The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(26) by Susan Mallery
“I…You can’t know that.”
Jefri shrugged. “We were to dine in a very public restaurant tonight yet Doyle felt it necessary to be there to watch over you. Why is he so afraid for your safety?”
She debated telling him the truth for all of eight seconds, then sighed.
“I had a couple of bad experiences when I was younger,” she admitted without looking at him. “When I was nineteen, I went out with a group of pilots we were training. It was the first time one of my brothers hadn’t tagged along.
Everybody drank too much, except me. Even though I was above the drinking age, I hadn’t developed a taste for anything really alcoholic. Even now I really only
like wine, so I barely ever even get very tipsy.”
He touched her bare leg. “Billie, as entertaining as I find your stories, perhaps tonight you could stay on topic.”
That was easy for him to say. He didn’t know what the topic was. She reminded herself that she was nearly ten years older and wiser. She’d learned to handle herself and to not put herself into those kind of situations anymore.
“Okay. Sure.” She wiggled her shoulders in an effort to relax. “Well, you can imagine. Five guys, me and a lot of liquor. They got too friendly and when I tried to stop them, it didn’t go well. Two of the guys dragged me back to the van and tried to…well, you know.”
She felt him stiffen. Rage tightened the muscles of his face and his expression became frighteningly determined.
“They didn’t rape me,” she said quickly. “Doyle and Xander drove up before they’d done much more than scare the crap out of me. The guys took off and my brothers brought me back to the base.”
Jefri wondered how much she did not say. There was more to a rape than actual penetration. Had they hurt her? Marked her? Bruised more than her body?
He looked at her delicate features, her pale skin and the trust in her blue eyes. Fury filled him until he wanted to destroy those who had dared to attack her in such a way.
He swore, even as he struggled for control. “What was done to them?” he demanded.
“My brothers pounded them into quivering bloody masses, then they were kicked out of the program.”
He felt some small measure of satisfaction at that. But it was not enough. “They should have been thrown into prison.”
“I know. I wanted to press charges, but we were in a foreign country and the laws were different.” She shook her head. “It’s okay. I’m better now.”
He touched her cheek. “You should not have anything to get better from. Tell me their names. I will bring them here and visit Bahanian justice upon them.”
“Which involves what?”
“Prison. Beating. Perhaps death.” He liked the idea of them dead.
Her eyes widened. “Death?”
“No man has the right to defile any woman. Ever. It has been that way here for nearly three hundred years.”
“A really good reason to take up residence,” she murmured. “Look, I appreciate your concern. Really. It’s very sweet of you to worry, but I’m okay. It was nine years ago. I’m over it.”
He heard the words but did not believe them. He read a fragility in her eyes that told him those ghosts still had the power to haunt her.
“I see now why your brothers are so protective of you,” he said.
“It made sense at first,” she told him. “I was nervous and scared, but things have changed. I can take care of myself.”
Perhaps she could, but she should not have to.
Billie used her fork to scoop up some rice. “Can we change the subject?”
“Of course. You should try the fish. It is caught locally.”
She took a bite, then offered some to Muffin. As the dog licked her fingers, Jefri deliberately turned his mind from what had happened before. As much as he wanted justice, it was not his place.
But he wanted it to be, he realized. He wanted to have the right to defend her with all the power at his disposal. Deep instincts, born in the darkest parts of the desert, still lived within him. He wanted to protect her as much as he wanted to claim her as his own.
He watched her move, her long bare legs a temptation no man should have to bear.
He ached with his need, but whatever plans he might have had for the evening had changed. He needed time to come to terms with her past and decide how it changed things. If nothing else, he would have to move more slowly with her.
He offered her bread, then watched her take a bite. How many men had there been since that disastrous night? How many lovers?
Not many, he decided. As amazing as he found her, there was still an air of innocence about her. Between her past and her brothers, he wondered how innocent she might be.
“What?” she asked, narrowing her gaze. “Tell me exactly what you’re thinking.”
He shrugged. “Nothing of importance.”
“Why do I know you’re lying? I shouldn’t have told you about what happened.
You’re going to get completely freaked out, aren’t you?”
“You’re going to start acting as if I’m made of glass or something. This is just so typically male.”
“You appear to be upset, but I have no idea of the cause.”
She rose to her knees and glared at him. “You’re completely weirded out and you’re not going to kiss me or touch me or anything, are you? I should have guessed.”
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