The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(34) by Susan Mallery
“Your apology makes me think that you’ve been told something of my past.”
Zara nodded. “Rafe mentioned a few things.”
Sabrina sighed. “I know this isn’t your fault. Intellectually I understand that my father’s delight in having you show up doesn’t take away anything from my relationship with him. But my heart tells me something else. I spent my childhood being in the way both with my mother in California and here in Bahania with Father. It’s difficult to watch him dance with joy when he sees you.”
Zara hung her head. She felt like slime. “I’m sorry,” she murmured.
“Don’t be. Like I said, it’s not your fault. For that matter it’s not my fault, either. My father has come to see that he treated me badly and he’s trying to make amends. I have reconciled to the fact that I’ll never be his favorite. While I was able to convince myself it was because I was female, I could handle it quite well.”
Zara winced. Hassan hadn’t cared that she was a girl. He’d been thrilled just to see Fiona’s child, regardless of gender. For Sabrina that would be rubbing salt in the wound.
“I don’t know what to say,” she admitted.
Sabrina smiled. “You don’t have to say anything. This isn’t your responsibility. You came here because you wanted to find something.”
“Roots,” Zara admitted. “All my life I’ve wanted to know about my father. My mom wouldn’t ever talk about him.” She glanced around the foyer and smiled slightly. “But in all my dreams, I never once imagined something like this.”
Sabrina laughed. “Bahania would be tough to make up. It’s so incredible all on its own.”
There was a moment of awkward silence. Zara cleared her throat. “Thanks for sending Marie with the dresses. She was great.”
“I thought that would be better than my castoffs. Plus, Cleo wouldn’t have fit in any of my things.”
Zara looked at her half sister. “Not to mention you not wanting us to wear your clothes.”
Sabrina shrugged. “I’m big enough to admit that would have bugged me. But speaking of clothes, Marie left me a message saying that you and Cleo only picked out dresses for tonight. Why not a whole wardrobe?”
“That wouldn’t be right. We’re not here for what we can get. I don’t want anyone to think I’m in it for the money. Neither of us had a dress appropriate for tonight, and frankly we couldn’t afford anything from Marie’s boutique. So we had to accept these, but that’s enough.”
Sabrina regarded her thoughtfully. “I think I believe you.”
“I can’t make you believe me or not. I’m simply telling the truth.”
“Regardless of what you want in terms of gifts, you’re going to need an appropriate wardrobe. Unless you were married to the president in your previous life, I doubt you’ll have much that works. I’ll send Marie back in the morning. Take her advice. Enjoy the clothes. Think of them as a welcoming gift.”
Zara wasn’t sure what to make of Sabrina’s words. She hated that she and her half sister were at odds. If only there was a way to make things right. Unfortunately, the past was over, and there wasn’t a way to change it.
Sabrina rose to her feet. “I’m not a horrible person,” she announced. “You’re looking at me as if I’m about to slap you.”
Zara stood, as well. “That’s not what I’m thinking at all. You’ve been very patient.”
Sabrina shook her head. “No. I’ve been pouting. Ask my husband.” She took a step closer. “Let’s start over and try to be friends. I have to admit that after having four brothers for so many years, not to mention being the youngest, I wouldn’t mind having another woman in the family. We’re sisters. We need to stick together.”
Tension eased in Zara’s chest. She smiled. “I’d like that.”
Sabrina held out her arms and they embraced. Behind them the bathroom door opened. Zara stepped back and turned to see who had entered, but no one was there. She returned her attention to Sabrina.
“Would you mind if we spoke in the next day or so? I have so many questions and I don’t know who to ask.”
“Not a problem,” Sabrina promised. “We’ll get to know each other.”
Hassan claimed Zara for the last dance of the evening. Zara had tried to escape back to her room twice before, but Rafe had intercepted and sent her back into the crowd, telling her that no member of the royal family was allowed to duck out before the king.
Now she found herself glad she had stayed. Hassan was a very charming man.
“You must see all of Bahania,” he was saying as they moved around the dance floor. “Not all in one day, of course.”
She laughed. “I did some research before I left. From what I could tell, your country has much diversity.”
“Ah, but it is your country, too, now,” he reminded her. “I will instruct Rafe to take you exploring.”
She felt a whisper of anticipation. “I’d like that.” Not only seeing the splendors of Bahania, but spending time with her temporary bodyguard.
“I will introduce you to my favorite cats,” he continued. “I’m sure you’ve noticed all the cats around the palace.”
“Of course. They’re everywhere.”
“They are my pride and joy.” He squeezed her hand, his dark eyes bright with laughter. “Until you arrived.”
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