Page 53

The Sheik and the Christmas Bride Susan Mallery 2022/8/5 16:56:54

“I’m glad we only have to do that a few times a year,” she said. “I couldn’t stand it.”

“You will grow more used to this as the girls are in more performances.”

“I don’t want to think about it. I’m not sure my heart could take it.”

“Then brace yourself. There is one more surprise yet to come.”

She turned to him. “What are you talking about?”

“You’ll see. All will be revealed when we leave here.”

Kayleen really wanted to whine that she wanted to know now, but managed to keep quiet. She fidgeted until the last song ended, then followed As’ad out of the auditorium. Only to step into an impossible-to-imagine scene of snow.

It fell from the sky, cold and wet and delightful. The children were already outside, running and screaming. Kayleen held out her hands, then laughed as the snow landed on her palms.

“It’s real,” she said.

As’ad shrugged. “Dana mentioned missing snow, as did the other girls. I thought they would enjoy this.”

It was only then that Kayleen noticed the roar of the large snow-making machine off to the side of the parking lot.

“You arranged it?” she asked, stunned by the thoughtful gift.

“Neil arranged it. I simply gave the order.”

It wasn’t just simple, she thought. As’ad had thought about the girls, about how this time of year would be difficult for them, and he’d done his best to make it better.

Dana came running up to them. “It’s snowing! I can’t believe it.”

She flung herself at As’ad, who caught her and held her. Then Nadine was there and Pepper and he was holding all of them.

Kayleen watched them, her eyes filling with happy tears. It was a perfect moment, she thought.

Her chest ached, but not in a scary way. Instead it seemed that her heart had grown too big to hold all her emotions. Light filled her until she was sure it poured from her body.

The world around them shrank until there was only As’ad and the children he held. She wanted to hold that moment forever, to never forget the image or the feelings.

The director of the school came up to greet them and the spell was broken. Dana crossed to Kayleen and hugged her.

“Isn’t this the best?”

“It’s wonderful,” Kayleen told her. “All of it. You did really well. I was scared, but you didn’t seem nervous at all.”

“It was fun,” Dana said. “I’ve never been in a play before. I like it. I think I want to go into drama next year.” She raised her face to the snow. “Can you believe this?”

Kayleen looked at the tall, handsome prince who had asked her to marry him. The man who spoke of their life together, of children and who made it snow in the desert because it brought a smile to a child’s face.

“No, I can’t,” she admitted, even as she realized she now knew exactly what it felt like to be in love.

As’ad watched the children play in the snow and was pleased with his gift. All was going well. Lina had told him to pay attention to the females in his life—that for a small amount of effort, he would receive much in return. She had been right.

He heard Kayleen’s laughter and found her in the crowd. With her hair like fire and her hazel eyes, she was a brightly colored flamingo in a flock of crows. He was proud to have her as his bride. She would provide him with strong, healthy sons and serve the people of his country well. She would keep him satisfied at night and, if the emotions he’d seen in her eyes earlier told the truth, love him.

He knew it was important for a woman to love her husband. That life was much easier for them both when her heart was engaged. He had hoped Kayleen would come around and she had. She would be content in their marriage, as would he. He could not ask for more.

“I’m exhausted,” Kayleen said as she slumped in the back of the limo. “All that worrying, then the snowball fight. If this keeps up much more, I’m going to have to start working out.”

“I do not wish you to change anything about yourself,” As’ad told her.

Words to make her heart beat faster, she thought as he pulled her into his arms and kissed her.

At the first brush of his mouth, her entire body stirred in anticipation. She was eager to taste him, touch him, be with him. Unfortunately the trip back to the palace was only a few minutes.

“Perhaps later,” he murmured, kissing her mouth, her cheeks, her jaw.

“Yes,” she whispered. “I am very available.”

“An excellent quality.”

Far too soon, they arrived at the palace. A royal guard opened the passenger door and As’ad stepped out. He held out his hand to her. As she took it, she saw King Mukhtar in the courtyard. He seemed very pleased with himself as he spoke with a woman Kayleen had never seen before.