The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(2) by Susan Mallery
A few men—a very few—saw her as an actual person and were pleasant.
But no one she’d ever trained had bothered to see her as a woman. She supposed it was asking too much to find a man who could accept that she could whip his butt in the air and still want to go dancing on Saturday night.
Prince Jefri continued to stalk closer and she wondered which camp he would fall in. Was it too much to ask that he be one of the nice guys? Did royal sheiks get trained in manners these days? Were there—
The man in question pulled off his helmet and whipped off his sunglasses as he approached. At that exact second, Billie’s brain shut down.
He was gorgeous.
No, that didn’t describe it. She needed a better word to explain how beautiful he was—but in a totally masculine way. Was it his eyes—deep brown, thickly lashed and sensual? Was it the firm set of his mouth, the perfect cheekbones, the dark hair? Was it the combination of features, the determination in his expression?
Did it matter?
He only got better as he got closer. She’d seen his pictures in magazines, but those glossy images were nothing when compared with the real thing. She did her best to catch her breath and act normal but her heart beat at a speed approaching Mach 3 and showed no signs of slowing.
“Congratulations,” the über-hunk said as he held out his hand. “You maneuver your jet like a pro.”
He sounded gracious and not the least bit put out. Was that possible?
“I am a pro.”
She took the offered hand automatically and nearly swooned at the sparks that arced between them. She could feel them, and yet the man gently squeezing her fingers didn’t seem the least bit affected. So typical, she thought with wry amusement. Something about being in the cockpit of a jet seemed to render her genderless. Ah, well. In her next life she would be a sex kitten. In this one she was destined to be permanently single.
“How did you disappear into the sun so quickly?” he asked. “I was watching. You were there and then you were gone.”
“Every jet has blind spots. The trick is to know where they are and use them to your advantage.”
“But I could have turned such that the blind spot moved.”
She shook her head as she pulled her hand free. “You were stiff up there. I knew you’d stay on course long enough for me to get lost in the sun. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
Billie turned and headed for the temporary barracks set up at the edge of the airport. If she’d thought she would lose the man of the hour by walking quickly, she was wrong. His long stride easily kept pace with hers, and he continued to pepper her with questions. She answered his queries automatically, all the while doing her best not to notice that he fit the “tall, dark and handsome” cliché perfectly. Pretty and a prince, and about a hundred times more interested in flying than in her.
“This is my stop,” she said brightly, cutting him off in mid-pound-thrust ratio question, as they reached the flap of her semipermanent home. “We’ll have plenty of time to discuss all of this during the lecture time, and in simulation.”
“When will I fly against you again?” he asked.
She tugged the zipper of her flight suit down to her hips and pulled her arms free of the heavy fabric. It might be October in the desert, but it was still warm. She plucked at the T-shirt she wore underneath.
“We’ll have plenty of air time,” she told him. “Don’t worry, I’ll be killing you over and over again.”
“I think not. About that last maneuver…”
The man didn’t even notice she had br**sts, Billie thought with a combination of humor and regret. She’d often thought she could step out of her flight suit and walk around stark naked and not one of the pilots would notice. Of course her brothers would see and probably kill her.
“I’m off duty until the morning,” she said politely, wishing she could give him a gentle push back to his palace or wherever it was he lived. “I know you’re anxious, what with getting your new air force up and running, but I don’t work 24/7. Call me crazy.”
With that she disappeared into the tent.
Jefri frowned. Had the female instructor turned her back on him and walked away? He followed her inside. “You don’t understand. I need this information,” he said, barely noticing the Spartan setting.
Billie glanced at him, then smiled. “You don’t give up, do you?”
She opened the drawer of a dresser and pulled out several garments, then disappeared behind a screen.
“Okay, fly boy. I’ll give you fifteen minutes, but then you have to let me get some rest. I flew all night to get here and my regular tent isn’t set up yet.
I’m stuck in regulation housing until then. No offense, but it’s hot here and I want my air-conditioning. Oh, have a seat.”
He glanced around for a chair and saw one in the corner. There was a small ball in the seat. As he reached for it, the ball moved, uncoiled, growled and snapped at him.
From behind the screen, he heard laughter.
“I see you found Muffin.”
He eyed the ball of fur with distaste. “Muffin?”
“My baby. Be nice to the tall man, sweetie,” Billie said. “He’s paying the bills. Just go ahead and scratch under her chin. Oh, and tell her she’s pretty.
Muffin likes that.”
Jefri eyed the tiny dog. All he saw was multicolored strands of hair and two mistrustful eyes. Hardly anything attractive.
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