The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(2) by Susan Mallery
The prince winked at the nine-year-old. “I like your head just where it is. You will be safe here, I promise. In fact, if anyone bothers you, you tell him that you personally know the Crown Prince.”
Her blue eyes widened. “You’re a real prince? Like in Cinderella?”
“Exactly like that.”
The man’s gaze drifted over to Liana. She started to offer a polite smile and assure him that she, too, was fine, when their eyes locked.
His irises were the color of midnight. Liana felt the impact of their connection all the way down to her toes. Despite being one of the most sensible women she knew, she felt a jolt of attraction that nearly jerked her out of her seat. She found herself desperate to stand and beg this stranger to touch her and kiss her…right here on the plane if necessary. It was as if she’d been given a near lethal injection of a love drug. She couldn’t speak, could barely breathe.
Fortunately, the prince merely smiled and returned to the front of the plane without saying a word.
“He’s cool,” Bethany said with a smile. “Wow. I’ve met a real live prince. He’s nicer than I would have thought. And tall. Did you think he was handsome, Mommy?”
“Yes, I thought he was handsome,” Liana admitted, willing her heart rate to return to normal. They both watched as the prince and his men disembarked. The door closed, and the plane began to move toward the gate. In a matter of minutes, people were disembarking. Liana collected their carry-on items and stowed away her book. As she did, she glanced at the cover of her novel and told herself that whatever ailed the heroine in this book was apparently contagious. For one brief second she’d found herself attracted to a tall, dark, impossible man.
Just an aberration, she told herself as she and her daughter joined the slow-moving line that would take them to their luggage. Too much traveling or the fear or maybe too much coffee had zapped some switch in her brain. That was the only explanation for her instant and overwhelming attraction to a stranger.
Forty minutes later Liana and Bethany stood waiting to go through customs. Liana had convinced herself that she’d made too much of her reaction to the El Baharian prince. Her body had still been in shock from the danger. Her instinctive fight-or-flight response to those men boarding the plane had sent a number of chemicals pouring into her system. Any thoughts she’d had about the prince had simply been the result of a fear hangover. Nothing more. Men like him didn’t appeal to women like her.
“Ma’am?If you would please to come this way?”
Liana was jolted from her musings by a slight man bending over to pick up one of her suitcases.
“What are you doing?” she asked sharply. “Don’t touch that.”
The El Baharian customs area was a large open room with plenty of air conditioning and ceiling fans. Although the lines were long, they were moving quickly and seemed efficient. Security people moved through the crowd, and she was about to call for one when the small man bowed apologetically.
“I was sent to bring you to a shorter line,” he said, pressing his hands together in front of his chest. “You have a young child and I was told that you would prefer the process to go more quickly. Just over there,” the man said, motioning to a lone official at the far side of the building.
“Is that one of the customs lines?” Liana asked, wondering why no one else was going that way. She looked up and saw the overhead sign: Official Visitors and Residents.
“As much as I would like it to be otherwise,” she said with a kind smile, “I’m neither an official visitor nor a resident. But thanks for the offer.”
The little man pressed his thin lips together. He had dark eyes and a sparse beard. He wore an exquisitely tailored suit.
“Please, ma’am. You would be most welcome.”
A uniformed security guard appeared at her elbow. “It’s quite all right, ma’am. We’re just trying to speed up the process.”
“If you’re sure,” Liana said doubtfully. She allowed the two men to take possession of her luggage and lead the way over to the customs official.
“You don’t want to be in a faster line?” Bethany asked as she dragged her carry-on bag behind her. “You like waiting in here?”
“Okay, okay, I was just being careful.”
They came to a stop and waited while the uniformed officer began to check their passports. Liana glanced around and was surprised to see that no one else had been directed to this particular line.
“I don’t understand,” she said, looking at the small man, then the security guard. “Why me and not them?”
“Because I requested it.”
Liana recognized the deep, resonant voice. Even before she turned to look at the gentleman who had just joined the party, she felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand straight up. She was tired, hungry and had spent the past twenty-four hours traveling halfway around the world with her nine-year-old daughter. She was not in the mood to be played with…even by her own body.
But all the temper in the world couldn’t counteract the feeling of heat that swept through her, or the faint trembling in her arms and legs. She raised her gaze and stared directly into the handsome face of Malik Khan, Crown Prince of El Bahar.
The prince offered a low bow. “We have not been formally introduced. I am Prince Malik and you are…?” He reached for her passport.
“Liana Archer. This is my daughter, Bethany.”
“Hi,” Bethany said, beaming up at him. “Do you really live in a palace?”
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