The Sheik and the Virgin Princess (Desert Rogues #5)(2)


by Susan Mallery

“My sister and I were touring the castle. A man pulled us away and insisted we come with him.” She hesitated, not wanting to say that he’d called her Princess Sabra and had mentioned seeing the king. That sounded too far-fetched to be believed.

Those cold blue eyes never wavered from her face. She didn’t doubt that he could read her every thought, so there was no need to go into detail. She noticed the man wore traditional Middle-Eastern garb, and that his Anglo features looked out of place.

They were nestled together intimately, his legs pinning hers, his chest flattening her br**sts. One of his hands rested on her throat where he could no doubt feel the galloping of her pulse.

She licked her lips. “I’m sorry.”

“Me, too,” the man muttered as he slid off her and got to his feet.

Zara sat up slowly. She glanced around and saw that she was the center of attention—one of her least favorite things to be. Two burly guards were holding Cleo, but released her when the blue-eyed man instructed them to do so.

Zara got awkwardly to her feet. She still felt a little shaky and afraid. Cleo rushed to her side and they held each other. Zara pushed up her glasses.

“What happens now, Mr….” Her voice trailed off as she realized she didn’t know the man’s name.

“Rafe Stryker.”

He spoke several sharp commands in a language she didn’t recognize. The area cleared.

“Come this way,” he said, and started walking without checking to see if they would follow.

Zara had the idle thought that they could run for it, but where would they go? They were in a strange country, in a huge castle and she had no idea of the floor plan. As the guards had disappeared, it seemed unlikely that they were about to be arrested.

She glanced at Cleo, who shrugged. Together the two women trailed after the man in the long robe and traditional headdress.

He led them into a small office. After seating them in chairs, he perched on the corner of the desk and studied them both.

“There’s been some kind of misunderstanding,” Zara said when the silence had stretched on for too long. “I was telling the truth before. My sister and I were on the tour, and suddenly we were dragged away. Then you and those guards attacked us. I’d like to know what’s going on.”

Rafe Stryker rubbed his temple. “That’s what I’d like to know, as well. You two have any ID on you?”

Zara and Cleo exchanged a look. Did they really want to turn their passports over to this man?

“I’m not the bad guy here,” Rafe said, confirming Zara’s suspicions that he could read her mind. “I won’t take any documents out of this room. I simply want to make a few phone calls.”

“I don’t think we have a choice,” Cleo said in a stage whisper. Her short blond hair was more spiky than usual, and the corners of her full mouth trembled.

Zara nodded. She had been worried about a lot of things when they’d talked about coming to Bahania, but being attacked in the palace wasn’t one of them. What on earth was going on?

They pulled their passports out of their purses and handed them over. Rafe picked up the phone on the desk and began making calls.

Five minutes later a young woman appeared with a tray of cold drinks and small sandwiches. She smiled as she entered and set the refreshments on the credenza by the window. Without saying a word, she bowed slightly and backed out of the room. Rafe was still talking, but he jerked his head toward the food.

Zara took that as a sign that it was permissible for them to partake of the offering. She and Cleo stood and moved to the far side of the room.

Cleo, always hungry, eyed the snack. “Think they’re drugged?”

“I’m beginning to think we’re caught up in a badly made spy movie,” Zara admitted, trying to ignore the way she trembled. Adrenaline surged through her, making her want to run and hide. “But I doubt they went to all the trouble to drug the food.”

Cleo shrugged and reached for one of the glasses. She sipped, then sighed. “Lemonade. It’s perfect.”

Zara’s mouth watered and she found herself sipping the ice-cold liquid. While Cleo munched on a tiny sandwich, Zara studied the small office, along with their host.

The room was modern, with a computer against the far wall and a fax machine. The only window overlooked a courtyard filled with a garden of different flowers and fruit trees. Linoleum covered the floor, not the tiles they’d seen on their palace tour.

Her gaze slipped back to the man on the phone. Zara couldn’t tell much about his body due to the long flowing robe covering him, but she’d felt his strength as he’d pressed into her, holding her captive. His accent sounded American. He had blue eyes, and while his skin was tanned it wasn’t dark. What was Rafe Stryker doing in the Bahanian royal palace and why was he pulling guns on unsuspecting tourists?

As if sensing her attention, Rafe turned toward her. Zara told herself to look away. Even as a blush climbed her cheeks, she couldn’t seem to make herself move. It was as if he’d mesmerized her. Her body stilled, her heartbeat slowed, and once again she could feel the weight of him on top of her.

No emotion flickered in his eyes. His firm mouth didn’t give away his feelings, nor did his body language.

Finally he shifted and hung up the phone. Zara felt as if she’d been released from a spell. The shivering returned, along with the sensation of being exposed.

“So what’s a nice schoolteacher like you doing in a place like Bahania?” Rafe asked.

His voice—deep and strong—made her swallow. “I’m not a schoolteacher, I’m a college professor.”

He shrugged as if to say “what’s the difference?”

Cleo sighed. “Zara worked her butt off to get to full professor. You’d better not mess with her about that.”

Cleo made her announcement in between sandwiches. When Rafe turned his steady gaze to her, Cleo instantly took a step back.

“I mean it,” she said sounding brazen, all retreats to the contrary. “For all we know, her father is the king. You don’t want to get him mad at you, right?”

“King Hassan is your father?”

Rafe asked the question with just enough amusement to make Zara wince. She put down her drink and squared her shoulders. This had gone on long enough.

“Here’s what I know. My sister and I are American citizens on a public tour of the palace. For reasons no one has explained, we were forcibly taken away from our tour and led into a private area. There we were attacked. Now you’ve taken possession of our passports. I want them returned immediately, then I would like us to be escorted from the palace.”