The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(25) by Susan Mallery
This statement produced more rapid-fire French, which ended when Marie clapped her hands together. “Ms. Paxton, Princess Sabra was very explicit. You and your sister were to have all new clothes. The bill was to go on the palace account. If you refuse, she will think you were not satisfied. She might decide to dismiss me. Without the patronage of the royal family, my boutique would not survive.” She shrugged. “So you see, you must accept her gift. For my sake.”
Cleo inched close. “It’s a darned good argument.”
“One I’m not sure I believe,” Zara whispered back.
“We have to have dresses for tonight. What if we just take those and tell her we’re too tired to shop for anything else?”
Zara nodded. Cleo’s plan made sense. She supposed that as the king’s daughter she would be expected to dress a certain way. Obviously her outlet mall days were behind her. But she couldn’t make too many changes at once without going crazy.
“Let’s start with dresses for tonight,” Zara told Marie. “That may take a while. We’ll deal with the rest of it later.”
Marie sighed with obvious relief. “Yes, of course.”
She clapped her hands. Several bags and one of the racks disappeared. Her assistants began sorting through the shoe boxes.
“Princess Sabra guessed on sizes. She trusted my judgment in what would be appropriate. We’ve brought shoes and evening bags, as well.”
Marie began flipping through dresses. She tossed several toward one assistant and other dresses toward another. Then she ordered Cleo and Zara into their bedrooms to try things on.
Zara found out right away that Marie and her assistant didn’t believe in modesty. Zara found herself standing by her bed and wearing only her panties. She tried to casually cross her arms over her small chest, but neither woman noticed. Instead they were discussing the various attributes of the dresses.
“You are very thin,” Marie said. “You can get away with something more dramatic.” She reached up and pulled Zara’s arms to her sides and frowned at her chest. “Your br**sts are small, but we can help that with a bit of padding, yes?”
Mortified beyond words, Zara could only gulp air. Marie didn’t seem to notice. Instead she fingered Zara’s long hair and smiled. “We will put this up, I think. You don’t wear much makeup. With your skin it is not necessary. But tonight, a little extra will make you shine. Now for the dresses.”
They whipped them on and off her with lightning speed. Beaded gowns, velvet dresses, garments made from silk so delicate it was more like gossamer wings. At last Marie found one she liked and allowed Zara to look into the mirror. She nearly fell over.
The dress was a halter style, beaded and gold. The color shimmered with each movement, catching and reflecting light. But what stunned Zara was the front, which was cut down nearly to her waist. Straps of heavy fabric covered her br**sts, but if she turned too quickly, she popped out, like bread from a toaster.
Marie clucked. “We would have to take this in a little and use the tape.”
Zara felt practically naked. “Tape?”
“It goes on the side of the halter, to keep the fabric pressed against your skin.”
“Ah, how do you get it off?”
Marie stared at her as if she were incredibly stupid. “You rip it quickly. It barely hurts.”
Zara tried to smile, although she was feeling a little nauseous. She had a bad feeling that what might barely hurt Marie would render her unconscious.
“Maybe a different style would be better,” she murmured.
They went through a half dozen more dresses until they found a simple slip dress in iridescent bronze silk. The material skimmed over her body, giving the illusion of curves, except on top. The color made her skin glow and she felt almost dressed.
“I like this one,” she said, wishing there was a way to add about two inches to her chest.
Marie nodded her agreement. “Yes. It’s very pretty. There are some bronze sandals.” She snapped out an order and sent the assistant scurrying.
Zara looked at herself from all angles. “This is great. Maybe I should ask Sabrina if this dress is all right,” she murmured, hoping her new almost-sister wouldn’t scratch her eyes out instead of giving an opinion.
“She will love it. While you do that, I’ll check on your sister.”
The dress was exactly the right length, Zara noted as she followed Marie back into the living room. The assistant handed her a pair of strappy, high-heeled sandals that fitted perfectly. Zara stepped out into the hallway, then paused when she realized she didn’t have a clue as to where she was supposed to go. How did people in the palace keep track of each other? Was there a palace operator or maybe a beeper system?
Before she could figure out what to do, a door opened a few feet down the hall. She almost wasn’t surprised when Rafe stepped out.
“What is it with you?” she asked before he could speak. “Do you have a light that goes off in your room if I leave mine?”
He looked her up and down. “You look nice. Is that for tonight?”
His compliment made her feel all soft and gooey inside. Then she remembered the very intimate conversation they’d had the previous night and she wasn’t sure if she was supposed to be embarrassed or not. Rafe felt like the only normal person in the tornado that was her current life.
“A woman showed up with a bunch of clothes for Cleo and me. We’re picking out dresses for the dinner.” She held out the skirt of the gown. “I thought maybe I’d ask Sabrina if this dress was all right. There are a couple of others that would work, but I like this one best. Still, I’m not sure I’m going in the right direction. I don’t have a lot of experience with formal state dinners.”
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