The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(20) by Susan Mallery
“Have you?” he asked.
She raised her eyebrows. “We wouldn’t be sitting here holding hands if I had.”
“An excellent point.”
Funny how she’d begun to believe she wouldn’t find anyone to love her that much because no one seemed to be interested in her. Knowing that her brothers were scaring off potential boyfriends made her feel a little better. Although did she want someone who didn’t want her enough to go up against her brothers?
Too confusing, she told herself, and not something to be resolved today.
“So when your mother died, you went on the road with your father?” Jefri asked.
She nodded. “He’d started taking the boys with him during the summer. Now, with no one left at home, we all went. Dad hired a tutor so we could keep up with school. I turned thirteen in South America and sixteen in the Middle East. Most girls get a sweet sixteen party—I soloed on a jet.”
“Would you rather have had the party?”
She looked at him and raised her eyebrows. “Are you crazy? I’d begged my dad to let me fly jets for two years before he let me. He said I couldn’t handle the technical information, so I studied physics and aerodynamics until he was forced to change his mind.”
Jefri watched the emotions move across Billie’s face as she spoke. She was a beautiful woman, but it was not difficult to imagine the frightened young girl she must have been when she had lost her mother. Frightened and alone, yet determined. What had he fought for when he had turned sixteen? As the youngest son of the king, he had been given nearly everything he wanted. If he recalled correctly his sixteenth birthday had involved a large party and a concert by a young female pop star.
“You survive in a very male world,” he said.
She laughed. “At first it sucked me in. After my mom died I thought the only way to get along with my father was to be one of the guys. I thought that would make him respect me. Over time I finally figured out I would never be another one of his sons so I stopped trying.”
“I cannot tell you how relieved I am.”
She laughed. “No desire to date Doyle, huh?”
“None in the least.”
“Around my nineteenth birthday, I said the hell with it. We were in France, at the air show. I spent two days getting my hair done, painting my nails and shopping. I went from combat boots to four-inch heels and I never looked back.”
“What did they say?” he asked.
“No one even noticed for a while. My dad said he thought my skirts were too short and my brothers ragged on me for my big hair. I challenged them all to a simulated dogfight. It was the first time I beat them and I’ve been kicking their butts ever since.”
“The power of a woman,” he said, delighted by her victory.
“Something like that.” She sipped her drink. “Don’t get me wrong. I love my family. They’re weird, but I think every family is. We live a very nomadic existence and that has made us appreciate the times when we are together.”
“Your father never remarried?”
“No. I wish he would. I know he loved my mom, but that’s no reason for him to be alone for so long. I don’t think she would have wanted it that way.” She looked at him. “Your father never remarried after your mother’s death.”
“That’s true. Theirs was a love match as well, although he’d been married before. I think he found raising four sons and a daughter took too much time.
However my father takes long trips to Europe and America where I doubt he lacks for female companionship.”
“Good point. I doubt anyone is going to tell him she’s not interested.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Is that why you are with me? Because I am a prince and you do not think you can say no?”
She studied him from under lowered lashes. “Pretty much.”
He saw the corner of her mouth quiver.
“I can see you are trying not to laugh,” he told her.
“You’re right, but if you could have seen your face when I said that. You believed me and you were deeply insulted.”
He released her hand and swung his legs to the ground. “I can see I am going to have to teach you more respect for my lofty position.”
“I respect you, Jefri, but it’s not as if I’m scared of you.”
“Good to know. Are you ready for lunch?”
Billie’s idea of al fresco dining involved take-out or a sub sandwich made under questionable circumstances with ingredients she didn’t want to identify. But outdoor dining prince-style took on a whole new meaning. Not only was there a real wood table with matching chairs, a white linen tablecloth provided a perfect backdrop for elegant china and crystal.
A servant in a white jacket and black slacks materialized as they walked toward the beautifully set table. He held out Billie’s chair and offered her a hand-printed menu of the various available selections. She looked over the many salads and entrées—not a sandwich in the bunch—then set down her menu and leaned toward Jefri.
“You’re working very hard to impress me,” she said.
“You told me that was not possible.”
“I might have lied.”
He brushed her mouth with his and sent heat racing to all parts of her body.
“But remember,” he said quietly. “These are only things and scenarios. They say nothing about who I am.”
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