The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(51) by Susan Mallery
“Princess Zara, come to my house for dinner.”
“Princess Zara, you have to meet my son.”
“Princess Zara, are you really from America?”
“Isn’t she pretty?”
“I thought she looked better on television.”
Words and phrases swirled around her. Zara tried to fight her way free, but she didn’t know which direction to go. She couldn’t breathe and she had a bad feeling that if she lost her footing, she would be trampled. Tears burned in her eyes.
Suddenly a strong arm encircled her waist. She instantly recognized the heat and scent of the man she couldn’t see, and she relaxed as Rafe half carried her away. He pushed and shoved as necessary. One second she’d feared for her life, and the next he was easing her into the car and they were racing away.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
She tried to answer. It was only when the words stuck in her throat that she realized she was sobbing. She covered her face with her hands.
“I can’t do this,” she breathed. “You have to get me out of here. Get me away from Bahania.”
Zara woke in a room on the edge of the world. Sunlight spilled over a pale tile floor. Large French doors stood open, allowing a soft sea breeze to sweep over her, beckoning her. She rose and crossed to the stone patio, then leaned against the iron railing. From there she could see down into the deep, dark ocean, which lapped up against the rocks of the island.
Except for the call of a few birds, the ocean and the breeze, there was only silence. Blissful silence. No servants, no members of the press, not even a relative of the Bahanian royal family.
Zara returned to her room where she showered and dressed, ignoring her contacts in favor of her familiar glasses, then went to explore the house Rafe had brought her to the previous evening. As she’d barely been able to stop crying, she hadn’t seen much when their helicopter had landed. She’d been too caught up in trying to get herself together. In the past she’d never considered herself prone to hysterics, but she’d sure been close to falling apart.
Her bedroom emptied into a hallway. Three more bedrooms stood at this end of the house. Rafe’s room was next to hers, and a quick glance in the open door showed that he’d awakened before her. Down the hall she found a large living area, with views of the open ocean. To her left was a kitchen with an eating area, to her right a large patio. She saw Rafe sitting at a table in the shade, reading the paper and drinking coffee. Barefoot, she walked out to join him.
“Morning,” he said, putting down the paper as she approached. “How are you feeling?”
She sank into the chair next to his and sighed. “Don’t sound worried. I have no intention of losing it again anytime soon.”
“I’m not worried.”
She smiled. “You’re lying and I thank you for it.” Her smile faded. “I can’t begin to tell you what happened at the souk.”
“You were attacked by a mob and you didn’t like it. That’s hardly a surprise.”
He made it sound so reasonable.
“Thanks for rescuing me,” she said.
“I’m sorry things got out of hand in the first place. I should have been paying closer attention. Or not have let you even go shopping. I didn’t think people would figure out who you were so fast.”
“Neither did I.”
A small, dark-haired woman appeared with a tray. She set a fresh coffee carafe on the table, along with two bowls of fruit and a platter of hot scones and muffins.
“Enjoy,” she said with a slight bow and left. Zara poured herself some coffee and took a grateful sip. “So where exactly are we?”
“On an island in the Indian Ocean. It’s the private property of the king of El Bahar.”
She frowned. “El Bahar is next to Bahania, right?”
“Yes. I know King Givon from his frequent visits to the City of Thieves. When you needed to get away, I called and asked if we could borrow his island. Actually we’re in one of the smaller houses. There are a couple of larger residences on the other side of the island.”
She forced her mouth to stay closed. “Of course. How clever of you to think to call the king of El Bahar. I’m sure if I hadn’t been so upset, I would have thought of it, too.”
He looked at her. “What?”
She sighed. “My life has changed so much that I have a bodyguard who is friendly enough with a ruling monarch to ask him personal favors. I don’t think I want to know where you got the helicopter.”
“Hey, you’re the one who’s a princess, so I don’t think you have reason to be picking on me.”
“You have a point.”
She bit into one of the scones and moaned softly. The flaky treat actually melted on her tongue. While Rafe ate his breakfast, she stared out at the water. She was really on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Six weeks ago she’d been grading final exams in her small two-story town house. A big outing for her was a movie in the neighboring town. Every couple of weeks she headed up to Spokane to spend the weekend with her sister. What on earth was she doing here?
She set down her scone. “I don’t think I can do it.”
“Do you want to be more specific?”
“I mean all of it. Adjust, be happy, live in Bahania.”
“You’d be giving up a lot if you just walked away.”
She didn’t want to think about that. “Why couldn’t my father have been a regular guy?” she asked sadly. “A banker, maybe, or an electrician. Someone normal.”
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