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

He took her hard and fast, as if daring her to keep up. She accepted him easily, letting each plunging, rubbing pulse take her higher and higher. She pulled her knees back, then locked her legs around his hips, drawing him in deeper.

Faster and more, pushing and straining until her release was only a heartbeat away.

He spoke her name. She looked up and saw him watching her.

Three simple words, but they were enough to send her spiraling out of control. She lost herself in her release, screaming as the pleasure claimed her. He pushed in twice more, then groaned the end of his journey.

The waves of their pleasure joined them and they clung to each other until the earth stopped moving and their bodies were finally at rest.

Kayleen let herself into her suite shortly after midnight. She felt happy and content and as if she could float. Or do the whole veil dance again!

Rather than turn on a light, she crossed to the balcony and stepped out into the night. The air had a slight chill, but she didn’t care. All she had to do was think about how much As’ad had wanted her and she got all hot inside.

The evening had been magical and she didn’t want to forget any part of it. If there were—

The sound of a chair moving caught her attention. She turned and saw something sitting in the shadows. The light from a cigarette glowed briefly.

“Well, well, aren’t you a bit of surprise.” Her mother’s voice was low and tight with something Kayleen didn’t recognize. “I thought you were just a silly girl who’d gotten lucky, but I was wrong. You just have a different game you play.”

Kayleen faced her. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“That innocent, country-mouse act is a good one. I’ll bet your prince fell for it in a heartbeat.”

“I’m not acting. All of this is real.”

Darlene laughed. “Don’t try to play me. I invented the game. I’m saying I respect your tactics. They wouldn’t work for me, but they obviously work.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s late. I’m going to bed.”

“You’ve already been to bed. What you’re going to do this time is sleep. Am I wrong?”

“I’m not discussing this with you.” She wouldn’t allow the other woman to turn her amazing evening into something ugly.

“You made one mistake, though. Falling in love with him makes you vulnerable and that means you can make a wrong move. It’s better to stay detached. Safer.”

“I’m marrying As’ad. I’m supposed to love him.”

Her mother laughed again. “Just don’t go expecting him to love you back. Men like him don’t. Ever.” She inhaled on her cigarette. “That’s my motherly advice to you. A little late, but no less valuable.”

“Good night,” Kayleen told her and walked back into her room.

Her good mood had faded, which she hated, but worse were the doubts. Was her mother right about As’ad? Kayleen needed him to love her. She hadn’t realized it mattered, but it did. And if he couldn’t…

She walked into her bedroom and sank onto the mattress. If he couldn’t, how could she marry him?

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K ayleen huddled in the chair in Lina’s living room and did her best to keep breathing. She’d recently discovered that terror and anxiety tended to make her hold her breath. Then she ended up gasping, which was not attractive or likely to make herself feel better.

“She’s hideous,” she moaned. “Isn’t it enough that she abandoned me when I was a baby? Does she have to show up now?”

Lina patted her hand. “I am so sorry. My brother thought he was helping. Truly.”

“I know. I’ve already mentally flogged myself for not telling the truth, but I just hate talking about my biological family. It’s pathetic to be abandoned twice. What does that say about me?”

“That you rose above your circumstances. That you have great character and inner strength. That we are lucky to have you marrying into our family.”

Kayleen smiled. “You’re good.”

“Thank you. It’s a gift. Now about your mother…”

Kayleen’s smile faded. “I don’t want to think about her, but I have to. She’s everywhere. Lurking. She constantly shows up without warning. She has totally terrified the girls. Last night she made Pepper cry when she told her she was going to have to be smart in life because she wasn’t that pretty. Pepper wanted to hit her and I almost let her. Who says that to a little girl? Pepper’s adorable. I can forgive her being mean to me, but to little kids? Never.”