The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(51) by Susan Mallery
“Nothing. I’m fine.” Now.
She looked at his handsome face, the easy smile that always made her lips curve up in return. She wanted to get lost in his dark blue eyes and never find her way back.
“So how’s my favorite princess?” he asked as he took her hand in his.
“I’m not a princess,” she said, trying to tug her fingers free.
He didn’t let go.
She glanced around to make sure they were alone. She could not be seen holding hands with a man other than Prince Jefri. Not that the prince had ever tried to.
When she realized they were in a secluded part of the garden, she allowed herself to relax and enjoy the warm touch of Doyle’s skin against hers.
“So what’s the problem?” he asked as he brought her knuckles to his mouth and kissed them.
She felt the warm contact clear down to her toes. He’d kissed her hand! Just like that. While talking! As if…As if…
She couldn’t even think. No one had ever done that. Of course no one had ever kissed her anywhere before.
Why? Why had Doyle done that and why had the contact made her tingle?
“W-what was the question?” she asked.
He grinned. “Why are you hiding out in the garden and trying not to cry?”
She pulled her hand free of his embrace and held in a sigh. “Prince Jefri doesn’t like me very much.”
“Huh. That doesn’t sound good, what with you two practically engaged.”
She stared at him. “What do you mean, practically?”
“Has he proposed?”
“Are you wearing a ring?”
She glanced at her left hand. “No.”
“In my world, that means you’re not completely engaged. Is it different here?”
Tahira hadn’t thought of it that way. “But there is an understanding. I was raised to marry a prince. Jefri asked for his father to arrange a match.” Her shoulders slumped. “I fear he is disappointed in me.”
“It’s true. We have nothing to talk about. Things aren’t very comfortable.” She wanted to mention that the prince had never once held her hand or tried to kiss her, but she couldn’t bring herself to admit that to Doyle.
“You don’t have a lot of experience with the boy-girl thing,” he told her.
“Maybe you’re making things out to be worse than they are.”
She didn’t think so. “I was too sheltered,” she said. “I wish I were more like your sister. Billie has a career and accomplishments. She’s so confident.”
“She’s okay,” Doyle said. “Why can’t you have a career if you want one?”
“There’s an answer.”
Tahira didn’t know what else to say. “I would have to go to college.”
“But that would never be allowed.”
Two simple words. Two words with the power to alter the very fabric of her world.
Could she? Was she allowed to express preferences and make choices?
“I was raised to marry a prince,” she repeated.
“Times change. It’s a new century, kid, and you can be a whole lot more than some guy’s possession if that’s what you want.”
She didn’t know what to think. The possibilities overwhelmed her.
“I never thought…”
“Then it’s time to start thinking.” He grinned. “I do have to warn you, though.
Once you leave the palace, it’s a big, bad world out there and guys like me are going to want to eat you up for breakfast.”
She frowned. “What?”
He leaned close. “I’m talking about men, Princess.”
She ignored the title. “What about them?”
“They’re going to want you.”
As in…She wasn’t sure as in what, but it sounded exciting. “I don’t think Prince Jefri wants me.”
“Then he’s an idiot.”
She gasped. “You can’t say that about a prince.”
“Sure I can. I’ll say it again. He’s an idiot.”
Then, before she could think or catch her breath or figure out what was happening, Doyle leaned close and brushed his mouth against hers.
Tahira couldn’t believe it. He’d kissed her! Just like that. With no warning or anything. Just a quick, fabulous, amazing touch.
“You look stunned,” he said, sounding faintly amused.
“Let me guess. No one’s done that before.”
“The king kisses my cheek.”
“Not the same.” Doyle shifted closer, then cupped her chin. “We’re going to try it again. This time, close your eyes.”
“Because I said so.”
“Oh. All right.” She obediently closed her eyes.
He chuckled. “Why do I know you’re going to get headstrong in a hurry?”
“I have no idea. How long do I keep my eyes closed?”
“As long as you want.”
A soft puff of breath was her only warning, then his mouth was on hers again, but this time it was much more than a brush. His lips pressed against hers in a way that made her blood heat and her fingers curl into her palms. She practically squirmed in her seat as her brain tried to process all the bits of information.
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