The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(7) by Susan Mallery
She smiled. “I know they did it because they thought the mouse would scare me, but I wasn’t frightened at all.”
“You have three older brothers?” he asked.
He thought of the size and strength of Doyle Van Horn and knew that Billie would have to have been tough to survive in that household.
“I loved Missy,” Billie said.
He raised his eyebrows. “Missy the Mouse?”
“Uh-huh. She was very sweet and tame. I taught her tricks.”
“She knew her name and she would stand on her back legs when I offered her food.”
“That’s not a trick. She was simply attempting to reach the food.”
Billie’s eyes narrowed. “She was my mouse. I get to say if it was a trick or not.”
“Fair enough. So you had this mouse. I suspect there was a cat involved.”
Billie nodded. She leaned against the bathroom counter. “We had this playroom.
There was a latch up higher than I could reach and sometimes, if I slammed the door, it locked into place. One day Missy got out. I couldn’t find her anywhere.
I wanted my brothers to help me find her, but they wouldn’t. I was mad, so I stomped into the playroom and slammed the door. It locked behind me.”
Her voice remained firm, but he heard the edge of emotion. Why? Over the death of a mouse twenty years ago? What possible reason could she have for caring?
Billie folded her arms over her chest. “I walked to the window and looked out and that’s when I saw Missy. Two of the neighbor’s cats had her cornered. They were playing with her. Torturing her. I screamed for my brothers to let me out but they were in the front yard and couldn’t hear me. My mom was at the grocery store. I was trapped for nearly two hours. That’s about how long it took them to kill and eat her.”
Jefri winced. “You didn’t turn away?”
“How could I? She was my mouse.” She sighed. “I remember sobbing and my mom finding me. She tried to convince me it hadn’t been Missy, but how many white mice live in the wild?”
“So that is why you dislike cats?”
He couldn’t imagine having a mouse as a pet in the first place. “They were acting on instinct, not out of malice.”
“Oh, and that makes Missy’s death acceptable?”
“Of course not.” Were they really talking about a mouse?
“It’s hard having pets,” she said as she straightened her arms and pushed off the counter. “But worth it. Now I have Muffin and I’m going to make sure nothing bad ever happens to her. No palace cat is going to be allowed to have her for dinner.”
“The cats here are well fed.”
“They’d better be.”
Temper flashed in her eyes. Jefri wondered how they’d shifted topics so completely. Given his choice they would be talking about flying or how attractive she found him. So far they had done neither.
“I will tell the staff to keep the cats out of your rooms as much as possible,”
“Really? That would be great.” She glanced at the tub. “If you hadn’t tempted me with such a great bathroom, I probably would have returned to the barracks. But this is pretty irresistible.”
Ah, so she could resist him, but not a bathtub. That put things in perspective.
“About your stay here,” he said, deciding flying was the safest topic. “You will have to be at the airport each day?”
“Yup. There’s plenty of butt for me to kick in your nice blue skies.”
“I’m sure my men will enjoy learning from you,” he told her, ignoring the assumption that she would continue to best him. He was going to make sure that didn’t happen.
“Oh, they’re going to learn, whether they enjoy the process or not.”
“I will put a car and driver at your disposal. Simply tell the driver where you wish to go and he will take you there.”
Her mouth parted. “You’re kidding? My own driver?”
“You may share him if you would like.”
She laughed. “No, that’s okay. As I said before, I could really get used to this.”
“I hope you’ll enjoy your stay in my country.”
He nodded at her and left. While there was much more to be said, this wasn’t the time. Later, when he’d decided on his strategy he would talk to her about more than her work. He would discover the secrets of the beautiful woman who flew like a falcon and moved with the grace of the cats she found so distasteful. He would learn her strengths, her weaknesses and he would have her in his bed. He would also best her in the air. To be honest, he wasn’t sure which he would enjoy more.
Billie finished drying her hair and stepped back to admire the effect. “Not bad,” she murmured to her reflection, as she fluffed up a curl. She’d always been a big-hair kind of gal and the complete lack of humidity in Bahania meant no risk of her carefully poofed style going flat.
Nearly an hour in a massive tub had relaxed her. Now rested, redressed in a sundress and still jetlagged from her trip the previous day she felt both tired and antsy.
“We should take a walk,” she told Muffin as she moved back into the living room of the suite. “A couple of laps in this room would almost do it, huh?”
She grinned as she spoke, then turned in a circle as she admired the elegant Western-style furnishings and beautiful paintings. There was a thick oriental rug by the sofa and a dining area to the left. The view was as spectacular as any she’d ever seen from the ground. Silent air-conditioning kept the room a comfortable seventy-six degrees.
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