The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(53) by Susan Mallery
Zara set her glasses on the table between them, rose and walked to the edge of the pool. She sat on the warm stones and put her bare feet in the water. She ached and couldn’t explain why. She knew her pain was about Rafe and the loneliness he’d known, but there was more. Sadness overwhelmed her as she realized he wasn’t just holding back because of his job. He was holding back because that’s how he lived his life. He didn’t want the one thing she’d dreamed of her entire life—roots. He didn’t want love. He didn’t want forever.
She realized that in the back of her mind, she’d been assuming it was all an act. That somehow he would maybe, possibly come to care about her. She’d been comforted by him, teased by him, made safe by him. For her his actions had been meaningful. But for him…She shook her head. She just didn’t know.
Rafe saw the slump in Zara’s shoulders and knew that he’d hurt her, although he couldn’t say why. Or maybe he could. She might be a successful professor and more intelligent than most, but in her heart, she was still an innocent. She didn’t want to hear about the ugliness of his world, or his decision to never get involved.
For a second he toyed with the idea of telling her she was the closest he’d come to breaking his own rules. Her genuineness, her kindness, her ability to make him laugh all drew him. But he knew what would happen if he gave in. Disaster—for both of them. Better not to start something he couldn’t finish.
Which solved one problem, but not another. Zara slipped into the pool, gasping at the contrast of the cool water and the hot afternoon sun.
“You didn’t tell me the pool was fed by iceberg runoff,” she accused.
“I didn’t know you were such a sissy.”
She tried to splash him but his chair was too far away and the spray fell harmlessly onto the stone patio.
His teasing had done what he’d wanted—she now smiled, and the worry was gone from her eyes. He allowed his gaze to drift over her body. The one-piece suit left nothing to the imagination. He could see every curve, every luscious line. Her small br**sts strained against the fabric, making him want to peel down her suit and caress her there. He could see the outline of her ni**les, and his lips ached to taste those tight points.
Living in such solitude for the past week had been pure hell. He wanted her and couldn’t have her. He ached. Sleep had become impossible because he knew she was close. The servants went home each evening, so there was no one around. No one to stop him. The only thing that kept him from going to her was the knowledge that she deserved someone able to give her what she wanted. All he could promise was a night of passion. For many that would be enough, but Zara deserved so much more.
Rafe knew better than to drink while on duty—or in this case, while in danger of giving in to temptation. But when Zara offered him wine with dinner, he found himself holding out his glass.
She looked great, he thought, studying the way she’d piled her hair up on her head. Once they’d arrived on the island, she’d given up her contact lenses in favor of her glasses. He liked her both ways, so he found her just as attractive as she pushed her glasses into place with an absent gesture he found endearing.
A sleeveless sundress left her arms bare, and two undone buttons allowed him to see the shadow between her br**sts. Her skin had tanned to the color of honey. Her feet were bare, her smile easy. She looked like a sensual goddess, risen from the ocean to tempt mankind. He knew he was tempted, nearly beyond reason.
He wanted to tell himself that it was just because he hadn’t been with a woman in a long time. That his need was about circumstances and not the least bit specific. But he knew he was lying. He wanted Zara in his bed. Another warm body wouldn’t work. He needed to taste her and inhale the sweet scent of her body. He ached to hold her close and bury himself inside of her again and again.
Zara leaned back in her chair and smiled at him. “You look terribly intense. What are you thinking about?”
He thought about lying. The sunset was beautiful, as it had been every night. The food left in covered trays by the servants who had just departed for home smelled delicious. There were a thousand things he could say instead of the truth.
“That I’m an idiot.”
Zara laughed. “I have to tell you, I wasn’t expecting that one. Want to share the reason, or is this because you’re a guy.”
He shook his head. “It’s not, although the two are related.”
He took a drink of his wine. The chardonnay had a hint of butter blended with the oaky fruit. He could feel the danger all around him. It wasn’t just that he’d been entrusted with keeping her safe, it was that she was an innocent. He was hardly the right man to deal with that. And yet…
“Exactly how much of a virgin are you?”
Zara hadn’t been expecting that question. She instantly blushed, which made her feel stupid and immature, but at the same time delight tingled all through her body. “Are you asking for specifics?”
“Yeah. How far, how often, that sort of thing.”
Her heart hammered in her chest. She tried to read Rafe’s expression, but it wasn’t easy. Still, he wouldn’t be asking if he wasn’t interested, right? Maybe he was finally going to give in to all that heat they generated when they were together.
She cleared her throat. Her palms were suddenly damp, and she knew that if she tried to stand, her legs would promptly dump her on her butt.
“Well, there was that time in Billy’s car. I guess I was about nineteen. We’d been going out for a while and he’d had his hand up my blouse.” She took a quick drink of wine, hoping the alcohol would work fast and give her courage. “As we, ah, maneuvered into position, my foot kinda got caught in the steering wheel. The horn went off. It wouldn’t stop until Billy disconnected it from the battery.”
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