The Sheik and the Princess in Waiting(Desert Rogues, Book 7)(31) by Susan Mallery
Sadik sighed. “You mock me, wife.”
“Pretty much every chance I get.” She looked at Emma. “It’s a hobby.”
Emma was still chuckling when they walked into the formal dining room. This was not the same dining room she’d been in on her second night in Bahania. That room had been impressive, but small and intimate. This one was much larger, with arched windows and elegant tapestries.
The table itself would seat at least twelve, and judging by the chairs lined up along one wall, could expand to seat many more. The inlaid wood gleamed in the soft light of crystal and gold chandeliers. The floor was marble, the flatware gold and the plates appeared hand painted and antique. Equally impressive, there wasn’t a cat to be seen.
Despite the warm temperature outside, the room was cool and a fire crackled in a massive carved fire-place. The king stood beside it, a drink in his hand. Two men stood next to him. They were both tall and dark, with strong features and lean bodies.
Do they know how to grow handsome princes here or what? Emma thought, trying not to give in to her nerves and panic. She just had to get through the dinner, then she could escape back to her room. No biggie. Besides, if Jefri and Murat were as well mannered as Reyhan and Sadik, she would be made to feel welcome. There was nothing to worry about. Really.
Emma had nearly convinced herself when the king turned and saw them. As he approached, she felt her knees begin knocking together. Telling herself over and over that he was just a man didn’t help. Not even a little.
“Emma,” King Hassan said as he approached. “How lovely to see you.”
He squeezed her arm lightly, then turned to Cleo, whom he kissed, then Sadik.
The two men shook hands.
“I heard you went to our marketplace earlier this week,” the king said as he led her to the other princes. “Did you enjoy it?”
“Very much. The people were gracious and kind.”
“A Bahanian trait,” he told her, then he introduced her to his sons.
They were much like Reyhan, yet different. Murat was taller and more serious.
Jefri smiled easily. Both welcomed her.
When a servant approached to take her drink order, Emma chose white wine because she didn’t want to appear out of place, but she had no intention of actually drinking any liquor. Not under these circumstances. Back home her friends teased her about being a complete lightweight, which was true. One drink and she was giggly, two and the world got blurry. Better to keep her wits about her tonight.
“It is unfortunate Reyhan couldn’t be with us,” Murat said a few minutes later.
Emma noticed the king in conversation with Sadik and Cleo while Jefri had excused himself to take a quick call from America. Something to do with the new Bahania Air Force. She smiled at the crown prince.
“Another familiar face in this impressive gathering would be helpful,” she admitted. “But he has responsibilities and I understand that.”
“Many women do not.”
“I can’t imagine why not.”
“They find reasons.” He sipped his drink as he studied her. “Is it true you knew nothing of who he was?”
“Absolutely. I didn’t completely believe it even after I was brought here. The whole prince thing isn’t exactly a part of my regular life.”
“The life you will return to in a few days?”
“Regrets?” he asked.
She considered the question. “One or two foolish ones.”
She motioned to the room. “This is fifteen light-years from where I belong.
Reyhan needs to find a wife who will fit into his world.”
“You let him go easily.”
Was Murat criticizing or stating the obvious? “It’s what he wants.”
“And what do you want?”
Emma thought of her time with Reyhan. How he’d made her laugh and made her ache.
Of how her heart fluttered when he was in the room. Of how innocent she had been all those years ago and how she’d let him walk away.
“I would like to go back and do things differently.”
“Not possible,” he told her. “Not even for a prince.”
Jefri returned just then and dinner was announced.
Emma found herself seated on the king’s left, with Prince Jefri next to her.
Murat was across from her. She felt the sharp gaze of the crown prince settle on her more than once as the appetizers were served. She longed to ask what he was thinking and if he would say anything to Reyhan when he returned. Were the brothers close? Did they confide in each other? Did Murat know something of Reyhan’s heart, and if he did, would that information please her or hurt her?
“The planes are being delivered next week,” Jefri said, sounding pleased.
“All that training will finally pay off,” the king said. “Are they being delivered to El Bahar, as well?”
Jefri nodded. “The people from Van Horn will be here by the end of the month to start the integration process.”
Cleo leaned toward Emma. “Okay, you look confused. El Bahar and Bahania are starting a joint air force to protect the oil fields. Jefri, who has been a flying fool for years, is in charge. He bought a bunch of really fast planes.
F-somethings. Anyway, Van Horn Enterprises is a private firm that trains fighter pilots.”
Sadik sighed. “I’m not sure where to start, Cleo.”
She straightened. “What? Did I get any of it wrong?”
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