The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(18) by Susan Mallery
“I…You…” Okay, so she was stunned past talking. Fine with her.
She circled the old plane and ran her hands lovingly along the fuselage.
“Amazing,” she breathed.
Jefri tossed her a leather helmet and goggles. She slipped into her jacket, then the helmet. The step up presented a bit of a problem. Billie judged the distance, the skimpiness of her skirt and her high-heeled sandals. There seemed to be only one solution.
She stepped out of her shoes and grabbed them in one hand. After tucking her goggles into her jacket pocket, she reached for the handholds and pulled herself up and into the plane. She had a feeling that she’d probably flashed Jefri along the way, but she was too happy to care.
“She’s fabulous,” she called as he took the position behind hers.
“She’s my favorite,” he admitted.
Two men in gray jumpsuits walked over and pulled the blocks away from the wheels. Jefri started the engine. As the plane slowly moved forward, Billie studied the simple design of the cockpit, the minimal information provided.
But what the plane lacked in technology it made up for in sheer flying pleasure, she thought as they moved down the runway then eased off the ground. The Tiger Moth flew at a speed close to a jet’s stall level. They were airborne, yet only a few dozen feet from the ground. There was no pull of G-force, no sense of power or thrust or barely controlled power.
Instead she could feel the rush of the air as they moved higher and faster. The more they climbed, the more the temperature dropped, making her glad for her jacket. The airport got smaller and smaller below, yet the sky seemed infinitely vast above them. In a jet, she had a sense of wanting to get there quickly. In the Tiger Moth, she wasn’t sure she wanted to arrive at all.
“Here. You try it,” Jefri yelled from behind her.
She took the stick and felt the old plane respond to her touch. She slowed down, then sped up to get a feel for the parameters before trying a few lazy circles and a steep climb.
“Admit it,” he said loudly. “You’re impressed.”
She laughed. “Absolutely. I want one.”
“They’re not that hard to come by.”
Perhaps not, but she lived her life out of a suitcase. Sometimes it was difficult enough to get a room with a bathtub. Billie wasn’t sure how she would drag another plane along. Still…maybe it was worth looking into.
She swooped over the city. The view was different than it had been in her jet.
Now there was time to study the various buildings and notice how the blocks were so square and tidy. She saw the clear demarcation line where civilization gave way to the emptiness of the desert.
“I think I gave up on small planes too soon,” she said. “I couldn’t wait to go faster and faster. Now I’m not sure why.”
“These were real workhorses in their time,” he told her. “Planes like these were used to map the desert. It was too dangerous to do on foot.”
A different time, she thought. Simpler. “I would have liked that job,” she said.
“Now there isn’t any unknown to fly into.”
Of course she still would have been a woman in a man’s world. Somehow she didn’t think it would have been any easier back then.
“You would have been at great risk,” he said over the wind.
“In what way?”
He laughed. “We were not so civilized back then. The harem was still filled with beautiful women. Had you flown into our desert, I suspect you would have been captured and presented to my great-grandfather as a prize.”
“I’m not sure how I feel about that.”
“It would have been a great honor.”
“To be one of the crowd? No thanks.” She did a large figure eight. “Is there still a harem?”
“That part of the palace still exists, but it has been empty since my grandfather’s time.”
“How disappointing for you.”
Jefri laughed. “I do not need to hold my women captive to keep them at my side.”
Hardly a newsflash, she thought. All he would have to do was crook his finger and the ladies would come running. She liked to think that she would be different and at least try to resist, but she knew she was wrong.
“Go north,” he said. “About thirty miles.”
She checked the compass and turned the plane to the correct heading. Below them several roads cut through the desert. She searched for signs of nomadic tribes but saw none. No doubt they preferred to stay farther away from the city.
A few minutes later Jefri had her turn east. Up ahead she saw a small oasis and what looked like a very rudimentary runway.
“She will do the work for you,” he said. “Let her down easily.”
Billie dropped lower and lower, aiming the nose toward the runway. At the last minute, she pulled up slightly so the plane landed on the rear wheels first. A cloud of dust rose up as they slowed, then finally stopped.
“Welcome to my private paradise,” he said.
She took off her goggles. “Is it really yours?”
“I claimed it when I first flew here at age twelve. No one has disputed my ownership, so yes, it is mine.”
Must be nice, she thought as she collected her shoes and stepped out of the cockpit.
“Wait,” Jefri said as he jumped down first.
He stood just below her and held out his arms. Ah, the hardships her career forced upon her, she thought cheerfully as she surrendered to gravity and allowed Jefri to catch her against his hard body.
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