The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(47) by Susan Mallery
“Billie, I want you.”
And she wanted him. She supposed that’s what it came down to. A problem with no resolution.
“I should go,” she said.
“No. Do not leave the party.”
She stared at her glass. “I meant the country. This would be easier if I weren’t here.”
“You would quit?”
“It would make our lives go more smoothly.”
“Is that what you want?”
Five simple words, she thought sadly. A question she couldn’t answer. Not if she told the truth. Because she didn’t want to go.
She pushed past him and entered the crowd in the ballroom. Maybe if she just kept moving, she could leave all this behind and simply have a good time.
She walked around a large woman in black satin and nearly ran into a well-dressed older man.
“I’m sorry,” she began before she recognized the king.
He took her hand and patted it. “Where are you off to in such a hurry?”
“Nowhere. Just walking.”
“I see. Then if I’m not taking you away from anything too important, there are some people I would like you to meet.”
Billie nearly stumbled in surprise. “Me? Who?”
“The French ambassador is here. A very impressive woman. And the British prime minister. You haven’t met him, have you?”
Billie laughed. “Gee, I haven’t. Shocking but true.”
The king drew her close. “He will be charmed, my dear. Perfectly charmed.”
Tahira hovered behind a large column and watched the dancing. She had survived her first formal dinner, which was more than she’d hoped for. For the past three nights she’d had nightmares about spilling, dropping or saying the wrong thing.
She’d awakened sweaty and trembling, unable to get back to sleep for hours.
Now the dinner was behind her and the worst that had happened was she had bored the people sitting around her.
“Perhaps not too great a sin,” she murmured to herself as she swayed in time with the music.
The king of El Bahar had been seated on her left and while he had been most kind, he had been far more interested in his lovely wife who had been seated across from him. The Spanish ambassador had been on her right. She spoke enough of the language to get by but when he’d started talking about the wines his country exported, all she’d been able to do was nod as if she knew what he was saying. She tried not to imagine the look on his face if she’d admitted she’d never had Spanish wine, or any wine until that very night.
Several different ones had been served at dinner. She’d tried them all and had been careful to only take a sip or two. She hadn’t wanted to get tipsy. Not that she would know what tipsy felt like.
A flash of blue caught her eye. She smiled when she recognized Billie dancing with the crown prince.
So beautiful, Tahira thought with a sigh. Billie had piled her blond hair up on her head. Long, dangly diamond earrings fell nearly to her shoulders, while her beaded blue dress hugged all her curves.
Tahira thought of her own small br**sts and boyish hips. If someone put a dress like that on her, it would simply fall to the ground.
As she watched, the crown prince said something and Billie laughed. Tahira smiled as if she shared the joke. Billie always knew the right thing to say.
She’d heard plenty of laughter at that end of the table.
“I want to be more like her,” she said fiercely, wondering if it were possible.
Could a mouse be transformed into a beautiful and exotic bird?
“More like who?”
Tahira spun toward the voice and saw a man standing behind her. Her mind went blank for a second before she recognized Billie’s brother Doyle.
“You frightened me,” she admitted, pressing a hand to her throat.
“Sorry. I saw you hiding back here and I came to find out why you’re not dancing.”
Dancing? She winced at the thought. While she had taken lessons and practiced several times a week with the other girls at the school, she had found out during her one awkward dance with Prince Jefri that dancing with her friends was very different from dancing with a man.
“I have danced,” she said. “Once.”
“Let me guess. With your fiancé. But not with anyone else.”
She shook her head. “No one has asked and I’m not sure…”
Before she could complete her thought, Doyle grabbed her hand and pulled her close.
“You’re not married yet, right? So I won’t be beheaded for taking you out on the floor.”
His eyes were the most amazing shade of blue, she thought hazily. Like the sea by the coral reefs off the island. A deep blue that called to her and whispered secrets.
He grinned and her heart flipped in her chest.
“You didn’t answer my question.”
She blinked. “What did you want to know?”
“Are beautiful princesses-to-be allowed to dance with handsome strangers?”
She laughed, then felt herself blush. She wasn’t beautiful, but he was kind to say so.
“You’re not a stranger,” she said. “You’re Billie’s brother.”
“You say that as if it makes me safe.”
His expression darkened. “Don’t believe that for a moment, princess. I can be very dangerous.”
His words made her shiver, but with excitement rather than fear. “I’m not a princess.”
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