The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(42) by Susan Mallery
“You barely know him and he barely knows you,” Billie said, trying to be reasonable. “You need to spend more time together to figure out if you like each other.”
Tahira looked doubtful. “I thought I would know. I thought when I finally met Prince Jefri, my heart would beat faster and my knees would get weak.”
Billie stared at the girl. “What exactly do you know about weak knees?”
Tahira ducked her head. “Some of the girls had families. They went home for holidays and when they came back they brought books for the rest of us. You know, stories about falling in love.” She glanced up and bit her lower lip. “Do you think it was wrong of me to read them?”
“Of course not.”
“I wasn’t sure and there was no one to ask. So when I met Prince Jefri I thought…” Her voice trailed off. “Perhaps the feelings will come later. As you say, we don’t know each other.”
Billie tried to be fair. Tahira seemed like a sweet enough girl, but she was no match for a stubborn, arrogant, wonderful man like Jefri. He was going to run her in circles. Not that this was her problem.
“Give it time,” she said.
“I will,” Tahira promised. “I’m doing all I can to make the prince proud of me.
I’ve been keeping up on current events so that when I attend the state dinner at the end of the week I can speak without embarrassing him.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
The state dinner, huh? Billie had been invited and until Tahira’s arrival, she’d been looking forward to attending, but now she wasn’t so sure.
“I don’t know what to wear,” Tahira said, then swallowed. “My clothes from the convent, well, the sisters picked them out.”
Ah, so that explained the problem.
“Now you can pick out your own,” she said, going for cheerful and wondering how she could politely ask Tahira to leave. Billie felt the beginnings of a headache at her temples.
“I know nothing of fashion or even what is appropriate. I know three languages and the correct way to address every head of state, but not what to wear at a formal dinner. If I’m wrong, Prince Jefri will be disappointed.”
Billie held in a groan. “I’m sure there are some stores in town that…”
“Yes,” Tahira said eagerly. “The prince has told me to go shopping. I have an appointment tomorrow morning. I was hoping you would come with me.”
Billie wanted to say no. Even though she loved shopping nearly as much as flying there was no way she wanted to spend an entire day with Jefri’s fiancée. Even if the girl was clueless.
“I’m not an expert on dressing for the palace,” she said, trying not to feel as if she were kicking a puppy.
“But you are so beautiful. And you have such style.”
Billie knew there was going to be trouble if Tahira thought she was stylish. “I think I like sparkle a little bit more than the average princess,” she said.
“No. Your clothes are perfect.”
Billie knew she was being punished. Probably for giving in to Jefri in the first place. Maybe it would be easier to surrender to the inevitable and get it over with.
“Why not,” she said with a sigh. “I’ll go shopping with you.”
Tahira’s whole face lit up. “Thank you so much. You are very kind. Is ten in the morning acceptable?”
She would have to let Doyle know he was on his own for classes. Her brother would complain, but so what? Besides, a day spent with Tahira meant a day not spent with Jefri and right now she could use a break from his particular brand of temptation.
Billie decided to bring Muffin along for moral support. Plus her dog always loved a good shopping spree. Promptly at ten the following morning, she made her way to the main entrance of the palace where she found Tahira waiting.
The girl had traded in her ugly green dress for an ugly brown one. Her long hair had been pulled back in a plain braid and not a dot of makeup touched her skin.
Billie itched to have a go at her thick eyebrows. Some plucking, a bit of eye shadow and lip gloss and the girl would be a hundred percent more attractive.
She was less sure about the hair. Of course it needed cutting but in what kind of style and how long should—
“Good. You are here.”
The words, spoken in a low, male voice, made her insides quiver and her thighs tremble. Still clutching Muffin, Billie turned and saw Jefri walking toward them.
She glanced back at Tahira. “Your fiancé is coming with us?”
“Yes. When I told Prince Jefri about our outing, he wanted to join us.”
Her dark eyes pleaded with Billie. Whether for Billie not to leave her alone with him or for Billie not to be angry, she wasn’t sure.
Jefri stopped in front of her. “I will accompany you to the boutique.”
Billie did her best not to notice how good he looked in his tailored suit and how much she wanted to step into his embrace.
“It’s shopping,” she said, determined to ignore her reaction. “Men hate to shop.”
“I will make an exception this one time,” he said, his gaze never leaving her face. “Tahira requires a complete new wardrobe, including formal wear. I will speak with the person in charge and make sure you are both well taken care of.”
Of course he would, she thought as he put a hand on the small of her back and led her out of the palace. He would take charge because that is what he did—instinctively, she would bet. He would spend the day with them, always there so that she would be unable to think or function.
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