The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(16) by Susan Mallery
A smile tugged at Jefri’s mouth. “Did you threaten him?”
“Of course. Isn’t that what sisters do?”
“I don’t recall my sister threatening me much, but she spent much of the time in America. Was there blood spilt?”
“No, although I did throw his boot at him.”
She laughed. “He’d worked until early this morning. I think it’s the only reason I got the drop on him, but I won’t ever admit that to him.”
“Of course not. Nor will I.”
Awareness crackled between them. They’d kissed about twelve hours before and she was still experiencing aftershocks. Was Jefri? As a handsome prince was he used to kissing all sorts of women and had theirs been just one in a long line?
“What are you thinking?” he asked unexpectedly.
She felt her eyes widen. “Nothing important.”
“I think it was very important.” He moved closer. “Will you not tell me?”
“I just…” She cleared her throat. “It looks like another great day. Too bad we’ll be doing simulations instead of flying for real.”
His dark gaze settled on her face. “That was a rather poor and obvious attempt to change the subject.”
“I know, but you’re so well mannered, I figured you’d let me get away with it.”
“Hmm, and here I had hoped you would tell me you had been busy thinking about last night.” He lowered his voice. “I enjoyed our conversation and our kiss.”
Holy moly. He was going to talk about it? She wasn’t used to that, but then she wasn’t much used to kisses from princes. Or men in general. Jeez, based on what she’d just found out about her brothers she should send every guy who had gathered the courage to ask her out an award of some kind.
“I had a nice time, too,” she said primly.
He raised his eyebrows. “Nice? I see I must work on my technique.”
Before she could respond, she felt something brush against her bare ankles. She looked down, then scrambled out of the way of a small calico cat.
“Those creatures are everywhere,” she muttered.
Jefri bent over and picked up the cat. It wasn’t much bigger than his hand and as he held it, the cat began to purr. Billie could hear the soft rumble.
“She likes you,” he said.
“She’s trying to lull me into a false sense of security before the attack.”
He petted the cat. “I doubt she weighs more than five or six pounds. You do not appear to be in any imminent danger.”
“So you say.”
She watched as he scratched the feline under its chin. It twisted around to get on its back and nearly fell off his hand.
“Careful,” Jefri said, nestling the cat against his chest. “You are too trusting, I think.”
“Especially around me,” Billie said.
He looked at her. “You would not hurt a kitten.”
“No, but I’d be happy to threaten it forcefully with words.”
“But she has done you no harm.”
“You keep saying she. It could be a boy.”
“Unlikely. Calicos are generally female, much as marmalades are usually male.
This one is maybe eight or nine weeks old.”
The kitten rolled onto her back and splayed her paws as Jefri rubbed her tummy.
“Come now,” he said. “Touch her fur. I suspect she is not nearly as horrible as you would have me believe.”
Billie wrinkled her nose, but did as he requested. She touched the white fur under the cat’s chin.
“Soft,” she said in some surprise. She could feel the warmth of its body and the rumble from the purring.
The kitten blinked slowly, as if dozing off.
“She does seem to trust you,” Billie said.
“I’m very good with females.”
“Like that’s a surprise.”
He shifted the cat so it lay on its tummy, then handed it to her. Billie stepped back and shook her head.
“No, thanks. I’ll admit she’s kind of cute, but I’m not interested. As far as I’m concerned, the entire cat population still has a lot to answer for.”
He set down the kitten and shook his head. “You are a most difficult woman.”
“I know. It’s part of my charm.”
Jefri stared down at the instrument panel. Everything was as it should be, but even doing everything correctly did not stop the high-pitched tone-lock he heard in his ears. He tore off the headset, hit the switch to kill the simulation and stepped out of the machine.
Again. She had done it again. At least in his first and second simulation he had lasted nearly three minutes. This time she had nailed him in less than forty seconds.
Annoyance grew to anger. He narrowed his gaze as he swept the room, finally locating Billie stepping out of her simulator. In her denim skirt and tight T-shirt, she looked more like a college coed than a fighter jet instructor. Long blond hair tumbled down her back. She wore impossibly high-heeled sandals. She was walking, breathing sexual desire incarnate and he was not sure if he should strangle her or push her up against the wall and have his way with her.
Wariness darkened her blue eyes. He saw a flash of something that might have been disappointment, then she squared her narrow shoulders, raised her chin and walked toward him.
He recognized her determination. She was prepared to take him on—to endure his ill temper in the name of making him a better pilot.
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