The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(39) by Susan Mallery
“I never let personal interfere with business.”
She stared at him. “So this isn’t usual for you?”
“Not even close.”
A smile curved up the corners of her mouth. “That makes me feel a little better.”
He didn’t respond to that statement. There was no point in telling her that his inability to ignore the passion between them had him wondering what the hell was wrong with him. When had he gotten so damn soft? He needed a few weeks in a war zone to improve his reflexes and his self-control.
“Where do we go from here?” Zara asked.
“Nowhere. Nothing’s changed. I work for the king and I don’t get involved with his daughter.”
She dropped her arms to her sides. “You need to find some new material,” she told him. “This same story is getting old.” She turned on her heel and headed for the palace, then paused.
“Oh, by the way, Jean-Paul has invited me to dinner and I accepted. I think you’ll need to dress formally.”
Rafe watched her go, her head high, her slender hips swaying gently. She was back in a temper. She’d also had the last word. Princess Zara…formally Zara Paxton, professor, was turning out to be more trouble than he’d imagined possible. And damned if he didn’t like every second of it.
Once she reached the palace, Zara headed for her room. Dozens of thoughts swirled through her brain, and she didn’t know what was going on. Life had certainly taken a turn for the interesting ever since she’d landed in Bahania. She’d been prepared to feel conflicted about meeting the stranger who might be her father, but she’d never thought she could have man trouble.
For the first time in her life she had two men vying for her attention. Of course neither of them really cared about her—they were interested in getting a connection with the royal family. Of course, there might be a different motive—maybe the duke needed money for his aging manor house. Or Jean-Paul might want a loan to expand the vineyard. Whatever their reasons for pursuing her, she knew they had nothing to do with her as a person. So while her popularity was a change, it was especially unappealing.
She turned the corner and headed for the door leading to the rooms she shared with Cleo. As she stepped inside, she called her sister’s name, but heard only silence. Cleo must be out—maybe with the fabulously handsome Prince Sadik. He had certainly taken notice of Cleo at the state dinner.
Zara wandered around the spacious living room, then plopped down on the sofa. She could see the Arabian Sea in the distance. Already the sun was high in the sky. The temperature would be climbing, and soon it would be difficult for her to be out in the heat. But here in the palace the air was cool.
Zara glanced around at the elegant furnishings, the expensive tapestries and the small wet bar in the corner. She knew if she crossed to it and opened the minirefrigerator, she would find an assortment of drinks, including her favorite sodas. The small cupboard above held different snacks. She could even phone the kitchen and ask that something be sent up.
Bahania was a fantasy come true for her. In fact it was better than her fantasy. She was living in a palace, and if King Hassan really did turn out to be her father, then she was about to become a princess. So what if that made a couple of guys a little weird?
Zara rose and walked to the floor-to-ceiling windows. Restlessness filled her and she knew the cause. Rafe. She didn’t understand anything about him.
She also knew that she was playing a very dangerous game with him. She’d learned a few things in the twenty-eight years she’d spent on the planet, and one of them was that men didn’t lie about certain things. When a guy said he didn’t do relationships, she needed to listen. The problem was, she didn’t want to.
Zara sighed. Rafe had told her that she was a marriage-and-kids kind of woman and that he wasn’t a marriage-and-kids kind of guy. Her gut told her that he was telling the truth on both counts. Unfortunately, knowing he was a mistake didn’t take away his appeal.
She wanted him.
Some of the attraction was sexual. He made her think about things she’d never considered. For the first time in her life she was responding to a man based on chemistry. But there was more to it than that. She couldn’t dismiss everything as being due to hormones.
She liked him.
Zara put her fingertips on the cool glass. She wished it was otherwise, but wishing didn’t change things. She liked being with him, talking with him. She even liked it when they argued. He was straightforward and so masculine. He was kind, although she suspected he would hate that description. He was also attracted to her.
She couldn’t remember the last time a man had been interested in her body with the same intensity Rafe showed. She could see his desire, as well as feel it. How was she supposed to resist that? The combination of sexual attraction and general liking weren’t a temptation she could walk away from. Around him she felt safe and yet strong. She’d never experienced that particular combination before.
She had it bad for the man, but somehow she was going to have to find a way to get over him. No way was she going to allow herself to get her heart broken.
“This is the sword an ancestor of mine carried during the Crusades,” King Hassan said when they paused in front of a long, dangerous-looking sword on a stand. Jewels and gold decorated the handle, but their beauty didn’t detract from the honed edge of the blade.
Hassan gently touched the tip. “During some battles, blood ran like a river through the valleys of the Holy Land.”
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