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The Sheik and the Christmas Bride Susan Mallery 2022/8/5 16:56:51

He cupped her chin, forcing her to look at him. “I assure you, my desire for you remains as fiery as ever.”

There was a light in his eyes, a need she recognized. Her insides clenched and she found herself wanting to be with him again. The hurt faded.

“I took away your choices,” he told her. “I decided for you and that is wrong.”

“An apology is enough,” she muttered, wishing she could look away from his intense gaze.

“Marriage is a pretty high price to pay for poor judgment.”

One corner of his mouth lifted. “I said I was wrong to decide for you. I never said there was anything wrong with my judgment.”

He released her chin only to take her hand in his. “Kayleen, I am a man in need of a wife. I need someone who understands what it is to give with her whole heart, who will love the girls and El Deharia and my people. I need someone who cares more about what is right than the latest fashions or how many pieces of jewelry she has in her possession. A woman I can respect, who will stand up to me and yet be by my side. I need you.”

She heard the words. Her heart was still beating, she could hear that, too, and feel his hand on hers. And yet it was like she’d left her body and was watching the moment from somewhere else. Because there was no way this was really happening to her. Princes didn’t propose to her. Normal guys didn’t even want to date her.

“Do you doubt my sincerity?” he asked. “I cannot promise to be the most perfect husband, but I will try to be all you wish me to be. I need you, Kayleen. Only you.”

Need. The word was magic. To be needed meant to never be abandoned. She would have a home, a husband, a family. As Lina had pointed out, she could help people and make a difference in the world. Her—some no-name kid whose only family had dumped her on the steps of an orphanage and left her forever.

“I can’t be a princess,” she blurted without thinking. “I don’t even know who my father is. What if he’s in prison or worse? I told you about my mother. She abandoned me. My grandmother didn’t want me, either. What if there’s something hideously wrong with me?”

“There is not. There never could be.” As’ad drew her hand to his mouth and kissed her fingers. “I know you,” he told her. “That is enough. I know your character and you are more than I could ever wish for. I would be proud to have you as my wife. Marry me, Kayleen. Marry me and adopt the girls. We will be a family together. We need you.”

There was only one answer, she thought as her eyes filled with tears. Happy tears, she reminded herself as she nodded.

“Yes,” she whispered. “Yes, I’ll marry you.”

He leaned in and kissed her. She started to respond, but then he straightened and removed something from his jacket pocket. Seconds later, he slipped a massive diamond ring onto her finger.

She stared down at the center stone. It was nearly as big as a dinner plate. It glittered and shimmered and was unlike anything she had ever seen.

“Do you like it?” he asked.

“I don’t know if I can live up to it,” she admitted. “I think the ring is a little too smug for me. What if it calls me names behind my back?”

He chuckled. “This is why you delight me.”

“Seriously, As’ad. I own two pairs of earrings, a cross necklace and a watch. I don’t think I can wear this.”

“What if I told you I picked that stone specifically and had it set for you? The diamond belonged to an ancestor of mine. A queen known for speaking her mind and ruling both her people and her husband with wisdom and love. She was admired by all. She lived a long time and saw many grandsons born. I think she would have liked you very much.”

As he spoke, the ring seemed to glow a little brighter. The last of Kayleen’s fears faded and she knew she had finally found the place she was supposed to be.

As planned, As’ad went to Kayleen’s suite after work that evening. She and the girls were waiting, although only Kayleen knew the nature of the announcement.

He walked in to a domestic scene, with Dana and Nadine both absorbed in their homework and Pepper on Kayleen’s lap. The little girl read aloud.

As’ad took in the moment, thinking how it looked like a styled photograph. They were his responsibility now—all of them.

His gaze settled on the woman he would marry. Over the years he hadn’t given much thought to his bride and he never would have imagined someone like Kayleen. But now that she was here—in his life—he knew he had made an excellent choice. She would suit him very well.