The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(58) by Susan Mallery
He tried to tell himself that the sex had been better than average and to let it go. But he couldn’t shake the feeling of having experienced something significant. He wanted to think it was because she’d been a virgin. He’d never been anyone’s first time before, and at his age it wasn’t supposed to be an issue. However, he sensed his unease was more than just the fact that Zara had never been with a man before. It had something to do with her having touched his heart along with his body.
As soon as the thought appeared, he dismissed it. Sex, he reminded himself. It had just been about sex. Zara turned him on. He’d resisted and then he’d given in. The situation wasn’t any more significant than that. Maybe they’d do it again, maybe they wouldn’t—no big deal.
Except he found himself imagining more than just another session of lovemaking. He found himself wondering what it would be like if she was a part of his life longer than—
Rafe disentangled himself from Zara and slipped out of bed. He walked to the open French doors and stood naked in the moonlight. He wasn’t going to go there, he told himself. No fantasies about putting down roots and giving away his heart. He knew better. Love didn’t exist, except in the most superficial way possible. As soon as it all got tough, people walked away.
He turned and glanced at Zara, still sleeping. He could see the curve of her shoulder and one bare breast. His body stirred with desire. More frightening, something deep inside stirred, as well. As if he wanted more than just sex. As if she’d come to matter.
He pushed the thought away. No one mattered, he reminded himself. Not now, not ever. He didn’t do forever or relationships of any kind. He went it alone because that was how he liked it. How many times did he have to learn the lesson that the only person he could depend on was himself?
Zara nibbled on the mango slice. She felt deliciously wicked, eating breakfast in only her robe. Underneath she wore nothing at all.
“Why are you smiling?” Rafe asked from his place across the small table.
He’d already showered and dressed, pulling on cotton trousers and a loose shirt. He looked dangerous and handsome, and she still couldn’t believe what they’d done the previous evening.
“I’m having a good morning,” she said contentedly. “Here we are, on a beautiful island, listening to the sound of the surf. We don’t have a care in the world.”
“You aren’t the one about to lose your head.”
She dismissed his complaint. “The king will never find out. I certainly don’t plan to tell him, so unless you put it in your daily report, he won’t ever know.”
Rafe drank his coffee. “I don’t write a daily report.”
“I know, but you check in with someone in Bahania. Just don’t mention doing the wild thing.”
He didn’t return her smile. Instead he studied her. “Zara, about last night—are you okay?”
She knew what he was asking. She’d waited a long time to finally rid herself of her virginity. Was she having second thoughts?
“I’m fine,” she said honestly, wishing there was a way to let him know that she was so much more than fine—she was floating with happiness.
Her reaction wasn’t just because she finally figured out what all the fuss was about—it was because being with Rafe felt so right. At their moment of completion, she’d realized that she’d fallen in love with him. Instead of terrifying her, the information had been freeing. All her life she’d wondered if there was someone for her, someone special she could love with all her being. While she’d been engaged to Jon, she’d cared about him and had even loved him, but there hadn’t been such a sense of connection.
She felt that she and Rafe would be better together than they were apart. She liked who she was with him and how she felt about herself. She liked that they got along and made each other laugh. There wasn’t any fear or regret. Only a strong sense of the rightness of it all.
“Your father keeps asking when you’re returning to Bahania,” he said. “I figure I can only hold him off for another week.”
She sighed. “So you’re saying I have to grow up and start thinking about my life?”
“Something like that.”
She didn’t want to think about real life or being apart from Rafe. Because, regardless of whether she went back to the states or stayed in Bahania, he would be returning to the City of Thieves.
“I have a job waiting for me,” she said. “At the end of the summer, they’re expecting me to show up and teach my classes.”
“You have a father here who wants to get to know you,” he reminded her. “I thought you’d come all this way to find your family.”
“Being a princess isn’t just about wearing a tiara. The position comes with responsibilities. Bahania is a growing country, but it’s not perfect. There are still a lot of issues for women. Someone with your background could make a difference.”
She looked at him. “You think I should stay.”
“I think it’s a lot to walk away from. Besides, your regular life is going to be lost to you, either way. You can’t go back to being regular Zara Paxton.”
She knew he was right. “The thing is, I kind of liked being regular Zara Paxton.”
“I liked her, too.”
His dark eyes crinkled slightly as he smiled. She wished there was a way to know the right thing to do. She wasn’t comfortable with staying, but leaving felt like running away.
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