The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(39) by Susan Mallery
“I’m fine,” she repeated, doing her best to mean it this time. “We had a few laughs, a good time and now it’s over.”
Doyle narrowed his gaze. “Tell me he didn’t break your heart.”
She dismissed the statement with a flick of her wrist. “I didn’t know him long enough for him to break anything. Come on. It was a few days. Am I happy that there’s now someone else? No. But I’m not destroyed. I’ll get over this and move on with my life.”
She liked how the words sounded, how she sounded, but there was a cold place inside that told her she might not be telling the truth about any of it.
Better not to go there, she thought.
“He’s a bastard,” Doyle said flatly as he shoved his hands into his slacks pockets. “I should go beat the crap out of him.”
“While I appreciate the sentiment, I would urge caution. There are several flaws in your plan.”
“Jefri isn’t totally to blame. He didn’t know about Tahira either.”
“He sent his father looking for a wife. In my book that makes him damn guilty.”
“Agreed, but he also asked him to call off the search.” Billie tried to focus on the sweetness of her brother wanting to take care of her rather than the pain of Jefri’s betrayal. “He was just as shocked as the rest of us.”
“But you’re the one who was hurt,” Doyle insisted. “I should go find him right now and reduce him to mush.”
“Not a good idea. Whatever the outcome, you’d probably be thrown in prison. I doubt they’d treat you very well, so I’d be forced to sell myself to the head guard just to get you food and water.”
Doyle moved close and cupped her cheek. “I’m not kidding, Billie. I want him to pay.”
She nodded. “I’m not kidding either. I want you to stay out of this. You’re not in charge of my life.”
“I told you this would happen if you got involved with him but you wouldn’t listen.”
She hadn’t wanted to listen. She’d wanted to be with Jefri. He’d excited her and challenged her. She’d thought…
She’d thought a lot of things, she admitted to herself. She’d wanted the fantasy—a handsome prince who adored her. Well, for twenty-four hours she’d had just that. Now it was back to the real world.
She stepped back from Doyle’s touch and squared her shoulders. “I’m going to be okay with this,” she said firmly. “I’m a little rattled by what happened because coming home to Jefri’s fiancée seems grossly unfair, but I suppose that’s the downside of dating a prince. We had a good time. I don’t regret what happened and I refuse to apologize for it.”
“That sounds pretty tough.”
“It’s the truth. You can believe it or not.”
He shook his head. “This is why we’ve all tried to protect you. Left on your own, you get into trouble.”
“It’s my life, Doyle. You can’t protect me forever. And while we’re on the subject, let me point out at least I took a chance. When was the last time you got involved with any woman who wasn’t a brainless nit? God forbid you meet a woman you can actually connect with on some level other than sex. But that would ruin it for you, wouldn’t it? I don’t know what you’re running from or what you’re afraid of, but I suggest you get yourself a little bit closer to normal before you start making accusations about me.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Want to bet?”
He glared at her, but she refused to back down. Doyle blinked first and turned away.
“Let me know if you change your mind about me beating him up,” he grumbled as he walked to the door.
“I will. And I appreciate that you worry about me, even though you don’t have to.”
“You’re my sister,” he said gruffly.
She smiled for the first time since learning about Tahira. “I love you, too.”
“This phase of the training involves teamwork,” Billie said two days later.
She stood at the front of the largest classroom in the main hangar. Several diagrams covered the dry-erase board behind her. She’d been lecturing for the better part of an hour.
No one looking at her would ever guess anything was wrong, but Jefri knew. She might sound confident and strong, but she hadn’t once looked at him.
“The sky gets small pretty fast when four or five fighters are covering the same territory. While you can’t predict what your enemy will do next, you should be able to sense what your team is going to do. That’s why we’re spending so much time on the topic. I want you to develop a sixth sense about your teammates’ actions and strategies. I want each of you to be able to predict what the other will do.”
She continued talking, outlining how much time would be spent in simulations before they went out in jets.
“Crashing is so much simpler when we do it on a simulator,” she said with a grin.
The men laughed. Billie’s gaze swept around the room. For a split second, it landed on him. He sensed her instant tension before she quickly turned away.
He felt her pain, and he ached in return. He had tried to speak with her, but she avoided him. For how long? When would she allow him to explain? And if she did, what was there to say? The problem of Tahira had yet to be solved.
“All right,” Billie said. “Let’s go try all this theory on the simulators.”
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