The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(11) by Susan Mallery
“This works,” Billie said as she and Jefri strolled the length of the room.
“I’m glad you like it. Champagne?”
“Sure. I’m not flying until late tomorrow morning.”
Jefri popped the bottle with an ease that made her feel like an extra in an old Audrey Hepburn movie, then accepted the delicate crystal glass.
“To new adventures,” he said, touching his glass to hers. “And those we share them with.”
She figured this wasn’t the time for her usual “Bottoms up” so she smiled before taking a sip. The liquid bubbles tickled the whole way down her throat. Oh, yeah. This was the good life for sure.
A tall man Billie hadn’t met entered the dining room. Based on his good looks and regal bearing she was going to take a wild guess and say he was another royal prince.
Bingo, she thought, when Jefri introduced him as “My oldest brother, Crown Prince Murat.”
She had her purse in one hand and her champagne in the other. For one horrible second, Billie thought maybe she was expected to curtsey. Why hadn’t she asked Jefri on the walk over? Before she could figure out what to do, Murat leaned forward and lightly kissed her cheek.
“Welcome, Ms. Van Horn. My brother complained of your great skill in the sky but he said nothing of your exceptional beauty.”
She would have thought that older handsome prince set to inherit the kingdom would have had some effect on her when he’d kissed her. She’d braced herself for at least a toe curl, but there hadn’t been even a flicker. Interesting. So her reaction was specifically to Jefri and not just to the whole good-looking-guy-in-the-palace thing. She would have to take that information out later and figure out what it meant.
“Most men don’t enjoy being shot down by a woman,” she said with a smile. “It’s an ego thing. I don’t take it personally.”
“Billie is convinced I will not ever best her. I am going to have to prove her wrong.”
Murat glanced between the two of them. “She does not look concerned, my brother.
Perhaps you will have to content yourself with besting her in other ways.”
The king entered the room, along with an obviously pregnant woman and what Billie took to be yet another of the handsome prince crop.
Jefri leaned close. “Perhaps my brother is right and I should seek other kinds of victories.”
The combination of his words and his warm breath on her neck made her quiver.
“Come, you must meet our newest treasure,” the king said, leading the couple toward them. “Billie, my son Reyhan and his beautiful wife Emma.”
Billie had the whole purse/champagne thing under control this time. She’d tucked her bag under her arm so she was able to hold out her right hand to both of them.
“Welcome,” Reyhan said pleasantly.
“Are you really a fighter pilot?” Emma asked.
“She is brilliant in the sky,” Jefri said, answering for her.
“Amazing.” Emma smiled. “I thought you would be more…masculine. But you’re lovely enough to be a pop star or an actress.”
Billie beamed. “Aren’t you sweet. I’m just a girl who likes to dress up. I tried being one of the boys for a long time and it never worked.”
“One cannot imagine why,” Jefri murmured in her ear.
Murat returned with a scotch for his brother and a glass of what looked like sparkling water for Emma.
“What do you think of Billie?” he asked. “Is she not most intriguing?”
Jefri stepped between her and Murat. “She is my guest.”
Billie felt a slight thrill. Was Jefri being possessive? Did he actually see her as something other than a means to fly better?
Another couple arrived—one of the princes accompanied by a petite, curvy blonde who squealed when she saw Billie.
“You’re American. Yeah. We can hang out and talk while you’re here. I’m Cleo.
Hi. Do you realize that out of all four of the women who are in this family, I’m the only one who lives in the palace?” She poked Emma’s arm. “You’re constantly gone, as are Zara and Sabrina. It’s really annoying.”
Cleo’s escort, Prince Sadik, sighed. “You have confused our guest and possibly frightened her.”
“Are you frightened?” Cleo asked.
Billie laughed. “No, just confused. What women? Who are Zara and Sabrina?”
“Perhaps we should adjourn to the table where we can all straighten this out,”
the king said. “Billie, you may sit next to me.”
So she found herself next to the king of Bahania, surrounded by honest to goodness princes and princesses. Billie had the fleeting thought that she wished her mother was still alive to take part in all this.
“All right, let me see if I have this right,” she said over the soup course.
“Sabrina and Zara are princesses by birth.”
The king nodded.
“But Zara didn’t know she was your daughter until about a year ago. And Cleo and Emma are Americans married to your sons.”
“That is correct.”
“Very complicated,” she said as she discreetly moved the sliver of prosciutto she’d slipped off her appetizer plate into the Baggie.
“You will learn who belongs with whom,” the king said kindly. “Simply remember my sons favor American women.”
She couldn’t help glancing across the table to where Jefri sat. Did he favor American women as well? He seemed to be watching her, and while she wanted to believe it meant something, she’d been burned enough times to hold back. Ever since turning sixteen and having her first crush, she’d found herself interested in men who wanted nothing to do with her. It was like a curse.
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