The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(54) by Susan Mallery
“You would want a wife who was not a virgin?”
Murat frowned. “Of course not. I meant inexperienced in life. Tahira has much to learn and I am far too impatient to want to teach her.”
Jefri picked up his glass and set it on the tray, then collected another and poured a second drink.
“Your time will come. Once I am engaged, Father will turn his sights to you.”
“I suspect he already has,” Murat said grimly.
“And after all this time, no one has caught your eye?”
His older brother grinned. “Many have caught my eye. None has held my attention.”
Murat cut him off with a glare. “Do not say her name.”
“It’s been nearly ten years.”
“I do not care if it has been twelve centuries. Her name is not to be spoken.”
Jefri sipped his drink, but didn’t speak. So even after all this time, his brother still did not want to hear Daphne’s name. Interesting.
But his amusement faded as the ramifications of his brother’s reaction sank in.
Ten years after the fact Murat had not recovered from the woman who left him at the altar. Sadik and Reyhan loved their wives with a devotion that was almost embarrassing. Was it a family trait? Was he destined to love only one woman for the rest of his life? And if that was true, how could he survive while married to someone else?
Funny how destroying the Bahanian air force didn’t make Billie feel any better.
Still, it had been a good day. Jefri had held out nearly six minutes and his improved performance made her proud.
As she walked along the concrete bunker-style corridor on her way from the training center at the airport, she calculated how much longer was left on the training contract. While company personnel stayed to work the transition, Billie was assigned to flight training and that work would be finished in about three weeks. Nineteen days, to be exact. Not that she could decide if leaving would be a good thing or a bad thing.
On the plus side was the chance to reclaim her life. She could stop thinking about Jefri every waking moment and instead figure out what she wanted to do with herself. Was she happy? Were there other things she wanted to accomplish? Since that one fateful night, he had been her sole focus and she needed that to stop. The other plus would be an eventual decrease in pain. How nice not to have a constant ache in her chest. How nice to wake up looking forward to the day instead of dreading it.
On the negative side of things was the fact that once she left Bahania, she would never see Jefri again. At least not in person. No doubt she would see pictures in various magazines and maybe even on the news. Some cable channel would probably do a special on his wedding. Billie shook her head. She would not be watching that. Tahira was a sweet enough girl, but Billie couldn’t stand the thought of her married to Jefri.
At least Doyle was off her back. In the past few weeks he’d barely bugged her about her feelings for Jefri. In fact he’d been pretty great. Which made her wonder what was up.
“Doyle would say this was a situation he couldn’t win,” she said aloud, then grinned, when she realized he would be right. But as her brother, he didn’t have to win.
Still smiling, she turned the corner and nearly stumbled when she saw the man walking toward her.
Even in the harsh fluorescent light, he looked gorgeous. Still dressed in his flight suit and boots, striding purposefully toward her, Prince Jefri of Bahania was the epitome of male grace and power.
She came to a stop in the center of the empty corridor. There was nothing to say to him, nothing that could be resolved, yet she couldn’t seem to move. Her senses went on alert, her body trembled, her brain got fuzzy. All because he was near. If they’d been outdoors, she would have expected a couple of little birds to break into song.
He slowed as he approached, finally stopping in front of her. They stared at each other, gazes locked, bodies stiff. The air seemed to crackle with electricity. She tried to figure out something to say—something significant. In the end, she went for something easy.
“You did well today.”
He nodded. “I have learned much from you.”
“Now you’ll be able to beat the bad guys at their own game.”
“Should they attack the oil fields from the sky, we are prepared.”
He looked gaunt, she thought. As if he hadn’t been eating or sleeping. She could relate to both. Falling in love and then getting her heart broken was even better than getting the flu for losing a couple of pounds.
They were alone in the stone corridor. The tunnel-like space was so quiet, she would swear she could hear both their heartbeats.
They spoke at the same time. She ducked her head.
“You go,” she said.
“No. You first. Please.”
She looked at him, then wondered what she could possibly say. That she was sorry? She wasn’t. Not for anything, except the obvious of his engagement. But even knowing what she knew now, she wouldn’t not want to care. He’d touched her in a way that no man had, and that touching was about a lot more than just making love.
“I’m glad I met you,” she whispered.
His expression tightened. “As am I. You are an extraordinary woman.”
Neither of them stated the obvious. That if things had been different…But they weren’t.
She couldn’t say who moved first. Maybe she’d reached for him. Maybe he had taken a single step. One second they were a good arm’s length away from each other and the next they were in each other’s arms, holding, pressing, kissing.
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