The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(32) by Susan Mallery
She hated their pretension and their false compliments. Most of all she hated that a week ago, they wouldn’t even have acknowledged that she was alive.
“If you’re looking for Cleo, she’s over there.”
Zara realized that Rafe was still next to her, keeping up easily, parting the crowd when necessary. She slowed down.
“That was awful,” she said, turning in the direction he’d indicated. “I can’t believe how those two acted.”
“They find you appealing.”
She looked at him. “Oh, please. Somehow they’ve figured out the truth. They don’t care about me. They want a royal connection.”
“I’m not sure the duke needs one.”
“Then he needs something else.”
“They’re both rich and eligible.”
She stopped and glared at him. “I don’t think either of them would appreciate you championing his cause.”
“They might if it worked.” He moved closer. “So maybe you catch their attention by being Hassan’s daughter. Is that so horrible? They might both turn out to be great guys.”
She hated that it was so easy for him to imagine her with someone else. Just standing there close to Rafe made her remember what it had been like to kiss him. It made her want to do it again. Being in his arms had awakened her to a passion she’d never experienced before. Being in his arms had made her feel safe, and that was a commodity that she appreciated now more than ever.
“If you don’t understand that it matters to me why they’re interested, then I can’t explain it.”
She turned and headed toward her sister. Cleo was standing very close to one of the princes. Even from twenty feet away Zara could feel the heat flaring between them. At least someone was having a great time tonight.
“Hi,” Cleo said when they approached. “You remember Prince Sadik. I guess he’s your half brother.” She leaned toward the prince. “Which makes the two of us absolutely no relation at all.”
Her new half brother bowed. “Zara. I had hoped to have the opportunity to get to know you. Perhaps later you will honor me with a dance?”
Zara nodded. “Sure. No problem.”
She waved goodbye and managed to escape without stumbling. When they were out of earshot, she turned to Rafe.
“Dancing?” she hissed. “There’s going to be dancing?”
He laughed. “Just you, Jean-Paul and Duke Byron. I can’t wait to watch.”
When Prince Sadik appeared at her side for his dance, Zara nearly wept in relief. She’d just spent a horrible ninety minutes dancing with men she didn’t know—mostly Jean-Paul and Byron. Not only were they treating her like a prize desired by a rival, but rather than talking to her while they danced, they spent their time glaring at each other. Maybe they should simply tango together and leave her out of it.
“How are you enjoying yourself?” Prince Sadik asked as he led her around the dance floor.
“It’s been lovely,” she lied through slightly clenched teeth.
The prince smiled. “Your sister has said you have some reservations about being a part of the family.”
Zara sighed. “Don’t worry. After I strangle her, she won’t be talking at all.”
“The information was hardly a revelation,” her half brother told her. “This would be a change from almost any life. Of course you are not sure. Our ways are different, our country is strange to you.”
Zara stared up into his dark eyes. “Does everyone hate me? I mean I simply showed up out of nowhere, and Hassan is convinced that I’m, well—” she shrugged “—you know.”
“The child of his beloved Fiona. Yes, I know.” Sadik shook his head. “Do not worry yourself on that account. No one resents your arrival.”
He was being polite, she thought. Or maybe he didn’t know about Sabrina’s unhappy relationship with her father. Men weren’t always very observant about that sort of thing.
The dance ended and Sadik excused himself to go find Cleo. Zara watched him hurry away. At least one of them was having fun. She turned and spied Jean-Paul heading in her direction. That meant Byron couldn’t be too far away. She ducked around several couples and headed for the stairs on the opposite side of the room. From there she might be able to spot Rafe. For all his claims to want to keep his eye on her, he’d been surprisingly absent since dinner.
She’d just reached the stairs when she felt a hand on her arm. Fearing the worst, she glanced over her shoulder, then sagged in relief when she saw Rafe.
“You abandoned me,” she accused.
“I was letting you have a good time.”
She exhaled loudly. “A lot you know about women if you think what I’ve been doing is fun.”
“Don’t you like dancing?”
“Not with two men acting more like terriers than humans. Plus, aren’t they a little old to be sulking?”
Rafe grinned. She liked the lines that formed beside the corners of his eyes and the way his tanned skin contrasted with his short blond hair.
“I saw you dancing with Sadik. That should have been all right.”
“It was. He mostly tried to reassure me about my acceptance in the family. I’m not sure I believe him.”
“You should.” He glanced over her shoulder. “Don’t look now, but there are terriers approaching right behind you.”
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online