The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(47) by Susan Mallery
Hassan was still talking about different arrangements. He smiled at her. “You will need a wardrobe fit for a princess. And lands, I think.”
Lands? She blinked. “That’s not necessary.”
Hassan dismissed her with a flick of his wrist. “Yes, lands. Perhaps with oil. Would you like that?” He continued without waiting for her to reply. “There are some lovely jewels that belonged to my mother. As you are named for her, they must be yours.”
She slipped free of his embrace. “Your Highness—”
“I would prefer you call me Father,” he said, his eyes misting over. “Perhaps not yet, as we are still getting to know each other. But in time. Yes?”
“I—” She swallowed. King Hassan was her father. As in that they shared blood and a gene pool. She had a father.
Her mind spun with the information. It shouldn’t be a shock, but it was because now it was real. The room seemed to shift again. Fortunately no one noticed.
“You don’t have to give me anything. That’s not why I came looking for you.”
“I know, my child.” He cupped her chin. “But it makes me happy, so you must indulge an old man’s simple requests. You are my daughter, and a member of the royal family. Anything less would be an insult to you, to me and to our people.”
Her stomach took an elevator ride for her toes. They had people? She was considered…were there people who—Dear God, what was happening?
The next few minutes passed in a blur. More staff members arrived. Phone calls were made, refreshments brought in, questions were asked and answered. The princes all slipped out, but Rafe remained in the background. Zara tried to keep track of everything. She was scheduled for a full wardrobe fitting and a makeover. Hassan called Sabrina to find out the name of her stylist. The wording of the press release was finalized, and all the while Zara had the sense of being trapped in an alternate universe.
Eventually the work was finished. Hassan hugged her one last time before leaving, taking all his people with him. Zara remained seated, too stunned to stand, barely able to breathe. Rafe joined her on the sofa.
“You don’t look so great,” he told her.
“That matches how I feel.” She stared at him. “It’s going to be much more than I’ve imagined, isn’t it?”
He nodded. “The circus begins.”
The first flicker of fear snaked along her spine. “How bad?”
“I don’t know. Just do me one favor. Don’t get difficult about having me around. Before I was your bodyguard on the whim of the king. It was a precaution but not necessary. Now I’m going to earn my paycheck.”
She didn’t like the sound of that, but it was too late to change anything now.
Zara tried to blink normally as the hairdresser snipped wildly around her head. Pieces of dark hair went flying and the low-grade panic she’d been fighting for the past two days increased about 15 percent.
“You look like you’re going to bolt,” Sabrina said from the salon chair next to Zara’s. She took a sip of water from the crystal glass the receptionist had carried over on a tray. “Relax.”
“Easy for you to say,” Zara muttered.
She found herself blinking frantically again and had to remind herself that eventually she would get used to the sensation of something being in her eye.
“Beauty is pain,” Fiona had always told her.
That went double for contact lenses, Zara thought, trying to find the humor in the situation. If only her world would slow down long enough for her to catch her breath. In less than forty-eight hours everything had changed.
Two days ago Sabrina had arrived in her rooms shortly after the king had left. Armed with a secretary and a massive list, they’d gone to work, organizing the first few days of Zara’s life as a princess. Their first stop that morning had been at the eye doctor, where Zara had been fitted with soft contact lenses. From there they’d hit several boutiques. She couldn’t remember what she’d bought and what had been discarded. Sabrina had done most of the choosing. There had been ball gowns and day clothes and suits and dresses and shoes and handbags.
Zara fingered the fabric of the linen slacks she’d worn out of the last shop. Sabrina had paired them with a turquoise silk shirt and simple loafers. All very upscale and very expensive. She didn’t want to think about how much all this was costing. In theory, as the daughter of a king, price shouldn’t matter. But she was still Fiona’s daughter, as well, and from her mother she’d learned how to stretch a dollar until it whimpered for mercy.
“You can’t avoid the press conference,” Sabrina said, pulling out the notebook that had accompanied them everywhere. Hassan had already made a formal announcement, and the press were clamoring to meet the new princess. “However, we can limit participation and the number of questions. We’ll schedule a few magazine interviews, as well. Maybe one or two weeklies and several monthlies. That should satisfy the public’s need to know, at least for a while.”
More hair tumbled to the floor. Zara was about to give in to her panic and run when the stylist put down the scissors and reached for the blow dryer.
It was impossible to talk over the hum of the dryer, so while Sabrina made notes, Zara glanced around at the shop. The large open area was decorated in black and red, with white accents. She didn’t doubt her cut and style would cost more than she’d spent on food the previous month. After her hair was done, she was to get a makeup lesson and whatever new products she might need. Then she could crawl back to the palace until the press conference the next morning.
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