The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(3) by Susan Mallery
As if sensing her attention, Rafe turned toward her. Zara told herself to look away. Even as a blush climbed her cheeks, she couldn’t seem to make herself move. It was as if he’d mesmerized her. Her body stilled, her heartbeat slowed, and once again she could feel the weight of him on top of her.
No emotion flickered in his eyes. His firm mouth didn’t give away his feelings, nor did his body language.
Finally he shifted and hung up the phone. Zara felt as if she’d been released from a spell. The shivering returned, along with the sensation of being exposed.
“So what’s a nice schoolteacher like you doing in a place like Bahania?” Rafe asked.
His voice—deep and strong—made her swallow. “I’m not a schoolteacher, I’m a college professor.”
He shrugged as if to say “what’s the difference?”
Cleo sighed. “Zara worked her butt off to get to full professor. You’d better not mess with her about that.”
Cleo made her announcement in between sandwiches. When Rafe turned his steady gaze to her, Cleo instantly took a step back.
“I mean it,” she said sounding brazen, all retreats to the contrary. “For all we know, her father is the king. You don’t want to get him mad at you, right?”
“King Hassan is your father?”
Rafe asked the question with just enough amusement to make Zara wince. She put down her drink and squared her shoulders. This had gone on long enough.
“Here’s what I know. My sister and I are American citizens on a public tour of the palace. For reasons no one has explained, we were forcibly taken away from our tour and led into a private area. There we were attacked. Now you’ve taken possession of our passports. I want them returned immediately, then I would like us to be escorted from the palace.”
“Zara!” Cleo frowned. “What about the king?”
“This isn’t the time,” she said, not looking at her sister, instead focusing on Rafe Stryker, who hadn’t appeared the least bit impressed by her speech.
He surprised her by holding out their passports. But other than that, he didn’t make any attempt to grant her wishes.
Zara grabbed the documents and tucked them into her purse. “May we leave now?” she asked.
“Not until I hear the whole story.”
“There isn’t a story.”
“There’s the letters,” Cleo said helpfully. “Zara has these letters from King Hassan to her mother.”
Rafe carefully watched the two sisters. Cleo, the younger, was short and blond, with the curvy kind of figure that made most men’s mouths water. Rafe dismissed her. He was far more interested in the tall, slender brunette who claimed to be the daughter of a king.
He could see how the guard had mistaken her for Princess Sabra. Zara was only a couple of inches taller. Her coloring was the same, as were her features. Both she and the princess had large brown eyes, and the shape of their faces was remarkably similar. However, the American schoolteacher wore glasses, while the princess did not. And even though he’d been in close contact with Princess Sabra, never once had his body reacted to her. However, his few moments of nearness to Zara Paxton had left him…intrigued.
Zara sighed. She pulled the chair a couple of feet away from the desk, then settled onto the seat. Still holding her lemonade, she reached into her large purse and drew out a stack of letters.
“My mother never told me who my father was. There were no pictures, no personal effects. She didn’t even share many stories about their time together. I assumed he was a wealthy married man. You see, she’d been a dancer and very beautiful. Men were always interested in her.”
Zara smiled slightly, as if remembering something that brought her pleasure. The smile faded as she fingered the letters.
“There were several pieces of jewelry. My mother sold most of them over the years to supplement our income. She died eight years ago, and I figured that any information about my father died with her.”
“Why did you come here now?” he asked, even as he wondered how much she intended to ask for. Had the plan been her idea or her sister’s? At what point had she realized she had more than a passing resemblance to Princess Sabra, and when had she decided to use that to her advantage?
“My mother kept these letters along with several other personal mementos with an attorney. I only discovered their existence a few months ago when he sent a bill for storage. I requested the things be sent to me instead. Once I read them, I realized…” Her voice trailed off.
“That you might be the king’s daughter. May I see the letters?”
Zara shook her head. “You know what I’d really like?”
About five million dollars, Rafe thought cynically.
“I’d like to go back to my hotel and forget this ever happened.”
“What?” Cleo sounded outraged.
Zara ignored her. “There’s been a mistake. I don’t want to be here. Can you get us out of the palace?”
Rafe considered the possibilities. Either she was having second thoughts about her plan, or she wanted time to come up with a better story. Or she was preparing to go to the media. Better that he not let her wander around on her own just yet.
“How about if I take you back to your hotel myself? As a way of apologizing.”
“Just show us the nearest exit and we’ll be fine.”
“I’d prefer to escort you. I insist.”
Zara didn’t look too happy, but she nodded her agreement. Rafe excused himself while he went to change his clothes, promising to return in ten minutes.
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