The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(22) by Susan Mallery
She raised her head and stared out into the darkness of the sea. “I live in farm country,” she said quietly. “Lots of rolling hills of wheat and canola. There isn’t all that much to do and the closest big city is nearly a hundred miles away. I can’t imagine a place more different than Bahania.”
“Or the palace,” he reminded her.
“I don’t want to think about it. This isn’t anything I’m prepared for. I have no social skills or diplomatic training. What if I offend some important person and create an international incident?”
“They’re harder to create than you might think. The greater danger is that some sheik is going to take a liking to you and kidnap you.”
She laughed. “Oh, yeah, that’s so likely. Besides as my temporary bodyguard, you’re supposed to prevent that sort of thing.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Which was the truth. Equally true was his desire to kidnap her himself. A couple of weeks in a private paradise would go a long way toward easing his throbbing need. Rafe studied Zara’s delicate profile and wondered why this particular woman got to him. What arrangement of scents, sights and sounds made him want to forget his permanent rule of never getting involved with anyone who wasn’t a player? Reminding himself that she claimed to be innocent—and why would a woman lie about that?—not to mention the daughter of a king, ought to be enough to keep him in line.
“Speaking of sheiks…” She turned and looked at him. “Why were you dressed in traditional desert clothes earlier today?”
He didn’t want to answer that question, so he distracted her with one of his own. “Why are you a virgin?”
Zara’s feet hit the balcony floor with a thud. “I can’t believe you’re asking me that,” she said, horrified, humiliated and barely able to speak. Heat flared on her face. Once again she was grateful for the darkness. “It’s a very personal matter and not one I’m willing to discuss with you.” Or anyone.
Rafe didn’t look the least bit intimidated by her outburst or chagrined by her response. “You’re the one who brought it up,” he reminded her. “It’s not the sort of information a guy forgets.”
“Well, you should forget it. It’s none of your business.”
Unless he wanted to make it his business.
A zing of anticipation zipped through her midsection. What if Rafe found her…attractive? Zara dismissed the thought as soon as it appeared. Daydreams were fine when one was alone and the object of one’s musings was a famous movie star. But this was real life. She had no business fantasizing about someone who actually existed. Especially not someone like him.
“Come on, Zara. You can tell me. How did an attractive, sexy woman like you avoid the come-ons of all those professor types?”
Sexy? He thought she was sexy? Before the zing could turn into something bigger and better, she reminded herself that he was being nice to her because it was his job. If Rafe was interested in one of the Paxton sisters he would be far more likely to go seek out Cleo. Men had been sniffing around her since Cleo had turned fourteen. While her sister had been on every guy’s wish list, Zara had spent her weekends alone.
“There have been fewer come-ons than one might think.”
“I don’t believe you.”
She glared at him. “Are you deliberately trying to humiliate me?”
“No. I’m deliberately trying to understand.”
She stood and walked to the balcony, standing with her back to the sea. She didn’t think he was being mean. A part of her wanted to believe that Rafe found her attractive. She sighed. Was this before or after aliens landed and delivered the secret to the universe?
“I never had much luck with dating,” she said, staring at a spot over his head. “I was too tall, too smart and too skinny. Plus with all the moving around, I never exactly found a place where I fit in. I didn’t date in high school, and in college I was slow to make friends. About the time I finally had a group of people I trusted and a few boys who might have been interested, my mom died. Not only did I have to deal with that, but Cleo moved in with me. We had the combination of our loss and our fear of being discovered and her taken away. That pretty much nipped any potential relationships in the bud.”
She crossed her arms over her chest. “Are you sure you want to hear this?”
She wanted to ask why. No doubt he was simply being polite. No doubt she should excuse herself and head back to her room. Except she enjoyed standing in the dark, talking with him. As Cleo was forever reminding her—she was way too much of a dreamer.
“I moved to Washington State to attend graduate school,” she said. “So it was a while before I met people and got settled. There were a few guys, but no one special. Then I met Jon.”
Rafe stretched his legs out in front of him. “Why don’t I like this guy?”
“I don’t know. He was very nice. Charming. Funny. He was an administrator at the college. We got along really well.” She hesitated. No way was she going to tell Rafe that there hadn’t been any passion between them. At least not on his side. “He changed me,” she said instead. “I can’t explain it. He made suggestions about my clothes—things that helped me feel more attractive.”
Rafe stared at her. “A guy had suggestions about your clothes? I assume this was more than asking you to take them off.”
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