The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(12) by Susan Mallery
“I have met one of your brothers,” the king said. “How many are there?”
“Three. I’m the only girl and the youngest.”
“Sabrina could relate to that,” Cleo said. “Her brothers made her life miserable. What about yours?”
“My mother always said they were a handful. She did her best to keep them in line.”
“What does she think of your occupation?” Jefri asked.
“She died when I was eleven. I’m not sure she would have been thrilled with my hanging out with my brothers all the time, but she would have wanted me to be happy.”
“Did your father remarry?” the king asked.
Billie shook her head. “We traveled a lot with the company. My mother had kept me home with her, but after she was gone, I went around the world, as well. It made for a very eclectic education.” And nowhere to call home. But Billie had always known she would have to choose between her love of the sky and putting down roots.
Emma leaned toward her. “I would have thought someone raised by her father would have been more of a tomboy.”
Billie laughed. “I tried being one for a while, but then I realized I made a lousy son, so I gave it up and surrendered to my inner girl.”
“Hence the call sign?” Jefri asked.
He raised his glass. “To always surrendering to your inner girl.”
If asked, Billie would have expected to explain that the royal family was stuffy and well, boring. But that wasn’t true at all. After grilling her about her life—in the most pleasant way possible—they’d laughed and talked and teased just like any other family she’d met. Okay, the flatware had been gold, but the rest of the meal had been surprisingly normal.
Whether it was the combination of too much champagne, the strange quarters or an evening spent getting lost in Jefri’s dark gaze, Billie found herself unable to sleep. Giving up, she left Muffin snoring softly and pulled on her robe, then walked into the living room where she opened the French door leading to the balcony and stepped out into the quiet of the night.
A moon hung low in the sky and sent fingers of light across the lapping sea.
There were scents in the air, smells she didn’t recognize but knew would forever remind her of Bahania. The air was still, faintly cool, but still pleasant.
“The good life,” she said with a smile. “I doubt anything is ever going to top this.”
She leaned on the balcony and stared down at the dark gardens. Slim shadows darted in and out of bushes. Cats, she thought grimly. No doubt out to kill. Why on earth would anyone think creatures like that were pet-worthy?
“What has you so concerned?” Jefri said as he came out of the darkness and moved next to her at the railing. “You are frowning.”
His unexpected appearance startled her, although not enough to make her duck back inside. She had a brief thought that she was in her nightgown, but then reminded herself that she’d been a lot more uncovered in her evening gown.
“There,” she said pointing toward the garden. “Cats.”
He chuckled. “I will protect you from any who attempt to attack you.” He glanced around. “Where is Muffin?”
“Sleeping. She needs her beauty sleep.”
“Tell me she does not have one of those black sleep masks.”
Billie laughed. “She doesn’t.”
He leaned against the railing, his shoulder close to her own.
“Did you enjoy your evening with us?” he asked.
“Very much so.” She glanced at him, taking in the dark slacks and the formal white shirt he’d unbuttoned. The tie was gone, as was the jacket, and he’d rolled his sleeves up to his elbows.
“I’ve never dined with royalty before,” she said. “I thought I’d be more nervous but everyone made me feel very comfortable.”
“I was concerned you thought there were too many questions.”
“Not at all. I thought everyone was interested and genuine rather than grilling me.”
“We are like other families?”
“Except for the prince thing.”
“So you were impressed.”
She smiled. “Not exactly.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Why not?”
“Come on. How impressed could I be by wealth and a title when we both know I could blow you out of the sky in thirty-eight seconds?”
“Good point. However, I could impress you in other ways.”
Oh, yeah, that was a serious possibility.
“I’m just the hired help,” she said instead, and did her best to act casually.
“In a few months, I’ll be gone and you’ll rule your own skies.”
“Do you like that aspect of your job? Going from place to place?”
“Sometimes.” She tucked her hair behind her ear. “I enjoy seeing the world, but sometimes I wouldn’t mind having a permanent base of operations. The problem with that is I’ve yet to find a way to combine home and hearth with what I love to do.”
“How did you learn to fly?” he asked.
“My dad had always taken me up with him. I was handling single engine planes by the time I was ten. My mom tried to hold me back, which worked until she died.
Then there was no one telling my dad no. I worked my way up to jets pretty quickly.” She turned her head and smiled at him. “Having a mini air force in the family helped. What about you?”
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