The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(37) by Susan Mallery
She doubted that. Her fantasy was that in time he wouldn’t matter to her. Not that he mattered now. Okay, they’d had some laughs and a really fabulous night, but that didn’t mean anything. She hadn’t fallen for him.
He reached for her arm. She spun toward him.
“Don’t touch me,” she said, her voice low and angry. “You no longer have the right.”
“Billie, you have to be reasonable.”
“I don’t think so. I don’t think I have to be anything I don’t want to be, and certainly not because you said so.”
“Please. You mean the world to me.”
“Ha! Even if I believed you, I wouldn’t care. If you need a woman, I suggest you go check out Miss Docile and Reasonably Attractive. I’m sure she’ll welcome you with open arms.”
Billie hid out at the airport for another hour, but knew she couldn’t stay there forever. Not unless she planned on moving back. The option gave her pause—was she willing to give up the perfect bathroom because of a broken heart? She quickly decided that living tubless would only add to her pain, so better to be at the palace and suffering than in a tent and hating life.
Once back at the palace, she found herself unable to stay in her room, so she collected Muffin and hurried toward the garden. Maybe being outside in something so beautiful would ease her spirits.
“I didn’t expect to recover in fifteen seconds,” she told her dog as she set her down on the path. “But I would appreciate being able to breathe without shooting pains in my chest.”
Muffin gave her a quick sympathetic look before hurrying off to check out the nearby plants and shrubs. Billie sank onto a stone bench and contemplated her options.
She could leave. Contract or no contract, she could simply walk away from the job.
As soon as the thought formed, she dismissed it. She didn’t run away and she didn’t quit. Which left her in the unique position of having to regularly see the man who had hurt her.
Could she do it? “Dumb question,” she murmured. “Of course I can do it. The trick will be doing it well.”
She probed at the open wounds to gauge their depth. How long until she recovered? How long until she was able to look back at all this and know it had been an important lesson for her to learn? If nothing else, the sex had been fabulous. She’d figured out she had the kind of body that responded really well to the right sort of touch. Maybe she should stop thinking about Jefri and start figuring out who she could find to replace him. Would taking another lover make her feel better?
She wasn’t sure of the answer to the question, but the thought of another man doing what he had done made her stomach roll. Okay, so she would need a little time and distance before searching out another lover. That was fine. She had time.
Muffin trotted past on her way to another tree where a long sniffing session was in order. Billie watched her, then stiffened when she heard footsteps on the path. Her heart fluttered, then slowed when she realized they didn’t belong to Jefri.
How horrible that her world had been reduced to him or not him. Funny how she hadn’t known she was involved and now she had to work on getting over him.
The king rounded the corner in the path and moved toward her. Billie knew bolting wasn’t an option so she braced herself for the interruption and rose to her feet.
“Please,” he said as he waved her back onto her seat. “Do you mind a little company?”
“Of course not, Your Highness.”
He sat next to her and took her hand. “I will admit that spending time with such a beautiful young woman brightens my day.”
She did her best to smile. “While I appreciate the compliment, you’re in a position of great power. Doesn’t that mean you can get all the young women you want?”
He raised his eyebrows. “You are right. I had forgotten. I will see to acquiring as many as possible this very afternoon.”
Her smile turned genuine. “That would make for an interesting to-do list.”
“I agree. My staff would not know what had happened to me.” He patted her hand, then released it. “Tell me about the training. It goes well?”
“Yes. You have excellent pilots in the program.” None better than Jefri, but she wasn’t going to talk about him if she could help it. “We’re taking their individual strengths and honing them, while shoring up weaknesses. At the same time, we’re working on making them a team. Your deserts will be well protected from the skies.”
“That is good to hear.” The king sighed. “Times changed. A hundred years ago could anyone have imagined having to patrol the deserts in such a fashion?”
“Probably not. But change isn’t always bad.”
“I agree. We must keep up with the times, as they say. Move forward. Invest in our future.”
“Is that what Tahira is?” she asked before she could stop herself. “An investment in the future?”
She kept her gaze on Muffin rather than the king, but she felt the monarch study her.
“I am an old man,” he said. “Is it so wrong for me to want grandchildren to brighten my days?”
“Not at all. I wish you a great many.”
He patted her knee. “Our ways are different and can be confusing, but the desires of a parent are universal. We want our children to be happy, to produce the next generation.”
“You’re certainly going to get that.”
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