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A Wind of Change(A Shade of Vampire,Book 17)(12) by Bella Forrest

Once Lalia and I were ready, we left the bedroom and went downstairs. My grandfather and Dafne were ready and waiting for us. Dafne had chosen a pretty green gown that complemented her purple glasses.

“Well?” my grandfather said. “Are we ready to leave, princesses?”

“Yep,” I replied.

We left the house and walked down the steps toward the car. Fariss was already waiting by it. He opened the door to the back seats and my sisters and I climbed inside, while my grandfather sat in the front. The restaurant wasn’t far away, as my grandfather had said. Soon we were pulling up outside a familiar building. Its exposed brick exterior had an ethnic charm and deep blue fabric draped down from pillars that lined the restaurant’s terrace. This restaurant was right on the edge of town and it had a stunning view of the desert—indeed, the sand started just twenty feet from the entrance.

“Are you hungry, Fariss? You should join us,” my father said.

“I have eaten already,” he replied. “But thank you for the invitation.”

“Then you don’t need to wait around here if you’ve other things to do. We’ll be here at least a couple of hours. Why don’t you aim to return by nine-thirty?”

“Yes, sir.”

We left Fariss with the car and walked into the restaurant. It was adorned with beautiful bamboo furniture and cozy lanterns dangled from the ceiling. It was more crowded than I’d expected. We walked up to the woman standing behind the welcome desk.

“Do you have a reservation?” she asked.

“Yes. My name is Samir Haik, and my two friends…” His voice trailed off as his eyes fixed on two men sitting in the far corner of the room—at one of the tables with the best views of the desert. “I see they’ve arrived already.”

“Enjoy your evening,” the woman said.

We headed toward the table and the father and son stood up when they spotted us. Yusuf had graying black hair, a thick mustache and tan skin. He positively towered over my short grandfather. Hassan looked like a younger version of his father. He also had a mustache, albeit much less salubrious than Yusuf’s.

“Samir!” Yusuf said, grinning. He grabbed my grandfather’s hand and pulled him in for a hug. Then he turned to the rest of us. “And who are these angels?”

“Meet Lalia, Dafne, and River,” my grandfather said, gesturing to each of us.

We shook hands with him, then Hassan, who smiled more broadly as he met my eye.

“A pleasure to meet you,” he said, his Middle Eastern accent thick.

“And you too,” I said politely.

I wasn’t sure whether it was just my imagination, but my grandfather and Yusuf seemed to deliberately engineer the seating so that I was next to Hassan.

After we’d scanned the menus and chosen what we wanted, the waitress came to take orders. For the first half of the meal, we listened to my grandfather and Yusuf speaking enthusiastically about the dig—how long they had been planning for it and trying to get permission, how they had finally succeeded and how it had been going so far. Apparently they had already discovered some artifacts of interest.

It was only after about forty-five minutes that Hassan spoke to me again.

“My father tells me you are from New York?” he asked, glancing at me curiously.

I swallowed my mouthful of salad. “Yes,” I said. “Manhattan.”

“I have visited there once with my parents. I found it a nice place.”

“Yes, parts of it are nice,” I replied.

“How long are you staying here in Cairo?” he asked.

“Just a week this time.”

“Oh, I see…” He looked across the table at my two sisters. “You are not here with your parents?”

“No.” The thought of my father in a Texas jail and my mother stuck in our apartment with my autistic brother suddenly made the food in my mouth tasteless. I worried about how my mother was even going to sort out basic things like groceries.

“Do you live in Cairo full-time?” I asked Hassan, eager to change the subject.

“Yes.”

“Where are you from originally?”

“Born and raised in Cairo,” he replied proudly. “Were you born in the United States?”

“Yes. Though my mother was born in Egypt.”

Our conversation trailed off and we went back to listening to my grandfather and Yusuf’s discussion.

Lalia and Dafne were busy eating. They’d worked up a good appetite from all the swimming they’d done earlier. I caught myself wondering whether Lalia would even have room for any dessert, then reminded myself that she always had room for dessert.

Once we’d finished, the waitress took away our dinner plates and we ordered dessert. Lalia requested the obvious, while the rest of us opted for ice cream. Hassan chose the same flavor as me—mango.

Once we’d finished, Yusuf insisted on paying the check. Then we all retreated to the sitting area outside on the veranda and admired the view of the desert. Lalia and Dafne both looked drowsy by now as they slumped back in a sofa. I stretched out my legs next to them, yawning and looking up at the starry night sky and then straight ahead at the endless mass of dunes. A cool breeze wafted over us.

As my grandfather and Yusuf immersed themselves in conversation once again, Hassan gestured with his head toward the dunes. “Shall we take a short walk?” he asked.

I felt so full, I wasn’t really in the mood for a walk, but the desert did look beautiful in the moonlight.