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

“He is a good man?” the other woman asked at last.

It wasn’t the question Kayleen had expected. “Um, yes. A very good man. A little too used to getting his way, but that must come with being royal.”

“He takes care of you and the girls?”

An interesting question. “Yes, I can. I want to.”

“Then I am pleased. I always wanted a husband and a family for you, Kayleen. I know you longed to return here, to the familiar, but sometimes we find our happiness in unexpected places. To love and be loved is a great blessing. Enjoy what you have and know I am always thinking of you.”

“Thank you,” Kayleen whispered, feeling the words wash over her like a blessing.

“Follow your heart and you will never be led astray. Follow your heart, child.”

Kayleen nodded. She could already feel her heart drawing her toward As’ad. As he was the man she would marry, it was a journey she longed to make. To a place where she would finally belong.

K ayleen looked at all the designs spread out on the large dining room table. “You’re kidding,” she said.

“This is only from today’s mail,” Lina told her with a sigh. “I never thought anything I did would make designers notice me. I certainly buy nice clothes, but I’m not that into fashion. Besides, I gave up being trendy years ago. But the second Hassan announced our engagement, I started getting calls.” She flipped through the sketches of wedding gowns. “He was supposed to wait, you know. He promised.” She sounded more exasperated than actually annoyed.

“He said he couldn’t stand to keep his happy news a secret,” Kayleen told her with a smile. “I saw the news conference. He was giddy.”

Lina grinned. “Don’t tell him that. He’ll explain that a king is never giddy.”

“He was this one time. I’m glad you’re so happy.”

“Me, too.” Lina sighed. “I’ve really liked my life. I’ve been blessed. Even though I lost my husband so early, I had my brother’s sons to fill the void. I was okay with that. I was going to grow old taking care of their children. Now, suddenly, I’m in love and engaged. I still can’t believe it.”

Kayleen glanced at Lina’s ring—the diamonds glittering on the platinum band made her engagement ring look like a tiny toy. “You’re going to have to start exercising more if you’re going to carry that around all day.”

Lina laughed. “I know. It’s huge. So not my taste, but if you’d seen the look on Hassan’s face when he put it on my finger. He was so proud. How am I supposed to tell him I’d like something smaller than a mountain?”

“If it doesn’t really matter to you, you don’t.”

“You’re right.” Lina picked up a design and studied it. “You’re going to have to go through all this as soon as your wedding is announced.”

“Hopefully on a much smaller scale,” Kayleen told her, knowing being royal was going to take a lot of getting used to. “I only ever wanted to belong to a family. Now I have a whole country.”

“I’m not that interested in the perks.”

“Which is why I’m glad As’ad picked you,” Lina told her. “I know you’re not in it for the money.” She set down the design and picked up another. “I’ll admit I’m hoping you’ll fall in love with him.”

Kayleen felt herself blush. “I’ve thought about it,” she admitted. “He’s a good man. Thoughtful and kind. He really cares about the girls. He takes care of things. He makes me feel safe. I know I like him, but love? What does that feel like?”

“Like you can hold the stars in the palm of your hand,” Lina said, then laughed. “I sound foolish.”

“I am. Hassan is my world. Oh, I know that will change, we’ll settle into something more normal. But for now, I’m enjoying the magic. The way my heart beats faster when he walks in a room. The way he can take my breath away with a simple kiss. I only want to be with him.”

“So I’m boring you?” Kayleen teased.

Lina laughed. “Not exactly. But I think about him all the time. It was different before. When I was young. I loved my husband, but I didn’t appreciate what I had. Now that I’m older, I understand how precious love is. How rare.” She turned to Kayleen. “I think you already know that, because of how you grew up.”

“I know it’s something I want. It’s important to me. I want to love As’ad. I already love the girls.”