The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(10) by Susan Mallery
Strappy silver sandals with four-inch heels made her feel like an Amazon goddess…well, a short one anyway.
“What do you think?” she asked, holding out two different earrings for Muffin to inspect. Her dog lay on the high four-poster bed. “These are more dangling, but these have more flash.”
“I agree. Flash over dangle,” Billie said and put on the smaller cubic zirconia earrings.
After a light spritzing of perfume, she pronounced herself as ready as she was going to be.
“I promise to bring you back something,” she said. “I’m sure we’ll have some kind of meat dish. I tucked a Baggie in my purse.” She waved her tiny evening bag at Muffin.
The trick would be getting the bit of entrée from her plate to her handbag, but she’d done it countless times before and had almost never been caught.
“Okay. You be good. I’ll see you soon.”
Billie pushed the play button on the DVD player in the bedroom armoire, then headed for the door. As she stepped into the hallway of the amazing pink palace, she had the feeling that for the first time in her life, she was almost a princess.
“Way better than Halloween dress-up,” she murmured as she started down a corridor.
As she paused by the elevator, waiting for it to take her to the second floor because there was no way she could do stairs in these shoes or the long dress, she heard a door close and the sound of footsteps. Seconds later Jefri walked toward her.
“Good evening,” he said, looking more than a little spiffy in a black tux. So she’d guessed right then, “a family dinner” in royal circles meant way dressier than jeans.
The soft wool fabric of Jefri’s tux had the faintest shimmer to it, and Billie had an instant urge to touch. That would be bad, she told herself, trying not to swoon as she took in the rest of the package.
Most men cleaned up pretty well and looked good in a tuxedo, but those who had a head start in the looks department came out looking even better. Jefri was no exception. He’d brushed his dark hair away from his face, which emphasized his stern yet handsome features. The white shirt collar and cuffs made his skin seem darker. Billie avoided the sun whenever possible. She burned more than tanned and didn’t want to be fighting the leather look when she was fifty.
Knowing how pale she was and how dark he was gave her a little shiver. She had a visual of them entwined in bed, looking like actors for an erotic movie.
“Hi,” she said and waggled her fingers. “You look nice.”
He reached for her free hand and raised it slightly, then kissed her knuckles.
“You are enchanting. The glories of my country pale when compared to your beauty.”
Okay, sure. It was a line and little old-fashioned, but it worked. Billie felt her knees get a little wobbly and her heart start to pound.
The elevator doors opened. Jefri put his hand on her back to urge her to enter first. His thumb and forefinger landed on bare skin. Goose bumps erupted, even as warmth poured through her.
“I see you left Muffin in your room,” he said.
“I thought it was best. I always feel badly when I’m going to have fun without her, but she’s watching a movie.”
He pushed the button for the second floor. “Excuse me? Your dog is watching a movie?”
“Uh-huh. And I have to say that DVD collection in the armoire was fabulous. I had a hard time deciding, but in the end I put on Legally Blonde II because she has a real thing for Bruiser. That’s the dog in the movie.”
Jefri’s gaze never left her face, yet she felt him mentally drifting. He blinked.
“I do not understand,” he told her. “You are the same woman who can fly a fighter jet better than anyone I know.”
The doors opened and they stepped out.
“Yup. That’s me.”
“Yet you put on a movie for your dog?”
“I don’t really see how the two concepts relate.”
“Nor do I. This way.”
He escorted her down a long corridor. Soft lighting spilled from the dozens of rooms they passed. Talk about a lot of space. Taking a lap around each floor would pretty much take care of anyone’s aerobic needs for the day.
“I heard your brother could not join us tonight,” Jefri said.
“The rest of the equipment arrived and he wanted to oversee that. If you ask me, he was in a snit about having to get dressed up for dinner. His loss. I’m sure the food will be amazing.”
“I hope you find that everything pleases you.”
His low voice scraped along her bare skin like a length of nubby fabric. Billie felt strange, sort of trembling and overheated and spacey. She had to get a grip. In the heels she wore, one wrong step could be fatal.
They turned left at a large pillar and entered what she supposed for them was a small, casual dining room. For her it was like being asked to eat in the roped-off parts of the British Museum.
A long table stood in the center of the room. From the number of chairs pushed up against the walls, she supposed it could be expanded to seat at least thirty, maybe more. Two antique hutches stood flanking a large tapestry depicting a young woman in an open kind of boat. Based on her dress, Billie would guess the scene was from the mid-sixteen hundreds.
Three chandeliers provided light over the table, but instead of using bulbs they twinkled with candlelight. Several sconces lined the walls, also providing illumination. A long buffet held a bucket of champagne on ice and unopened bottles of red and white wine, along with an assortment of liquors. Two men with trays of canapés hovered by the doorway, and there wasn’t a cat in sight.
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