The Sheik and the Princess in Waiting(Desert Rogues, Book 7)(42) by Susan Mallery
“I thought we’d be riding,” she said.
He looked at her for the first time that morning. She felt the impact of his gaze all the way down to her already-curling toes.
“Do you know how?”
“I’ve had a few lessons.” When she was twelve. “I’m a whiz on horses made of wood, but I can probably handle the real thing if he or she is gentle and doesn’t think tossing me would be good for a chuckle.”
Reyhan’s dark eyes didn’t flicker, not did his mouth even twitch. When exactly had he turned into a man of stone?
“Wait there,” he said, and walked into the stable.
“Emma, what are you doing?” her mother asked fretfully.
“Reyhan and I are going to ride.”
Both of her parents shrank back in their seats. “You can’t.”
“Sure I can. It will be fun.”
Her father frowned. “When did you get so adventurous?”
She considered the question. “I can’t give you an exact date,” she admitted, knowing her change of heart had something to do with finding out nothing in her life was as she had first thought. Her parents weren’t perfect. In fact they’d lied and kept the truth from her. Sure their actions had been in the name of keeping her safe, but she’d been an adult. The decisions hadn’t been theirs to make. Not only that, but she’d been married for the past six years and hadn’t had a clue. Information like that was bound to produce a change.
Reyhan returned, leading a beautiful white stallion. Emma might not know much about horses, but she’d heard rumors.
“Isn’t he going to be too much for me to handle?” she asked, trying not to back up as Reyhan and the horse approached. Up close the animal seemed extremely large.
“He can have a temper, but he’s very fond of the ladies.”
The horse in question tossed his head, then seemed to give her the once-over. He looked large enough to pound her into the ground with just one hoof—the thought of which didn’t exactly give her a warm fuzzy feeling inside.
“Great,” she murmured. “A sexist horse. What’s his name?”
For the first time in days, Reyhan smiled at her. “Prince.”
She approached the powerful horse and tentatively stroked his nose. Prince stepped in close and rubbed his head against her arm, then bumped her side and exhaled.
“Is he flirting with me?” she asked, not wanting to know what the big animal would do if he lost his temper.
“Yes. He likes you. We’ll ride out and take the Jeep back.”
Reyhan murmured something to the horse, then moved to its side and made a step by lacing his fingers together. Emma remembered enough from her long-ago lessons to know she was expected to jump right up in that saddle. She sucked in a breath for courage and put her foot in his hands.
Not only was Prince’s back about four hundred feet from the ground, the English saddle she settled in offered about as much protection as a handkerchief.
“There’s nothing to hang on to,” she said rather desperately as Reyhan handed her the reins.
“You’ll be fine.”
She would be maimed and possibly crippled, she thought, fighting fear. Reyhan disappeared into the stable, presumably to get his own horse.
“Emma, you can’t ride that beast,” her mother said. “It’s not safe. Come down right now and sit with us.”
The order gave her the impetus to stiffen her spine and smile brightly. “I’ll be fine. We aren’t going to go all that fast.”
At least she hoped they wouldn’t. It was a long way to the ground.
Reyhan returned with an even bigger gray stallion and mounted easily.
“The Jeep takes a longer route using the main road,” he told her. “We’ll cut across the desert and meet your parents at the oasis.”
“Works for me,” she said, thinking time alone with him might give them a chance to talk.
He waved off the driver and the Jeep pulled out. Reyhan gave her a few instructions, then watched her ride in slow circles. She found that her lessons from long ago came back to her and she quickly settled into the horse’s rhythmic gate. After a few minutes, Reyhan led the way off the stable grounds and into the wild beauty of the open desert.
The morning was warm and brilliantly sunny. She was grateful for her hat and the sunscreen she’d slathered on her face. The hard-packed trail was easy to spot.
She and Prince walked along behind Reyhan and his mount. When they went faster, Prince also picked up the pace. There were a couple of minutes of bone-jarring trotting before they settled into an easy canter. Reyhan pulled his horse to the side of the trail so they could ride next to each other.
The wind tugged strands of hair free from her braid. She tossed her head to get them out of her face and nearly slid off her horse. Reyhan shot out a hand and grabbed her arm. She managed to stay in the saddle, but only just. The slick leather seat suddenly felt smaller and more precarious.
“We will walk the rest of the way,” Reyhan called as he tugged on his reins.
She slowed Prince, then glanced at the man next to her. “Sorry to be a bother.”
“The fault is mine. You took to the riding so easily, I thought you were more experienced.”
They walked side by side. Emma chose, then discarded several possible conversational openings. They all sounded forced and stupid, so she settled on the truth.
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