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The Sheik and the Christmas Bride Susan Mallery 2022/8/5 16:56:53

Kayleen hugged her tight. “It’s not wrong to miss them. Of course you do. This is all new and different. You want to share what’s happening and you want the comfort of what’s familiar. I don’t blame you at all. You’ve been so brave, sometimes I forget you’re not all grown-up.”

“Because all this is different?”

Dana buried her face in Kayleen’s shoulder. “We don’t want you to go away.”

“Promise? Not ever? No matter what?”

“We will always be together. As’ad and I are getting married. We’re going to be a family.”

Dana looked at her. “If you leave him, you’ll take us with you?”

Kayleen smiled. “I’m not leaving.”

“You could. People leave.”

“I won’t, but if something happens and I do, I’ll take all three of you with me. I promise.”

Dana wiped her face. “Okay. I trust you.”

“Good, because I love you.”

Dana sniffed. “Really?”

“Really. You and Nadine and Pepper. I love you all so much. I always wanted girls and now I have three.”

Dana hugged her hard. Kayleen held her, willing her to feel safe, to know she, Kayleen, would always protect her. At last Dana straightened.

“I’m better,” she said as she slid to her feet.

“I’m glad. I’m always here, if you need to talk or anything. Just tell me. Okay?”

Dana nodded and left. Kayleen stood and smoothed the front of the dress. “We know it wrinkles,” she said to herself.

As’ad stepped into the dressing room. He stood behind her and put his hands on her shoulders.

“I heard your conversation with Dana,” he told her, meeting her gaze in the mirror.

“Do you disapprove?” she asked.

“Not at all. You reassured her and she will reassure her sisters.” One corner of his mouth turned up. “Perhaps you could have hesitated before agreeing you would probably leave me.”

“I never said that. I won’t. Marriage is forever for me.”

“As it is for me,” he told her, then turned her to face him. “You are an excellent mother. That pleases me. For the girls and the sons to follow.”

“You do realize that you’re technically responsible for the gender of any children we have. That if I have girls, it’s your fault?”

He smiled. “Yes, I know. Although I would remind you I am one of six brothers. So the odds are in my favor.”

She wanted to mention that a healthy child should be enough, regardless of gender. But what was the point? As’ad was a prince and a sheik. He was arrogant, but he was also kind and charming and she didn’t want to change anything about him.

“Are you enjoying shopping?” he asked.

“It’s a lot of work. I’m not really used to this level of service.”

“You will become accustomed to it.”

“Maybe. Do I really need all these clothes? It seems excessive.”

“I get that, but still…”

“You represent El Deharia. The people have expectations.”

Oh. Right. How long would that take to get used to? “Then it’s fine,” she told him.

“So you will do what is necessary for my people but not for me.”

He bent down and kissed the side of her neck. Her insides clenched in response.

“I see I have to teach you to respect me,” he murmured, his mouth moving against her skin.

He wrapped his arms around her waist and drew her back against him. He was warm and hard and she loved the feel of him so close.

She wanted this to be real—all of it. The girls as her family and As’ad as the man she loved more than anyone else. She wanted him to feel the same way. She wanted to make him weak at the knees and be all to him. If only…

He turned her to face him. “When we return to the palace I wish to discuss finances with you,” he told her. “You and the girls will always be taken care of. Even if something should happen to me, you will be financially secure. The palace will always be your home, but should you wish to live elsewhere, money would be made available.”

He didn’t have to do that. She wasn’t marrying him for the money. “I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“Neither do I. Regardless, you are protected. Now that we are engaged, I have opened a bank account for you. As you spend money, more will be provided. I will give you credit cards, as well.” He touched her face. “I want you to be happy, Kayleen. Go shopping as you like.”