The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(14) by Susan Mallery
sleep again. Which was fine. She could spend the night planning her revenge against all the Van Horn men.
Jefri arrived for his weekly meeting with his father a few minutes early. The king’s office was near his own. Several guards stood on duty, while dozens of staff members raced around with folders and stacks of papers.
The king’s senior assistant waved Jefri in. One of the wide double doors stood open and several people filed out.
Jefri waited until they’d left before walking inside. He found his father standing behind his desk, flipping through a calendar.
“I’m thinking of visiting Europe,” the king said without looking up. “With Murat taking over most of my state duties and the other work divided between you, Sadik and Reyhan, there is little to keep me here.”
Jefri grinned. “Are you complaining you do not have enough to do?”
“I suppose I am. It is a sad state of affairs when a king is no longer needed.”
Jefri took a seat on the visitor’s side of the desk. “I think it is unlikely you will be beheaded anytime soon.”
His father sat down and smiled. “How you comfort me.” He leaned back in his chair. “So our new air force is off to a positive start?”
“Of course. The Van Horn team is in place. All the instructors have arrived.
Billie is in charge of them.”
The king nodded. “A most pleasant young woman.”
Jefri could think of several words to describe Billie, but pleasant wasn’t one of them. It was too bland, too lacking in style. Billie could never be accused of either.
“She assists in the pilot training, both with actual flying and in simulators.
The Van Horn people have prepared an intensive eight-week program to forge our pilots into a team. When the initial instruction is finished, they will return to offer refresher courses until we get our own training in place.”
“Very impressive,” the king said. “I would advise you not to annoy her. I would hate to lose you because, to quote the young woman herself, she blows you out of the sky.”
Jefri smiled. “I will not allow that to happen.”
“It sounds as if she is unbeatable.”
But he had a feeling he knew her weaknesses. Last night she had melted in his arms. Whatever her skills in the sky, on ground, she was mere woman. He planned to take advantage of that fact, pleasing them both along the way. He did not believe she could respond to him so easily in the night and then destroy him, however much in theory, during the day.
For now he only needed an edge to best her. In time, he would develop the skills to take her on his own.
“I am glad all goes well,” his father said. “Now on to another matter. I have found you a bride.”
Jefri almost asked “For what?” before he recalled a conversation with his father some months ago, when he had given in to parental pressure and agreed to remarry.
“Perhaps this is not the best time,” he began.
“You are my son. It is your duty to produce heirs.”
“I am but twenty-nine. There is still time.”
“For you, perhaps,” the king said. “But I do not grow younger. You asked me to find you an appropriate young woman.” He pulled a sheet of paper out of a drawer. “You said she was to be docile, reasonably attractive and good with children. That is who I found.”
Jefri wondered what he had been thinking when he had made that particular request. Yes, he had to marry, and an arranged match was as good as any, but now?
“I have other priorities at this moment. The air force takes much of my time.”
“Your bride will require little of you,” the king said. “You were specific when we spoke. You did not want this to be a love match.”
That much was true, Jefri thought. He had already played at that game and lost.
Love was not for him. Better to find someone who could do the job and not manipulate his heart. Respect was far more important than love.
Without wanting to, he remembered a woman in the moonlight. The feel of a soft feminine body in his arms and a passionate response to his kiss. Billie was a temptation, but she did not meet any of his criteria save one. While it was possible she enjoyed children, he doubted anyone would ever accuse her of being docile. Worse, describing her as “reasonably attractive” was as much of an understatement as saying the center of the sun was mildly warm.
“I do not wish to be engaged at this time,” Jefri said firmly.
He had no intention of marrying Billie, but that did not mean he could not enjoy her company.
“Arrangements have been made,” his father told him.
“Then they need to be unmade.”
The king stared at him for a few seconds. Jefri braced himself for a battle of wills. While he might be victorious against his father, he had little success against the king.
At last the older man nodded. “As you wish.”
“Thank you, Father.” He glanced at his watch. “I am due at the airport shortly.”
“Then you must go. Be sure to tell Billie how much I enjoyed her company last night.” His father smiled. “Tell her that next time I will ask the staff to prepare a plate for her to take back to her dog. It is not necessary for her to slip food into her handbag.”
So the king had noticed as well. Jefri grinned. “I look forward to passing along the message.”
Billie knew that Doyle had been out until nearly four in the morning, overseeing the equipment unloading. In deference to his late bedtime, she waited until ten before entering his suite and stalking toward the bedroom.
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