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The Sheik and the Christmas Bride Susan Mallery 2022/8/5 16:56:49

Kayleen ducked her head. Guilt quickly turned to shame as she realized she was not the person she’d always thought. “I’m not sick. It’s nothing. I just…I can’t…I have to go. Please excuse me.”

She turned and ran, but no matter how fast she went, she couldn’t escape herself.

As’ad finished with his tie and reached for his jacket. The door to his suite burst open and Lina stepped inside. He raised his eyebrows.

“I did not hear you knock,” he said mildly, in too good a mood to mind the intrusion. Last night he had shown Kayleen the possibilities. She would quickly realize that returning to the convent school was not the right path for her. She would want to stay in the world—in his world. All would be well and very shortly she would come and thank him.

Perhaps they could continue to be lovers, he thought absently. He had enjoyed his time in her bed. She had been passionate and responsive. Just thinking about her soft cries made him want her again. They could pleasure each other and—

“I can’t believe it,” Lina said, stepping in front of him, her expression stern. “I can’t believe you did it.”

He shrugged into his jacket. “Did what?”

“You slept with Kayleen.”

He shrugged. “It is not for you to criticize.”

“What?” Her voice was high-pitched and carried a tone that warned him there was danger ahead.

He decided to change tactics. “Kayleen is nearly twenty-five. While it is very kind of you to be concerned about her welfare, she is more than capable of taking care of herself.”

Lina put her hands on her hips. “Are you kidding me? That’s it? That’s all you have to say? As’ad, you are a prince. You defiled a virgin under the king’s roof. You don’t get to escape by telling me she’s an adult and therefore responsible for her decisions.”

Defiled a virgin? Did she have to say it like that? He shifted uncomfortably. “I did not take anything that wasn’t offered.”

“Oh, there’s an excuse.”

“Lina, you will not speak to me this way.”

“Of course I will.” She glared at him, her outrage clear. “As’ad, I am Kayleen’s friend. I brought her into this house. I’m responsible for her.”

“You wanted me to marry her.”

“I considered it a possibility. I thought you would be a good match. You weren’t supposed to take her virginity. She was raised by nuns. She’s nearly twenty-five and has had what, a dozen dates?”

He refused to feel guilty. He was Prince As’ad and because of that, whatever he chose to do was the right thing. And yet there was a nagging voice in the back of his head that pointed out he hadn’t thought things through.

“She planned to return to the convent school,” he told Lina. “She was going to bury herself there.”

“So you decided to change that? If you don’t want her, who are you to destroy her life?”

“Her life is not destroyed.” He resented the implication. “I honored her.”

“Oh, please. It was never for you to decide what she did with her life. It was never for you to judge. You took the one thing she would want to give her husband. Now she can’t go back to the convent school and you’ll have no use for her. Then what? She’s ruined, As’ad, and you did it. Kayleen isn’t the type to take that lightly. She had choices before. You’ve taken them away from her.”

He turned from his aunt and walked to the French doors leading to the balcony. While Lina made things more dramatic than they needed to be, he understood her point.

He’d wanted Kayleen and he’d taken her. It had happened before—dozens of times. Hundreds. Women were always delighted to be with him. But there was a large difference between them and Kayleen. The women he enjoyed were experienced. They understood how the game was played. Kayleen didn’t even know there was a game.

She had given herself eagerly, sensually. She’d enjoyed their lovemaking. He’d opened her eyes to the possibilities, but he had also taken something that couldn’t be returned.

His aunt’s words echoed in his head. That he had defiled a virgin under the roof of the king. There was a time when, prince or not, such an offense would result in his death. Virginity was a prize to be given to a husband. It was a gift of honor. Something she had no more.

He turned back to Lina, intent on explaining, once again, that he’d only had Kayleen’s best interests in mind. That it was important that she not lock herself away and ignore the world. But was that his only motivation?

Had there been some part of him that had wanted to be her first time? Some part of him that had wanted to claim her for himself because he knew he could?