The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(23) by Susan Mallery
“Of course. He never—” She pressed her lips together. “We didn’t exactly, you know.”
“You weren’t lovers.”
She closed her eyes, then forced herself to open them and meet his steady gaze. “No. We were not.” She cleared her throat. “But there were other compensations and when Jon proposed, I accepted.”
Rafe sprang to his feet. “You married the guy?”
He stalked over to the railing and stood next to her. Really, the man was unreasonably tall. She hated that she had to tilt her head to look at him.
“We were engaged for a time.”
“Two years!” His voice exploded into the quiet of the night. “Are you kidding?” He spoke more quietly. “You were engaged to this guy for two years and you never slept with him.”
“We wanted to wait.”
“For what? Nuclear winter?”
“Some people prefer the sanctity of marriage.”
Rafe shook his head. “This afternoon you were complaining that if you were really a princess you would never get the chance to have sex. That doesn’t sound like a ‘sanctity of marriage’ argument to me.”
She sighed. “All right. Perhaps I didn’t agree with what we were doing, but I could hardly force the man. By that time I was twenty-six, nearly twenty-seven and I was very ready to see what all the fuss was about.”
“Did you confront this bozo?”
“No. Three weeks before the wedding, Jon told me that he wanted to break off our engagement. He’d been wrestling with some issues that could no longer be ignored.”
Rafe swore. “He was g*y, right?”
Zara’s mouth dropped open. “How did you know?”
“The guy helped you pick out clothes. Most men can barely dress themselves and if it’s more complicated than a navy-blue suit or jeans, forget it. Plus, going two years without sex, especially when he had a hot fiancée who was more than willing—it doesn’t make sense any other way.”
Hot? Zara wanted to ask him if he’d really said the word. Did Rafe think she was hot? Her? She’d never really developed br**sts, not serious ones like Cleo’s. She was tall and skinny, not short, curvy and irresistible. She must not have heard him correctly.
“So what happened when he told you?” he asked.
It took her a second to figure out what he was talking about. “I was crushed,” she admitted. “And humiliated. The university is in a small town. Everyone knew, and it didn’t take them long to find out why. When I was ready to start dating again, I felt like every guy worried that I’d turn him g*y.”
Rafe chuckled. “Not likely.”
“I guess, but I’d also reached an age where being a virgin was strange. The situation is only getting worse with time. The last two men I went out with disappeared when I confessed all. What if I really am Hassan’s daughter? I’ll never get a date again and if I do, no one is going to sleep with me. Being a virgin princess is not my idea of a good time.”
Rafe laughed. He threw back his head and enjoyed the moment, ignoring her sniff of indignation.
“Easy for you to have a good chuckle,” she grumbled. “You aren’t the one who could live her life in a fishbowl. You aren’t the one who has to explain this after a few dates.”
“You know, you could just wait for marriage,” Rafe offered helpfully.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to get married,” she said. “Not if I don’t date, which is getting more and more difficult. It’s only going to be worse, now. Besides, I thought it might be nice to have a little experience. I’m not interested in sleeping with an entire football team, but I would like to see at least one guy naked before I die.”
Rafe couldn’t believe they were having this conversation. For one thing, he didn’t think there were any more twenty-eight-year-old virgins left. Which proved Zara’s point—not that he was about to tell her that. For another, he was damned tempted to volunteer his services. She was welcome to see him naked anytime she wanted. She could even touch. Of course then he would want to touch back, and that was only going to lead to trouble.
“You have the strangest look on your face,” she told him.
Just thinking about her looking at him was making him hard. This whole situation was going to be nothing but trouble. He could feel it down to his bones.
“You’re going to have to be careful,” he said. “Once word gets out that you’re Hassan’s daughter, everything is going to change.”
She turned and faced the water. “We don’t know that I am his daughter.”
“Do you really have doubts?”
She slowly shook her head. “I want to, but I know it in my heart.”
“I agree with you on that one. Which means the media is going to be all over you. You’ll become the flavor of the month, and that’s going to bring out all kinds of men. They’ll want to take advantage of you.”
He winced as he spoke the old-fashioned phrase, but didn’t know another way to say what he meant.
Zara smiled. “I have nothing to offer. Being Hassan’s daughter isn’t going to change that.”
“You’re wrong. You’ll have connections to the royal family. Your father is a king, you’ll be a princess. I’m sure Hassan will make you rich in your own right.”
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