The Sheik's Arranged Marriage(8)

By: Susan Mallery

He grimaced. There wasn’t enough time in eternity for him to get over Yasmin, but he wasn’t about to tell his father that. Nor would he share that his feelings for the woman weren’t what everyone thought.

Was King Givon considering arranging another match for his middle son? Jamal knew it was just a matter of time until he was expected to marry again. This time he would have to produce heirs. Unlike Khalil, he hadn’t met anyone and fallen in love. For him the woman he chose as his wife would simply be the lesser of two evils. Someone he could tolerate and perhaps even be friends with.

His gaze settled on his guest. So far, Heidi wasn’t an unappealing choice.

She caught him looking at her and gave him a tight, worried smile. Malik was wrong, he thought. She wasn’t a prune. She was actually somewhat cute.

There were footsteps in the hallway. Heidi pushed up her glasses then leaned toward him. “Remember,” she said. “Be rude. Ignore me. It’s what I really want.”

He nodded his agreement, all the while wondering what it was he really wanted.

Jamal was not taking her concerns seriously, Heidi thought later as one of the servants cleared the dinner plates. Worse, the evening was not going as she’d hoped. For one thing, Jamal was now sitting across from her.

Fatima, Jamal’s grandmother, and the king had been the first to arrive. They’d taken seats at opposite ends of the table. Then when Khalil and his wife, Dora, had walked into the dining room, Fatima had insisted that Jamal move so that husband and wife could sit across from each other. Which meant Jamal had shifted to the seat opposite hers. Where she’d been forced to stare at him for the entire meal. It was horrible.

She took a sip of her wine and tried not to let her frustration—not to mention her apprehension—show.

Fatima leaned close and patted the back of Heidi’s hand. “Now that you’re going to be living here, we can plan a trip to London and attend the theater together,” she said.

Heidi pressed her lips together. That sounded like a normal enough statement—one she could respond to without fear of Jamal being dragged into the conversation again. “I’d like that,” she said cautiously. Fatima was safe, she reminded herself. The king’s mother had always been a friend.

Heidi risked a smile at the older woman. Tonight Fatima wore an elegant evening suit in dark gold. The tailored jacket emphasized her slender but regal figure, while her upswept hairstyle gave her added inches of height. Her makeup was perfect and discreet; the pearls at her ears matched the triple strand around her neck. Fatima was all Heidi aspired to be—beautiful, confident and in control.

“Jamal is very fond of the arts,” Givon said, his voice carrying the length of the table and then some. “Theater, dance, music. He enjoys it all.”

The king’s comment was only one of a dozen extremely unsubtle attempts to show how much Jamal and Heidi had in common.

Khalil, Jamal’s younger brother, looked up and grinned. “It’s true. Jamal lives for the arts. He’s so fond of them, sometimes we even call him Art. As a nickname.”

Dora, sitting across from her husband, touched her napkin to her mouth. “Ignore them both,” she said. “Khalil has a wicked sense of humor, which is currently operating at your expense. I will discuss it with him later and make sure the torment of this evening is not repeated.”

Khalil, sitting on Heidi’s left, didn’t look the least bit concerned. “Are you threatening me, wife?”

Dora, a pretty brunette with warm, friendly eyes, smiled. “Absolutely. Heidi is a guest here. Be kind to her.”

“You’re not lecturing the king,” her husband said.

“I’m not married to the king.” Dora turned her attention to Heidi. “I suggest you don’t pay any attention to them. The men in this family mean well, but they can be a trial.”

Heidi smiled weakly at the gesture of friendship. She hadn’t met Dora before, but she thought she might like Khalil’s wife. At least Dora seemed to be the sensible type.

“I’m not a trial,” the king insisted.

“Yes, you are,” Fatima and Dora said at once.

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