The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(21) by Susan Mallery
She knew what he meant. That he was more than a rich guy with hot and cold running servants. But he was wrong about his world not being part of who he was.
Jefri wielded power as casually as most people drove a car. He commanded an impressive air force with enough firepower to destroy nearly any country on the planet and her job was to teach him to do that better.
“You’re not exactly how I pictured a prince would be,” she said.
“Is the impression better or worse.”
“Different. But then I don’t have a lot of experience in the royal world.”
“Then we are even because I have little experience with delightful, sexy female flight instructors. Mine were always men. I would say it was my loss.”
She smiled. “Absolutely.”
He picked up her menu and handed it to her. “What would you like?”
“I’m not going to ask what’s good. I’m assuming it’s all fabulous.”
“Of course it is. Oh, and if you’re thinking of choosing something because you want to take the leftovers to Muffin, the king asked me to tell you to simply ask for a plate to be sent to your rooms. There is no need for you to slip food into your handbag.”
She squeezed her eyes shut and held in a groan. “Did everyone notice I’d done that at dinner?”
She opened her eyes and stared at him. “I’m humiliated.”
“You’re charming. We were all entranced.”
“I had a Baggie,” she said, knowing it was a pretty feeble explanation. “It’s
not like I put meat directly into my purse or anything.”
“Of course not.”
“So you don’t think it’s odd?”
He smiled. “I think it is extremely odd.”
“You’re mocking me.”
Billie’s pleasure in her oasis lunch with Jefri lasted exactly twenty-five hours and forty-two minutes, right until she found herself once again flying with him.
But instead of sharing a beautifully restored Tiger Moth, they were flying separate jets and she was coming around for another pass.
What she hated was how quickly she was going to kill him. If only he’d lasted four or five minutes, they could both feel better about the experience. But the specially designed timer that was part of the training program had yet to hit ninety seconds and she already had him in her sights.
For a brief flicker in time, she thought about pretending that she couldn’t get him, but as the thought formed, she pushed it away. Her job was to make her students into the best pilots possible and that wasn’t going to happen by letting them win. She maneuvered until she was able to get a clear shot, then pushed the button. The sharp sound of tone-lock filled her cockpit and his sharp inhale of disbelief filled her headset.
“You continue to surprise me,” he said.
“That’s why they pay me the big bucks.”
She couldn’t tell what he was thinking from the tone of his voice and she wasn’t sure she wanted to know. She followed him down from the sky and landed. When she’d pulled her jet up to his, she hesitated before climbing down.
What was she going to say? How could she explain that it didn’t matter to her that he didn’t beat her in the sky? She still liked being around him, talking to him, flying with him, and she wouldn’t object if he wanted to kiss her again.
“Sitting here is getting nothing done,” she told herself and popped the canopy on her jet, then pulled off her helmet and climbed down.
As she crossed the tarmac, she saw Doyle walking toward Jefri. Something in her stomach warned her this could be trouble, so she hurried to catch up.
But she was too late and by the time she joined them she was just in time to see her brother slap Jefri on the back and hear him say, “It’s gotta kill you to keep getting beaten by a girl.”
“You get beaten by me all the time,” she reminded her brother, wishing he could keep his mouth shut.
Doyle grinned. “Yeah, but I’m not a prince.”
She wanted to scream in frustration. Instead she simply clenched her teeth and walked off. She didn’t want to know what Jefri was thinking so she kept her gaze straight ahead as she made it back to the main tent. There she collected her street clothes and stepped into a restroom where she changed back into shorts and a T-shirt before stowing her gear and collecting Muffin.
“The entire situation makes me crazy,” she told her dog. “How am I supposed to win at this? I can’t help being good and I don’t want to change it.”
She stepped out into the afternoon sun and nearly plowed into Jefri.
“What?” she demanded.
“I was looking for you.”
“Okay. Fine. But here’s the thing. I won’t apologize for what I do well. I’m sorry if you’re having ego problems.”
“I do not consider my ego your responsibility.”
He spoke quietly, even reasonably. That made her nervous. “I’m just doing my job,” she continued. “Even though I know what they say. That I’m a ball-buster.
It’s not my plan to emasculate you, it just happens.”
He grabbed her arms and led her around to the side of the tent, next to a stack of large crates.
“You talk too much,” he said, his gaze intent on her face.
“I’m trying to explain.”
“I understand perfectly. Put down that damn dog.”
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