The sheikhs accidental b.., p.9
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       The Sheikh's Accidental Bride, p.9
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         Part #2 of The Sheikh Wants A Wife series by Holly Rayner

  EIGHT

  A part of Nadya wanted to spend her every waking moment with Salman. But when they arrived back at the hotel, the part of her that was exhausted from the deception and needed a moment to breathe won out.

  “All right,” he said. “Then I’ll see you at eight?”

  She was confused – weren’t they meeting at 6:30? But then she saw him wink again.

  “Yes,” she agreed with a grin. “Eight sharp.”

  She went back to her suite-within-a-suite, intending to sleep. They’d gone to bed late the night before, and she’d woken up early in her failed bid to escape. Then between the bowling, the walking, the swimming and the stress of her little emotional breakdown, she’d tired herself out completely.

  Rudy’s would be an adventure, one way or another. Either they would get on well with it, and the two of them would be dancing all night, or it would all crumble around her, she’d be found out, and the night would be exhausting for all the wrong reasons. Regardless, she needed to be prepared.

  She turned on her phone, making sure to silence it, and avoided looking at all the missed calls and messages. She couldn’t deal with them right now. She set an alarm, got under the covers, and tried to drift off for a few hours.

  But her mind was too alive with worry and excitement, curiosity and fear. She felt like her body was buzzing; the nap she’d been fantasizing about was within her grasp, but her body wouldn’t let her.

  She needed to calm down and, after her dip in the lake, what she really needed was a shower. She’d already eyed up the giant bathtub in the bathroom. It was a thing of beauty, positioned directly underneath another skylight, all custom, modern curves and hidden jets. It was a wonder, Nadya thought in passing, that they were able to find room for a helipad on the roof with all the holes they’d poked through it for the sake of natural light.

  Around the tub were a wide variety of creams, oils and bubble baths. All fair trade, organic, exotic, or some combination of the above, no doubt. While the tub filled, she took her time selecting what she would use. She’d only get one chance at it, so she’d better make it good.

  She didn’t recognize some of the scents. Many of the labels were in Arabic, and she wondered if it was the hotel that had done it, or someone in Salman’s employ. Either way, the customized options were wasted on her. Eventually she stopped reading the labels entirely. She started flipping open the lids, making snap judgments, and putting them down again. She figured she’d go through all of them once, but she was no more than two-thirds of the way through when she hit one that made her stop. It was a familiar scent.

  She looked at the label. Honeysuckle. She’d made her decision. None of the others would do.

  She drizzled the oil in with the last of the water needed to fill the tub, and watched as the oil distorted the light flowing through to the water, making patterns on the bottom of the tub. Then she threw in some bubbles, just for fun. Why mess with a classic?

  She peeled off the clothes that Salman had loaned her, and slipped gracefully into the water. She felt her body warm from the heat of the water, and she felt her face warm from the sun through the skylight. She let go.

  She could get used to this, she thought. Maybe it was the heat of the water, and the quiet of the day, but the thought opened a door in her mind that she’d been dutifully trying to keep closed. She began to imagine what he life would be if she were really marrying him.

  She thought about moving into the house she’d seen today. She imagined standing out front of it, holding Salman’s hand as she had been earlier. But instead of seeing the house with a longing, knowing it would never be hers, she would be looking at it as her home.

  She imagined moving in her things. She’d only bring a few items with her – just mementos that reminded her of her family, or of times she’d shared with friends she rarely saw anymore. The rest of it, they’d fill together. Maybe on trips to exotic locales, or, maybe, she thought with a smirk, they’d go to Ikea, just to argue together as they’d joked.

  They’d build a little dock on the lake, so they could go out on it. Nadya couldn’t decide which she liked better: the idea of him and her in a rowboat, like they were in an old fashioned movie, or them in kayaks, racing and exploring. She’d win him over, eventually, and get him to swim. He mustn’t be much of a swimmer, Nadya figured, for all his talk about his teacher saying he was excellent. The house he’d built had a movie theater and a bowling alley, but no pool. But he’d swim with her, in time. She felt sure of it.

  And she’d find a better way to occupy her days, rather than serving picky customers mediocre food, and living and dying by inconsistent tips that she had to smile too widely and act far too friendly in order to obtain.

  As she thought about it, she felt a little spark begin to rise up in her of the optimism she’d had before she’d gone off to college and let the cynicism of the world get her down. If she were really marrying him, and she would have his resources and time on her hands, then maybe she really could make a difference. Maybe she could still do some good. They’d form a nonprofit, or help out an existing nonprofit. And her Poli-sci classes might still come in useful, if Salman decided to get involved with Al-Ahradi policies.

  She was grinning like an idiot, her ears under the water, listening to the erratic music of the popping bubbles in the bath. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been as excited about something as she was now.

  They’d fill the rooms with children. She wasn’t sure how many. As many as they wanted. And when they weren’t at school, they’d be able to spend as much time with them as the children wanted. Of all the luxuries that life with Salman would bring, that was perhaps the greatest: time.

  They’d have time with each other. They’d have time with their children. They’d have time to just sit by the lake, and watch the ripples in the water. They’d have time to take a helicopter into the city, and watch what they wanted to watch, and explore where they wanted to.

  Nadya stayed in the bath until her fingers wrinkled, until the water went lukewarm and the sun went behind a cloud, leaving her chilly. All at once, the life she imagined seemed far away. She was Nadya Anderson again—just a girl playing a part, who wouldn’t get to play it for long. The longer she let it go on, the worse it would be. And time wasn’t on her side to begin with. The day after tomorrow, everything would be over, one way or another.

  She got out of the bath, not so much feeling relaxed as disheartened. She chose her clothes carefully, and packed her purse with everything she had with her of value. She’d be leaving whatever she didn’t bring with her at the hotel.

  She would tell him tonight, while they were out. They’d enjoy the date. She’d give them that. She wanted the memories of tonight to hold on to.

  But she’d tell him before the sun came up. She had to.

 
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