The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(50) by Susan Mallery
She couldn’t have been more wrong.
It was nearly four in the afternoon, and the shoot had started shortly after eight. Zara hadn’t realized that changing clothes, getting her hair styled and standing, sitting and reclining in different positions would be so tiring. Plus she felt like a fraud. She was hardly model material. All the makeovers in the world weren’t going to make her into a beauty. She supposed the only thing she had in common with those who usually graced magazine covers was that she was naturally thin. Somehow she thought the world might be expecting more.
She glanced over and saw Rafe talking on his cell phone. He accompanied her to the shoot. Although he’d stayed in the background, she’d been aware of his presence, and it made her feel better. Of course, this was the easy part. In a week or so she was going to have a one-on-one interview with a writer for the story in the magazine. Sabrina had offered to sit in to guide Zara.
A stylist adjusted the collar of Zara’s shirt, then moved one lock of hair. The photographer—invisible behind bright lights—called out for her to “smile pretty.”
Zara obliged. She heard the rapid clicking of the camera. She tilted her head when told, raised her chin, thought of something fun she liked to do and prayed for it all to end soon. She was hungry, thirsty and wishing she’d stayed back in the States.
An hour later she was free to go.
“I saw an open-air market,” Zara said as she slid into the sleek sports car Rafe had driven them in that morning. “Would it be all right for us to stop there on our way back?”
He hesitated only a moment. “Sure. It’s late enough that it shouldn’t be crowded.”
He eased the car into the afternoon traffic. Zara sank back into the soft leather seat.
“I feel as if I spent the entire day working out in the fields, which is crazy. All I did was pose for a few pictures.”
“It looked like hard work.”
She flashed him a smile. “I suspect you’re just being nice, but I really appreciate the gesture.”
“Ready to trade in your day job for a life as a fashion model?”
“Not exactly. I love teaching.”
“Tell me about some of your classes.”
She laughed. “Rafe, I teach women’s studies. You’d hate it. The only guys who attend my classes either think it’s an easy way to get a good grade or they’re there to pick up girls.”
“Maybe I’m a closet feminist.”
“I do think women are just as capable as men.”
“We all genuflect in thanks.”
“Hey, I’m trying to be a sensitive guy, here. You should encourage me.”
He pulled into a side street and parked. Zara climbed out of the car and breathed in the scent of the city. She could smell a hint of the sea and several exotic spices. Overlaying everything was the intense heat of the summer afternoon. The air seemed to scorch her lungs with each breath. Yet she didn’t want to head back to the palace—not just yet. A few minutes in the marketplace would help her forget the feeling of being trapped.
Rafe moved next to her and pointed to the corner. “We turn left there. The souk stretches about three blocks. Don’t try anything fancy. You don’t want to get lost here.”
She linked her arm with his as they walked. “I don’t even want to get lost anywhere. Am I expected to bargain?”
“Usually. They’ll go easy on you because you’re American.”
She started to tell him that she didn’t need any special favors, but then reminded herself that she’d never bargained in a market place in her life.
Anticipation filled her as they approached the open-air bazaar. Dozens of people clustered around rows of stalls, moved in groups or stood talking. The stone street looked smooth, as if generations had walked here before. Behind the individual displays, old buildings cast shadows in the late afternoon.
Zara glanced through an open archway and saw two young children playing in a fountain. A small dog danced around, barking. Laughter drifted to her, making her smile.
Up ahead she saw a great pile of rugs. They hung over lengths of rope and chairs. Several stood rolled up in a plastic trash can. To her left was a man selling all kinds of fruit. Everything from dates to bananas to small melons. A display of brass pots caught her attention. She picked up one shaped like Aladdin’s lamp.
“Going to give it a good rub?” Rafe asked.
She laughed. “First I’d have to figure out what I was going to wish for.”
The shopkeeper moved closer. “It is a fine ornament,” he said. “If you’re looking for something more functional, I have lanterns that work. If the lady would be so kind as to step around here?”
He motioned to the side of his stall. Zara started to move, but as she did she bumped into someone. She glanced at the teenager and smiled.
The girl, maybe sixteen or seventeen with beautiful long dark hair and wearing shorts and a T-shirt, squinted at her.
“It’s all right. I wasn’t looking—” The teenager gasped. “Oh, my God! It’s you.” She shrieked. “Princess Zara.”
Rafe swore under his breath. Zara didn’t understand the problem. She turned to ask him, only to find herself suddenly swept away by a crowd that had formed from thin air.
People surrounded her, tugging on her sleeves, touched her hair, yelling out questions. It was far worse than the press conference, because she felt herself being pushed and jostled. Then someone actually pulled several strands of hair free. Hands turned into claws. She was bumped from behind and nearly went down, all the while trapped in the center of a screeching cacophony.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online