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The Sheik and the Christmas Bride Susan Mallery 2022/8/5 16:56:52

“Good.” Her smile faded. “I just wish I knew I’d done the right thing.”

“Why would it be otherwise? As’ad proposed and Kayleen agreed. Now they will be thrown together even more. Who knows what might happen.”

He was so confident the outcome would be positive, but Lina wasn’t so sure. What if As’ad couldn’t open his heart to Kayleen? What if she stopped falling in love with him?

“I can see I do not have your full attention,” Hassan complained. “I forbid it to be so.”

She laughed. “You are not king here, sir. You are my guest.”

His dark eyes brightened with humor. “I have enjoyed being your guest. Spending time with you makes it difficult for me to consider going home. But I must.”

She didn’t want to think about that. “You have many sons to rule in your place.”

“For a time, but the ultimate responsibility is mine. I must also consider my people. I do not want them to believe I have abandoned them.”

“I know.” She didn’t want to think about that. She didn’t want Hassan to leave, but couldn’t ask him to stay. She looked at him. “I will miss you.”

“As I will miss you.” He squeezed her hand. “I suppose it would be presumptuous to ask that you could come with me to Bahania.”

She steeled herself against hope. “As a visit?”

He smiled. “No, my love. Not as a visit. It has been so long, I’m doing this badly.” He kissed her. “Lina, you are an unexpected treasure in my life. I did not think I would find love again. I certainly never expected to find such a beautiful, enticing woman such as yourself. Your physical perfection is only matched by the gloriousness of your spirit and your mind. You have bewitched me and I wish to be with you always. I love you and would be most honored if you would consider becoming my wife.”

Kayleen stood frozen on the garden path. She’d been walking as she did each morning, only to accidentally stumble into a personal moment.

At first she’d only heard the low rumble of voices and had thought nothing of them. There were often other people in the garden. Then she’d heard King Hassan say something about his people. The next thing she knew, he’d proposed.

Now she held her breath and looked desperately for a way to escape so they could be alone. She turned slowly, intent on creeping away, when Hassan spoke again.

“Tears are unexpected, Lina.”

“They’re happy tears. I love you so much. I never dreamed, either, that I could fall in love.”

“So you will be my queen.”

“Oh, dear. A queen. I never thought of that.”

“My people will adore you nearly as much I do. I have the added delight of knowing every part of you.”

There was a soft giggle and silence. Kayleen took advantage of their attention to each other and quietly moved away.

So Lina and the king had fallen in love. She was happy for them. The thought of her friend moving to Bahania was a little sad, but also exciting. Kayleen had never known a queen before.

She made her way back to her suite. As she climbed the wide staircase leading to the second floor, she paused, remembering the king’s emotional proposal and how happy Lina had been. Even from several feet away, Kayleen had felt the love they shared.

“I want to be in love,” Kayleen whispered. “With As’ad.”

She wanted to love the man she would marry and she wanted him to love her back. Could it happen? Was it possible? Or was she like a child, hoping to catch the moon?

As’ad walked into the suite Saturday morning. “Are you ready?” he asked.

The girls all called out that they were, while Kayleen hovered behind them. For some reason, she felt shy with As’ad. How strange. She’d never felt awkward with him before. Perhaps it was because they were engaged now. Everything was different, yet it was oddly the same.

“You never said what we were going to do,” Dana told him.

“I know. It’s a surprise.”

He crossed to Kayleen and smiled at her. “You are quiet.”

“I’m caught up in the moment.”

“You don’t know what the moment will be.”

“I’m sure it will be wonderful.”

“Such faith.” He captured her hand in his, then glanced down. “You do not wear my ring.”

She pulled her hand free and hid it behind her back. “I, um, thought it was best. After talking to Fayza and all.”

“From the protocol office. I think that’s where she’s from. She wanted to talk to me about the wedding and how to behave, now that I’m going to be, you know, a princess.”