The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(33) by Susan Mallery
Zara winced. “Rafe, at the risk of sounding too forward, are you allowed to dance with me?”
“Then maybe you should ask.”
He did that one better. He swept her up in his arms and moved her into the swirling crowd. Thanks to her mother’s training, Zara knew all the basic dance steps. She moved easily to the steady beat of the waltz, stumbling only when she realized how well Rafe was doing.
“I didn’t think they taught dancing at paramilitary school,” she said breathlessly through a turn.
“I’m a man of many talents.”
For several minutes they danced in comfortable silence. She remembered that afternoon, how she’d felt in his arms. It had been different from being in them now, but despite the casual embrace and the people all around them, she felt safe and very feminine. She wanted him.
Her name came out in a growl. The low tone sent shivers dancing along her spine. She raised her chin slightly.
“You feel it, too,” she murmured.
“So what? What we feel is irrelevant.”
The man was entirely too difficult. “I’m not sure I believe you—about the head cutting, I mean. The king wouldn’t really do that to you.”
“You have no way of knowing what he would or wouldn’t do. I’ve been around him much longer than you and I’m familiar with the ways of this world.”
Maybe it was the tension of the evening that made her so light-headed and bold. Maybe it was the lingering desire and the knowledge that no one had ever made her feel the way Rafe did.
“What about kissing?” she asked in a whisper. “That can’t be against the law.”
For a second she thought she might have gone too far. Maybe she was making a fool of herself. Then she saw Rafe’s eyes darken and a muscle twitch at the corner of his mouth.
“No kissing. It leads to trouble.”
His gaze narrowed. “Insulting me isn’t going to help.”
“I was trying to dare you into acting.”
“It didn’t work.”
The music ended. Rafe stepped away and bowed. “Zara, you tempt me in ways I can’t begin to explain. But know this. I will never give in.”
She sighed. “That’s the most backhanded compliment I’ve ever heard.”
“I meant every word.”
Zara escaped into the ladies’ room rather than face Byron and Jean-Paul. While she was disappointed that Rafe hadn’t jumped on her suggestion that they kiss again, she couldn’t stop smiling as she remembered his claim to find her tempting. She didn’t think she’d ever tempted a man before—certainly not one like him.
He had seen and done things she couldn’t even imagine. No doubt there had been many women along the way. She could imagine him with beautiful, exotic types—of which she was neither. Still, it was nice to know that she could get his attention even for only a minute.
Zara paused in the foyer of the ladies’ room and looked around. She’d never been in a bathroom that had a foyer before. The spacious area was decorated in red and gold with an elegant chandelier hanging from the center of the ceiling. Mirrors covered two walls, stretching down to long vanities. A half dozen tufted stools stood ready, offering a seat to those who wished to repair their appearance. The lighting was intensely flattering and there were trays of hair spray, lotion, tissues and small towels to please even the most demanding guest.
“Not bad work if you can get it,” Zara murmured to herself. She wandered closer to the mirror and studied her appearance. Her bronze-colored dress shimmered in the light. Her hairstyle by Eric had stayed in place. Her lipstick was a little smudged, and there was a dark blotch of mascara just under the corner of her right eye. After sinking onto one of the stools, she wiped away the smudge and dark spot, then reapplied her lipstick. Getting off her feet felt heavenly. She wasn’t used to high heels, not to mention strappy sandal styles. The thin bits of leather looked great but they cut into her feet.
The main door opened. Zara looked up, then stiffened when she saw Sabrina enter. Her half sister wore a dress of pale gold. The fabric emphasized Sabrina’s curvy shape. No padding required, Zara thought glumly.
Cool dark eyes regarded her thoughtfully. Sabrina smiled—it looked a little forced to Zara—then sat gracefully two stools away.
“Are you enjoying yourself?” Sabrina asked as she opened her small handbag and drew out a lip pencil.
“Everything is lovely.” Zara pressed her hands together in her lap. “I spoke with Prince Sadik earlier and he was very kind.”
Sabrina finished lining her lips and smiled again. “I doubt he would appreciate the description. My brothers are more interested in being ruthless and arrogant.”
Zara didn’t know what to say to that. She felt tense and out of place. Rafe’s story about why Sabrina didn’t like her swirled through her head. She hated knowing her only sister by blood resented her being here.
Zara drew in a deep breath and turned to face Sabrina. “I’m sorry about all of this. For invading your life the way I have. I didn’t think that coming here would make trouble, which was naive of me. I should have seen the potential problems.”
Sabrina carefully applied lipstick, then blotted her mouth with a tissue. Finally she put her cosmetics back in her purse and closed it. Only then did she look at Zara.
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