The Sheik and the Princess in Waiting(Desert Rogues, Book 7)(29) by Susan Mallery
“How are things with you and Reyhan?” Cleo asked. “Or is that too personal? I just meant it’s been a long time. Is he the same guy you remembered?”
Emma chuckled. “Are we allowed to refer to a Bahanian prince as a guy?”
“Hmm, good point. We might be risking a beheading. Fortunately Calah is too young to turn us in.”
Emma bounced the baby on her lap. “She would never betray us, would you, honey? You’re one of the girls. We have to stick together.” She looked at Cleo. “As for Reyhan being the same or different…Honestly, everything is different. When we met, I was a freshman, away from home for the first time in my life. He was a sophisticated older man who swept me off my feet. I spent most of our time together trying not to sound too young or stupid. That took most of my energy. I can’t say I did ever know him.”
Interesting question. “He’s terrific. Not just those handsome dark good looks, either.”
Cleo sighed. “Agreed. Sadik would be a catch even if he were a brainless fool. I could happily suspend my life simply looking at him. But there’s a genuine person buried inside. I’m guessing Reyhan is the same.”
“Yeah. He’s smart and serious, but funny, too.” And sexy. Too sexy, she thought remembering their almost close encounter in the boutique. She would have sworn he’d wanted her as much as she’d wanted him. So why had he just up and disappeared without seeing her to say goodbye?
“So the girl in you was overwhelmed the first time around,” Cleo said. “How does the woman feel the second time around?”
“She’s impressed,” Emma admitted.
“Which doesn’t make you sound like a woman who’s hot for a divorce.”
“Of course I am. Maybe not eager, but it’s why I’m here. Reyhan is ready to get on with his life and his plan doesn’t include me.”
Cleo’s blue eyes widened slightly. “You don’t have to blindly agree, you know.
You could take some time, see where things go.”
Emma blinked at her. Could she? Was that an option? “I never thought I had a say in things.”
“Arrogant princes prefer the world to do their bidding, but it doesn’t always have to happen that way. You’re half of the couple. You get a vote.” She touched Emma’s hand. “Seriously. If you’re not sure what you want, tell the king. I’m sure he’d be more than willing to hold off the divorce for a while.”
Tempting, Emma thought a half second before she shook her head. “No. There’s no point. I don’t belong here.”
Cleo arched her eyebrows. “Oh, and I did? When I met Sadik I was the night manager of a copy shop. Not exactly princess material.” She waved her fingers at the room. “It’s not about the trappings, or even tradition. The king wants his sons to fall in love. Prince Jefri has decided on an arranged match, but he’s the only one.”
Cleo was wrong, Emma thought sadly. Reyhan wanted one, as well. He’d told her.
“Maybe if things had worked out differently when we’d first met,” Emma said firmly. “But that time is past. We’re different people. I have my own life back in Texas.”
“Sure,” Cleo said. “If you’re not falling for Reyhan, there’s no reason to stay.
So tell me about your work in the hospital. You work in the delivery room, right?”
“Yes, it’s wonderful.”
Emma talked about a typical day, if there was such a thing, and how she loved what she did. But in the back of her mind, she kept hearing Cleo’s words over and over again. If you’re not falling for Reyhan.
She wasn’t, she told herself firmly. She hadn’t and she wouldn’t. Falling for him after all these years apart would be just plain stupid. The fact that she enjoyed spending time with him was interesting but not significant. She wouldn’t let it matter. She couldn’t. Because Reyhan had made it clear he was only interested in moving on.
“They’re making threats again,” Will O’Rourke said quietly.
“The usual?” Reyhan asked from his place by the fire.
“Death and destruction. Interruption of oil production. The usual.”
Reyhan kicked at a small rock in front of his chair. “I would have more respect for these boys if they had a genuine complaint. We have neither taken their lands, nor displaced them.”
“They want something for nothing. A share of the oil money or they make trouble.
They’re kids—seventeen or eighteen. To them this is a game.”
“Extortion is a time-honored tradition all over the world.” Reyhan turned his attention to the sky. It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the total darkness, then he saw the thousands of stars twinkling in the heavens.
Beautiful, he thought. Mysterious. Distant. A world unto themselves. Much like Emma.
He shook his head. The point of his trip to the desert had been to avoid her, but if he was going to spend all his time thinking about her, then he might as well torture himself by being in her presence.
“I doubt they have a plan,” Will said.
It took Reyhan a moment to remember what they’d been talking about. The teenage renegades.
“They imagine themselves to be characters in a movie,” he told his security chief. “They will ride their purebred Bahanian stallions to victory.”
Reyhan had no more patience for these boys. He’d listened to their grievances and investigated their claims. They had not been pushed off their lands, nor injured in any way by the oil production. Most of them were bored second sons from hardworking nomadic families. Unable to inherit, they didn’t want to work to acquire their wealth. Instead they sought to take that which belonged to the people.
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