The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(11) by Susan Mallery
Too much was happening too fast. Zara felt as if her head was already too full of information. “Why would she fear that anything would happen to me?”
“Bahanian law requires that a royal child be raised in the palace. I suspect Fiona feared that if I knew about you, I would insist you be raised here. If she didn’t marry me, she would lose you.” He sighed. “I like to think I would not have insisted, but I don’t know that it’s true. After I lost her, I would have given anything to have a part of her with me.” He touched her hand. “And now you are here.”
Zara smiled tightly as she held on to her glass of cola. “Yes, well, it’s all very strange.”
“How did you find me now?”
Zara explained about the papers the lawyer had sent. “Once I read the letters, I started to consider the impossible.”
“Zara insisted we take the tour,” Cleo announced cheerfully. “I wanted to walk up to the front door and knock. She said the guards wouldn’t have let us in.”
The king smiled. “Even one as charming as you, Cleo, might have had a little trouble getting past the royal guard. Although I suspect you have a way with men. I’ll have to warn my sons about you.”
Cleo flicked her wrist. “I’ve sworn off princes, Your Highness. They’re just all the same. Rich, powerful…it gets boring after a while.”
Zara rose from her seat and crossed to the French doors leading to the balcony. Rafe came up behind her.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
She shook her head. “Would you be, under the circumstances?”
“Everything is so confusing.”
“There’s nothing to be confused about,” Hassan announced as he stood. “After twenty-eight years, my daughter has returned to me.”
“You make it sound so simple and I can barely catch my breath.”
Her father—she couldn’t believe that was possible—nodded. “This is unfamiliar to us both. Perhaps we should take the time to acquaint ourselves with the situation. I wish to show you my world. Bahania is a country blessed with great resources and people. You must see the beauty of it. We will start with you and Cleo moving into the palace.”
“All right!” Cleo clapped her hands together. “I think I’m going to like having you in the family,” she told the king.
Zara wasn’t so sure. “Our hotel is very comfortable,” she said. Both Hassan and Cleo looked at her as if she were crazy.
“You are my daughter,” Hassan reminded her. “As such, the palace is your home. You will be made to feel welcome. We will have time together.”
“Your Highness, you need to think this through,” Zara said. “I mean I know I look like your daughter and Fiona is my mother and you did have a relationship with her, but you have to be sure about this. Shouldn’t we take blood tests?”
“I know what is right and I know who you are.” He walked over to hug her. “After so very many years, you are where you belong. That is all that matters. Come, you will collect your things and move into the palace right now.”
Zara glanced around, searching for an escape. Her gaze settled on Rafe. For some reason he seemed the only sane person in the room.
“Are you going to be there?” she asked before she could stop herself. “At the palace? Do you live there?”
Rafe nodded. “For the next few weeks.”
Hassan stared at him. “That’s right. You will be at the palace. You have found my most beloved treasure and brought her to me. Therefore, I will entrust her to you.”
Zara slipped free of Hassan’s embrace. “I don’t understand.”
Rafe looked as if he’d just sucked a lemon. “Your Highness I don’t—”
Hassan cut him off with a shake of his head. “My mind is made up. I will only trust you with her safety. It will be a temporary matter, until you return to your regular duties.”
“Trust him for what?” Zara asked.
“Rafe will be your bodyguard. He will protect you with his life.”
Rafe held in a groan. He did not need this kind of trouble in his life. Protecting royalty wasn’t that big a deal—he’d been in charge of Prince Kardal’s security for three years. But guarding the king of Bahania’s newly found, soon-to-be-favorite daughter wasn’t his idea of a good time. Especially when the king had more in mind than her physical protection. King Hassan wouldn’t want anyone messing with Zara for any reason—including and probably especially sex.
Which meant his physical attraction toward her could be a one-way to ticket to a headless moment, should he be foolish enough to let his libido overrule his common sense. Not that he would ever let that happen.
“Your Highness,” he said, trying to figure out how to reason with the king without creating trouble.
Hassan waved away his concerns before he could even voice them. “As a temporary measure, Rafe. I’m not unmindful of your duties to my son-in-law.”
Zara glanced between them, obviously confused. “What are you two talking about?”
Cleo bounced off the sofa and fluffed her short blond hair. “What your new father is saying is that Rafe has been assigned to protect you with his very life. While I could be taken by terrorists and tortured, and everyone would just yawn.”
Hassan smiled at her. “Rafe will keep you under his care, as well,” he said. “While you are my guest, your safety is of equal concern. You are the most-beloved sister of the daughter of my heart’s desire.”
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