they didn’t make any more sense now than they had before. What could she possibly give Khalil? He was a handsome, rich prince, and she was a nobody.
Frustrated, Dora threw back the covers and pushed to her feet. She stormed across the room, heading for the balcony. The great emptiness inside of her grew until it threatened to swallow her. She was trapped in a sham of a marriage. She had no way out, no hope, no—
A slip of movement caught her attention, and she spun toward the shadow. There was little light in the bedroom, but Khalil had left on a floor lamp in the parlor. As she stared into the darkness, Dora realized that what had caught her eye was merely her own reflection in the mirror at her dresser. Her pale gown had shimmered slightly.
She paused to stare at herself, then reached up to brush her cheek. How different she looked, she thought with some surprise. Her time in El Bahar had changed her appearance, or maybe it was just her new life that affected her. Gone were the shyly lowered eyes, the deferential tilt of her head. Instead she stood tall, with an air of confidence about her. She’d slimmed down, and while she would never be fashionably thin, her top and bottom were now the same size. Her longer hair flattered her face, softening her features and making her look more approachable.
Sometime in the past few months, the small mouse had been transformed into a more self-sufficient creature. She didn’t see herself as the desert wildcat Khalil liked to call her, but she’d made definite improvements.
She walked over to her desk, to the stacks of folders there. Sometimes she worked in the evenings. There was so much to do, and it all took time. Meetings filled her schedule, and when she wasn’t busy with that, there were speeches to write, phone calls to make, not to mention her time with Khalil. She’d come a long way from the lonely virgin who ached to belong to someone.
Dora glanced around the spacious room, then clicked on the desk lamp so she could see more clearly. The luxurious furnishings no longer intimidated her. In fact, very little intimidated her. Even Amber’s harsh assessments of her life and her relationship with Khalil had wounded, but not destroyed. She was no longer Dora Nelson, doormat, she was Dora Khan, princess of El Bahar.
In a blinding flash of insight she could neither explain nor describe, she understood what Fatima had been talking about. She understood the one thing she could give to Khalil that he most desired. Her love.
She smiled as she shook her head. How simple. Why didn’t she see it before? Khalil wasn’t interested in an affair with Amber, and he didn’t want a showpiece for a wife. He needed and wanted an equal partner—someone who would match him in intelligence and drive, not to mention vision for El Bahar. She was all those things, not Amber. And even if the other woman was younger and prettier, Dora refused to believe their lovemaking could be any more satisfying than what she and Khalil shared. When he took her in his arms, she felt the magic as their intimacy bound them together in a biological and spiritual union that could not be destroyed.
Except…except he’d never once admitted he was wrong. He’d never apologized for what he did back when he seduced her and married her, and he’d never acknowledged his feelings. He’d never told her he loved her.
She sank onto the chair in front of the desk and rested her hand on the pile of papers there. It was a question of stubbornness and wills, she thought. Who would give in first? And if no one gave in, who would win?
“If I give in on this, I…”
Dora pressed her lips together. If she gave in, then what? Would Khalil suddenly walk all over her? Would she cease to be a deputy minister? Or would she achieve her heart’s desire?
“But I want him to be the one to bend,” she said aloud. “I want him…” She pressed her lips together. “I want him to love me back.”
She thought of how he’d persevered, coming to her room night after night and seducing her until she consented to make love with him. She thought of how she frustrated him by refusing to live in his quarters, yet he never displayed his irritation when they worked together. She thought of his pride when she’d been made deputy minister and how he was content to watch her take on the king when her ideas differed from Givon’s. On more than one occasion, he’d allowed her to speak for them both.
She thought of his attempts to woo her and how they spent evenings alone, just the two of them, reading or talking. She thought of the places he wanted to show her. She thought of how he teased her that he would only allow her to give him sons, yet how he liked to talk about having at least one daughter, or even two.
These were not the actions of a man who didn’t care, or even those of a man who had settled. Perhaps she had not been his chosen bride, but she was now his only wife. He had yielded in many ways. Was she going to risk it all to have him answer her demands?
She curled her fingers into her palm and as she did so, she felt something thick and hard under the papers. At first she wasn’t sure what it was, but as she cleared away the sheets, she smiled as she saw the ceremonial dagger that a visiting dignitary had given her the previous week. Not knowing what else to do with it, she’d been using it to open letters.
Now she stared at the gleaming blade and the gold handle. She touched the cool metal. How on earth was she going to talk to Khalil about their relationship? They needed to change the status quo, but she hated to give in nearly as much as he did.
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