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The Sheik and the Christmas Bride Susan Mallery 2022/8/5 16:56:44

“My head is spinning. Enough about this. Let’s change the subject.”

“All right.” Lina smiled slowly. “Hassan is coming here.”

Kayleen stared at her friend. “The king of Bahania? The one you’ve been talking to all this time?”

“I can’t believe it, either. I just…We were talking and he said he liked the sound of my laughter and now he’s coming here.”

Kayleen hugged her. “That’s wonderful. I’m so happy. You’ve been shut up in this palace for years. Good for you.”

“I’m scared,” Lina admitted. “I thought my life was all planned out. I helped my brother raise his sons, I have my charity work. I was waiting to be a great-aunt. Suddenly there’s this wonderful man offering me something I thought I’d lost. There are possibilities. Am I too old for possibilities?”

“Never,” Kayleen said fiercely. “The heart is never too old. At least it isn’t in all those romantic movies.”

“I hope not. I married young and I was so in love. Then he was killed and I never planned to love again. I’m the sister to the king. It’s difficult to date. After a while, I stopped wanting to. Then Hassan and I started talking and suddenly I’m alive again.” Lina took Kayleen’s hands. “I want this for you. I at least experienced falling in love when I was young, but you’ve never had that.”

Kayleen squirmed. “I’m not good with men.”

“You don’t try. How many dates did you go on before you gave up? Five? Six?”

Kayleen cleared her throat, then pulled her hands free. “One and a half.”

“You’re too young to lock yourself away in that convent school of yours.”

“Because I would meet so many men here at the palace?”

“You’d meet some. More than you would there. There are many young men in the palace. I would be happy to introduce you to one or two of them.”

“I don’t know…. I work for As’ad. As nanny to his children.”

“Why would he mind you dating?”

“He wouldn’t.” Not that she enjoyed admitting that truth.

“Then think about what I said. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to fall in love?”

As’ad looked up as his brother Qadir walked into his office. “I must speak with Neil about keeping out people who don’t have appointments.”

Qadir ignored that. “I am back from Paris, where the city is still beautiful, as are the women. You should have come with me. You have been locked up here working for far too long.”

As’ad had spent two sleepless nights unable to rest for the need burning inside. Worse, when he closed his eyes, the woman he saw satisfying his ache was Kayleen. An impossible situation. The nanny and a virgin?

“You are right, my brother,” he said as he rose and greeted Qadir. “I should have gone with you. There have been changes since you were last here.”

“I heard.” Qadir settled on a corner of his desk. “Three daughters? What were you thinking?”

“That I had been placed in an impossible situation and this was the easiest way out.”

“I find that hard to believe. There had to be another solution.”

“None was presented.”

Qadir shook his head. “To raise children that are not your own. At least they are girls.”

“There is the added advantage of our father now believing I am occupied with my new family and therefore cannot be expected to look for a wife.”

“Indeed. Perhaps now he will focus more of his attention on you.”

“He has already begun,” Qadir grumbled. “There is to be a state function in a few weeks. Several likely candidates are to be paraded before me, like very attractive cattle.”

As’ad grinned. “I, of course, will be busy with my family.”

As’ad turned the corner to walk to his rooms and saw all three girls huddled by his door. They wore riding clothes and boots. When they saw him they ran to him.

“You have to help!” Dana told him.

“It’s terrible. Please!” Nadine begged.

He stared at the three of them. “What happened?”

“We went riding,” Dana told him, her blue eyes wide and filled with fear and guilt. “We might have been gone longer than we were supposed to, but we were fine. We were only a little late. But Kayleen got worried and came after us, even though we had a groom with us. She went out by herself and she’s not back yet.”

Pepper brushed her hand across her face as she tugged on the bottom of his suit jacket. “She’s not a very good rider. She gets thrown a lot. What if she’s hurt and it’s all our fault?”