The Sheik's Arranged Marriage(5)

By: Susan Mallery

She told herself she was not going to blush. The heat on her face was just…well…from being outside. That was it. She didn’t believe in blushing, mostly because she never got embarrassed. Her life didn’t lend itself to embarrassing moments. She was sensible.

“Your sons are all very nice,” she said with as much sincerity, not to mention diplomacy, as she could muster. “I don’t have a favorite.”

One of the princes? Was he kidding? They were all imperious and outgoing and far too bold for her. Khalil, the youngest, seemed to have settled down with a very nice wife. But Malik and Jamal were still wild, and they made her nervous. She didn’t especially want to marry, but when she did—for the sake of those imaginary children—it would be to a gentle man. Someone intellectual and kind. Someone who didn’t get into a lather about passion and touching. Someone with whom she could share a spiritual and mental relationship that was far more important than the physical.

“But you think Jamal’s handsome.”

Heidi drew in a deep breath. “He’s not unattractive. None of your sons are.”

How could they be? All taller than six feet. All with dark hair and burning eyes. Sort of a combination of James Bond and Rudolph Valentino. And she might have had one or two fantasies about Jamal when she was younger…much younger, but she’d outgrown that sort of thing.

Givon stood up and walked over to stand next to her. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and squeezed her close. “Good. Then you’ll sit next to him at dinner and consider what I’ve said. He needs to marry. You need to marry. It’s perfect.”

“It’s not perfect.”

But Givon wasn’t listening. “Fatima wants this, too,” he said. “You know my mother. When she gets her mind set on something, it’s impossible to talk her out of it.”

Heidi groaned. “Not Fatima, too. I can’t resist you both.”

The king grinned. “You’re right, so don’t even bother trying.” He kissed her cheek and was gone.

Heidi sank onto the floor, her back pressed against the mural. Fatima had been a second mother to her. With her Chanel clothes and her gracious manners, she was royalty personified. Elegant, intelligent, warm-hearted. Heidi had always thought that Fatima was the most perfect queen to ever grace El Bahar.

But behind the gracious manners and just-right makeup lurked a spine of steel and a resolve that could withstand an army.

Married? Heidi?

“I don’t even date,” she muttered aloud.

She’d tried it twice and had experienced exactly two disasters. She’d attended an all-girls high school, so her first date hadn’t occurred until college. She’d been invited to a frat party on a neighboring campus. No one had warned her that the fluffy coconut concoction had contained more rum than was healthy. After consuming three icy drinks in less than an hour, she’d found herself on her hands and knees, throwing up in the closest bathroom.

It had been her first experience with alcohol. Amazingly enough, her date had assumed her sickness meant she would be that much easier to force into bed. Before she’d realized what he was doing, she’d found herself on her back with her skirt up to her waist. Fortunately for her, if not for him, she’d thrown up yet again…all over him, herself and the bed. It had squashed his mood, and she’d made her escape. Her second attempt at dating had been worse.

No, she wasn’t interested in dating, let alone marriage, and she would make both very clear the second she laid eyes on Jamal Khan, Prince of El Bahar.

Chapter 2

“Just so we’re all clear,” Heidi said as she walked into the dining room that evening, “I’m not interested in getting married.”

The man sitting at the large table didn’t even have the grace to look shocked by her statement. Instead he smiled politely, rose to his feet and nodded.

“Thank you for clearing that up so quickly,” he said, his voice low and smooth.

Heidi felt a faint heat on her cheeks. She told herself it was from the exertion of her walk. After all, her room was some distance from the dining room. Also, she’d been walking quickly because she wanted to catch Jamal alone. Which he had been…and they now were.

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