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The Sheik and the Christmas Bride Susan Mallery 2022/8/5 16:56:41

As’ad took one of the chairs opposite the desk and shook his head. “It is all Lina’s doing. She insisted I go to the orphanage to prevent a nun from jumping off a roof.”

“Never mind. There was no nun. Only a teacher.”

A small kitten who had spit in fury and outrage. He smiled at the memory of Kayleen’s determination.

“Three American girls were there,” he said. “Their father was born here. When their mother died, he brought them back and then he was killed. Tahir heard of their situation and wanted to take them back to his village.”

“Admirable,” the king said. “Three orphaned girls would be of no value. Tahir is a good man.”

“Yes, well, their teacher didn’t share your admiration. She insisted the girls could not be separated, nor could they give up their education to be servants.”

“Without family, what choice did the girls have? Tahir would have given them the honor of his name.”

“I agree,” As’ad said. “Yet that, too, was lost on their teacher. She attacked Tahir.”

The king’s eyebrows rose. “She lives?”

“She’s small and apparently did him no harm.”

“She is lucky he didn’t insist on punishing her.”

“I suspect he was pleased to find a way out of the situation.”

“So you solved the problem by taking the girls.”

“Yes, and their teacher, who will be responsible for them.” He looked at his father. “They are charming girls,” he said, hoping it was true. “Almost like granddaughters for you.”

The king stroked his beard. “Then I will visit them and their teacher. As’ad, you did the right thing. This pleases me. Obviously you are settling down as you grow older. Well done.”

As’ad kept his voice respectful. Lina was right. Now As’ad would be spared the royal matchmaking for a while.

“What is she like, this teacher?” the king asked. “Is she of good character?”

“Lina thinks so.” He was nearly convinced himself. Her sad history could have made her hard or bitter. Instead she led with her heart.

“Have you any interest in her yourself?”

As’ad stared at his father. “In what way?”

“As a wife. We already know she likes children and is willing to face a chieftain to protect her charges. Is she pretty? Would she do for one of your brothers?”

As’ad frowned. Pretty? Kayleen? “She is not unattractive,” he said slowly, remembering how she’d looked the previous night with her long hair glowing like fire. “There is a spark in her. A pureness.”

Pureness? Where had that thought come from?

“I wonder what she thinks of the desert,” the king mused. “Perhaps she would do for Kateb.”

“She would not,” As’ad said sharply, suddenly irritated, although he could not say why. “Besides, I need her to care for my daughters. Find my brothers’ brides elsewhere.”

“As you wish,” the king said easily. “As you wish.”

As’ad stared at the three bridge proposals in front of him. While each provided the necessary access, they couldn’t be more different. The cheapest bid offered a utilitarian design while the other two had an architectural element that would add to the beauty of the city. There were—

His phone buzzed. He stared at it a second, then pushed the intercom. “I said I was not to be disturbed.”

“I understand, sir. Your orders were very clear.” His normally calm assistant sounded…flustered. “It’s just, there’s someone here to see you. A young woman. Kayleen James. She says she is the nanny for your children?”

The slight rise in Neil’s voice probably came from the fact that he wasn’t aware As’ad had any children.

“I’ll explain it all later,” As’ad told him. “Send her in.”

Seconds later Kayleen walked into his office. As she moved across the open space, he took in the plain brown dress that covered her from the neck to down past her knees, and the flat, sensible shoes. She’d pulled her hair back in a braid. Her pale skin looked bare, and although her eyes were large, she did nothing to enhance her features. Even her earrings, tiny gold crosses, provided little adornment.

He was used to women who took the time and made the effort to be as beautiful as possible. Women who dressed in silk, who showed skin, who smelled of enticing perfumes and glittered with diamonds. Did Kayleen not care for such adornments or had she not had the opportunity to dress that way?

She could, he acknowledged, easily transform herself into a beauty. The basics were already in place—the perfect bone structure in her face, the large eyes, the full mouth.