The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(29) by Susan Mallery
“You’re not exactly what I expected,” she told him. “I thought a prince would be different.”
“In what way?”
“I’m not sure.”
“I am simply a man, like many others.”
“Actually, you’re not, but that’s okay.”
He leaned close and brushed his mouth against hers. “I am glad.”
Billie wasn’t surprised to find a limo waiting for them at the airport. They’d come into a private field next to the main international airport. Jefri had warned her to bring her passport, but their trip through customs was a simple walk past uniformed officials who bowed and offered greetings of welcome.
She and her royal date were whisked into the center of the brightly lit city where they stopped in front of a small restaurant.
“No cameras in sight,” she said as she stepped out onto the sidewalk. “I like this much better.”
“Many women enjoy being the center of attention,” he said.
“Then I say they should go for it. I’m not into the whole ‘center of a crowd’ thing. I get nervous.”
They walked inside and were quickly shown to a private table tucked into an alcove. Billie did a quick visual search of nearby tables before she took her seat.
“No paparazzi and no brother,” she said. “This is my idea of a good time.”
“I am glad you approve.”
Jefri ordered wine, they discussed the menu, but all the while, she couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing this was. She was out to dinner with a man who had flown her to another country for the meal because he was a prince and they couldn’t go out to eat where he lived. Jefri was royal, as in his daddy owned a palace and everything.
“What is wrong?” he asked when the waiter had left with their order. “You have gone pale.”
“I think I just completely grasped who you are.”
“In what way?”
She waved her fingers. “Let’s start with something easier. Who I am. My father owns a successful company. We’ve always done well, but we’re not exactly rolling in money. I grew up surrounded by planes and burly mechanics. I did my entire high school education by correspondence. I know more about going Mach 4 than ballroom dancing and in stressful social situations, I usually put my foot in my mouth.”
He leaned toward her and captured her hand. “What is your point?”
She laughed. “That I can’t figure out what you’re doing with me. I saw the magazine articles and the type of women you usually date. They’re gorgeous.
Movie stars and divas and daughters of really, really rich men.”
“I see. And you do not consider yourself like them?”
“I can hold my own.” Sort of. “It’s just weird.”
“Two nights ago you accused me of being ‘weirded out’ about your past. You have a fondness for the word.”
She sighed. “See. I can’t even speak correctly.”
He kissed her fingers, which made her heart do the happy dance.
“You do extremely well. I am delighted to be with you and honored by your presence.”
“Jeez, do you know how to get the girls or what?”
“You doubt my sincerity.”
“Not at all. I’m just trying to keep up.”
“This is not a competition, and my world is not all you think it to be. I was sent away to a British boarding school when I was nine years old. At seventeen, I went to America, to college. My brother, Reyhan, had made the mistake of letting people know who he was when he first entered college, so he was followed and judged and kept in the press for the entire four years.” He kissed her fingers again. “I learned from his mistake and decided to keep my identity a secret.”
She could imagine the feeding frenzy as the coeds found out there was a single royal prince on campus. “Did it work?”
He nodded. “I managed to get through with only a few close friends finding out.
I met women who were interested in me for myself.” He smiled. “It was a most humbling experience.”
“I doubt that.” He was the sort of man women would want regardless of his royal status.
“When I reached twenty-one, women descended on Bahania. They wanted the opportunity to marry a prince. I am not sure what I wanted, but they were not it. Still, some played the game very well and I was fooled more than once.”
“That’s understandable.” The combination of willing women and the natural desire to believe it was all about him could have made things very complicated.
“I married one of them,” he said.
The statement was so unexpected that had she been drinking she would have spit.
He looked at her as he rubbed her fingers. “From what I could see, she was perfect. Beautiful, well mannered. There was some trace of European royalty in her heritage, her father controlled multinational banks. It was a match that delighted everyone involved.”
Married? As in…She carefully withdrew her hand. “You’re not married now, are you?”
He took her hand in his and smiled. “No. I am not married now.”
“But you were?”
“Yes. We were married. The wedding was a state occasion and it only took me six months to realize my wife had a heart of stone.”
Billie had done some reading about Jefri, but none of the articles had mentioned a wife. “You’re divorced?”
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