The Sheikh and the Virgin Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 5)(59) by Susan Mallery
“I don’t have to decide right now,” she said. “I have at least another week.” Suddenly her skin felt shivery and hot. “So…what do you want to do for the rest of the day?”
He growled low in his throat. “Don’t go there, Zara. Last night was a one-time event.”
That was a news flash she hadn’t been expecting. “Why? Oh. I know. I read somewhere that men need time to recover before they can make love again, right? So how long do you need?”
He slapped his hands down on the table. “Did it ever occur to you that it might not be smart for us to have an ongoing physical relationship? That it might complicate things?”
At least he hadn’t said he didn’t want her. “We’re both grown-ups.” She took a breath for courage. “It’s not like we don’t want each other.”
He stiffened. She could see him waging a battle, but wasn’t sure what it was about. They’d already been lovers once, the damage had been done there. She loved him, she knew they didn’t have much time together. So why not take advantage of every second they did have?
“You make me crazy,” he told her as he rose and held out his hand. She put her fingers in his and allowed him to pull her to her feet.
“What about the recovery time?” she asked.
He laughed and pulled her close. “It’s not going to slow us down at all,” he promised. “Come on. I’ll prove it.”
Zara shifted her position in her chair, tucking her feet under her. It was relatively early on the island, but midevening in Spokane.
“I miss you,” Zara told Cleo as she held the phone to her ear. “Can’t I convince you to come back?”
“I would think you’re too busy to miss me,” her sister told her. “Or is being a princess getting boring already?”
Zara tried to smile. “It’s not that. I’m just so confused about everything and you always know what to do.”
“Yet people think you’re the smart one.”
Cleo’s voice was teasing, but Zara thought she heard an edge to her words.
“Are you all right?” Zara asked. “Are you mad at me?”
“No. It’s nothing like that.” Cleo hesitated. “I just didn’t belong there, Zara. You know that. The way I grew up, what I do for a living—I’m the last person who fits in royal circles.”
“But you and the princes got along. Especially Prince Sadik.”
“Yeah, well, that was just circumstance.”
Zara wondered what had happened between them, but she wasn’t going to pry. Sometimes Cleo was comfortable talking about her personal life and sometimes she held back.
“Besides,” Cleo continued, “you’re the one who called me, so you’re the one with the problem. You can’t be serious about turning your back on the king. He’s your father. You owe it to both of you to start a relationship. He’s family, Zara. With Fiona gone, he’s all that you have left.”
“I have you.”
Zara had been considering her situation ever since Rafe had brought it up nearly a week before. She’d been turning his words over and over in her mind. Now with Cleo saying everything she’d been thinking, she knew she didn’t really have a choice.
“I just don’t want to be here without you.”
Cleo laughed. “Like you’d notice I was there, what with you and your bodyguard going all hot and heavy. Speaking of which, where is your handsome sheik?”
“Reading on the patio.” Zara smiled. “Rafe is so amazing. I can’t believe he wants me, but he does. Several times a day. I really like him, Cleo.”
“I’d say it’s more than like.”
Figures Cleo would see the truth. “It is. I love him. I’ve never felt this way about anyone. I want to spend the rest of my life with him.”
“But you don’t know how to break through his barriers.”
“Exactly. Any brilliant ideas?”
Cleo paused. “From what you’ve told me, I’m going to guess that Rafe has a problem trusting people to care about him. Maybe no one has. Not since his parents died. So why would he believe you?”
Cleo’s thoughts weren’t news, but Zara had been hoping for something more promising. “So how do I convince him I’m in this for the long haul?”
“You’re going to have to prove yourself.”
“I don’t know. But I think that’s what it’s going to take.”
“Should I throw myself in front of him and beg him to marry me?”
Cleo winced. “That wouldn’t be my first choice. I suspect any kind of romantic declaration would make him uneasy.”
“I agree.” Which was why she’d never even whispered her feelings. Keeping that to herself had been hard. Every time they made love, she wanted to tell him how she felt. Each evening as they dined together, she wanted to speak about her hopes and dreams and hear him respond in kind. Talk about a fantasy.
“There’s a good chance this isn’t going to end well,” Cleo said. “How are you going to deal with that?”
“He’ll break my heart,” Zara said, knowing it was inevitable. “I love him. I believe I’ve been waiting for him all my life. I can’t imagine a world without him.”
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