The Desert King's Housekeeper Bride(4)

By: Carol Marinelli

The tent was cool and dark as she parted the fabric, stepped inside and removed her shoes. Her eyes took a moment to adjust from the brightness outside, the howl of the wind subdued now as she slowly wandered into the blissful retreat. Rugs were thickly scattered on the floor and were plump and soft beneath her bare feet. They lined the walls of the tent too, making the large area more intimate. The space was broken with low, ornate tables surrounded by thick runs of cushioned fabric, and an entire wall was hung with drapes while the floor was scattered with jewel-coloured cushions of velvet and satin, which were so plump Effie would have loved to sink into them.

It was a mess though!

Sand had been trailed through the abode, and tiny jewelled cups and plates, along with jugs, littered the surfaces.

Effie left her case and set about exploring further, finding the kitchen area, marvelling that even in the middle of the desert the King’s wealth meant she could gulp icy water from the dispenser on the fridge and could run her hand in cool water and splash her face.

She stared at the sumptuous foods in the massive fridges and pantries—if the helicopter didn’t return for a year, they wouldn’t starve! And here, behind the kitchen area, was clearly the staff quarters—small curtained-off areas, which contained simple mattresses and furnishings, but still with all mod cons. Effie realised, awash with relief, that she was actually looking forward to her time in the desert. With King Zakari out from sunrise to sunset, and nothing but a tent, no matter how vast, to take care of, it was going to be a holiday compared to her work in the palace!

Smiling to herself, Effie gathered her tools—first she would sweep out his room and make his bed.

No man, no prince, and certainly no king made their own.

She would change the sheets, then draw him a long bath.

When King Zakari returned from his wandering, he wouldn’t mind a scrap that his regular housekeeper hadn’t been able to come. He’d soon see she could work harder and better than Christobel.

Zakari was growing impatient; he knew that she was here, so why didn’t she just come to him?

Mindful of the gathering wind, he had returned early from the desert and had bathed slowly—appreciative of the luxury his title afforded. That was what the desert did, he reflected, the water coursing down his toned body as he stood up, the rich oils making it bead on his olive skin. It made him appreciate the essentials in life that he usually took for granted.

And sex to Zakari was essential.

He didn’t smoke, or drink, his body was in superb condition and, despite his love of horses and his passion for polo, on unique principle he refused to gamble any of the vast fortune his title afforded him. He would win by more calculated means.

Women were his only weakness.

And a very safe bet they were too, Zakari thought with just a glimmer of discontentment—the cards he held in his royal hand meant he always, without fail, won.

Only one woman hadn’t fallen for his charms.

Princess Kalila Zadar had long been deemed a suitable bride by his father—a woman who had been betrothed to him since she was little more than a child.

And though he far from relished the prospect of marrying, Zakari had realised his people wanted to see their king settled, that at thirty-seven years of age it was time to start producing heirs. Reluctantly he had bowed to pressure, instructing his chief aide, Hassan, to set the wheels for the long-awaited royal wedding in motion and, because he was busy trying to find the missing Stefani diamond he had sent his brother, Sheikh Aarif, to Hadiya to collect his promised bride.

Aarif and Kalila had fallen in love…

Terrified of his wrath, they had tried to deny it, yet Aarif had confessed, stunned at Zakari’s reaction.

Zakari had been overjoyed at the news and had been genuinely pleased to see his brother for once happy, just privately bemused as to why.

Oh, Kalila would have made a perfect king’s wife, but there had not been a flicker of want when finally he had met her, not a flicker of what might have been as she wed his brother. Just genuine joy for his brother’s happiness and the hollow realisation that not once had he ever come close to experiencing those feelings Kalila and Aarif had for each other.