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

“Do you want me to tell her to leave the country?” Lina asked. “I will. I can be very imperious. We can ship her back on the next plane.”

Kayleen was tempted. Very tempted. “I can’t tell you how much I want to say yes. It’s just…she’s my mother. Shouldn’t I try to have a relationship with her? Don’t I owe her?”

“Only you can answer that. Although I must ask what you owe her for. Giving birth? You didn’t ask to be born. That was her choice. And with having a child, comes responsibility. If she didn’t want to be bothered, she should have given you up for adoption.”

“I wonder why she didn’t,” Kayleen said. What would her life have been like if she’d been raised by a couple who wanted a child? She couldn’t begin to imagine.

“Who knows. Perhaps the paperwork was too complicated for her tiny brain.”

Kayleen grinned. “I like that. But it still leaves me with the issue of what to do with her. While I appreciate your offer to get rid of her, that doesn’t feel right to me. I think I have to try and make a real connection with her, no matter how different we are. I’ll deal with her for another week. If we can’t find some common ground and she’s still acting awful, then I’ll take you up on your offer.”

“You’re giving her more chances than I would, but you have a kinder heart.”

“Or more guilt.” She sighed. “You don’t suppose As’ad thinks I’m anything like her, do you?”

“Of course not. We can’t pick our relatives. Don’t worry—he doesn’t blame you for your mother.”

“I hope not.” She rose. “All right. I need to go make good on my word and try to spend time with Darlene.”

“Let me know how it goes.”

Kayleen walked down a flight of stairs to her suite. She paused at the door, then moved to the next one and knocked.

She walked into her mother’s suite and found her at the dining room table, sipping coffee. There was a plate of toast and some fruit in a bowl.

Breakfast, she thought, trying not to judge. It was after eleven.

“Oh, there you are,” Darlene said by way of greeting. “I just received the most delightful note from the king. I’m invited to a formal party. Something diplomatic. It sounds fabulous. I’ll need something to wear. Can you take care of that?”

Kayleen sat across from her at the table. “Sure. One of the boutiques is sending over some dresses. If you give me your size information, I’ll have them send over some for you.”

Darlene smiled. “I like the service here.”

Despite the fact that she hadn’t been up very long, Darlene was perfectly made-up, with her hair styled. She wore a silk robe that clung to her curves. She looked beautiful, in a brittle sort of way.

“I thought maybe we could spend some time together,” Kayleen told her. “Get to know each other. Catch up.”

Darlene raised her eyebrows. “What do you want to know? I got pregnant at sixteen, left you with my mother and took off for Hollywood. I landed a few guest spots on soaps and a few prime-time shows, which paid the bills. Then I met a guy who took me to Las Vegas. You can make a lot more money there. Which I did. But time isn’t a woman’s friend. I need to secure my future. I wasn’t sure how that was going to happen, when I heard from your king. Now I’m here.”

Kayleen leaned toward her. “I’m your daughter. Don’t you want to at least be friends?”

Darlene studied her for a long time. “You have a very soft heart, don’t you?”

“I’ve never thought about it.”

“You took in those girls. Now you’re adopting them. You’re going to be exactly the kind of wife As’ad wants.”

“I love him. I want him to be happy.”

Darlene nodded slowly. “You like it here? In El Deharia?”

“Of course. It’s beautiful. Not just the city, but out in the desert. I’m learning the language, the customs. I want to fit in.”

Darlene lit a cigarette. Her gaze was sharp, as if she were trying to figure something out. “The king is nice.”

“He’s very kind and understanding.”

“Interesting. Those aren’t the words I would have used.” Her mother sipped her coffee. “Yes, Kayleen, I would like us to be friends. I just showed up here, which had to have been a shock. I’ve only been thinking of myself. I’m sorry for that.”

“Really?” Kayleen was surprised, but pleased to hear the words. “That’s okay. You’ve had a difficult life.”