The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(52) by Susan Mallery
“Sorry. Your dad’s the king.”
Panic threatened. “When do we have to go back?”
“Not until you’re ready. I spoke to Hassan this morning. He would like you to call him when you feel up to it. Just to make sure you’re all right. While he doesn’t understand, I convinced him that you need a few days to get used to all that’s happened. He’s willing to give you time to adjust to the situation.”
She found herself wanting to reach out and take Rafe’s hand. Not only in gratitude, but because he was her anchor in her rapidly drifting world. As long as he was around, she knew she would be safe.
“So it’s really okay for us to stay here for a while?” she asked.
“I think you need at least two weeks to relax and sort things out.”
That sounded heavenly. “But what about your other job? Aren’t you due back in the City of Thieves?” She didn’t want to think about being without him, but she had to be practical.
“Kardal can do without me for a little longer. We’ll just hang out while you figure out what you want to do.”
Zara shifted on her lounge chair and sipped her icy drink. A girl could get used to this kind of life, she thought as she gazed at the man swimming the length of the pool.
As usual, Rafe was an expert at everything he did. His smooth, clean stokes barely ruffled the surface of the water, while his long, hard, nearly naked body had her hormones doing the hula. He flipped underwater when he reached the far end of the pool and started back.
She supposed she, too, needed exercise, but just the thought of stirring from her chair made her tired. In the past week she’d done little more than eat, sleep, sunbathe and take long walks with Rafe. Except for a very discreet staff, they were alone on the island. She spoke daily with her father and had phoned Cleo a couple of times. Other than that, she had no contact with the outside world.
“You’re looking thoughtful about something,” Rafe said as he pulled himself out of the pool.
He wore boxer-style trunks and nothing else. The man had a fine body, she thought longingly, wishing he’d been as willing to sweep her away sexually as he had been to help her escape Bahania. Obviously, the sight of her skinny body in a one-piece tank suit did nothing to stir his manly desires.
“Just enjoying my life away from the fast lane.” She squinted up at him. “Although you must be getting bored.”
“Nope. This is my idea of a perfect vacation.”
He settled into the chair next to hers. Zara straightened and swung her legs over the side so that she sat facing him.
“Aren’t you ready to go back to work for Prince Kardal?”
He glanced at her. “I’m not in a rush,” he said. “Are you concerned about Kardal getting annoyed?”
“No.” Actually she hadn’t thought that at all. “I just wondered if you usually take time off. You strike me as a man who enjoys keeping busy.”
He frowned slightly. “I don’t take many vacations, except when I’m between assignments or jobs. Then I take about a month and go somewhere like this.” He glanced around at their private balcony over the sea, then grinned. “Okay, so it’s not this nice.”
“I know what you mean.”
“When I move on, I’ll find some island somewhere and flake out for a while.”
She frowned. “What do you mean, when you move on? Why would you leave?”
“I always leave. I like change.”
She couldn’t imagine such a thing. Routine made her comfortable. “Are you looking for a job away from the City of Thieves?”
“I will eventually.” He picked up his iced tea and took a drink. “It’s been a few years. I should probably start thinking about trying something new.”
“But you like it there.”
“I’m not the one looking for roots.”
“Of any kind.” She rested her forearms on her thighs. “I don’t understand. Haven’t you ever wanted any of the normal things? A wife, kids, stability? Why didn’t you ever get married?”
He waited a long time before he answered. After setting down his drink, he smoothed his short hair back and reached for his sunglasses.
“I don’t believe in happy endings,” he said flatly.
He shrugged. “You can’t grow up the way I did and think it’s going to work out.”
She remembered what he’d told about his past. Being orphaned young enough to have trouble recalling his parents yet old enough to be difficult to place. No family had ever taken him home and made him theirs. Had he felt love even once since his parents died?
Zara felt suddenly cold, and shivered. What would life be like if no one had loved her? Fiona had made her crazy at times and had been a somewhat absentminded parent, but Zara’d had no reason to doubt her love. Plus she had Cleo. She knew her sister would do anything for her. Growing up they’d always been moving around, but the love had been a permanent fixture.
Rafe hadn’t had that advantage. In his world love had died early and had never been replaced.
“Wasn’t there just one girl who made you want to stick around?” she asked, desperately needing to think there had been without being sure why.
“No. There have been women, but no one long-term.”
Her chest tightened. In her mind Rafe was a stable force in her life. Yet from all he said, he was just waiting until it was time to move on. Not exactly a formula for happiness.
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