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The Sheik and the Christmas Bride Susan Mallery 2022/8/5 16:56:38

Lina held in a smile—she already knew what was coming. “Of course it would.”

“However, you do not have my restrictions of rank and power.”

“Isn’t that amazing.”

“You could get involved. You know my sons very well.” His gaze narrowed. “You’ve been thinking about this for some time, haven’t you?”

“I’ve made a few notes about a couple of women I think would be really interesting for my nephews to get to know.”

He smiled slowly. “Tell me everything.”

P rince As’ad of El Deharia expected his world to run smoothly. He hired his staff with that expectation, and for the most part, they complied. He enjoyed his work at the palace and his responsibilities. The country was growing, expanding, and he oversaw the development of the infrastructure. It was a compelling vocation that took serious thought and dedication.

Some of his friends from university thought he should use his position as a prince and a sheik to enjoy life, but As’ad did not agree. He didn’t have time for frivolity. If he had one weakness, it was his affection for his aunt Lina. Which explained why he agreed to see her when she burst into his offices without an appointment. A decision, he would think many weeks later, that caused him nothing but trouble.

“As’ad,” Lina said as she hurried into his office, “you must come at once.”

As’ad saved his work on the computer before asking, “What is wrong?”

“Everything.” His normally calm aunt was flushed and trembling. “There is trouble at the orphan school. A chieftain is in from the desert. He’s demanding he be allowed to take three sisters. People are fighting, the girls don’t want to go with him, the teachers are getting involved and one of the nuns is threatening to jump from the roof if you don’t come and help.”

As’ad rose. “Why me?”

“You’re a wise and thoughtful leader,” Lina said, not quite meeting his gaze. “Your reputation for fairness makes you the obvious choice.”

Or his aunt was playing him, As’ad thought, staring at the woman who had been like a mother to him for most of his life. Lina enjoyed getting her way and she wasn’t above using drama to make that happen. Was she this time? Although he couldn’t imagine why she would need his help at a school.

She bit her lower lip. “There really is trouble. Please come.”

Theatrics he could ignore, but a genuine request? Not possible. He walked around his desk and took her arm to lead her out of his office. “We will take my car.”

Fifteen minutes later As’ad wished he’d been out of the country when his aunt had gone looking for assistance. The school was in an uproar.

Fifteen or so students huddled in groups, crying loudly. Several teachers tried to comfort them, but they, too, were in tears. An elderly chieftain and his men stood by the window, talking heatedly, while a petite woman with hair the color of fire stood in front of three sobbing girls.

As’ad glanced at his aunt. “No one seems to be on the roof.”

“I’m sure things have calmed down,” she told him. “Regardless of that detail, you can clearly see there is a problem.”

He returned his gaze to the woman protecting the girls. “She doesn’t look like a nun,” he murmured, taking in the long, red hair and the stubborn expression on her face.

“Kayleen is a teacher here,” his aunt said, “which is very close to being a nun.”

Lina brushed away the accusation with a flick of her hand. “I may have exaggerated slightly.”

“You are fortunate we have let go of the old ways,” he told his aunt. “The ones that defined a woman’s conduct.”

His aunt smiled. “You love me too much to ever let harm befall me, As’ad.”

Which was true, he thought as he walked into the room.

He ignored the women and children and moved over to the tall old man.

“Tahir,” he said, nodding his head in a gesture of respect. “You do not often leave the desert for the city. It is an honor to see you here now. Is your stay a long one?”

Tahir was obviously furious, but he knew his place and bowed. “Prince As’ad. At last a voice of reason. I had hoped to make my journey to the city as brief as possible, but this, this woman—” he pointed at the redhead still guarding the children “—seeks to interfere. I am here because of duty. I am here to show the hospitality of the desert. Yet she understands nothing and defies me at every turn.”

Tahir’s voice shook with outrage and fury. He was not used to being denied and certainly not by a mere woman. As’ad held in a sigh. He already knew nothing about this was going to be easy.