Page 27

The Sheik and the Christmas Bride Susan Mallery 2022/8/5 16:56:46

That damn kiss, he thought grimly. It had created nothing but trouble. The second kiss had been worse. Now he knew the passion between them had not been brought on by too many nights alone. It flared as bright and hot as the sun. He ached to claim Kayleen’s body. But her innocence and position in his household made the situation complicated.

“To make a point,” he said with a casualness he didn’t feel.

“So that explains it,” Lina murmured. “You have no feelings for her yourself.”

None that he would admit to. “No.”

“So if I wanted to introduce her to a pleasant young man, you would be agreeable?”

“I would,” he lied, picturing himself ripping off the man’s head. “But it will not be an issue.”

“You’re saying I don’t know any young men, but you are wrong. I know several. One is an American. I mentioned Kayleen to him and he thought he would like to meet her. Did you know it’s nearly Thanksgiving?”

“Thanksgiving. It’s an American holiday. I had forgotten myself, but the young man in question mentioned getting together with Kayleen that evening. They would both be missing home and could connect over that.”

Missing home. Kayleen would, he thought, and so would the girls. They would miss the traditional dinner.

“I will arrange it,” he told his aunt.

“Of course not. Thanksgiving dinner for her and the girls. A traditional meal. I’ll speak with the head chef right away.” He turned his attention back to his aunt. “As for your young American, I doubt he exists.”

“Perhaps, but he is not intended for Kayleen. You have other plans for her.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. But while we’re on the subject, Kayleen is lovely, isn’t she? I met her the first time I volunteered at the orphanage. She’d been here all of two weeks and yet had already settled in. I was impressed by her intelligence and her dedication to the children. She has many fine qualities.”

“I will not marry her.”

Lina narrowed her gaze. “No one has asked you to.” Her voice was level enough, but he saw the temper in her eyes.

“You would not ask,” he told her. “But you have gone out of your way to throw her in my path. Tell me, was Tahir a part of your plan? Did you arrange for him to come to the orphanage and set the events in motion?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, but if I did, I would point out Kayleen would be a good mother. Her sons would be strong. You have to marry someone. Why not her?”

Why indeed? A case could be made for his aunt’s logic. Kayleen may not have been born royal, but sometimes that was an advantage. She had an inner strength he respected—it was her heart that made him wary.

“She cares too much,” he told his aunt. “She is too emotional.”

“She leads with her heart. She deserves someone who can appreciate that.”

Lina studied him for several seconds, then nodded. “All right. That’s the one answer I can respect. It’s too bad. I think she would have been good for you. Then we’ll just have to find her someone else.”

“She is the children’s nanny.”

“She deserves more than just a job. You were right, there’s no young American man, but I’ll find her someone.” She rose and smiled. “Don’t worry, As’ad. While I’m finding Kayleen a husband, I’ll find you another nanny. You won’t be inconvenienced.”

Those should have been the words he wanted to hear, but something about them bothered him. Something he couldn’t define but that created a knot in the middle of his chest.

“What is it?” As’ad asked, staring at the thick, flat cutout.

Dana grinned. “It’s a turkey.”

He eyed the layers of paper. “It is a turkey that has met with some unfortunate circumstances.”

She giggled, then pulled the top over, creating a three-dimensional paper turkey. “It’s a decoration,” she told him. “They delivered a whole box of ’em. We can put them on the table and hang them from the ceiling.” She glanced up at the curved, fifteen-foot ceiling. “Okay, maybe not the ceiling. But we’ll put them all around.”

“This is tradition?” he asked.

“Uh-huh. Along with the leaves.”

The box with the flat paper turkeys had also included festive garlands in fall colors, along with silk leaves in red, brown and gold.

Pepper leaned over and grabbed a handful of leaves. “I’ll put these on the table. We can make a line down the center of the tablecloth. It’ll be pretty.”